Discover Central & Eastern Europe With Travel Tips From Locals + Top Bloggers

Most of you have told me how much you love reading about Europe on my blog. This is the last piece in the series, and this one is especially for my readers on a budget. Today’s list is a handpicked collection of extremely affordable destinations. If you are a solo female traveller on your maiden visit to Central or Eastern Europe, we urge you to look beyond the popular cities of Budapest (read – A Quick Guide To Budapest – The Capital Of Hungary) and Warsaw (read – What Warsaw Whispers – A Photoessay), and give these lesser explored places a chance to mesmerise you:

Česky Krumlov – Czech Republic

Česky Krumlov (Courtesy: Parampara)

Česky Krumlov (Courtesy: Parampara)

Recommendation by Parampara – Awara Diaries

“On the offbeat path as a solo female traveller, Česky Krumlov was one of the best adventures that I’d signed up for. With the aim of exploring Czechia beyond the party scenes of Prague, I took a trip south of the capital to the town of Česky Krumlov. To begin with, the Czech transport system is in great shape and connects the country with much ease. I took a 2 and a half hours’ bus journey to this Czech town.

Česky Krumlov was no less than a wonderland for me. Medieval mythical vibes with castles, towers, rivers, and bridges. Walking around this quaint town was the obvious choice, but unlike other Czech towns, there was life even post sunset. Making new friends at the hostel, walking around the town, looking at the lit castle and most importantly, eating around, trying some of the best ever grilled trout and apple strudel, Česky Krumlov had my heart. And for once, I could believe that I was living a fairytale with a possibility of getting lost in the woods and stumbling upon a dragon or just watching over the town quietly from the top of the tower! Indeed, one of the best and safest destinations for solo travel and making new friends.”

Viscri – Romania

Viscri (Courtesy: Andra Padureanu)

Viscri (Courtesy: Andra Padureanu)

Recommendation by Andra Padureanu – Our World to Wander

“The village of Viscri used to be one of Romania’s hidden gems. But now, thanks to Prince Charles, it has become a popular destination for people who want to taste the rural life in Transylvania. It’s a small and charming village where you can take a glimpse of the traditional way of life. Viscri is also famous for its fortified church which has put it on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

It is a very safe destination for women travellers and highly recommended if you want to try a Romanian homestay. You will stay with a family in one of the small houses, and everybody will want you to taste the numerous delicious dishes of the region. It is a picturesque place where you can lose track of time while wandering through the narrow cobblestoned streets.”

Ljubljana – Slovenia

Ljubljana (Courtesy: Jessica)

Ljubljana (Courtesy: Jessica)

Recommendation by Jessica – Notes of Nomads

“Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana is one of my favourite destinations in all of Europe. It’s perfect for solo female travellers because it’s extremely clean and safe, the people are among the friendliest I’ve ever met and English speakers will find it’s incredibly easy to get around using English. I especially adore the café and market culture in Ljubljana. There are so many opportunities to take in the city’s relaxed atmosphere while dining and shopping outdoors.

Many eateries have outdoor and riverside seating, and on certain days of the week, you can also check out flea and farmer’s markets for cool finds and fresh produce. Sweet lovers must also try a piece of the city’s famed Ljubljana cake. The legend goes that a cook delighted the daughter of the Lord of Ljubljana Castle so much with this creation that he was offered her hand in marriage!”

Eger – Hungary

Eger (Courtesy: Sharon Gourlay)

Eger (Courtesy: Sharon Gourlay)

Recommendation by Sharon Gourlay – Simpler & Smarter

“Eger is a city in northern Hungary, just a couple of hours from Budapest. It is the perfect place to visit on your solo adventure if you love wine and baroque architecture. Or if you just love discovering smaller European destinations which aren’t flooded with tourists. Eger is an easy place to visit. All the main attractions are within walking distance and the city centre is pretty and easy to walk around.

There is a hilltop castle with great views, a big basilica and many other attractions. My favourite is the wine cellars in the Valley of Beautiful Women. These cellars are all in a row surrounded by nature with many indoor and outdoor tables. The wine is cheap and good and it’s fun trying out the wines.”

Istria – Croatia

Istrian Pasta (Courtesy: Kaila Yu)

Istrian Pasta (Courtesy: Kaila Yu)

Recommendation by Kaila Yu – NomList

“Istria, Croatia is an ideal destination for solo women travellers. Not only is it so safe that you could walk the streets at any time of the night and feel perfectly comfortable, but it’s also the ultimate foodie locale! If you love olive oil, truffles and wine, you must visit this magical area of Croatia. Many of the dishes of Istria have Mediterranean and Italian influence and the fresh seafood in the region is spectacular.

