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Going Solo

Ten luxury vacations that will satisfy your inner jetsetter and put a dent in your bucket list… plus one of our own shares tales from a recent adventure to Iceland



Photo by ©Backroads/Spa Village Resort Tembok

If your to-do list keeps trumping your bucket list, it’s time to take a break and plan a trip. We’re not talking a Hamptons weekend here, but a sky’s-the-limit vacation. With exceptional tour companies and resorts catering to solo travelers, there’s no need to wait for the perfect season—or travel partner—to hit one of these luxe destinations to enjoy an active getaway. “Adventure is on the rise,” says Tammy Weiler, president of Singles Travel International. “People really want something more out of their vacations.” Group trips like Weiler’s give solo travelers companionship for meals and sightseeing, and a chance to meet online before the tour. But if you prefer a trip with more “me-time,” we also found fabulous resorts and tours that minimize the singles supplement. Whether you want to bike around Bali, spot leopards in South Africa or cruise European culture, one of these trips has your name on it.

ITALY

Explore Sicily via Cox & Kings

An adventure in history, architecture and la dolce vita, this new ten-day Classic Sicily trip is run by Cox & Kings, one of the oldest luxury travel companies. The group trip has a modest singles supplement and brings travelers to Siracusa, Palermo, Mount Etna, and Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, among other fascinating spots. Each stop on the Island of the Sun blends ancient ruins and culture with natural beauty. The island also is known for its culinary treats; to live like a Sicilian, you should start at least one morning with the native summer breakfast of brioche with gelato (yes, a deluxe ice cream sandwich) and black coffee. Later in the day, sip prosecco and dig into a pasta con le sarde with fresh sardines, pine nuts and saffron. In Siracusa, or Syracuse, visit the Greek theater, Ear of Dionysius, Paoli Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum and Piazza del Duomo—considered one of the most scenic piazzas in Italy—and then head to the island of Ortygia. En route to Palermo, you’ll see two of the world’s most impressive Greek temples and drive through the island’s wine country. Finally, discover the Sicilians’ favorite beaches in Cefalu and the coastal resort town of Taormina. Cox & Kings, 800-999-1758; coxandkingsusa.com

SOUTH AFRICA & ZIMBABWE

Go on safari via Singles Travel International

If wild things make your heart sing, here’s your chance to get close to some of the world’s most exotic animals. This South African Safari Surprise journey sponsored by Singles Travel International, one of the oldest and most respected groups for solo travel, takes you to Cape Town for four nights, with four nights on safari at the Madikwe Game Reserve and two days in Victoria Falls. While in Cape Town, you’ll ride a cable car to the top of Table Mountain, see the Cape of Good Hope (where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet), hike in the Good Hope Nature Preserve, visit Boulders Beach and sample the best of wine country. On safari, you stay at the five-star Madikwe Safari Lodge and spend days exploring the bush on a quest to spot the big five—rhino, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo and elephant—in their natural habitat on the 185,000-acre preserve. Next, this life-changing trip brings you to see one of the world’s seven natural wonders, Victoria Falls, in Zimbabwe. You’ll stay at the luxe Victoria Falls Hotel—a world heritage site—and take a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Want more thrills? Adventure junkies can go rafting or bungee jumping. Singles Travel International, 877-765-6874; singlestravelintl.com

SPAIN

Play tennis at La Residencia

Want to brush up on your backhand? Speed up your serve? Either way, what better place to practice—and perfect—your tennis technique than at this resort in Mallorca, the Spanish island that brought us Rafael Nadal. Alas, the Grand Slam champion won’t be your coach, but Australian pro Shayne Tabb, who has worked with touring players, can whip your game into shape. This hotel’s setting is like something out of a Raoul Dufy painting—twin manor houses amid orange groves overlooking the Mediterranean; in fact, the resort is situated next to an artist’s village. You’ll have to concentrate to keep your eyes on the ball, as the courts have water and mountain views as well. Special tennis packages include private lessons, a videotape of your play, group exercises, organized social play, a competitive singles tournament, and a fastest-serve contest. If your body aches from all that play, there’s time for a De-stress Muscle Release massage at the spa, an aqua fitness class or a soak in the pool or Jacuzzi. For a sporting change of pace, try golf, mountain biking, diving, snorkeling, or fishing and more, on trips organized by the resort. Net result: Sharpen your game while relaxing your mind. La Residencia, +34-971-63-6046; hotel-laresidencia.com

