Solo vacations in Europe

One of the most interesting, and appealing, aspects of joining a small group trip in Europe for many travelers is that your guides, and often your tour leader too, come from the places that you’ll be visiting.

It means that they know, for instance, the story behind how that mountain over there got its name. It means that, when you ask for a recommendation on where to eat that evening, the chances are it will be a restaurant they’ve eaten at themselves so they know it’s decent. And it means that you’re automatically ‘plugged into’ the local community.

So you really are visiting, not simply passing through.

Your guides can introduce you to people they know personally, handle translations, perhaps even wangle you an invitation for coffee. If you want cultural depth, a small group tour is an excellent way to get it.

Our vacations for solo travelers in Europe are easy, enjoyable and inspiring. They see you joining a merry band of fellow adventurers led by a professional tour leader who handles all the thorny logistics on your behalf, so that you can relax and soak up the experience and make new friends over a shared interest (or just a shared bottle of wine).

Think of these trips as having an invisible safety net. Itineraries are designed by our expert partners, carefully arranged to make the best use of your time. Your tour leader is with you throughout, making sure that you don’t miss a travel connection or get lost on the way to a hotel.

But you never feel as though you’re losing your independence. These are not ‘follow the umbrella’-type tours, and they’ll usually include plenty of free time for you to do your own thing too.

Escorted vacations for solo travelers are just as practical and rewarding, whether you’re a newbie wanting to dip a toe into the water with this kind of trip, or you’re someone who’s no stranger to going it alone.

Inexpensive and uncomplicated, above all these vacations are fun. You have a readymade group of potential new friends, often with an interest in common. And you have a tour leader, and sometimes a succession of local guides too, all of whom offer a fantastic introduction to the history, culture and community of the place you’re passing through.

Types of solo vacation in Europe

Multi activity vacations

Adventurous types can throw themselves into a huge range of activities in countries such as Croatia, Montenegro and Greece. Hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, canyoning, windsurfing and abseiling could all be on the week’s agenda, led by professional instructors. This type of trip appeals to families and groups of friends, but our partners can recommend departures where there will be other solo travelers in attendance.

Walking vacations

For many, walking can be a solitary, even spiritual, pursuit. But others love nothing more than a good natter on the trail, as well as some useful motivation when it gets steep. Solo walking vacations in Europe can take you from the Alps and Amalfi Coast to the peaks of Scotland and the islands of Croatia. Our guide to small group walking vacations fills you in on what to expect.

“Don't be scared about trekking in a small group,” says Chloe Knott from our partner Exodus Travels. “You will meet some amazing people, it adds such a big dimension to your vacation, and you make lifelong friends. Trekking gives you the opportunity to completely switch off and connect with others, whereas when you are in the grind of daily life you don’t really talk to people. Walkers also understand that if you want your own space that is fine too, with time out in the evenings or lunchtimes too.”

Cycling vacations

There’s a great sense of camaraderie that comes from cycling in a group, but while everyone cheers each other on up the ascents, these are certainly not hard slogs. Our small group cycling vacations are about enjoying yourself at a steady pace, not wearing yourself out. Saddle bags are stuffed with towels and swimsuits, there are regular stops for cake or a little wine tasting, and you’ll be accompanied by a support vehicle so that any time you feel in need of a rest, you can jump in.

Special interest vacations

Special interest trips in Europe tend to be made up predominantly of solo travelers as they are more niche. Whether you’re enjoying a cookery vacation in Umbria, painting classes in Andalucia, or a specialist archaeology tour of classical sites in Greece, you can be sure everyone there will have an immediate common interest to talk about and get to know each other over.
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Where can I go on a solo vacation in Europe?

Our Europe solo vacations can take you the length and breadth of the continent. However, the most popular tend to be those where traveling in the company of others makes a lot of sense.

Off the beaten track

Many trips explore places that are a little off the beaten track in terms of tourism development. Walking in Albania, tracking wolves and moose in Swedish forests, or trekking in Slovakia’s High Tatras – areas where you would have trouble organising a satisfying vacation by yourself.

Well-known places where you need expert support

There are some well-known destinations where it helps to have expert support to get the most from your time. Walking the Amalfi Coast, Spain’s volcanic Canary Islands or Portugal’s wild Atlantic Coast – joining an organised trip in these places ensures you trek or cycle enjoyable but less busy routes, never needing to worry about directions. And you’ve got good company and suitable (often locally run) accommodation laid on throughout.

Expensive places at a lower cost

Organised solo vacations are ideal for expensive destinations where group travel helps with the cost while also ensuring you don’t miss out on the must-do experiences. Northern Lights spotting in Finland or Iceland can be significantly cheaper when done in the company of others.

Multi-country tours

Small group multi country tours such as those around the Baltic or Balkan states, or Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, make good sense, as they can be trickier to organise. Having a tour leader with you at all times to manage border crossings and ensure you meet up with guides at the right place and time means peace of mind.

