When Gabriel García Márquez penned One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1967 he probably didn’t imagine that, 50 years later, a secluded, cut-off town like his novel’s mythical Macondo would be one of a dying breed. These days Amazonian tribes know David Beckham, Mount Everest has high-speed Wi-Fi and we’re always connected to other people – on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – even when we are physically by ourselves.
A hundred years of solitude? Most of us would be happy if we could find 100 minutes. Solitude is the state of being alone, but not of loneliness; that luxury of time and space spent free from external pressures, to just think or be. Solitude is the positive side of isolation; a restorative break from our busy, bustling, overloaded world. By removing yourself from your routine, it is so much easier to disconnect. Travelling somewhere away from the grind, even if you’re still surrounded by people, can give you the opportunity to be with you.
You might find a sense of perspective by hiking a long-distance trail or gazing up at the stars. You might tackle a physical or mental health issue at a wellness retreat. You might decide on a solo holiday or choose to join like-minded others for communal solitude-seeking. Or you might find your place of peace in an old monastery, an empty desert or eyeballing the last of a species.
Many studies show contact with nature can reduce stress and improve mental health. For a beneficial getaway, visit some of the planet’s truly wild places.
1. Wild camp in Scotland
Find solitude for free by sleeping out in the wilderness. Wild camping is legal in most of Scotland and much of Dartmoor. The Brecon Beacons produces a list of farms that welcome campers, or for an extreme escape try Vatersay Bay, on the remote Outer Hebridean isle of Vatersay, where the daring can pitch by the beach and take an invigorating dip in the water the next morning.
2. Dangle off Wales
To dial your wild camping up to 11, opt for a glorified hammock hanging from a cliff face. Gaia Adventures’ vertiginous overnighter involves a few hours spent climbing on the cliffs of Anglesey or near Snowdonia before abseiling down to a suspended porta-ledge to watch an unobstructed sunset. After a hot dinner, drift off with the waves pounding below.
3. Go north in Norway
Norway’s allemannsretten (everyman’s right) allows wild camping anywhere that isn’t private property. To take that to the extreme, explore the Svalbard archipelago on Gane and Marshall’s five-day Into the Arctic with Alan Chambers trip. This far-out-there expedition includes snowmobiling, an explorer-style ski trek and a night under canvas on ice roamed by polar bears.
4. Pace in Patagonia
Chile’s Aysen Glacier Trail is as wild and remote as it gets. Hiked by about 30 people a year, it requires a five-hour 4WD and boat ride just to reach the trailhead. And it’s totally off-grid – only satellite phones work here. The pay-off? Magnificent walking via valleys, old-growth forest and ice caps, with camps set up each night. Swoop Patagonia offers a 10-day trip.
5. Make for Mongolia
The Kazakh eagle hunters of the Altai Mountains live in a permanent state of pseudo isolation, continuing their nomadic traditions far from towns, roads and mobile reception. Black Tomato’s seven-night Eagles and Nomads in Mongolia trip joins them. Stay in gers, help with chores – from rounding up camels to making yak-milk vodka – and venture into the peaks on foot or horseback to watch trained birds soar.
6. Be outnumbered by bears
In parts of Russia’s far east, you’ll meet more bears than people: the isolated Kamchatka Peninsula has the planet’s highest density of brown bears, not to mention 300 volcanoes. Secret Compass’s 15-day Kamchatka expedition aims to get you to the summit of the wilder peaks. There are no porters – you must carry all your supplies for the 112-mile (180km) trek through Klyuchevskoy Nature Park.
7. Go bush in Botswana
Find total seclusion, and test your bush nous, by renting a fully equipped safari vehicle for a self-drive adventure across the very wild wilds of Botswana. Wild Wheels hires 4WDs complete with barbecue, fridge freezer and comfortable rooftop tent; safety equipment and support is provided. A tailored trip might find you camping alone along the Chobe and Zambezi rivers, and tracking game in the Okavango Delta.
8. Circumnavigate a deserted isle
Mexico’s Espíritu Santo Island is home to rare black jackrabbits and a sea lion colony – but no people. Journey Latin America’s 11-day Active Mexico: Camping and Kayaking in Baja California trip includes an eight-day journey around it, paddling alongside rugged cliffs, hiking the canyon-riven interior and camping on empty beaches.
9. Get lost in Alaska
Wrangell-St Elias National Park, the USA’s largest protected area, comprises more than 13 million acres of river-threaded, glacier-licked, grizzly-patrolled wilderness. Grand American Adventures’ 14-day Alaskan Adventure includes two days off-gridding in the park and exploring the whale-filled Kenai Fjords.
