The Iberian countries of Spain and Portugal are two fabulous solo travel destinations, especially for women travelling alone. I have visited both countries on multiple occasions, from the rolling hills of Andalucía to the crayon-coloured houses of Lisbon
In this article, I will unpick why these two countries are great destinations in Europe for those travelling alone and, with the help of a few fellow travel writers, recommend the best places to visit for those travelling solo in Spain and Portugal.
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Why Travel Solo in Spain & Portugal?
Let’s start with the landscape and climate of these countries.
Portugal is defined by its long beach-lined coastline, mountainous north and arid plain in the south. Spain is also blessed with beautiful beaches but is mainly a highland plateau, straddled by mountain ranges.
Both countries have a temperate climate, allowing year-round travel.
The big cities of both countries have buzzing nightlife and a vibrant cultural scene.
The infrastructure in both countries is well-developed. Both have large train networks that reach major cities. Smaller towns and villages are covered by buses.
Mass tourism is well-established in both countries. Therefore, it is unlikely that you will be the only foreigner in town. You just need to ask yourself if that is a good thing.
Language is a common barrier when travelling, and can be especially daunting to deal with when travelling solo. But fear not. English is widely spoken in tourist hubs and amongst the younger generation in Portugal and Spain.
Spain and Portugal have a rich historical heritage, much of which is shared. The Roman Empire, the Goths and the Umayyad Caliphate have all left their mark on both countries.
Both Spaniards and Portuguese are friendly and laid-back people.
Your taste buds will be well and truly satisfied in either country. Fresh seafood, fragrant olive oil and spicy chorizo are the staples of both countries’ cuisine. And let’s not forget the wine and tapas.
Safety is one of the most pressing concerns of solo travellers. Therefore, it will come as good news that Portugal has been ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. Spain ranks in the top 10% of the safest countries in the world.
But watch out for petty crime such as pickpocketing in the cities.
Results from surveys of solo travellers point to Spain as a preferred destination for first-time solo travellers.
Spain vs Portugal. Which Country is Right for You as a Solo Traveller?
Although Spain and Portugal have similarities and are great choices for those travelling solo for the first time, there are a few distinguishing factors that might help you choose which country is the right solo travel destination for you.
Portugal tends to have a more laid-back vibe and is one of the cheapest countries in Europe (although it may cost you more to fly there). Although not as budget-friendly as Portugal, Spain is relatively affordable as a Western European solo traveller destination.
Portugal is a relatively small country, making travel more manageable if you only have a few weeks to spare. However, Spain has a better travel infrastructure and more to offer in the way of historic sites and artistic accomplishments (one of the things that Spain is known for is its canon of artistic achievements).
Both Spain and Portugal are wonderful solo travel destinations that you can explore independently. However, if you prefer, you can visit the main hubs on a group tour.
Solo Travel in Portugal: Best Places to Visit
By Linn of Brainy Backpackers
Lagos, on the Algarve coast, is one of the best places for solo travel in Portugal.
It is a quaint town with multiple hostels where you can meet other travellers. Many of the hostels organise group tours and activities so you can easily hang out with others if you prefer that. However, there are also hostels for more independent travellers who prefer doing their own thing.
There are tons of things to do in Lagos and its surroundings.
Its proximity to coastal hiking opportunities, pristine beaches, and unlimited water sports makes it an adventure traveller’s paradise. You can learn how to surf, go scuba diving, paddleboard along the giant cliffs, and discover magnificent sea caves both over and underwater.
Not far from Lagos, you find Ponta da Piedade with some of the most incredible cliff formations in the Algarve Coast.
This is just before Sagres which sits on top of enormous dramatic cliffs. A short trip in the other direction and you can enjoy a kayak trip to the most famous cave in Portugal, Benagil Cave.
By Marie of A Life Without Borders
Lisbon is a city that will immediately steal your heart. From the gorgeous azulejo-clad architecture and beautiful mosaic sidewalks to the amazing food and friendly people, Lisbon is simply incredible.
The capital of Portugal, Lisbon is one of the safest cities for solo travellers.
A relatively small city, it is easy to navigate on foot to see the major sights. Obviously, you’ll need to take the same precautions as in any big city, but I had no problems exploring Lisbon, by day or night.
Transportation in Lisbon is efficient with trains, buses, trams and taxis available from early in the morning until late at night.