Istria is considered to be part of Croatia but it actually encompasses Italy and Slovenia too. The peninsula juts out into the Adriatic Sea, so it also has beautiful oceans views. One popular activity in this region is boating and exploring the many small islands in the vicinity. It’s definitely an off the beaten path location that is dreamy and a can’t miss for solo female travellers!”

Chisinau – Moldova

Chisinau (Courtesy: Gabriela Muller)

Chisinau (Courtesy: Gabriela Muller)

Recommendation by Gabriela Muller – Gabriela Here and There

“I recently travelled to Moldova as a solo female traveller and was positively surprised by how nice it was. Moldova is one of the least visited countries in Europe but this little nation has so much to offer from wine tours to beautiful countryside. Most of the travellers will visit Chisinau, the capital city, and it’s a great place to base yourself in Moldova. Chisinau might not have the Eiffel Tower or other famous sights but it’s a charming city with its own little spots. The best way to explore Chisinau is on foot and because of its small size, everything is within a walking distance. I never had any problems with street harassment or catcalling, and always felt very safe walking alone (even at night).”

Skopje – Macedonia

Skopje (Courtesy: Kamila Napora)

Skopje (Courtesy: Kamila Napora)

Recommendation by Kamila Napora – Kami and the Rest of the World

“Skopje is one of the weirdest cities you will ever see. It’s like the Disneyland of the Balkans with quirky, brand new but old-looking architecture all over the centre and the largest old bazaar in the Balkans. It’s also a safe and interesting city to visit for solo female travellers. I’ve been solo to Skopje 5 times by now and never encountered any issues. Local people are super friendly, the food is to die for and everything is really affordable. You should most likely stick to the centre and Debar Maalo areas. Like everywhere else, if you stick to your common sense you will be more than fine. There are many things to do in Skopje that will keep you occupied for at least 2 days. Just visit the city with an open mind and enjoy it!”

Belgrade – Serbia

Belgrade (Courtesy: Karen Turner)

Belgrade (Courtesy: Karen Turner)

Recommendation by Karen Turner – Wanderlustingk

“Belgrade was one of the easiest places that I’ve travelled solo in. People were so incredibly warm that I ended up getting drinks almost every single night with Serbians that I’d meet who would just invite me out with their group of friends. In Belgrade, I also found a female-run hostel with staff that just made my trip magical as they sent me on a food scavenger hunt. The walkable city centre and good public transit with the high level of English made it a breeze to travel in Serbia and I’d recommend it to any woman trying out solo travel!”

Kharkiv – Ukraine

Kharkiv (Courtesy: Megan Starr)

Kharkiv (Courtesy: Megan Starr)

Recommendation by Megan Starr – Megan Starr

“Kharkiv, Ukraine is a destination off the beaten path in Eastern Europe that doesn’t garner the tourism traction that it should. The city, often overshadowed by Kyiv and Lviv, sits in the east of Ukraine but is completely in the safe zone. It is one of the loveliest places I have ever had a chance to visit. Females shouldn’t feel unsafe in Kharkiv, even if travelling alone. There are top notch cafes, restaurants, and some stately architecture from various areas that make this Ukrainian city extremely compelling and a must-visit spot for travellers. Kharkiv has become more connected via daily flights and there is even a fast train connecting it with Kyiv these days.”

Olomouc – Czech Republic

Olomouc (Courtesy: Veronika Primm)

Olomouc (Courtesy: Veronika Primm)

Recommendation by Veronika Primm – Travel Geekery

Olomouc is a hidden gem lying in the east of the Czech Republic, right in the heart of the Moravia region. The city features a beautifully preserved Old Town with Baroque structures such as fountains and churches. You’ll even find an Astronomical Clock on the local Town Hall! Just strolling around feels fulfilling enough. There’s also no shortage of cosy cafés and large parks encircling the city centre.

Students rule Olomouc. If you go out in the evening by yourself, it’s easy to strike a conversation with local students. The town is lively and there’s often a lot going on – from events organized by the local Palacký University to markets/gatherings on the main square (Upper Square).”

Are you a fan of Eastern & Central Europe now? 🙂

Got more suggestions for solo travellers to these parts of Europe?

