It's that time of year again.
But this is no ordinary year.
I know, the holidays still seem a long way off, but they'll be here before you know it! Searches on our website for solo travel destinations for Christmas and New Year's have increased as they always do at this time of year. Perhaps this year, though, those who wish to go somewhere over the holidays will be opting for a destination closer to home.
Staycations, or nearcations, as they are sometimes called, may be more popular than ever this holiday season. For those who just want to get away from home for a bit, and live in areas where it is possible, driving a few hours to another city, a cabin in the woods, or a spa may be just the ticket. A change of scenery, a bit of luxury, a break from Netflix and my laptop – sounds good to me!
Some hotels are offering specific discounts to locals who show identification when they check in. And some locals are so local, they're arriving on foot! It certainly makes for a less expensive trip when there are little to no transportation costs.
Christmas and New Year's Eve can be tricky holidays for solo travelers. Traditionally, many people spend them at home, or with family or friends. That's what makes the recommendations that follow so special: they are all from members of the Solo Traveler community who have personally spent the holidays alone in these destinations around the world.
Over the last few years, we have compiled recommendations for over 45 solo travel destinations for the holidays. While you may not be able to travel to your holiday bucket list destination this year, you will find plenty of inspiration here for future trips.
Please keep in mind that none of the recommendations below are endorsements from Solo Traveler, as we have not visited them all ourselves. To seek additional advice from fellow solo travelers around the world, or to offer your own suggestions, join me and the more than a quarter million members of the Solo Travel Society over on Facebook where we talk travel every day. Or for more from Solo Traveler, including a monthly speaker series, check out the Solo Traveler Insiders group on Patreon.
Let's start with an enthusiastic holiday travel reminiscence from Linda.
I love being away for Christmas to escape the family festivities. I can't remember when I was home last time over the Christmas holidays. I've been to Namibia, Kenya, Ivory Coast, India, Taiwan, Florida, Australia, China, and so on. I'm still looking for a travel destination for this year. I might not want to go that far, so I'm thinking Europe or the Middle East, or maybe a yoga holiday.
If you're new to Solo Traveler you may want to check out these posts to get a taste of what we offer:
- Top Solo Travel Posts of All Time
- Tours for Solo Travelers with No/Low Single Supplements
- Solo Road Trips: Free-Wheeling As a Solo Traveler
- The Solo Traveler Insiders on Patreon
- Perspectives on Male Solo Travel
- Best Budget Destinations for Solo Travelers
Destinations in Antarctica and Arctic Regions
Reykjavik, Iceland at New Year’s is absolutely incredible, says Natalie. “There's a constant supply of fireworks, even in daylight. When I went, I headed to the top of the hill where the Hallgrimskirkja Church is, as there is a big gathering of locals where the fireworks are set off. When I left to walk back to the hotel at about 12:30 pm, the fireworks were still going off and it was just the best, happiest atmosphere. It has to be my favorite new year.”
Iceland is also recommended by Emily. “I did Christmas in Iceland solo a few years back. I would definitely recommend it. It was my first white Christmas – it actually snowed on Christmas Day. I was terrified before getting there but it turned out to be absolutely amazing!”
Solo Holiday Destinations in Africa
Cape Town, South Africa is recommended by Lize. “For the winelands, beaches, forest, and mountains.”
Djibouti and Ethiopia are the destinations where Catherine spent last Christmas and New Year. “In Djibouti on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day I was on a two-day trip to Lakes Assal and Abbe, which was fantastic. I spent New Year’s Eve in Ethiopia climbing Dallol Volcano in the Danakil Depression as part of a 3-day tour. Both were excellent experiences and yielded great memories to mark the days.
Marrakech, Morocco is recommended by Riad. “You'll get to enjoy the wonders of the city, the monuments, the souks, the food, a camel ride, skiing in the Atlas Mountains, or a day trip to the surrounding villages. All that in one city–and it's sunny even in December.”
Tunisia is Rebekah's suggestion “for a nice sunshine resort break and lots of relaxing in the sun.”