What do solo vacations in Europe involve?

Joining the dots

Vacations for solo travelers in Europe join the dots between big experiences – and smaller ones too. They showcase the must-see or must-do highlights, but also throw in some less-known ideas that our partners have made a point of seeking out. Itineraries are designed by experts who know what fits where, what you can comfortably do in one day, and where the group should logically head to next.

On a small group Georgia and Armenia cultural vacation, for instance, you’ll visit the famed Geghard Monastery, but you’ll also have a fun introduction to baking lavash bread in the yard of a home and taste homemade wines in a farmhouse in Georgia’s Kakheti wine region. Often, these are the experiences – sitting around a table sharing stories and laughter with your group and hosts – that you’ll remember most clearly.

Our organised tours in Europe for solo travelers run the gamut of virtually every country on the continent, and every kind of activity you can think of, as well as plenty you perhaps didn’t even know you could do on vacation. Wherever you have in mind to go, whatever sort of thing you’re looking to do, you are not limited by traveling alone.

All the tricky logistics handled

Traveling solo can be daunting at times – especially so when you don’t speak or read the local language. In some parts of Europe, English is not always widely spoken or understood, so dealing with missed connections or ensuring the chef in the restaurant has understood any dietary needs you have can become fraught with difficulty. On a small group trip, you’ll be led by an experienced tour leader, there to handle all of the logistics while you enjoy the vacation.

In some areas, public transport can be limited, making it harder and more expensive to reach out-of-the-way places where tourism income can make a significant difference to the local economy. A small group trip splits the cost of transfers, ensuring that you can get to parts that you might struggle with independently. They also ensure that that you’re picked up and dropped off at the right time, so you don’t need to spend hours poring over bus and train timetables, or worrying that you don’t have the correct type of ticket.

Small group travel is like vacationing with a friend from the local area. In fact, in many cases, your tour leader will be. Through connections that in many cases have been developed between tour operators and communities over years, these vacations open a window on the culture of places you’re traveling through to really understand what life is like there. It’s harder to get that sense of cultural connection if you’re organising a trip yourself and don’t have the contacts.

Fixed dates & itineraries

Small group vacations in Europe follow structured routes and itineraries on set travel dates. Usually most activities and, depending on where you’re staying, most meals will be included. While you won’t be able to change these arrangements, on some trips it may be possible to join late or leave early, especially if the trip is based in one place.

Itineraries have to be flexible anyway to a degree, sometimes affected by weather and other circumstances beyond anyone’s control. Our partners always have a Plan B up their sleeves for just this kind of situation.

A small group vacation in Europe can cover a lot in a short space of time, though you don’t feel as if you’re rushing around all the time. Itineraries run like clockwork because they have been designed by experts to do exactly that and refined even further over the years. Condensing the itinerary means that while you stay relaxed, your time is always well-spent and never wasted.

Some free time will usually be factored in too, where you can do your own thing if you want. That could be a morning or afternoon to hang out by the pool on an active trip or do some city sightseeing. It could be that some of your evening meals are not included, giving you the option to either dine alone in a nearby restaurant or with other members of the group.

Limited group numbers

The number of other people in your group will vary depending on the type of trip you’re taking. On a walking vacation, for instance, the maximum might be around 16, so that you can stay in smaller, often family-run hotels, and your trekking won’t have too much of an impact on what can be quite fragile environments that you’re walking through.

A more niche trip, such as one focused on photography or cookery, would typically have much lower numbers, so that the tour leader can devote plenty of time to each participant, making sure they develop their skills. And on small ship cruises group numbers will be capped by the amount of berths available.

Shared accommodation

Joining an organised tour as a solo traveler, you’ll usually be sharing a twin room with someone else of the same sex (unless you pay a single supplement). Mealtimes are often shared as well, especially when you’re staying in more out-of-the-way places where there’s a limited choice of restaurants to eat at.

Evenings are typically spent together too, as wherever possible groups are always accommodated in one property. This kind of trip definitely suits sociable sorts, though if you want to spend an hour alone in the corner with a book or a journal, no-one is going to mind.

Xania and Craig Wear from our partner WearActive run small group activity and yoga vacations in the Austrian Alps. “We tend to have a nice balance in our groups of lone travelers, friends and couples,” says Xania, “and we find that at the end of the week they seem totally at home at and interact with each other (and us!) like we’ve all known each other for years.”

This kind of vacation is ideal for making fast friends with people from a wide variety of backgrounds – in many cases these are friendships that continue long after the vacation is over. On special interest vacations, shared passions can make it even easier to bond quickly with your fellow travelers. They’re also a great way to find inspiration, share tips and make valuable connections.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Cristina Cerda] [Intro: Al Elmes] [Types of solo vacation in Europe: Saro17] [Where can I go?: Moma7] [Geghard Monastery: Hasmik Ghazaryan Olson] [What do they involve 2: Stefan Vladimirov]