5 incredible solo trips to take on points and miles
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A trip by yourself can be absolute bliss, free of the compromise or guilt that may arise when you and your travel companions just. can’t. agree. A solo trip (your first or your 50th) can give you perspective, time for introspection and just plain “me time.”
Whether you’d like to recharge by strumming a guitar on a Caribbean beach or swirling a glass of red in the vineyards of Spain, here are five itineraries to book with points or miles that may be just right for you.
Spirituality in Peru
Machu Picchu is a must-see in Peru, but many visitors leave it with nothing more than some quick selfies snapped for the ‘gram. Delve more deeply into its mysticism and spirituality and you’ll glean much more from a day at the 15th-century Incan citadel.
Getting there: Several major carriers fly nonstop to Lima (LIM), including United from Newark (EWR), LATAM from New York (JFK) or Los Angeles (LAX) or American from Miami (MIA) and LATAM. Round-trip tickets using miles will depend on the carrier but fluctuate around 40,000 miles, and of course if you have a credit card like Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can book tickets and hotels in Peru and for all of your solo trips using Chase Ultimate Rewards.
After you arrive in Lima, continue on to Cusco via airlines like Peruvian, Avianca or LATAM.
Machu Picchu is not accessible by car, so from Cusco you can either tackle the four-to-five-day hike on the Inca Trail or the three-hour train ride on Inca Rail or Peru Rail to Aguas Calientes. Book online and try to snag a window seat for the mountain and river views.
Where to stay: Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel is a short stroll from the train station in Aguas Calientes. Situated next to the Vilcanota River, it’s also in the middle of two apus (the Quechua word for “mountain”) which allows the property to absorb the energies of the Pachamama (Mother Earth). The 62 rooms and suites come with a river or garden view, and some have balconies and jacuzzis. Staff can arrange for your ticket and transportation to Machu Picchu as well as more immersive experiences. During one, far from the crowds, a shaman explains the site’s energy, likening it to the concepts of chi and feng shui. During a personalized healing ceremony he selects, reads, blesses and buries coca leaves, then leaves you in solitude to take in the views and engage in some personal reflection over a picnic lunch.
Back at the hotel’s stone terrace during a Payment to the Earth ceremony, sit cross-legged on pillows as the shaman presents seeds, plants, fruits, vegetables and other items while bestowing blessings in Quechua for peace, love, prosperity, happiness and good wishes. After the offering is wrapped, it’s taken to Cusco to burn at an altar. Then you can retreat to Suquy Café & Bar for trout ceviche from Lake Titicaca and a frothy Pisco Sour, or to the spa for a massage with Andean hot stones, whose energy and magnetic power are believed to restore equilibrium, stimulate blood circulation and lead to a restful sleep.
Spain for the Wine Lover
Skip the more visited Rioja region and make a side trip from Madrid to Castilla y León, where you can set up your luxe home base in a converted abbey set among the vines. In this region you’ll find the country’s largest range of Vino de la Tierra vineyards, a designation with fewer restrictions, allowing winemakers’ creativity and experimentation to shine.
Getting there: Many American markets serve Madrid (MAD) with nonstop flights. Iberia, British Airways and American fly from New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Boston (BOS), Philadelphia (PHL), Dallas (DFW) and Chicago (ORD), while Delta flies from Atlanta (ATL). Round-trip tickets with miles start at 40,000.
Seven car rental companies serve Madrid Barajas Airport: Sixt, Europcar, Avis, Budget, Hertz, Enterprise and Goldcar. All are located in the Arrivals area of Terminals 1 and 4. All versions of the American Express Platinum Card offer complimentary elite status with Avis, Hertz and National, while Chase Sapphire Reserve offers elite status with National and Avis and the United Club Card and the United Presidential Plus Card come with Hertz President’s Circle status. You’ll need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to drive in Spain. Book a rental with points or miles for the two-plus-hour drive northwest to Castilla y León.
Where to stay: Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine was named the No. 1 and No. 2 hotel in Spain in 2018 and 2019, respectively, by the Condé Nast Readers’ Choice Awards. (In 2018 it also snagged the No. 2 spot for all hotels in Europe.) Driving up to the property that sprawls across 500 acres, it’s easy to see why. The 12th-century Abbey of Santa Maria de Retuerta has been converted into a five-star luxe hotel with 27 carefully restored rooms and three suites, each with a view of the vineyards. Your visit can include a 4×4 tour that stops in the vineyards for a respite with a glass of chilled crisp Verdejo and local cheeses or an immersive winery tour and tasting. You can also grab an e-bike and explore on your own. The Abadia Retuerta also has Spain’s first spa sommelier, who guides you through a tasting to determine your favorite scents and goals for the treatment from relaxation to rejuvenation, then helps you select aromatherapy oils that match your wellness expectations. You can nosh on Castilian small plates at the hotel’s Vinoteca restaurant or indulge in elevated cuisine inspired by the Douro Valley at the one-Michelin-starred Refectorio.