Asian Destination Recommendations
Japan Aaron tells us that Christmas is not a public holiday in Japan, so everything is open, which is great for travelers. He says, “the Japanese do love celebrating it, so there are loads of Christmas decorations and festivals. I spent the last 2 Christmases in Tokyo and Hokkaido, and it was awesome.”
Says Joleen, “Japan is lovely during the New Year season as many families are out in full force in their beautiful kimonos visiting the temples. However, many eateries and attractions are closed during this period, so that’s something to look out for!”
Hiroshima and Kyoto are recommended by Nancy. “It was wonderful. I ended up in Hiroshima on Christmas Day. The city was lit up with winter lights, and beautiful. New Year's in Kyoto was incredible, listening to all the many temple bells ringing in the year. I travel alone very often and always have great experiences.”
Tokyo is recommended by T.C. “There are decorations everywhere, but everything is much more low key and uniquely Japanese.”
Korea is recommended by Wulan. “Last Christmas and New Year, going to South Korea, alone but feeling good, I went to Bosingak to count down the new year. It is full with people, so you can't easily move your body but it was a great experience.”
Singapore Victoria chose Singapore as one of her solo holiday destinations. “As it is a Buddhist country, they weren’t too bothered by December 25th. I was! The best places I found were actually 5* hotels as they were full of tourists celebrating Christmas. We had such fun as there were lots of other solo travelers there too.
Southeast Asia is suggested by Jules. He spent “two weeks Eco Volunteering with Bamboo Young at Heart. Week one was in Surin province Thailand, working with elephants, then Siem Reap, Cambodia to work with Water Aid. Then I was on my own meandering through Cambodia and back to Thailand for 5 weeks. I'm 62, and it was my first solo backpacking experience. I didn't want to come home!”
Vietnam is Jennifer's recommendation. “I'd go just about anywhere in Vietnam solo, but specifically Hoi An & Hue are lovely.”
Solo Holiday Destinations in The Americas
Quebec, Canada is recommended by Ron. “I went skiing around Quebec a few years back. It has relatively cheap skiing and it's not very crowded. You definitely will get a white Christmas to boot!”
Galapagos, Ecuador is recommended by Jasmine. “I’m going to the Galapagos for New Year’s. I will be solo, but with like-minded adventurers on a boat.”
Antigua, Guatemala is recommended by Casey. “I loved it. I never felt alone since my hosts included me. It's best to stay with a family here. They don't hype up Christmas but it is a spectacular Christmas Eve.”
Guadalajara, Mexico is recommended by Jenny who “spent Christmas at a homestay where they celebrate their Christmas dinner and opening of gifts on December 24th. It was an experience to remember.”
Cusco, Peru A memorable Christmas for Carole was spent in Cusco. “They have an amazing market on the 24th where locals buy everything needed to create a nativity scene. On Christmas Day they are all on display on church steps or entryways, from miniatures to full size. And that's just the start of the festivities!”
Disney World, Florida is recommended by Tania, “for a magical experience – hands down.”
Hawaii is where Delma has spent the holidays for the last two years. “I love my aloha Christmas! When on Christmas Day people are having dinner and opening presents, I am swimming at the beach and drinking Mai Tais!”
Chicago, Illinois delighted Rachel. “I went to Chicago for the first time for five days over Christmas last year. I was more than pleasantly surprised by the city and its people. I lucked out with the weather (the second warmest on record), was impressed with the architecture and with how much the city was decorated for the holidays, and I have to say, the people are some of the friendliest I've come across in the United States. I didn't have enough time to see everything I wanted to, but it felt so Christmassy I didn't mind. It was the first time I've gone on vacation for Christmas, and definitely won't be the last.”
New Orleans, Louisiana is the place to be, according to Micheline. “Throughout the holidays, restaurants hold Reveillon Dinners, which are prix fixe, festive dinners with special dishes. The weather is mild, decorations are up and people are incredibly friendly. Because it’s a Catholic city, there are lots of services with great music. Bonus: if you can stay through Jan. 6, carnival season officially begins.
