From K-pop to active tours, there are all kinds of group tours available for solo travellers, finds Katie McGonagle
When you conjure up an image of a ‘typical’ solo traveller, what comes to mind? A fresh-faced twentysomething backpacker ready to take on the world, a silver-haired adventurer on their first trip since retiring, or perhaps a hiker poised to set off on a challenging active escape?
If you imagined all those – and more – you’re well on your way to uncovering the range of potential audiences you could be tapping into, as solo sightseers span all ages, types of travel and target markets. That means there’s no one‑size‑fits‑all approach, but rather endless inspiration to suit solo travellers of every stripe.
Southeast Asia with Roamies: If clients are keen to travel with people their own age, consider tours aimed at specific demographics. G Adventures’ Roamies range – which launched last year, using Hostelworld’s budget‑friendly accommodation around the world – attracts a younger‑than‑average clientele.
The Southeast Asia Trifecta Cambodia, Vietnam & Bangkok Vibes itinerary is classic twentysomething territory, combining a street‑food crawl through Ho Chi Minh City with a motorbike tour along the Mekong Delta and beach time on the Cambodian island of Koh Rong, before ending on Bangkok’s buzzing Khaosan Road. The 12‑day itinerary starts at £628, excluding flights.
Korean Wave fun with Contiki: The 18‑35s specialist Contiki has seen growing demand among solos, especially female travellers looking for a safe and sociable way to see the world. Among its new tours for 2024 is a nine‑day South Korean Soul itinerary, which revels in K‑pop culture.
Guests will visit Seoul’s Gangnam neighbourhood – inspiration for the love‑it‑or‑hate‑it hit by Psy – enjoy a private yacht tour in Busan, indulge in a trendy Korean barbecue dinner, and even get the chance to star in their own K‑pop music video. Prices for the nine‑day tour lead in at £1,940, based on shared accommodation. Excludes flights.
Solo female travellers
All-female Turkey trip: Women make up the majority of travellers on most group trips, but many operators – including Trafalgar, Insight Vacations and Just You – also offer departures exclusively designed for female travellers.
Intrepid Travel’s head of business development and partnerships for EMEA, Joanna Reeve, says: “Women’s Expeditions are very popular with our female travellers – especially if it’s their first time going solo. Not only do they help to empower women in the destinations we visit, but our customers also feel empowered travelling with an all-female group.
Most customers on these trips are travelling solo.” The operator’s Turkey Women’s Expedition, which restarted this year, gives guests the chance to meet inspiring women in their homes, learn about traditions passed down from mother to daughter and see social enterprises that generate income for the community. The 12-day tour starts at £2,365, excluding flights.
Sporty Sri Lanka: Going with a group means always having someone to cheer you on as you try new activities, and Explore’s Active Sri Lanka tour has plenty to get your teeth into. Highlights include cycling around the sites of the cultural triangle, hiking in the Knuckles range and white-water rafting on the Kelani River, as well as kayaking and sunrise yoga.
Prices for the 14-day itinerary start at £2,295, excluding flights (plus a £535 single supplement). Solos make up about half of travellers on a typical Explore trip, and women about two-thirds of those, so female travellers will be in good company.
America for over-60s with Tauck: Retirees are a key target market for touring – free of limits on annual leave or kids on a constant quest for ice cream, older clients often have more spending power and a greater penchant for travel than those decades their junior. Tom Dumbrell, UK national sales manager for Tauck, says: “Our clientele is typically 60-plus and of varying genders and backgrounds, but united by their interest in culture and an ambition to experience destinations rather than simply visit them.
While many Tauck guests are considered ‘solo’, they are often travelling with other single passengers they have met along the way, owing to the like-minded nature of our clientele and the lifelong friendships that develop.”
One of Tauck’s most popular tours for solo guests is America’s Canyonlands, which explores the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks, and features a flightseeing tour over Lake Powell. The eight-day tour leads in at £5,514, excluding flights, with select ‘solo savings’ departures offering favourable single supplements.
Epic Australia: As clients look to reduce their flight footprints, longer durations are becoming more prevalent, which suits time-rich retirees. Australia and New Zealand are the most popular touring hotspots for Scenic, and its 18-day Grand Australia tour packs in plenty.
Starting in Perth, travellers criss-cross the country to explore the red centre at Alice Springs and Uluru; enjoy the penguin parade on Phillip Island, off Melbourne; then see the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney harbour up-close. Prices for solo travellers start at £8,545 in April-May 2024.
Walking tours: Active trips attract a high proportion of solo travellers – whether that’s because they give sporty types a chance to have fun while their less-energetic partner stays home, or because guided walks and group activities are trickier to organise independently. “Ramblers Walking Holidays attract a good following of solo travellers,” says product and marketing director Jim Eite.
“Just over half (52%) of our customers travel solo, with the majority of solos being female. They aren’t specifically single travellers – just those who are keen to try a small-group holiday by themselves or are coming back for more.”
Ramblers’ no-single-supplement departures include the Walking from San Telmo trip in Majorca, which combines rugged mountain and coastal trails with scenic lookouts, including a challenging ascent along the Path of the Archduke in the hills of S’Arraco. The one-week trip starts at £1,285 on a half-board basis, including flights.
Elegant Amalfi: Italy remains a bestseller across all types of touring – and solos are no exception. The Amalfi region entices walkers from around the world, including on solo specialist Just You’s Walking the Amalfi Coast trip. The eight-day adventure, which follows the undulating paths of this postcard-pretty coastline through tiny villages, starts at £1,649 per person, including flights and your own room.
Culture-seekers and nature lovers
Japan with a local: Japan is another favourite in the touring world, as clients opt for a guide who can speak the language and explain local customs. Wendy Wu Tours has added 14 dedicated solo departures on its most popular tour of the country, Japan Uncovered, for 2024 and 2025, with prices from £7,090, including flights.
Wildlife in Costa Rica: An expert local guide is all-but-essential in some destinations, including the wild landscapes and wildlife-filled forests of Costa Rica. Unless clients are especially confident in their ability to distinguish a quetzal from a scarlet macaw, know where to spot sloths hanging from branches or are keen to go solo trekking through cloud forest, a group tour such as Titan Travel’s Wild Costa Rica is a must. Group sizes are limited to 18, with prices from £5,495 for a solo departure in September 2024.
Best of the rest
Iceland: Tempt clients to give touring a try with shorter trips and bucket-list experiences. Regent Holidays’ five-day Land of the Northern Lights group tour to Iceland takes in the Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle (from £1,410 for sole occupancy).
Laos: A small group makes it easier for solos to strike up conversations, so a maximum group size is a selling point. Insider Journeys’ eight-day Secrets of Southern Laos, which is limited to 16, explores the country’s scenery and spiritual experiences, with a sunset Mekong cruise thrown in (from £1,290 for a single room).
Ireland: A tour closer to home takes the hassle out of organising a complex itinerary or navigating new roads. Cosmos’s nine-day Irish Discovery tour visits Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry and Giant’s Causeway (from £1,133).
PICTURES: Tourism NT/The Salty Travellers; Annapurna Mellor Photography; Contiki; G Adventures
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