Let us know through your comments below. 🙂

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A New Look At Spain & Greece: Beaches, Forests & Hideouts For Solo Travellers

Southern Europe was one of my first solo travel destinations as an adult, long before I began to blog (read – How I Started a New Life in Catalonia). The region has a bunch of slow-paced countries that make you fall in love with life. The Mediterranean coastline works like a charm on every traveller. It doesn’t matter whether you are in Greece or Portugal or Italy (read – Italy Beyond The Usual) or Spain. If you are craving some sun without running into hordes of tourists, follow this list of recommendations (from experienced travellers) on offbeat locations in Spain and Greece-

Asturias – Spain

Asturias (Courtesy: Campbell & Alya)

Asturias (Courtesy: Campbell & Alya)

Recommendation by Campbell & Alya – Stingy Nomads

“Not many know of an area in Spain with lush green forest, cool temperatures even in the summers and breathtaking mountain scenery. For those who like going off the beaten track, a small region of Asturias in northern Spain is the perfect destination. Asturias is one of the least populated regions of Spain with its main treasure being natural beauty. There are mostly small towns and villages with very friendly and helpful locals here. It’s a real paradise for hikers – there are several short and long distance hiking trails including Camino Primitivo – the first Camino de Santiago walked by the Spanish king, Alfonso II in the 9th century. The famous mountain range – Picos de Europa with some peaks over 2600m is located here.

Both hiking and cycling trails are well marked, safe and easy to follow – definitely the kind of place where a solo female traveller can hike on her own without worrying about safety. The region is great for a beach holiday as well as there are several nice coastal towns like Gijón, Llanes where you can enjoy sandy beaches, clean water and delicious local food. Asturias also has some interesting cities whose foundation dates back to the 8th century. Oviedo – the beautiful capital city founded in 761AD has a charming historical centre with typical narrow cobblestone streets, a gothic cathedral, old houses and street cafes.”

Kalymnos Island – Greece

Kalymnos Island (Courtesy: Maureen)

Kalymnos Island (Courtesy: Maureen)

Recommendation by Maureen – Life On The Mediterranean

“Kalymnos is a small Greek island in the Dodecanese between Kos and Leros, near Turkey. It’s overlooked for other easier-to-reach islands like Rhodes or Kos, and more difficult and more expensive to reach. But once you do, you’ll find an extremely tranquil island whose economy is based on sponge fishing, rock climbing and a bit of tourism.

It’s a great place for solo female travellers as it’s extremely safe and people look out for one another. You’ll be alone, but you won’t. It’s a great place to chill, write, enjoy life on a quaint island, enjoy fresh seafood and get to know the locals if you want. Hotels and food are affordable. It’s a lovely Greek island where time has stood still. You could stay for a month on the weekly budget you need in some other pricier islands. Give it a try.”

Galicia – Spain

Galicia Cathedrals beach at sunrise (Courtesy: Inma Gregorio)

Galicia Cathedrals beach at sunrise (Courtesy: Inma Gregorio)

Recommendation by Inma Gregorio – A World To Travel

“The reasons why I can’t stop recommending Galicia as a friendly destination for visitors – and in this case, for women who travel alone – is as varied as the region. Still, I’ll try to give you some clues, girls: Galicia, in the northwest of Spain, is a semi-unknown region because it does not belong to the busiest tourist circuits, but it is equally beautiful due to the exuberant Galician nature and cities full of history.

The tradition of this land in receiving visitors who travel alone comes from the Middle Ages when the road to Santiago began to be ‘crowded’ by pilgrims who came from nearby and distant lands. That is why the Galician people are accustomed to receiving and treating well whoever comes here. An affordable living, world-acclaimed cuisine, many celebrations all-year round and funny weather, are awaiting you.”

Athens – Greece

Athens (Courtesy: Iulia - Alexandra Falcutescu)

Athens (Courtesy: Iulia – Alexandra Falcutescu)

Recommendation by Iulia – Alexandra Falcutescu – The Traveling Tulip

“While visiting Athens, I have discovered a wonderful blend of culture, history and contemporary air. I was simply enchanted to walk the streets of Athens and having to stop at every step, because there was always something to see, always a street vendor that wanted to show me their merchandise or an ancient building that “demanded” to be admired.

As a woman travelling solo to Athens, I have never felt unsafe. The people are so friendly, especially when they discover that you are a foreigner. They try to do their best to welcome you and make you feel comfortable. As with every other country I visited, I did my best to avoid dangerous situations or locations by staying informed on those prior to the actual visit. If you want to find out more of my time in Athens, check out my post about how to spend a weekend in Athens.”