New York, New York is recommended by Carol. “New York City has wonderful decorations and Christmas markets. You may want to sleep off Manhattan island to get a cheaper room and commute in using mass transit. There's nowhere to park and it's outrageously expensive.” NYC is also recommended by Kathleen. “I live near New York, and I would think that it or any diverse city would be fun–there are always a lot of people who either don't celebrate or are completely over the Christmas thing, so you would be free to focus your attention on other things.” Read: Affordable New York City: 32 Free and Low-Cost Tips
Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona is recommended by Micheline. “I definitely recommend the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. The botanical garden and the zoo are decorated in festive lights. The winter sky is a beautiful color. The temperature is just right, usually in the 70s. Many restaurants have outdoor patios and it's great to watch the pretty sunsets.”
San Juan, Puerto Rico is recommended by Suzanne. “I flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico a few days after Christmas. I stayed in the old city. I loved all the decorations that were up for Christmas! There was lots of activity going on and I always felt safe. I took a tour with Spoon Food Tours and loved it! After a few days in San Juan, I did a one week cruise (also solo) on Celebrity's Summit — also fabulous!”
San Diego, California is recommended by John. “Last year, I did a quick trip to San Diego for a few days between Christmas & New Year's. I stayed in a boutique hotel in Little Italy. I used the trolley the whole time I was there. I took the Coaster up to Oceanside for the day to see the Surf Museum. The weather was phenomenal! There are very good restaurants on India Street in Little Italy and the Old Town area. I highly recommended this city.”
Sedona, Arizona Trina says, “Christmas in Sedona: it's a lovely time of year to visit, not too cold, and you're still able to go hiking!”
Tucson, Arizona Miraval Resort & Spa in the Santa Catalina Mountains in northern Tucson is recommended by René. “You can be as active or as chill as you want at this resort. The location is beautiful, and the food is fantastic!”
Washington, DC is recommended by Micheline. It's “wonderful at the holidays. The city is beautifully decorated, and the White House is gorgeous during Christmas. It's become a great restaurant town, too, and there are lots of holiday dishes on menus. Don't worry about cold weather, it's a temperate place.” Rebekah agrees, adding that during the week between Christmas and New Year's, she found “bright sunshine and got to look around all the sights and museums with hardly any crowds. I loved it!”
While it wasn't the week of Christmas, I visited DC in December one year, indulging in some of my favorite things: food, wine, and art.
European Solo Travel Destinations for Christmas and New Year's
A Grand Tour Greta spent this past Christmas and New Year's in Europe on a month-long grand tour. “I visited 17 different countries and 36 different cities. I also experienced snow for the first time, and met so many new friends. I think I am going to start this as a new tradition for myself and pick a new country every holiday season.”
River Cruise Trina really enjoyed a European river cruise during the holiday season. “They stopped at all ports that had Christmas Markets. I highly recommend AMA Waterways, everything that was included was wonderful: the service, food, and tour offers. Plus, they offer to waive the single supplement fees.”
A Northern Tour is recommended by Cheri. “Last year, I did Germany (Triberg-the black forest, Frankfurt, and Hamburg for the Christmas markets). I had a lot of fun, and enjoyed good food and decor. I also went to Denmark, Copenhagen area at Christmas and enjoyed the food and markets there also. I took the train to “Hamlet's castle” and took the ferry to have lunch in Sweden. I finished up my trip in Holland, seeing the festival of lights from the canals, a country tour of windmills, and enjoying cheese and biscuits. I had a great time. The prices were lower than in the summer, the decorations were great, and there where fewer people–except maybe in Amsterdam.”
Budapest, Hungary is recommended by Arlene. “I went to Budapest last year. It was fabulous. I got one of the last tickets for the Nutcracker ballet at the Opera House on Christmas Day. I recommend it for a solo trip.”
It's also recommended by Alison, along with Prague and Brussels. “I went to Prague, Budapest, and Brussels last year. It was beautiful. It was nice to spend the holiday time being productive and exploring rather than sitting around in a food coma.”
London, England Suzanne, who spent the holidays in London last year, says that the city nicely celebrates the holidays with food festivals, carnivals, ice skating, and more. Tickets for the New Year's Eve fireworks, the largest annual fireworks display in the UK, go on sale in October, and Suzanne says it is an amazing experience to see in person.