Most Portuguese speak English, so communication isn’t an issue.
Also, Lisbon has plenty of dining options where solo females can feel comfortable eating alone, such as at the fabulous Time Out Market.
With plenty to see and do in the city itself, including easy day trips or a Lisbon to Porto road trip, you’ll enjoy Lisbon’s laid-back culture. Get a sense of the city’s rich history at the Sao Jorge Castle or the Lisbon Cathedral, before exploring the historic Alfama district.
Make sure that you stop at one of Lisbon’s viewpoints, such as the Miradouro das Portas do Sol overlooking the city’s red-tiled roofs, or the Santa Justa Lift overlooking the Baixa district. Finally, stroll around the Praca do Comercio, one of Lisbon’s popular squares, before an evening out in Bairro Alto for its restaurants and bars.
By Bridget of The Flashpacker
The beautiful island of Madeira is one of the best places to travel alone in the world, let alone in Portugal.
It is a safe island, relatively inexpensive and populated by some of the friendliest people on the planet. The climate is wonderful year-round, especially in the vibrant city of Funchal, and the landscapes are spectacular.
Exploring Madeira without a car isn’t a problem. Its buses will take you to many of the island’s top attractions. Otherwise, join one of the many super-affordable day tours.
Start by exploring Funchal, making sure that you don’t miss the painted doors of the Old Town and the city’s majestic cathedral. Then, take the cable car to the town of Monte and visit Monte Palace Tropical Garden.
A west coast tour will include the natural lava pools of Porto Moniz whilst an excursion to the east of the island will take in the unmissable Pico do Arieiro and the iconic houses of Santana.
READ THIS NEXT: Solo Travel in Madeira: The Ultimate Guide
By Bridget of The Flashpacker
Giving Lisbon a good run for its money, Porto is a great solo travel destination in Portugal. With its UNESCO-listed, azulejo tile-fronted buildings, riverside setting and vintage trams, Portugal’s second city has an immediate charm.
Due to its compact size, Porto is a very walkable city and offers many different activities for those travelling alone, and one of the best destinations for female solo travel.
Potter around its neighbourhoods, including the districts of Ribeira and Gaia, punctuating your day with cups of excellent coffee. Browse the city’s markets and check out the historic São Bento train station. Or simply laze on one of Porto’s beaches.
As you might expect, with the Douro vineyards on the city’s doorstep, Porto has a first-rate foodie scene and quaffable wines and ports. Meet other solo travellers by joining a food tour or going wine or port-tasting.
If you want to venture further afield, take the day trip to explore the valley’s port lodges (many visitors take a day trip that combines wine tasting with a riverboat cruise along the Douro River).
Solo Travel in Spain: Best Places to Visit
By Jennifer of World On A Whim
Barcelona is a great city for solo travellers and an essential part of any Spain itinerary.
There are attractions and accommodation options for every travel style.
If you’re looking to experience some of the best nightlife in the world, plant yourself in the lobby at a hostel in Gracia or any of the Hostel One properties located throughout the city.
If you are a solo traveller looking for more upmarket accommodation, you’re in luck. Barcelona has a huge supply of hotel properties making it actually possible for solo travellers to stay in 3-star accommodation for around 50 euros a night.
If you are eager to meet others during your time, be sure to join a free walking tour of the city.
You can join a cooking class where you learn to make tapas or paella or participate in one of the many enticing Airbnb experiences available to you in Barcelona.
Finally a word of caution. Barcelona does have a high amount of pickpocketing in the city, although it’s generally not violent.
It’s important as a solo traveller wherever you visit to always remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Only take with you the essentials as you explore this incredibly vibrant city.
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By Paulina of Paulina on the Road
Our next stop is Cadiz in southern Spain.
This city boasts numerous historic buildings, museums, quaint plazas and countless bars and restaurants for you to enjoy. It also has a mild climate.
Thanks to its relative safety, Cadiz is a perfect destination for female solo travel in Spain. You can roam the city at night or day without feeling insecure.
Furthermore, there are plenty of nightclubs and free activities such as city walks that you can join. There is also a good choice of hostels for budget travellers.
If you want to get active, plan a day trip to Tarifa which is famous for its surf spots. There are plenty of things to do in Tarifa and it’s easy to connect with people from around the world here.
By Bridget of The Flashpacker
Beautiful Córdoba is the glittering jewel in Spain’s historic crown.