Cercedilla – Spain

Cercedilla (Courtesy: Jamie Graffman)

Cercedilla (Courtesy: Jamie Graffman)

Recommendation by Jamie Graffman – Crashed Culture

“Cercedilla, Spain is a quaint but beautiful pueblo on the northern outskirts of Madrid, Spain. This town is full of many Spaniards’ former second homes before the country faced economic issues. This recent history makes for an interesting trip because while the area is clean and beautiful, it’s also completely empty and full of opportunities. Cercedilla is a popular stop for hikers and other nature lovers but is also fun just to walk around and see the beautiful buildings.

Cercedilla is a great destination for women travelling solo because it’s so open! For those concerned about strangers they’re likely to meet on the road, this isn’t a concern in such a desolate area. It’s a great place to just walk around and enjoy the scenery, which means travellers need not be concerned about finding things to do.”

Naxos – Greece

Pyrgaki, Naxos (Courtesy: Steph Edwards)

Pyrgaki, Naxos (Courtesy: Steph Edwards)

Recommendation by Steph Edwards – The Mediterranean Traveller

“The whole of Greece is ideal for easy-going solo female travel, but my favourite place is the island of Naxos in the Cyclades. From the moment you set foot there, you instantly feel relaxed. Plus, the people are super friendly. Despite its amazing beaches and fantastic food, Naxos is not overly commercial or busy like some of the more popular islands, and you’re bound to bump into other independent travellers there too (probably congregating in one of the laid-back beach cafes).

You can see the main sites by bus which is great for those who don’t want the expense of hiring a car. But – best of all – you can find cheap rooms a street or two back from the main town beach Agios Georgios, meaning you don’t have to worry about your stuff whilst you’re swimming. No wonder Naxos has devotees who return year after year!”

Do you also love islands and sandy shorelines?

Would you like to recommend some more places?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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Western Europe’s Best Kept Secrets: 10 Places For Girls Who Travel Solo

Western Europe is perhaps the most visited part of the world today. Truth be told – I have always been wary of a region where almost every tourist flocks. This is one of the reasons why I have largely avoided travelling to western European countries. The closest I’ve been is to Germany. But I’m discovering how a trip to mainstream Europe does not have to mean seeing the done-to-death cities. Here are 10 offbeat locations which solo travellers will love:

Glattalp – Switzerland

Glattalp (Courtesy: Michael Gerber)

Glattalp (Courtesy: Michael Gerber)

Recommendation by Michael Gerber – MscGerber

“When people think about Switzerland there are usually the same destinations they try to visit: Zermatt, Lucerne, Interlaken, Zurich and many more. However, there are still some hidden gems in the Swiss Alps that are not even known by the Swiss people. One of those is the Glattalp, which is not only a perfect place for hikers and adventurers but also for solo female travellers.

To get there, you will have to drive a car or take public transportation – to then be able to take a (pretty old) cable car up to the Glattalp, which seriously offers some of the most breathtaking views I have ever witnessed. What I personally loved the most about the Glattalp was its lake (Glattalpsee), which offers incredible reflections of the mountain peaks around it.”

Kildare – Ireland

St. Brigid's Cathedral in Kildare (Courtesy: Roxanna Keyes)

St. Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare (Courtesy: Roxanna Keyes)

Recommendation by Roxanna Keyes – Gypsy with a Day Job

“The village of Kildare, in County Kildare, Ireland, is a perfect place for a solo woman traveller. Kildare was actually founded by a woman, St. Brigid, the Patroness Saint of Ireland. Her cathedral and round tower still stand near the town square, making interesting exploration for those interested in Catholicism or Celtic religions, as Brigid figures largely in both.

Horse and garden lovers will enjoy National Stud, the training centre for championship steeds, and home to two renowned gardens. The Japanese gardens are among the loveliest I have ever seen. The village also boasts a prestige store outlet mall, and the Silver Screen Museum in nearby Naas is a surprising treat. Along with these things that are unique to Kildare, there are also castles, ruins, holy wells, pubs, and the gorgeous Irish countryside to see. Kildare is charming and safe, a village many women may fall in love with.”

Bayeux – France

Bayeux (Courtesy: Shobha George)

Bayeux (Courtesy: Shobha George)

Recommendation by Shobha George – Years Of Therapy Ahead

“Bayeux is a small city in Normandy, France – a must-see for history buffs. The city’s location near the English Channel means it has played a pivotal part in world history. For example, one of its museums holds the UNESCO-recognised Bayeux Tapestry which depicts William the Conqueror’s conquest of England in 1066. The British crossed the English Channel in the opposite direction in 1944 at nearby Gold Beach during the D-Day landings. Bayeux was the first city liberated from the Nazis by the Allied Forces on the day after D-Day.

