If you’ve ever been on a trip by yourself, you already know some of the benefits of solo travel: making your own plans, stopping and going whenever you want, and getting in better touch with your inner self. And perhaps no type of travel better exemplifies these perks than a solo hiking trip. Once you find a safe and secure route, hiking by yourself allows you to appreciate the great outdoors (you can stop for those sunsets for as long as you want!) and grow as a person (see: “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed). Whether you want to fill up your Instagram with beautiful photos, get a great workout, or spend several days meditating in nature, here are five of our favorite solo hikes to take around the world.
1. Camino de Santiago, Spain
Best for: Making new friends
The best thing about picking a popular hike like Spain’s Camino de Santiago is that you won’t ever really be alone—you’re sure to run into other hikers and potentially make some lasting friendships along the way. (As an added bonus, you know the route is tried, true, and safe.) This particular trek, which can take around five weeks to complete if you do the entire route (though many pilgrims tackle smaller stretches at a time), contains a series of trails that start in Galicia and stretch up to 500 miles throughout Spain and even into France and Portugal. Most routes will take you past ancient monasteries, colorful port towns, and white sand beaches, meaning you’ll never get bored. Hundreds of thousands of trekkers travel to Camino de Santiago every year, so this isn’t the hike to take if you want extreme isolation, but you can still find moments by yourself when you want them.
2. Primitive Trail, Arches National Park, Utah
Best for: Short and sweet trails
Arches National Park, with its huge physics-defying rock formations and desert landscapes, attracts some 1.5 million visitors per year. The park is ideal for solo hikers, since it’s just outside of a big town (Moab, Utah) and has trails that range in length and difficulty, so you can spend a few hours walking before heading back to the city for dinner and sleep. We recommend the seven-mile Primitive Trail for those wanting to sample all that Arches has to offer—it passes by several sandstone arches, including the famous 125-foot Dark Angel spire. Be sure to bring a lot of water, and try to time your trip in the spring, fall, or early in the morning for the best weather conditions.
3. Laugavegurinn, Iceland
Best for: Gorgeous scenery
You won’t find any souvenir stands, cafes, or B&Bs along Iceland’s Laugavegurinn hiking trail, a 34-mile trek in the Central Highlands. Instead, you’ll be surrounded by bubbling hot springs, black lava fields, and multicolored mountains. Come nighttime, you can sleep in mountain huts along the path or pitch a tent at the designated campsites. Make sure to plan your trip between late June and early September, as the huts are closed and trail conditions aren’t safe during the rest of the year.
4. Diamond Head Hike, Oahu, Hawaii
Best for: A vigorous workout
Though it only stretches about 0.8 miles on the eastern side of Waikiki’s coastline, the hike to the Diamond Head State Monument is steep and strenuous, gaining 560 feet from top to bottom (part of the path includes stairs). Your sore legs and tired lungs are worth the effort, however. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with postcard-worthy views of the shoreline from Koko Head to Wai’anae. You might even spot some humpback whales during the winter.
5. Lares Trek, Peru
Best for: True isolation
While hordes of tourists flock to Peru’s famous Inca Trail, those craving a little more peace and quiet (and wiggle room) should consider the Lares Trek, a two-to-three-day hike starting just north of Cusco and ending near Machu Picchu. Even if you travel with a tour operator, you’re not likely to run into more than a dozen other people on any given day—in fact, you’re more likely to stumble across grazing alpacas and sheep than humans. The glittering lakes and ice-capped mountains are the perfect backdrop for getting in touch with yourself and reassessing what’s important in life.