10. Nip off to Nicaragua
You’ll lose the crowds even on Granada’s colonial streets. But Last Frontiers’ 12-night Alternative Nicaragua trip also includes a stay on Calala, a tiny isle with four beach bungalows, marooned off the Caribbean coast. The resort opened in March, and is ideal for kayaking, snorkelling and seafood in sun-drenched solitude.
From £4,070pp based on two sharing, including flights; lastfrontiers.com
Refresh your brain on a trip geared towards mental well-being – from stays in spiritual centres to detox retreats.
11. Seek quietude in Quebec
The Hôtel-Dieu de Québec monastery, built in the 17th century, housed the first hospital on the continent north of Mexico. In 2016 its cloisters reopened as Le Monastère des Augustines, a non-profit wellness hotel that continues the healing tradition with activities such as silent “vitality breakfasts”, yoga and mindful eating. The Ultimate Travel Company offers tailor-made Quebec trips.
A night in the monastery costs from CAD$84pp (£50); monastere.ca/en; theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk
12. Get spiritual in Japan
The mist-swirled peak of Mount Koya, the seat of Shingon Buddhism for 1,200 years, is laced with pilgrim trails and peaceful temples. Inside Japan’s 14-night Pilgrim’s Paths Self-Guided Adventure includes a stay at a shukubo (temple lodging), where you live like a pilgrim, sleeping on tatami mats and joining morning prayers before following one of the world’s oldest pilgrimage routes.
13. Go under in Grenada
Spiritual posturing and sub-aqua solitude meet at True Blue Bay. This bright’n’quirky resort offers a scuba yoga programme, which includes land-based sessions and open water yoga dives. A short meditation is held on deck before you flop in for floating poses and yogic breathing exercises, which can reduce air consumption and allow longer stays underwater. Trailfinders offers a seven-night package at True Blue Bay.
14. Develop in the Dales
1If you’re new to it, wellness can be stressful – where to start? Maybe with H F Holidays’ three-night Mind & Body Weekend at Malhamdale in Yorkshire which includes six taster sessions in everything from Pilates and Nordic walking to laughter yoga. Based at Newfield Hall, a stately 19th-century pile in rolling countryside, guests can opt to be sociable at dinner, join evening wellness activities or stride over the Yorkshire Dales alone.
From £305pp, departing October 13; hfholidays.co.uk
15. Yomp with a yogi
The remote Indian Himalaya is an excellent place to get away from it all. Try an eight-day Head in the Clouds Journey with Shakti Himalaya, walking through the Ladakh foothills from village to non-touristy village, stopping at markets and monasteries, and sleeping in gorgeous guesthouses along the way.
16. Find tranquillity in Tasmania
Northern Tasmania is wild and remote. Flinders Island, 34 miles (55km) offshore, is even more so. Here you will find 80-odd empty beaches and the Mountain Seas Retreat, with its art studio, hot springs and more wombats than people. Combine a stay honing your painting or writing skills with the Bay of Fires Walk back on the mainland, a three-night glamp-tramp through virtually inaccessible Mount William National Park. Tasmanian Odyssey tailor-makes trips.
17. Have a regal retreat
Formerly a royal summer house, Skodsborg Kurhotel nestles alongside a nature reserve north of Copenhagen and was named Europe’s best wellness spa at the 2016 World Luxury Hotel Awards. New this year are a trio of three-day health retreats: De-tox, De-age and De-stress. The latter focuses on finding joy in the moment and includes a nutritional consultation, stress coaching and invigorating ocean swims from the private jetty.
18. Safari and stretch in Kenya
Downward Dogs meet rare species on Yoga By Candace’s eight-night Safari Yoga Retreat. Based at Kenya’s 90,000-acre Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the trip packs in eight yoga workshops – a mix of strength-building vinyasa and restorative yoga – as well as twice-daily game drives to search for elephants, cheetahs, lions and leopards, plus the chance to see three of the world’s last northern white rhinos.
19. Discover festival bliss
Seek “solitude” in the company of others. Austria’s Mountain Yoga Festival (August 31-September 3) is held amid the invigorating alpine pastures of St Anton, and is a chance to flex and relax in the mountain air with like-minded wellness seekers. The programme includes alfresco meditation, health hikes, expert talks and yoga classes for all levels.