London also comes highly recommended by Bev, who has spent the holidays there five times. A little tip she shared with us is to “bring your own holiday music–the songs you really love to hear and that make you smile, not just what you think is traditional.”
Bella suggests that you “take a night tour of London and see it all lit up, especially the lovely tree at Buckingham Palace.”
We even have some insider tips from Ann, a very enthusiastic local!
I admit I live here, but one of the best times of the year to be in London is between Christmas and New Year as there are next to no tourists and lots of the locals leave the city to stay with relatives outside of the city or abroad. Last year I saw the Nutcracker ballet in the Coliseum on Christmas Eve and walking home afterwards was magical, so quiet and just a hint of frost in the air. Should we be lucky enough to get a white Christmas, it is even better as the snow muffles all the sounds and with all the old buildings and alleyways in the city, it truly feels like you are in Dickens' London in A Christmas Carol. You almost expect to run into Scrooge and Cratchit!
Check out our posts on London: Solo Travel London on a Budget and Best Places to Stay in London: Accommodation for Solo Travelers.
Christmas Markets in Germany are recommended by Karla. “I go every year to the Christmas Markets. I absolutely love them–and I'm never lonely.”
Munich Janice visited six Christmas Markets in Munich alone. “Most run to December 23rd or 24th. The Tollwood Festival, which includes a Christmas Market, runs to December 31st and concludes with a big event on New Year’s Eve. I think that would be a perfect place for a solo traveler to celebrate the final night of the year.”
Nuremberg is recommended by Shannon. “The traditional Christmas market is an amazing experience.”
Ireland I spent a week traveling around Dublin, Cork, and Galway just before Christmas last year. It was very festive and welcoming, and in spite of the fact that I am accustomed to snowy Canadian winters, the rain didn't bother me one bit. I attended Christmas concerts in churches in two different cities, admired the twinkling lights in the streets of Dublin, and enjoyed a pot of tea by the fire in the glow of the Christmas tree lights at my hotel. It was the perfect place to get into the holiday spirit! You can read about my trip in Dublin, Cork & Galway: Exploring Ireland Solo.
Paris, France is recommended by Micheline. “Paris is festive at Christmas. Try to arrive a day or two ahead, so you can get your bearings and figure out your plan for the holiday. Before Christmas, you can see the fascinating Buche de Noel displays in bakery windows. While many restaurants close for Christmas itself, hotel restaurants serve dinner and Paris has some wonderful ones. Be sure to take a stroll or a cab ride to see the lights.”
It's also recommended by Sonja. “I loved it. I spent the 24th in Versailles and the Louvre and had a lovely dinner. The 25th was for walking only. It's a bank holiday in Paris as well so everything was closed. But the Christmas service in Notre Dame was breathtaking. I left on the 26th so I don't know how it would have been over New Year's, but it's probably great.”
Prague, Czech Republic is one of the most popular solo travel destinations for Christmas. I have only been away from home at Christmas twice in my life, and one of those years it was to spend A Solo Christmas in Prague.
Gabriella also spent Christmas in Prague a few years ago. “I recommend the chimney cake stalls, short daytime classical concerts in churches, Charles Bridge at dawn on Christmas/Boxing Day, riverside walks, and if you want to brave the crowds, the Christmas Tree in the Old Town Square.”
Rudy also highly recommends Prague as a solo holiday destination.
I stayed in a hotel suite in the city center for comfort and short distances. On Christmas Eve, I enjoyed the Mozart dinner at the Grand Hotel, sharing a table for socializing. The food was little to write home about, but the red and white rococo cake surroundings were! On December 25th, I took in a classical concert at the Rudolfinum. On the 26th, I went to the Baroque castle Zamek Liblice, 1 hour by train from Prague Central Station. Back in Prague again, another night was spent indulging in culture, though I don't remember if it was in the National Theatre or a cheesy pub crawl! Needless to say, I did visit the Christmas markets, and really felt the spirit of Christmas despite the lack of snow (normally a must for a Scandinavian).
Prague is also loaded with events. There is hardly a day without palace concerts. Some things are closed during Christmas, but the city is full of internationals, and sites like Tripadvisor, MeetUp, InterNations, AirBnB (events) and Couchsurfing (events) offer a wide selection of things to do. Public transportation functions well, and I personally recommend the tram if you're not walking. Enjoy your trip – I surely did!