Córdoba’s Old Town with its labyrinth of twisting alleyways and flower-filled patios is enchanting. However, it is the UNESCO-listed Mezquita of Córdoba that pulls in the crowds.
Founded by Abd al Rahman in 785, the Mezquita is the beating heart of Córdoba. Built to embody the power of Islam on the Iberian Peninsula, Córdoba’s Great Mosque was reconsecrated as a place of Christian worship after the city’s reconquest by the Catholic monarchs.
There are panoramic city views from the Torre del Alminar, which is built on the site of the minaret of the Great Mosque of Córdoba.
When you leave the Mezquita, explore the maze of cobblestone streets in Córdoba’s Jewish Quarter and Andalusia’s only remaining synagogue. The next stop is the fountain-filled gardens of the Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos, before visiting some of the UNESCO-listed flower patios of the city.
READ THIS NEXT: Top 10 Things to Do in Córdoba in One Day
By Bridget of The Flashpacker
For Spanish history in spades, choose Granada, one of Spain’s most seductive cities.
People flock to this city overlooked by the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada to visit the Alhambra Palace, the most sensual and romantic of all European monuments. However, spend a few days in Granada to discover that there is more to this seductive city than its Moorish palace, as near-perfect as it may be.
Explore the narrow streets of the Albaicín (Albayzín), the site of the city’s first fortress, which is filled with whitewashed buildings and elegant private villas (cármenes). Rising behind the Albaicín, Sacromonte hill was once the domain of Granada’s gipsies. Today, this neighbourhood resembles a tranquil Andalusian village and is a joy to walk around.
Pay your respects at the magnificent Renaissance Granada Cathedral and the adjacent Royal Chapel. Finally, don’t leave town before experiencing the tapas scene for which Granada is famous and catching a flamenco performance.
By Bridget of The Flashpacker
There’s something for every type of solo traveller in Spain’s Canary Islands and Gran Canaria is one of my favourites. With its historic towns, excellent beaches, good transport infrastructure and superb safety record, this is a jewel of an island for those travelling alone.
The cobblestone streets of the old town of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria’s vibrant capital, are stuffed with historic attractions and it has one of the best urban beaches in Europe. This is also an excellent base for touring Gran Canaria on public transport.
READ THIS NEXT: Gran Canaria Solo Travel: Itinerary & Essential Guide
By Darek of Darek and Gosia
One of the best solo travel destinations in Spain is Lanzarote.
This beautiful Canary Island, known for its all-year-round warm weather, is one of the most visited destinations in the winter months. Extensive public transport on Lanzarote makes getting around easy.
Lanzarote is also considered a relatively safe destination. So whether you are a solo female traveller or a guy looking for a perfect place to spend a holiday on your own, Lanzarote will be perfect for you.
The island of Lanzarote is full of amazing places to see.
From spending a relaxing day in Playa Blanca or Playa del Papagayo; to exploring Timanfaya National Park and Cueva De Los Verdes. There are also many organized tours so you can join a group if you feel lonely.
READ THIS NEXT: Lanzarote Solo Travel: The Ultimate Guide
By Joanna of Andalucia In My Pocket
Málaga is a fantastic destination for a solo traveller. This old city in the South of Spain has a youthful spirit, being very popular with young crowds who come here to enjoy the sun, the culture and the nightlife.
Firstly, Málaga is a very budget-friendly city when it comes to solo travelling. A weekend in Málaga can easily cost as little as 50 euros if you choose to stay in hostels and eat at local tapas places or at the gorgeous Atarazanas food market.
There are also a lot of free things to do in Málaga.
Even the most important tourist attractions, such as the Picasso Museum, the Pompidou Centre or the Alcazaba, have free entrance on Sundays. And Málalga’s excellent street art is always free.
It’s impossible not to make a friend among the locals in Málaga. There are plenty of free activities organised by the local travelling communities, such as volleyball or yoga on the beach, drinks and tapas in the old town or hiking trips in the nearby mountains.
There are so many things to see and explore in Málaga.
The Moorish fortress and the Roman theatre are amazing sites for history lovers. The beaches are practically in town, with Malagueta being a stone away from the old centre.
The restaurants and cafes in the old town and on the maritime promenade offer an array of cuisines and cheap local beer. No matter what time of the day or the night you pass by the city centre, there will always be cheerful people around.