20. Get personal in Greece
Luxurious rejuvenation awaits on a seven-day Good Things Come to Those Who Sweat package at Crete’s adults-only five-star Domes Noruz Chania. Stay in one of the retreat’s new “wellness lofts”, two-floor hideaways with added health-boosting elements: a vitality mini bar, spa goodies, Jacuzzis and outdoor exercise space. Included are a personal trainer one-on-one, a massage and an outdoor yoga session. Or opt for a head-clearing hike down Crete’s Samaria Gorge.
21. Rebalance in Sri Lanka
Tucked into Sri Lanka’s lush, mountainous tea country, Santani is a good place to press reset. The intimate, eco-friendly resort offers a variety of healing programmes; Health and Fitness Travel’s seven-night Rebalancing Bliss break includes deep tissue massage, group yoga, guided hikes, access to the thermal saltwater pools, raw “cooking” classes and personal wellness consultations, plus diet plans to help you live better after you return home.
22. Enjoy new lake-luxe
Opened in spring 2017 amid the dramatic Italian Dolomites, Seehof Nature Retreat mixes mountain air and alpine wellness with world-class wine and food. Sink into the lakeside spa (Finnish sauna, Roman steam baths, indoor and outdoor pools), join a morning walk or stretching session, concoct a bespoke juice at the free gourmet “supermarket” or get away from everyone on the region’s 373 miles (600km) of cycle trails.
Me, me, me
Travelling solo with no familiar faces or places as distractions gives you the time to get to know yourself more intimately, and do what you’ve always wanted, no compromises.
23. Work yourself out
Gazing out at the Mediterranean from the Costa Blanca hills, the chic SHA Wellness Clinic offered by Healing Holidays has tailored programmes to deal with issues such as stress and weight loss, combining Eastern, traditional and scientific therapies with activities such as t’ai chi and cooking lessons. Healthy macrobiotic meals come courtesy of an El Bulli-trained chef.
24. Cleanse in the Caribbean
There’s no part of yourself you can’t sort out at the BodyHoliday in St Lucia: this all-inclusive resort by Destinology has a ridiculously long menu of activities – from spin classes to sunset yoga, windsurfing to beach boot camp, dance-fit to meditation. September is solos month, with hosted dinners and singles-specific events.
25. Get unstuck in Spain
Let a private life coach get you out of a rut with an intensive three-night one-on-one in rural Andalucia. Based at a glorious boutique guesthouse in a whitewashed Alpujarran village, coach Jessica McGregor Johnson tailors retreats to each client with the aim of working through issues and finding a way forward in just two days.
Retreats cost £2,730, excluding flights; jessicamcgregorjohnson.com
26. Spa solo
Enrol on Spa Breaks’ seven-night Solo Banish, Balance, Boost programme for tips to tweak your well-being. It’s based at the boutique-style Capsis Elite Resort, which sits amid the olive trees and bright bougainvillea of an Aegean-lapped peninsula in Crete. The week includes group discussions, yoga, raw food preparation and access to a hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam room.
27. Isolate yourself in Italy
Find solitude, monk-style, by retiring to a stone-walled cell in the Umbrian countryside. Eremito’s 14 “celluzze” with wrought-iron beds and hemp sheets are inspired by 14th-century hermitages. There’s no television or phone reception; vegetarian meals are eaten in silence, by candlelight; after listening to Gregorian chants and meditating.
28. Have a Thai treat
Solace-seeking solos are spoilt at Koh Samui’s Kamalaya Sanctuary, an inspirational wellness resort tucked in a tropical ravine and centred on a Buddhist cave temple. Those seeking guidance should try the Embracing Change programme, which includes private sessions with life mentors as well as holistic treatments, meditation, yoga, Thai massage and largely vegan food.
29. Rent a cottage for one
Head to Derbyshire for a stay at Blakelow Farm’s old pigsty. Now converted from its porcine past, quiet and characterful Chestnut Cottage sleeps just one – ideal if you want alone-time in idyllic countryside. It has its own kitchen and terrace; chickens peck outside and Chatsworth is visible over the hills. There are fine walks to Winster village and across the dales.
A 2016 Ofcom report found the average adult spends almost one day per week online, while 59 per cent of people consider themselves addicted to devices. Take a step back from the digital world by going off-grid.
30. Make like a monk
Burma’s internet penetration is 22 per cent, so you can be fairly sure of getting off-grid on a three-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, through the traditional villages and lush hills of Shan state. Selective Asia’s 17-day Myanmar Explorer trip includes the hike plus a Buddhist monastery stay, where your “alarm clock” is the monks’ 5am chant.