Norway is recommended by Annabel. “I flew to Norway to board the Hurtigruten coastal ferry (MS Lofoten) for a cruise up and down the west coast of Norway. Things didn't go according to plan due to high seas, but departure delays, cancelled excursions, etc. were not holiday dampers. I went to see the Northern Lights and I saw them and had an incredible experience and met some really amazing people.”
Seville is recommended by Sarah. “I went last year and loved it. So tapas Christmas for us!”
Barcelona is recommended by Amanda. “Barcelona was brilliant at Christmas. They don't make a big fuss and the local shops and the eateries remain open. I stayed in a lovely little B&B whose breakfast was enough to keep me going all day. The weather was mild and the sights not too crowded. It was my best solo Christmas ever!”
Vienna, Austria is recommended by Grace. “I would definitely recommend Vienna as a Christmas destination. Aside from being solo-friendly with a phenomenally efficient and navigable transport system, the whole city has a wonderful traditional Christmas feel to it, especially after dark when the light displays come into their own! Throw in the smell of mulled wine and gingerbread, and you've got yourself a magical Christmas experience.”
Christmas Travel in the Middle East
Jordan is recommended by Catherine. “It's my favorite country and I had a fantastic tour there over Christmas a couple of years ago. There is so much to see and do, the food is amazing, the people are friendly, and Petra is absolutely fantastic. Sadly, due to the situation in the Middle East, tourist numbers have dropped drastically but I understand it's still perfectly safe. You may even get Petra almost to yourself.”
A Solo Christmas in Oceania
“I spent the holidays in Australia one year and New Zealand another,” says Meaghan. “If you are looking to escape the cold weather, those destinations are perfect during December!”
Alice Springs to Darwin by train is recommended by Joanne. “I did the Ghan train trip on Christmas from Alice Springs to Darwin-but it does go from Adelaide then to Alice Springs and up to Darwin.” To get a feel for this iconic train trip, read Solo Aboard the Ghan.
Melbourne is recommended by Sarah. “I went to Melbourne one year. It was awesome. I flew from Brisbane on Christmas Day, spent 6 days in my favorite Aussie city just wandering the streets and catching up with some friends down there. It was the longest I'd ever spent there and I went with no plans in mind.”
Sydney is recommended by Les for Christmas/New Year's. “The weather is a little different there that time of year than it is in the Upper Midwest.”
New Zealand is recommended by the bloggers at Indie Travel Podcast. “I'd have to recommend New Zealand for Christmas, it's summer and lovely! If you're traveling solo, you could hop on the Stray Backpacker bus for an instant group of friends but with the flexibility to hop on and hop off when you like.”
Will You Feel Lonely Being Alone for the Holidays?
It's a common and perfectly valid question: putting aside how wonderful all of these solo travel destinations for Christmas are, will you feel lonely traveling during the festive season?
Readers weigh in.
Emily “At Christmas two years ago, I was pretty terrified about it and really not looking forward to spending Christmas alone–but it was awesome! Those Nordic countries really know how to keep Christmas festive!”
Panache “Once you realize how peaceful and interesting it is to spend time with yourself, you are ready to go, no matter what the season, festive or not. I feel totally blessed.”
Catherine “I never feel lonely traveling over Christmas but then I started doing it to escape my family! Maybe you'd feel less that way by doing a group tour. I've met some amazing people doing that who have become firm friends.”
Sherryl “As a single, childless adult with family in far flung places in the world, it became quite normal to go off by myself on a diving vacation almost every year. I quite enjoy it and often pick out something spectacular to do on the 25th.”
Jill “Traveling means being alone and not being judged and compared to others.”
The final word on solo travel destinations for Christmas goes to Carrolyn, who, after spending holiday seasons in China and New York, says, “I think you can find the Christmas spirit nearly everywhere you travel.“
While you're searching for solo travel destinations for the holidays, don't forget to check out our Solo Travel Tours: Best Deals for Solo Travelers for no or very low single supplement options or click here to receive our new list by email each month.