Strike out solo — it’s the way to go

FOR SOME folk, the prospect of a solo holiday is right up there with a trip to the dentist.

Alas, there comes a point for singleteers where travel companions are in scant supply. Pals settle down, holiday funds dry up… and those group holidays seem a lifetime away.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom for solo travellers; free of other people’s foibles and itineraries, single holidaymakers can come and go as they please. What’s more, setting out alone is rewarding, offering people the chance to meet new people and spend some quality time with… well, themselves.

In fact, solo travel is very much on the rise: according to a recent survey, 3.5m Brits will ditch their friends and travel alone this year. And we’re fast catching up in Ireland, too: “If anything there may have been a rise in recent years with an increase in people being made redundant and wishing to get away from it all for a while,” says Jonathan Bridge of Dublin-based travel company Trailfinders.

Happily, help is at hand for those who want to get away from it all (including their own social circle). And some trips are better than others when it comes to going it alone…

1. Yoga retreat in Morocco

A perennial favourite with singles, yoga holidays are the polar opposite of the heady, hectic hedonism of a group trip. Responsibletravel.com regularly hold holistic adventures in the seaside destination of Essaouira. At the helm of yoga teacher Michelle Riordan, travellers can enjoy a meditation session, vegetarian feasts and 2 yoga classes daily. Yet between spa appointments, bustling markets, kite surfing and camel trekking, the downward dog faces stiff competition. The 8-day retreat costs between €590-€900 (depending on the season), with flights to Menara (via Iberia Airways) extra. Log onto responsibletravel.com or call 00 44 1273 600030.

2. Volunteering as a soccer coach in Argentina

Volunteer tourism has grown exponentially in recent years, and specialists I to I offer the chance to combine exotic travel worldwide with something more worthy than mere beachcombing. From saving turtles in Costa Rica to building work in Africa, there is something for anyone who has already been there, done that. Unearth the next Maradona — and get fit in the process — on a two-week trip to Posadas, which teams travellers up with suburban communities where the beautiful game is king. The price (from €889) is based on a two-week trip, homestay, meals and in-country orientation. Flights to Buenos Aires (via Air France) are extra. See www.i-to-i.com or call 00 44 1132 050 076.

3. Singing Holiday in Spain

Belting out Lady Gaga-like in front of your bedroom mirror is one thing; quite another is getting truly out of your comfort zone on a singing holiday with others. UK-based Authentic Adventures offer singing trips to the Caribbean, Italy and Spain. Their Spanish trip takes a group deep into the Andalucian mountains from Malaga, where singing sessions happen regularly in the hotel, local church or in the Alpujarras hills. Group dinners, hills walks and breathtaking sightseeing are a bonus. Prices from around €1350, with flights to Malaga (via Budgetair.ie) extra. See www.authenticadventures.co.uk or call 00 44 1453 823 328.

4. Comedy workshops in Greece

Famously, Jimmy Carr was working in Shell when he took a Skyros holiday to Greece on a whim. There, he decided to put his life onto another track and give stand-up comedy a go. When it comes to unusual activities, holistic holiday giants Skyros offers a veritable bounty, from jewellery design and windsurfing to massage and songwriting. At their Greek Centre on Atsitsa Bay, comedy improv workshops are held regularly with Alison Goldie (who also offers clients a ‘flirting workshop’ during the stay). 10-day trips with a host of activities as standard start from €1,230 (excluding flights and transfers). Log onto www.skyros.com for information.

5. Photography holiday in Ethiopia

Departing this October via solo specialists Exodus (who also operate regular cycling, culture and wine tasting trips for singles), this photography trip is a must-do for anyone wanting to veer off the beaten path and take some serious holiday snaps. From snapping the wildlife of the Rift Valley Lakes to photographing locals with lip plates in the Omo Valley markets, this 14-day trip is action packed from beginning to end. Best of all, photography novices are welcome. Prices start at €1690, excluding flights. See www.exodus.co.uk or ring 01 804 7153.

6. Creative Writing trips in Granada, Spain

Literary Adventures offer would-be Cecelia Aherns the chance to grab some much-needed sun and work on their opus to boot. On this week-long package, writers convene for lunch and dinner, attend workshops on the publishing industry and set goals for each other. With any luck, you’ll leave Casa Ana with a suntan and the makings of a two-book deal. Prices start at €1,000 a week for accommodation, meals, classes and workshops, with flights to Malaga (via Budgetair.ie) extra. See www.literaryadventures.co.uk or call 00 44 207 324 2563.

7. Beachside chilling in St. Lucia

St Lucia has long been a favourite of honeymooners and young families, and so singletons have given the idyllic Caribbean island a wide berth. To remedy this, BodyHoliday have become known for their September Solos. During the month of September, lone travellers are encouraged to take over the complex. Designed for singles who want to catch up on their beachfront relaxation, this all-inclusive hotel package offers daily spa treatments, yoga, shore diving, healthy food, fitness classes and hosted dinners. This means that you leave rested and revitalised… and haven’t had to deal with overly amorous honeymooners. Flights depart from Dublin or Cork… and best of all, there is no dreaded singles supplement. From €2,299 for a 7-night all-inclusive package (book by Jun 30). See www.trailfinders.ie or call 01 677 7888 for information.

8. Adventuring in Thailand and Burma

If you find meeting new people nerve-wracking, a small group tour should help allay those fears. Trailfinders offer a 13-night trek to Thailand and Burma for a mix of the familiar and the exotic. Take in archeological visits, boat trips and temple tours via a jam-packed itinerary. And, given that there are a maximum of 15 people in each group, it’s possible to be sociable without feeling overwhelmed. Prices start at €2,559 (all-inclusive, with flights from Dublin, based on a Nov 16 departure). See www.trailfinders.ie or call 01 677 7888.

9. Cookery course in Turkey

At the Yediburunlar Lighthouse, noted vegetarian chef Semra Akdeniz offers creative cookery courses against a truly stunning backdrop. What better way to bond with people than over food and wine? While you won’t quite be singing for your supper on this trip, you’ll certainly be preparing it, as guests will cook meals each day from scratch (and enjoy them with wine afterwards). There is plenty of time away from the stove to explore markets and trek around the locale. Perfect for cookery novices and health-conscious types. Prices start from €1,480 (including flights that depart from London, activities and all meals) and can be booked via UK tour operator Exclusive Escapes. Log onto www.exclusiveescapes.co.uk, or call 00 44-2083500.

10. A Cruise to Hawaii

Solos Holidays specialise in a bewildering array of different trips for soloists, from golf, ski and tennis trips to 3-day city breaks for the time-poor. Their 7-night Hawaiian island-hopping cruise departs from London to Honolulu, taking in a number of scenic spots along the way. And, when you’re done feasting on waterfalls, volcanoes and beaches, the Pride Of America cruise ship is home to a number of restaurants, gyms, pools and spas. The cruise departs on Dec 28, meaning that you will get to spend New Year in the company of like-minded travellers. Prices start at €2,020 for the cruise (excluding flights from Ireland to London). See www.solosholidays.co.uk for a list of trips.


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