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8 great destinations for the intrepid solo traveler

El Camino tour company offers a Women Who Travel Cuba tour on April 28. Contributed by Evie Cheung
El Camino tour company offers a Women Who Travel Cuba tour on April 28. Contributed by Evie Cheung

Plus tour groups that specialize in the independent sojourner

There is a special pleasure that can be found in traveling alone. It’s not for everybody, but those who don’t mind eating solo in a restaurant and who can still enjoy witnessing a splendorous sight without someone to share it with owe it to themselves to give it a shot. If you’re unsure and want to test the waters, consider taking a tour that caters to the independent traveler. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on going some place you’ve always wanted to visit just because you can’t find someone to go with you. Here are eight trips perfectly suited for solo and independent travelers.

Women only. Traveling alone creates special challenges for women, who may feel safer in numbers. Women Who Travel, a brand by Conde Nast Traveler, partnered with El Camino Travel to offer a series of tours that take the fear out of traveling alone for women. Tours explore off-the-beaten-path sights and engage with local residents, artisans and independent businesses. Built into the schedule is lots of free time to do your own thing. Coming up April 28 is a five-night, six-day trip to Cuba. Activities include a vintage car tour of Havana, tobacco farm tour, salsa dance lesson, gallery tour led by a local artist and meals ranging from upscale to down home. El Camino also offers small group tours for all genders, private tours and custom tours. Destinations include Colombia, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Trinidad and Tobago. To encourage travelers to put down their phones and engage with the world, a professional photographer accompanies the tour and takes photos, which are shared every day for posting on social media or printing and framing. (Women Who Travel Cuba, April 28. $4,400 and up, not including airfare. 415-408-6144, www.elcamino.travel)

The Secret Food Tour of Charleston, S.C., features four to five stops at restaurants to dine on fried green tomatoes, she-crab soup and grits. Contributed
The Secret Food Tour of Charleston, S.C., features four to five stops at restaurants to dine on fried green tomatoes, she-crab soup and grits. Contributed

Culinary quest. Even those who love traveling alone may grow weary of dining solo. Remedy that by joining a Secret Food Tour, available in 50 cities worldwide. In Charleston, South Carolina, the three-and-a-half-hour walking tour combines an informative stroll through the French Quarter with four to five stops along the way to dine on fried green tomatoes, she-crab soup, grits, a secret surprise dish and dessert. Upgrade and buy the drinks package to enjoy adult beverages, including a sweet tea mojito and locally brewed beer. Tours accommodate up to 10 people and are held most every day except Sunday. Tours are available in major cities throughout the U.S., including Key West, Nashville, Chicago and Boston, as well as Europe, Asia and Australia. Private tours can also be arranged. (Secret Food Tour of Charleston, South Carolina. $99. 854-202-8546, www.secretfoodtours.com/sft/charleston)

New York state of mind. The greatest city in the world is the perfect place for a solo getaway. If you get lonely, you're surrounded by people. And if doing things alone makes you feel self-conscious, you can rest assured that no one is paying attention. Plan a self-guided culture tour starting with a show at Shakespeare in the Park (May 21-Aug. 11. Free. Delacorte Theater, Central Park. www.publictheater.org) or catch husband-and-wife actors Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker in Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite" on Broadway (March 13-July 12. 855-801-5876, www.thehudsonbroadway.com). Savor the flavors of global cuisines at the International Food Festival (May 18-19, Ninth Avenue between 42nd and 57th streets, www.ninthavenuefoodfestival.com), featuring dishes from Brazil, France, India, Morocco, Puerto Rico, Thailand, Ukraine and beyond. Tour the "Studio 54: Night Magic" exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum (March 13-July 5. $25. 200 East Parkway, Brooklyn. 718-638-5000, www.brooklynmuseum.org). Photographs, fashion, drawings, films, illustrations and set proposals tell the story of the infamous nightclub's 33-month life span.