INDONESIA

Bike Bali via Backroads

On this super-active trip to the lush Indonesian island of Bali, travelers meet its people and see its small villages up close as they bike from town to town, stopping at beautiful gardens, temples, and black-sand beaches along the way. This exotic tour isn’t only for mega-athletes, as there are daily options for shorter routes and some alternate activities for those craving downtime. You’ll have time to relax, too, between cycling jaunts at luxe inns on the route (for extra indulgence, try a four-hand Balinese massage at the Maya Abud spa). By rafting down the Ayung River—the longest in Bali—on Class II and III rapids, you’ll enjoy views of waterfalls and the rainforest, followed by a picnic lunch on the riverbank. During the week, you’ll snorkel on the site of the shipwrecked U.S.S. Liberty, which is covered with corals and sponges that attract 400 species of colorful reef fish. Pass mountains, banana plantations, silver-smithing towns, and the revered Gunung Batur volcano during your daily rides. Toward the end of the week, cyclists will visit a village market and take a private cooking class in Indonesian specialties and meet the craftspeople who create beautiful ikat weavings. You’ll return energized, enlightened, and, oh yes, in great shape. Backroads, 800-462-2848; backroads.com

IRELAND

Learn how to cook at Ballymaloe

At this world-renowned, organic cooking school in Shanagarry, in County Cork, solo vacationers can get hands-on training in a variety of cuisines while enjoying accommodations at a beautiful Irish country hotel. This school’s founder, Darina Allen, has been focused on sourcing foods locally long before sustainability was in vogue, while her husband, Tim, runs the ten-acre farm that supplies many of the ingredients used at Ballymaloe. With instruction in state-of-the-art kitchens, the courses for novice and experienced cooks include weeklong immersion classes for basic techniques as well as half- and one-day courses such as Vegetarian Cooking, Sushi Made Simple, Spring Foraging, Discovering Tapas & Sherry, and How to Cure a Pig and Use Every Morsel. Noted guest chefs frequently participate by teaching here, and Ballymaloe also brings in winemakers from around the world to conduct tasting and appreciation weekends. During downtime at the hotel, known as Ballymaloe House, guests can swim, play golf, tennis or croquet, or tour the extensive gardens and walks through the traditional Celtic maze. Every day the staff serves a traditional afternoon tea. Of course, the restaurant is exceptional, and following a Saturday night dinner guests can join in an Irish music session in the drawing room or partake in a sing-along at one of the local pubs. Ballymaloe House, +353-21-4652-531;ballymaloe.ie

BRAZIL

Tour Rio and Salvador via Abercrombie & Kent

You can’t blame it on Rio if you haven’t been there. Abercrombie & Kent’s Signature Brazil ten-day tour takes you all around the carnaval capital as well as to Iguassu Falls and Salvador, the country’s oldest city. Days in sunny Rio de Janeiro include a chance to tour the famous French neoclassic architecture, see the city and its Christ the Redeemer statue from Mount Corcovado at 2,400 feet, walk through the Santa Teresa artists’ district known as Montmartre Carioca, and relax on Copacabana Beach just outside the hotel. In the evening travelers can go samba dancing or clubbing and eat like the locals by starting dinner at 11 p.m. and feasting on Feijoada, a traditional smoked-meat-and-black-bean stew. From the city, you fly to the tropical Iguassu National Park, home to rare birds like macaws and toucans, as well as to monkeys, armadillos and jaguars. A hike through the park takes you onto a catwalk within arm’s reach of the famous falls, but for an unforgettable bird’s-eye view, consider a helicopter tour. Wrap up in historic Salvador, in the state of Bahia, for a taste of the country’s Afro-Brazilian side. Adding to all of Brazil’s appeal, the country will be hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. Abercrombie & Kent, 888-611-4711; abercrombiekent.com

UNITED STATES

Retreat with Luxe Cowgirl Yoga in Montana

In beautiful Big Sky Country, perhaps the only place where yeehaw and namaste intersect, this long weekend of yoga and horseback riding lets cowgirl wannabes (make that yoginis and equestrians of all levels) indulge in daily trail riding and yoga. The Vinyasa yoga classes held each morning inside a restored barn at the Double T River Ranch help riders to loosen up and build core strength before hitting the trail. The ladies even do pre-ride yoga in the saddle before heading out on horseback to take in the mountain vistas. Back at the ranch, guests stay in cabins and cottages and eat healthy gourmet meals with local beer and Namaste Vineyards wines as they recoup from days in the saddle and on the mat. There’s also time to relax in the hot tub, play bocce with new friends or go bird watching. A trip geared toward personal wellness, the three-day journey includes instruction in meditation and goal setting. Want more Big Sky spirit? You can extend the trip with an afternoon of soaking at nearby Chico Hot Springs or a few days’ hiking in Yellowstone National Park. Big Sky Yoga Retreats, 406-587-2390; bigskyyogaretreats.com

For the complete list of dream getaways pick up our May/June 2012 issue on stands now!

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