The city has a museum dedicated to the Battle of Normandy as well as a large British war cemetery dedicated to the fallen. Luckily, the city itself escaped any damage from World War II because British engineers created a bypass road for their soldiers and tanks. Bayeux is still a charming town of historic houses, cobblestones and canals, unlike some neighbouring cities like Caen which were heavily damaged after World War II. There are direct trains from Paris that run to Bayeux, making it an ideal small city from which to explore both the D-Day beaches and other attractions in the rest of Normandy such as Mont St. Michel.”

Rostock – Germany

Rostock (Courtesy: Dhara)

Rostock (Courtesy: Dhara)

Recommendation by Dhara – It’s Not About the Miles

“Rostock is a pretty Hanseatic town on the north coast of Germany. It has a picturesque old town and a lovely harbour. Rostock would make for a lovely solo travel destination for women because it is easy to get in and around and there is plenty to see and do, albeit at a relaxed pace. You can wander around, shop for amber, and tour the local university.

The Neuer Markt, the main square, has six beautiful gable houses from the 15th and 16th centuries as its focal point. The town has two beautiful old churches: St. Nicholas, and St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s contains an astronomical clock and a Baroque organ. You can climb up to the top of the tower for beautiful views. The old city wall remnants and the Town Hall are other major attractions. Rostock is about two hours from Berlin by fast train, and there are several trains that run every day.”

Llandudno – Wales

Llandudno (Courtesy: Lavina Dsouza)

Llandudno (Courtesy: Lavina Dsouza)

Recommendation by Lavina Dsouza – Continent Hop

“Great Britain is usually considered a safe bet when it comes to solo travel, but travellers typically tend to stick to the usual when they visit – London and the Burroughs and Edinburgh. However, if you venture a little to the west, Wales is a great option to explore. Liverpool has good connectivity, and once you get to Liverpool, Llandudno is an hour’s drive from there. It’s got a great beach, numerous activities including hiking and bars too but what sets it apart is you can experience all of this within a short area till late without feeling out of place.

There are beautiful bed-and-breakfasts, most of which have someone at the reception to help out, there are clear directions put around, and a quick Google search will tell you timings for almost all activities so that you can plan in time and not get stranded. The locals are always happy to help with a smile on their faces, and it’s a great place even if you like to take a stroll late at night!”

Leiden – The Netherlands

Leiden (Courtesy: Constance)

Leiden (Courtesy: Constance)

Recommendation by Constance – The Adventures Of Panda Bear

“Everyone knows about Amsterdam being one of the safest large cities for solo female travel, but did you know that Leiden is also an amazing spot to travel alone? Located only a 30-minute train ride away from Amsterdam, Leiden is a historic Dutch city with a quaint city centre full of canals and a laundry list of museums and sights to be explored. Check out the Leiden Street Market for cheap and amazing eats and don’t forget to take a stroll along the canals to walk off the food!

Some of the best museums in the area include the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden) and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center. The Molen de Valk working windmill museum is picturesque and also worth visiting. Even though Leiden is a smaller city, it’s got a lot to offer any solo female traveller and is perfect for a getaway trip from Amsterdam.”

Luxembourg City – Luxembourg

Luxembourg City (Courtesy: Rachel Brown)

Luxembourg City (Courtesy: Rachel Brown)

Recommendation by Rachel Brown – Rachel On Route

“Back in the spring, I travelled to Luxembourg City as a solo female traveller and I would go back in a heartbeat. The city has a wonderfully European ‘cool’ vibe, was clean, bright and felt exceptionally safe. It was only my second solo trip, so still a new concept for me, but I found that because the city wasn’t crawling with tourists, I was more comfortable wandering around and exploring alone. I felt like I didn’t need to constantly watch myself, and was able to relax.

I found it quite surprising the city wasn’t busier though. It has some beautiful cobbled streets, lovely green spaces (the park is beautiful) a great city museum, cute coffee shops and the views from the Casemate du Bock over the river were pretty romantic. The city has a long and fascinating history and the people I met were friendly and kind. Everything I could possibly ask for! To my mind, as cliché as it may sound, it’s a hidden gem.”

Newcastle upon Tyne – England

The Swing Bridge, spanning the River Tyne between Gateshead and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. The Norman castle keep and Quayside area of Newcastle stand beyond the bridge.