Zen Den Yoga School and Wellness Retreat in Boca Raton, Fla., offers a five-day Disconnect to Reconnect Yoga Retreat. File
Zen Den Yoga School and Wellness Retreat in Boca Raton, Fla., offers a five-day Disconnect to Reconnect Yoga Retreat. File

Recharge and renew. Nothing says "me time" like a wellness vacation, a concept that is growing in popularity. Take a five-day Disconnect to Reconnect Yoga Retreat at Zen Den Yoga School and Wellness Retreat in Boca Raton, Florida, and get centered. Activities include daily yoga classes, meditation, shamanic breath work, massage and acupuncture. The program incorporates many different traditions of yoga, including ashtanga-inspired vinyasa, sivananda, hatha, yin and restorative, as well as various styles of meditation. Three- and seven-day retreats are also available, as are a Detox & Cleanse Retreat, Standup Paddle Board & Yoga Retreat, Yin Yoga & Restorative Retreat and Pre-Natal Retreat. Zen Den also provides yoga instructor training. Fees include accommodations and fruit smoothies in the morning. (Five-day Disconnect to Reconnect Yoga Retreat. $800 shared room, $1,200 private room. 954-461-4367, www.zendenyogaschool.com)

Pitmaster in training. If you've always wanted to master the art of hog butchering and pork butt smoking, get yourself to Clemmons, North Carolina, May 15-16 for the North Carolina Barbecue Society Boot Camp, hosted by the nonprofit organization devoted to authentic North Carolina-style barbecue. Spend two days with fellow 'cue hounds and learn the fine art of cooking over flame and embers from the best. Pitmasters Terry West and Alan Nichols demonstrate how to prepare and cook Boston butts, beef brisket and pork ribs. Chef Clay White demonstrates how to butcher a whole hog, grill fish and make sauces for grilled chicken and fish. You'll also learn how to make dessert on the grill. Additional boot camps will be held July 24-25 in Sugar Mountain, North Carolina, and Sept. 25-26 in Castle Hayne, North Carolina. Fees do not include accommodations, but a limited number of rooms are available at a group rate. (North Carolina Barbecue Society Boot Camp, May 15-16. $499, plus $35 membership fee. Tanglewood Park, 4061 Clemmons Road, Clemmons, North Carolina. www.ncbbqsociety.memberlodge.com)

Global Volunteers organizes domestic and international tours for those who want to combine community service with travel. Contributed
Global Volunteers organizes domestic and international tours for those who want to combine community service with travel. Contributed

Helping hand. Most everybody loves a do-nothing vacation steeped in luxury every once in a while, but sometimes you want to do something for others. Consider taking a volunteer vacation to the hollers of West Virginia. Established in 1984, Global Volunteers is a nonprofit organization that has established long-term community service programs in 35 countries and six continents, and it hosts one- and two-week trips for travelers who want to volunteer. Projects include everything from construction and renovation of buildings to GED tutoring and after-school care. Participants may spend their days reading to children and making their lunches, distributing food boxes or working in the community garden. Accommodations are dormitory-style with bunk beds and shared bathrooms, and meals are provided. For travelers who want to volunteer internationally, there are projects in Cuba, Vietnam, Peru, Greece and China, among other destinations. (Volunteerism in West Virginia. $1,095, one week; tax-deductible. May 16, June 13, July 4, July 18, Aug. 15. 800-487-1074, www.globalvolunteers.org/usa-west-virginia)

Cruise in style. Are you hankering for a quick Caribbean getaway aboard a luxurious cruise ship but don't want to pay those annoying single supplement rates for a private room? No worries, Norwegian Cruise Line has you covered. There's no additional charge for solo travelers on its three-day cruise to the Bahamas from Miami aboard the recently refurbished Norwegian Sky. Visit ports in Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, and for an extra fee, enjoy shore excursions like an adventurous Jeep tour; a visit to Aquaventure, the water park at Atlantis Paradise Island; or spend the day sunning and swimming at Pearl Island from an oceanview cabana. On board, you can enjoy 11 dining options, eight bars and lounges, a spa and casino. Late spring departures are scheduled for June 5 and June 12, and they continue through the summer. ($824 and up. 866-234-7350, www.ncl.com)

Explore Iceland. See glaciers, fjords, lava formations, hot springs and more on G Adventures' seven-day Best of Iceland tour, with departures scheduled regularly throughout the spring. This Toronto-based tour company specializes in carefully curated, socially conscious tours for small groups, averaging 12 people a tour and maxing out at 16. Choose your travel style: Active, 18-to-Thirtysomething, Local Living, Family, Wellness, Marine, Rail, Classic or Tailor Made. Then pick your destination from seven continents. The best part for solo travelers is they're not penalized with single supplements. They have the choice of being matched up with a same-sex roommate or selecting the "my own room" option when booking. For those who like to give back when they travel, G Adventures partners with the Planeterra Foundation to establish community service projects around the globe where tour participants can contribute their time. Fees include accommodations, ground transportation, guides and breakfast. (Best of Iceland. $1,999 and up. 888-800-4100, www.gadventures.com)