Finally, if you are short on time, follow this free walking tour of Málaga to see the best the city has to offer in just one day.
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By Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad
Seville, Spain is one of the best solo travel destinations in Europe, let alone Spain, for a lot of reasons.
It’s safe – particularly important for female solo travellers – very walkable, and the sunniest city in Europe. Plus, as the birthplace of tapas and flamenco, you’re in for a highly cultural and tasty experience.
Here are some of the best things to do during a 3-day trip to Seville
Exploring the gorgeous Plaza de España and all its beautiful azulejos. Visit the civil palace of Casa de Pilatos or learn about Spain’s Moorish influence at the Royal Alcázar of Seville.
Visit Seville Cathedral and climb the iconic Giralda Tower for a bird’s-eye view of the city or relax at Metropol Paraso. And make sure that you try lots of traditional tapas — two of the best restaurants for that are El Rinconcillo and Espacio Eslava.
The local drinks in Seville are also delicious and very refreshing in the hot weather. To get the true local experience, forgo sangria and try tinto de verano instead. It’s very similar to the better-known Spanish drink but much more authentic to Seville!
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By Bridget of The Flashpacker
If you look beyond its sun-and-sangria beach resorts, you’ll discover that Tenerife is a perfect solo travel destination in Spain. It is so much more than a refuge for sun-starved Northern Europeans.
The largest of the Canary Islands has a rich and proud cultural heritage, colonial towns to match any in Central or South America and dramatic forested landscapes.
Thanks to a safe, modern, extensive and cheap bus network, getting around Tenerife without a car is a breeze. As a result of decades of mass tourism, the island’s infrastructure is well-developed, and you’re unlikely to be reliant on shaky schoolgirl (or schoolboy) Spanish.
Accommodation is plentiful and whilst this is mainly large hotels, AirBnBs in characterful properties have sprung up in recent years.
Basing yourself in the delightful town of Puerto de la Cruz, during a week in Tenerife pay a visit to the colonial towns of La Laguna, La Orotava and Garachico. Seek out the island’s largest dragon tree at Icod de Los Vinos. For a more cultural day trip, take the bus to Santa Cruz, Tenerife’s elegant capital.
Blessed with abundant natural beauty, Tenerife is popular with hikers and there are easy day hikes in the Anaga Forest and around the island’s most popular tourist attraction, Mount Teide.
By Or of My Path in the World
Spain’s third-largest city often gets less attention than Barcelona and Madrid, but it is a wonderful destination where anyone can find something to enjoy. From its landmarks and museums to exquisite food to relaxing beaches and parks, this city is exciting and laid-back at the same time.
Valencia is considered a very safe city, which makes it perfect for female solo travel (though you should always follow basic safety rules).
It’s also a lot more budget-friendly than people think. There are plenty of free things to do in Valencia, you can find accommodation for every budget, and you can eat great food at any price.
As for getting around, the city centre can be explored on foot, and other neighbourhoods are easily reachable by bus or Metro.
There are multiple reasons to visit Valencia.
One of the best things to do in the city is to wander through its old town district, Ciutat Vella. Apart from the maze of enchanting streets and alleys, you’ll find important historical landmarks like the 11th-century Valencia Cathedral (where the Holy Grail is kept), the Palace of the Marqués de Dos Aguas, and the Silk Exchange which is a UNESCO site.
Other things you must do in Valencia include visiting the jaw-dropping cultural complex of the City of Arts and Sciences, going street art hunting in the neighbourhood of El Carmen and feasting on authentic paella.
Solo Travel in Spain & Portugal: Final Thoughts
I hope that these recommendations inspire you to plan a future trip to Spain and Portugal. They are easy countries to visit as a solo traveller and ones that reap rewards many times over.
If you are not sure whether you are ready to explore Spain and Portugal independently, why not join a group tour?
As well as being a relatively hassle-free way of travelling, there are many other benefits of a group tour as a solo traveller. There are lots of group travel companies out there but two companies that I have used and can recommend are Exodus Travels and Explore Worldwide!
You’ll have an expertly curated itinerary and you often gain valuable insights into the country, the people and the culture. Generally, there’s safety in numbers. Finally, if you fear solo travel loneliness, there’s the reassurance of ready-made travel companions.
Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.
Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.
To get in touch, email her at email@example.com or follow her on social media.