The Swing Bridge, spanning the River Tyne between Gateshead and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. (Courtesy: Stuart Forster)

Recommendation by Stuart Forster – Go Eat Do

“Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a vibrant city in the north-east of England. The locals, nicknamed Geordies, tend to be friendly folk who make visitors feel welcome without overstepping their boundaries. The nightlife is renowned as being among the best in Europe, with dozens of bars and clubs to visit. Looking for things to do during the daytime? The Great North Museum and Discovery Museum count among tourist attractions that help put the city and region into context. The Centre for Life is an ideal place to while away a few hours if you are interested in science. The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art is a renowned exhibition space on the far side of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. On Sundays Newcastle’s Quayside hosts a market, meaning opportunities to snack on street food or purchase souvenirs to take home.”

Flims – Switzerland

Flims (Courtesy: Arzo)

Flims (Courtesy: Arzo)

Recommendation by Arzo – Arzo Travels

“I was positively surprised by one little place that isn’t very famous amongst international tourists though it is one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland. Flims, in the canton of Graubünden, has won my heart. While it is not as busy as places like Zurich or Lucerne, there are a few attractions that are mind-blowing and which you can see within one day (actually, you can hike that area in a few hours). On a hike, you can see three natural attractions – Lake Cauma, Lake Cresta and the Rhine Gorge. These three attractions make you feel awestruck. Here you will find nature at its best – and as it is not very famous yet, you will not have to share that place with too many other tourists. It is mostly locals who hike there.

Swiss people are not necessarily fans of small talk, so if you are looking to have some chats you will appreciate the few Americans you will meet along the way. But if you like calm and serenity, this is the perfect place to visit as a solo traveller. Switzerland is very safe, so you can spend your vacation there without having to worry about safety.”

Lyon – France

Lyon (Courtesy: Noel Morata)

Lyon (Courtesy: Noel Morata)

Recommendation by Noel Morata – Travel Photo Discovery

“For travelling around Europe solo, I think Lyon, France is really a wonderful place to visit. Less than a two-hour train ride from Paris, Lyon showcases everything you can dream of in Paris but on a much smaller and doable scale for a short visit. For those looking at historic or cultural interest, foodie inspired venues, wonderful shopping and a safe place for solo travel, Lyon offers all that and more. It’s very easy to get around the city by walking or taking public transportation and the historic district is very compact and easy to manoeuvre. Beautiful squares, old town vibe combined with hip new venues and hangouts, make this an easy city to meet and greet locals or even new people visiting the area. Check out my Visiting Lyon post here for more inspiration of what to see and do in this fabulous city.”

What are your thoughts on Western Europe as a travel destination?

Have more ideas for my solo-travelling gal-pals?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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Italy Beyond The Usual: Calling All Women Who Love To Travel Solo

Italian cuisine is one of my favourites and the country also ranks quite high on my list. It has been more than 7 years since I last visited Italy. However, my naive old self had only done all the touristy things (read – What Not to do in Venice). Before heading out to that country again, I wanted to be sure to steer clear of tourist traps. So, I asked my travel pals to share some of their recommendations on offbeat places for solo female travellers. Here are 5 Italian destinations that are surely beyond the usual suspects:

Bologna

Bologna (Courtesy: Kate Storm)

Bologna (Courtesy: Kate Storm)

Recommendation by Kate Storm – Our Escape Clause

“Hoping to explore Italy’s beautiful architecture and cuisine without the overly romantic environment of places like Venice and Tuscany? Look no further than Bologna. As the capital of the Emilia Romagna region, Bologna offers a fantastic mix of offbeat experiences, delicious food, and beautiful streets to wander… all with an easy-to-use travel infrastructure and a much less romance-focused atmosphere than nearby Tuscany and Verona. While you’re in Bologna, consider joining a food tour to indulge in some of the best food in Italy (Emilia Romagna is the original home of delicacies like mortadella, tagliatelle al ragu, and more), climb the Asinelli Tower for epic views over the city, and take yourself on an informal scavenger hunt to find the hidden canals of Bologna.”

Modena

Modena (Courtesy: Ayngelina Brogan)

Modena (Courtesy: Ayngelina Brogan)

Recommendation by Ayngelina Brogan – Bacon Is Magic

“Although most travellers tend to stick to Rome and Florence, I love to recommend smaller towns in Italy for solo female travellers. Modena is just a short 30-minute train ride from Bologna and so many people miss it. Most famous for its balsamic vinegar, it’s also home to great prosciutto and many Parmigiano Reggiano cheese producers. As a town, it’s perfect for women travelling alone as the downtown core is walkable, yet there is a hop on hop off bus to reach all the factories and producers on the outskirts. There is no tourist section of the city, so you don’t need to worry about being targeted by pickpockets as you’ll see locals everywhere and it’s well lit at night. Modena really is a food lover’s dream and you can do it on your own.”