31. Be ordered offline
In North Korea, tourists aren’t allowed online. Foreign mobiles don’t work; local SIM cards are expensive and unreliable. Consider yourself completely cut off. Regent Holidays’ Pioneering North Korea Group Tour delves deep into the world’s most solitary country, chartering an aircraft to access rarely visited areas of this secretive nation, including the cities of Chongjin and Hamhung, and Mount Paektu, Korea’s highest peak.
32. Unplug on Argyll
Embrace the “joy of missing out” at one of Sykes Cottages’ 10 “JOMO”-designated bolt-holes. All are free from Wi-Fi, phone signal and digital distractions. Try the 19th-century stone cottage of 33 Easdale Island. Tiny Easdale, in the Inner Hebrides, is car-free and focused on simple pleasures – such as September’s annual World Stone Skimming Championships.
33. Switch off in Slovenia
K E Adventure’s eight-day Across the Julian Alps to Triglav small-group, hut-to-hut hike is a splendid way to leave the world behind, exploring Europe’s most dramatic but lesser-tramped mountains, including a chance to summit Slovenia’s highest peak. Trips run July-September, but to go fully off-grid join the 2017 Digital Detox Departure (July 22) on which mobile phones are confiscated.
34. Get lost in the Yukon
The Yukon in Canada is prime digital detox territory: 80 per cent of it is Wi-Fi-free and visitors are far too busy having their jaws dropped by the wildlife and scenery to be on their phones. Canadian Affair offers a 10-night In The Footsteps of the Yukon Pioneers self-drive that hits the wild Alaska Highway, delves into First Nations and gold-rush heritage, and explores the wild trails, lakes and forests of Kluane National Park.
35. Stay away from signals
There are no TVs, phones or Wi-Fi in any of the 200-odd UK properties owned by the Landmark Trust. Frenchman’s Creek, a pale-yellow cottage tucked into woodland on a secretive side-channel of Cornwall’s Helford River, feels more cut-off than most (yet is only a mile from the nearest pub). It’s solitude made stone, and might spark your creative side; the cottage has inspired literary types including Daphne du Maurier.
Four nights from £282; landmarktrust.org.uk
36. Detox in paradise
On Denis private island in the Seychelles, there are no televisions, phones or in-room internet, just a handful of cottages scattered between the coconut palms on this tiny speck in the ocean. You’re not entirely alone: the waters teem with fish, the trees harbour some of the Seychelles’ rarest endemic birds and the beaches are frequented by nesting green and hawksbill turtles. Carrier offers seven-night all-inclusive stays.
37. Hand in your handset
At Healthouse Las Dunas, a luxe wellness retreat on the Andalusian coast, your mobile stays locked in the safe during its two-night Digital Detox break. The programme includes life-coaching sessions to help set goals and form healthy habits, relaxation and exercise classes, nutrition consultations, spa treatments, yoga and Nordic walking.
38. Commune with nature
Stay at Sweden’s most simple forest hotel to go back to basics. Kolarbyn Eco-lodge offered by Discover the World has no electricity or running water; its 12 turf-topped huts are lit by candles. Chop wood, cook over a fire and sleep on sheepskin rugs after days of canoeing, wildlife-watching and relaxing in the floating sauna.
At one with nature
Spend time amid the enormity of mountains and deserts, sleeping under galaxies of stars to give yourself a fresh sense of perspective.
39. Cross a country
The new Jordan Trail runs 402 miles (647km) north to south – slowly taking in the whole country. To hike the lot, via Dana Biosphere Reserve, rock-hewn Petra, other-worldly Wadi Rum and the little-explored areas in between, takes about 40 days. For a wild taster, try an eight-day guided Walks Worldwide Bedouin Trail to Petra hike that includes magnificent, makes-you-feel-small mountain and desert scenery and remote camping beneath the stars.
40. Look to the heavens
Nothing puts you in your place like looking up at the infinity of space. And one of the best locations for doing just that in the UK is Northumberland, home to England’s largest, wildest and most sparsely populated national park, and a designated International Dark Sky Park. Battlesteads Hotel at Wark, near Hexham, is a sustainability-focused “stay and gaze” site with its own observatory that offers drop-in astronomy sessions, talks, activities and astrophotography courses.
41. Take a big hike
A really long walk, when all you need think about is putting one foot in front of the next, allows plenty of thinking time. The truly committed hiker can tackle Celtic Trails’ “walking sabbatical” along the entire Welsh Coast Path – an 80-day, 870-mile (1,400km) expedition. With B&Bs booked and luggage transferred by the company, you’re free to concentrate on the ever-changing views of every cliff, cove, castle, mountain and sandy bay between Chester and Chepstow.
42. Make a peaceful pilgrimage
According to Camino Ways, one of the main reasons people walk the famed route to Spain’s Santiago de Compostela is to get away from daily life and connect with nature. Most peregrinos walk from southern France to the Galician city, but for a more peaceful pilgrimage, with no-less-spectacular scenery than the most popular path, Camino Ways suggests the lesser-used Portuguese Coastal Way, a sacred strand linking Porto and Santiago.
43. Paddle the wilderness
Nature rules in New Zealand, so being at-one with it is pretty easy. Find extra solitude by following the 90-mile (145km) Whanganui Journey, one of the country’s “Great Hikes” that is only accessible by boat. Kayak along the Whanganui River, passing untouched forest, steep canyon sides, little rapids and areas rich in Maori legend, free from phone beeps and television twitter. Canoe Safaris runs five-day guided trips, including camping along the riverbank.
44. Delve into deserts
Not just evocative by name, Oman’s vast Empty Quarter is surreally spectacular and barely visited. This is the domain of fiery sunsets, shifting dunes and a billion stars. Corinthian Travel’s nine-day Salalah & Oman’s Empty Quarter trip includes a three-night glamping adventure along the deserted coast and into the Rub al Khali, via the Moon mountains, wild frankincense trees and, allegedly, the lost city of Ubar, the “Atlantis of the Sands”.
45. Go forest bathing
Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) – the practice of visiting forests for their health benefits – originated in Japan. Try it out on mountainous, tree-cloaked Yakushima Island, where the ancient cedars, tinkling waterfalls and pure air should sort you out nicely. Inside Japan’s 14-night Kyushu Adventure includes a three-day Yakushima stay, during which you’ll hike to venerable Jomon Sugi, possibly the world’s oldest tree, for a humbling perspective on time itself.
46. Sail away
Find secret coves and seaside solitude by chartering your own crewed Turkish gulet to explore the Lycian Coast. Fairlight Jones’s traditional Seyhan Hanna sailing vessel has six cabins – though you can book it for two people for extra escapism. The gulet comes with sea kayaks, stand-up paddle-boards and snorkels, or you can take the helm if you feel like literally sailing yourself away.
From £3,150pp based on two sharing, excluding flights; each additional guest £450pp; fairlightjones.com
47. Seek Saharan solitude
Discover Adventure’s five-day Saharan Mini Adventure means even the time-poor traveller can sample the mind-affecting scale of this mighty desert. Accompanied by Berber guides and a camel caravan, you’ll trek into the Moroccan wilderness from the oasis town of Tazzarine, passing date palms and ancient fossils, following a dry riverbed and camping out under a blanket of stars. For an even more out-of-this-world feeling, the February departure coincides with a lunar eclipse.
48. Find tranquillity in trees
Kenya is synonymous with savannah, but lesser-known Kitich Camp offers a lusher escape in one of the country’s last forest wildernesses. Hidden in the Mathews mountain range, the remote camp has six safari tents with alfresco, en suite bathrooms. Samburu guides lead walks amid the trees to look for elephants, lions and melanistic leopards, while the natural rock pools are perfect for swims. Exceptional Travel Company’s seven-night tailored trip combines Kitich and the rhino-sighting hotspot Lewa Wilderness.
From £4,195pp based on two sharing, including flights; exceptional-travel.com
49. See Canadian constellations
A three-hour drive from Halifax Airport, Nova Scotia’s secluded Trout Point Lodge was the world’s first certified Starlight Hotel – a certification given by the Star Foundation to promote astronomical research. This phone signal-free, luxe wood-cabin hideaway not only sits under inky dark skies on the edge of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area, but also has an astronomer on staff, a large stargazing platform and a range of telescopes, including one for daytime use. Other activities include walks and canoe paddles to look for loons, beavers and bears.
From £201 per night; troutpoint.com
50. Meet the ancestors
Contemplate evolution and humanity during face time with one of our closest relatives. Abercrombie & Kent offers a six-night tailor-made Uganda gorilla trek, staying at the utterly remote Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which is often shrouded in mist and regarded as one of Africa’s most biologically diverse habitats. The camp itself is often visited by gorilla groups, while hikes – or even the view from your bathtub – might reveal other primates such as red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus and baboons.