Favignana

Favignana (Courtesy: Leanne Scott)

Favignana (Courtesy: Leanne Scott)

Recommendation by Leanne Scott – The Globetrotter GP

“Favignana is a tiny island just off the coast of Sicily. Often compared to the Caribbean, this should be a must-see on any Sicily itinerary. For me, it was a tranquil haven. I spent a wonderful, peaceful day cycling solo from one stunning beach to the next. I have truly never seen an ocean so bright blue and crystal clear. I felt completely safe on this island as a solo female traveller. On mainland Sicily, I occasionally worried about being pickpocketed but on Favignana, life was so laid back, this didn’t even cross my mind. An easy day trip from Trapani on the west coast, it takes just 30 minutes to reach Favignana. Tickets can be purchased on the same day from booths opposite the ferry company. With only a handful of tourists and barely any traffic on the roads, the only way to get around this tiny island is by bike.”

Ortigia

Ortigia (Courtesy: David Angel)

Ortigia (Courtesy: David Angel)

Recommendation by David Angel – Delve Into Europe

“Ortigia is an island which was the historic centre of Syracuse, on the south-east coast of Sicily. For a time in the 5th century BC, Syracuse – originally a Greek colony – was the most powerful city in the known world. It’s fair to say it has retreated to the backwaters since then. Ortigia is just a few minutes’ ride from the main bus station in Syracuse, but it’s only served by a tiny electric bus that carries eight people every twenty minutes. The island itself is absolutely stunning, a maze of crumbling romantic 17th and 18th-century houses, with many of the streets pedestrianised, so there’s very little traffic.

We loved the walk along the island’s seafront, passing a medieval castle, a street of restaurants, several churches and a couple of tiny beaches. The backstreets are also beautiful, many lined with lovely little trattorie. We chose Ortigia because we were travelling with our two-year-old son who loves to run and explore, and this is a safe place to do so. But it would work just as well if you’re travelling solo. Ortigia’s highlight is the Piazza del Duomo, a large ‘square’ centred around the stunning Baroque cathedral. We went there every night for gelato and coffee around dusk, just as the lights came on. It’s one of the most beautiful squares in Italy – at a fraction of the price you’d pay in Venice or Rome.”

Porto Venere

Porto Venere (Courtesy: Christina Román)

Porto Venere (Courtesy: Christina Román)

Recommendation by Christina Román – Explore Now or Never

“Everybody loves the Cinque Terre, but just 15 minutes south is UNESCO World Heritage site Portovenere without the crowds! A soul-satisfying European destination for solo women. Begin by exploring the ruins of the Church of St. Peter, a 13th-century Catholic church high on a cliff overlooking the sea. Then wander the shops. (Great deals on linen clothing and tablecloths in sun-drenched colours.) While we were enjoying a lovely al fresco lunch dockside, a white Rolls Royce with newlyweds came zooming past, heavy on the horn. As everyone stood and applauded, we were reminded why we love locals-only destinations best. In the evening, you’ll have the Cinque Terre mostly to yourself. Here are more tips on how to see it and where to eat.”

Been to other offbeat places in Italy?

Got some solo travel tips for my readers?

Let us know through your comments below. 🙂

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Northern Europe For Solo Female Travellers – 5 Stunning Recommendations

When I first ventured into the northern parts of Europe (read – Running in Lithuania – My First Half Marathon Abroad), I did not realize how delighted I would be with its intrinsic beauty, the lack of crowds and the simplicity of the inhabitants. Even though I’ve explored a bit of the Baltics (read – The Romance of Riga), I still have to see most of northern Europe. Sometime back, I asked my solo travel pals for their recommendations, and here is what they suggested:

Reykjavik – Iceland

Reykjavik (Courtesy: Natasha & Cameron)

Reykjavik (Courtesy: Natasha & Cameron)

Recommendation by Natasha & Cameron – The World Pursuit

“Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, meaning it is fantastic for all solo female travellers. Its capital, Reykjavik, doesn’t feel like your typical capital at all. It’s small, charming, and quiet with no skyscrapers ruining the view. Iceland was one of the first countries I ever travelled to by myself, and I have fond memories of its people, landscapes, culture, and my time in Reykjavik.

Only 120,000 people call this place home. Its small size means you won’t feel nervous or unsafe walking around here – even at 2 am. Honestly, with a country so beautiful, the main danger is Mother Nature, so it’s important to hike and venture out with some knowledge of the land and its conditions. Reykjavik is also such a fantastic capital city because there are so many things to do just outside of it! It still blows me away that only 10 minutes from Iceland’s capital you can find yourself deep in the heart of beautiful nature.”

Vilnius – Lithuania

Vilnius (Courtesy: Nicola Lavin)

Vilnius (Courtesy: Nicola Lavin)

Recommendation by Nicola Lavin – All About Rosa Lilla

“I was blown away by Lithuania’s capital city and the breathtaking design of its medieval Old Town – the largest in all of central and eastern Europe. With its bustling cafe scene, hip pub culture and beautiful architecture, it is not hard to completely fall in love with Vilnius. Despite its turbulent history, Lithuanians are proud of the independence they achieved in 1990 – the first Soviet republic to do so. It was so heartwarming to see the flags hung so proudly, and at night, to watch the buildings lit up in red, yellow and green. Not too touristy, this is the perfect place to be a solo traveller. Nearly everything is within walking distance. I felt completely safe walking the streets here. Also, Vilnius is one of the cheapest European capitals I’ve travelled in, so your Euro goes a long way.

There is so much to see and do in this wonderful city, even if it is just wandering the streets to check out the cool street art. I used to think that graffiti makes a city look messy but I’ve completely changed my mind since visiting Vilnius. They take street art to a whole new level. Think Putin and Trump sharing a joint! There are many beautiful pink baroque churches, and if you fancy something completely different, visit Užupis. Užupis is a self-declared Republic within the city of Vilnius, often compared to the Montmartre region of Paris. Here you will find the funniest constitution that residents follow as you spend the day enjoying the laidback boho vibes of the area. There is plenty to love about Vilnius and I really hope you consider visiting for yourself.”

Dragør – Denmark

Dragør (Courtesy: Anjali Chawla)

Dragør (Courtesy: Anjali Chawla)

Recommendation by Anjali Chawla – Travel Melodies

“A sleepy little cute old town near the sea coast, virgin forests and meadows, -Dragør is a delight to visit. Just 12 km southeast of Copenhagen, this old fishing town is historically, culturally and naturally vibrant. The town offers the taste of authentic Denmark and the best views of the Øresund Bridge as it spans across to Sweden. Its narrow cobblestone streets and colourful low thatched roof houses from the 1700’s seem like a perfect setting for a slow stroll. The cottages adorned beautifully with vibrant flowers add romance to the whole experience.

Denmark has been ranked as one of the safest countries for solo women travellers in the world. Safety-index ranking, friendly and helpful locals, intimate vibe, and its small size (13,000 inhabitants) make Dragør a perfect choice for solo-female travellers. The public transport system is easy to navigate and one of the best in the world. It takes 30 minutes by bus line 350S from Copenhagen and 12 minutes by line 35 from the airport to reach this charmingly quaint town of Denmark. Bicycling around the town and along the coast is the best way to feel the essence of Dragor.”

Tallinn – Estonia

Tallinn (Courtesy: Allison Green)

Tallinn (Courtesy: Allison Green)

Recommendation by Allison Green – Eternal Arrival

“If you’re looking for an offbeat travel destination in Northern Europe, you should consider visiting the Baltic States on your next trip. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a great place for solo female travellers. It’s incredibly safe and there are plenty of hostels with nice, modern design where you can easily meet other fellow travellers. Street harassment is very uncommon in Tallinn (and in Northern Europe in general) so you are able to let your guard down a bit, compared to bigger Western European cities.

There are countless things to do in Tallinn that are perfect for solo enjoyment, such as exploring the local coffee shops, window shopping at Telliskivi Creative City, checking out the street art in Kalamaja, browsing the KGB Museum or the KuMu art museum, or just wandering around and photographing the stunning Old Town which has been preserved extremely well from its medieval roots. Tallinn is easily walkable and the public transportation infrastructure is excellent for a city of its size, making it a great choice for solo travellers.”

Vik – Iceland

Vik (Courtesy: Kristin Addis)

Vik (Courtesy: Kristin Addis)

Recommendation by Kristin Addis – Be My Travel Muse

“Vik in Iceland is one of my favourite places for solo travel. It is absolutely beautiful, with several waterfalls nearby. Easy to access along Iceland’s Ring Road, Vik is not too far from Reykjavik if you don’t have a full week to explore the full Ring Road. Besides, Iceland is the safest country on earth right now! That ticks all of my boxes for the perfect spot to travel solo. It is easy to reach on a tour, by public transport, or my preferred method – a camper van.”

Ever been to the Baltics or the Nordic countries?

Have more suggestions for solo female travellers visiting Northern Europe?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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