A half hour drive away is Valladolid, the capital of Castilla y Leon and the capital of Spain from 1601 to 1606. It’s known for medieval sites, including the Gothic-designed San Pablo Church, the Royal Palace, the National Sculpture Museum and a museum dedicated to Christopher Columbus, who died in the city in 1506. The tiny, ever-popular Villa Paramesa is a must-visit for nibbling on Iberico ham and Manchego cheese while sampling the refreshing whites of Rueda and the easy-drinking reds of the Ribera del Duero appellation. An hour away, Segovia makes for an easy day trip. It’s a charming town featuring a well-preserved Roman aqueduct and restaurants serving red blends alongside the town’s specialty — suckling pig so tender it’s ceremoniously cut using only a ceramic plate.
Private Island Getaway for the Budding Guitarist
Petit St. Vincent, a 115-acre privately owned resort island in the Caribbean’s Grenadine Islands, is tapping into its off-the-grid, unplugged vibe with a new weeklong acoustic guitar workshop. One-on-one and group lessons with one of the world’s foremost instructors are combined with free time to sway in a hammock or snooze on the deserted beach.
Getting there: Travelers headed to Petit St. Vincent (or PSV, as it’s more commonly called) first need to fly to Barbados. American and JetBlue are the airlines that fly nonstop to the that island’s Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI). You can redeem either American AAdvantage miles or points from Charlotte (CLT) or Miami (MIA), or JetBlue TrueBlue points from Boston (BOS), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), New York (JFK) or Newark (EWR). It’s usually around 25,000 for a round-trip ticket.
After arriving in Barbados, a representative of PSV will escort you through immigration to a 50-minute connecting flight to Union Island. Finally, a motor launch will take you on a 25-minute ride to the private island.
Where to stay: The resort is set on 115 acres with 16 one-bedroom cottages and six two-bedroom villas built from native stone and scattered on hillsides, cliffs and directly on the beach. Accommodations are spacious, with terracotta and limestone tile floors and peaked ceilings constructed with purpleheart hardwood. Each has a living room, dressing room, bathroom and shower as well as sundecks with lounge chairs, day beds and large hammocks. The in-villa Bose sound system provides inspiration for the week’s lessons. Solo travelers seeking total seclusion and recharging will appreciate the lack of televisions, Wi-Fi and phones in the cottages, unlimited included room service and daily activities.
The Ultimate Unplugged Guitar Retreat is taught by Justin Sandercoe, an award-winning U.K.-based guitarist and instructor. It includes 15 hours of instruction spread out over a week, including technique and song practice and two half-hour private lessons. The retreat is geared to musicians who have mastered the basics but want to hone their skills and play with others in an “informal campfire environment.” Using easy songs to jam to, students learn improvisation skills, theory basics and how to play complementary parts. Two hours of group classes each morning are followed by the chance to practice with other students — or in your cottage, if you prefer. Late afternoons are filled with the sound of an informal group jam.
Wellness All Day in the D.R.
If 2020 is the year you focus on mind, body and spirit, a sojourn at the Meliá Punta Cana Beach Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, is just what you need. It offers a new wellness experience concierge to keep you on track and customize your experience.
Getting there: Because Punta Cana (PUJ) is a popular Caribbean vacation spot, you can fly nonstop from lots of markets on several different airlines, including Delta, America, United, JetBlue and Southwest. Round-trip award tickets can be redeemed for around 25,000 miles.
There are no Ubers or Lyfts yet in Punta Cana, so we recommend booking a shuttle with the hotel or taking a taxi for the 25-minute trip.
Where to stay: The newest offering at the 465-room, all-inclusive, adults-only Punta Cana Beach Resort is the Wellbeing 360 Experience, the first program of its kind in the Caribbean. It features activities and rituals designed to connect guests to their physical, spiritual, emotional and social development with daily programming like yoga, meditation, culinary classes, bike tours, botanical garden workshops and fire rituals. There are also Silent Spaces, introspective spots with solo painting, sound healing, reading pods and spiritual labyrinths. The upgraded fitness center has new equipment and group classes.
Also new at the resort are 24 VIP accommodations dubbed The Level Wellness Suites by StayWell. A stay here includes one spa treatment per day using locally sourced skin care with oil from the moringaia tree seeds, a personal wellness concierge and use of a bicycle to explore the property. In-suite amenities include a welcome guided virtual meditation from Dr. Deepak Chopra, mood-enhancing aromatherapy, dawn stimulation to wake you gradually and a shower infuser to remove chlorine from your hair and soften your skin. Guests in these suites also have exclusive access to Quimera, a restaurant with organic ingredients, a robust vegan and vegetarian menu, gluten-free options and a DIY smoothie and juice bar.
On Wellness Wednesdays, a local holistic expert guides guests in an oceanfront meditation and yoga session followed by a mud cleanse that’s washed off in the Atlantic. Taino Tuesdays expose you to cultural traditions and music, during which you are invited to lie under the swaying palm trees, engage in a sound-healing ceremony and sip a restorative cacao beverage.
If you are a member of the Meliá Rewards program, you can book your stay with points.
Deep-Dive Moroccan Food Tour for the Curious foodie
If you crave street food from a souk in the night markets of Marrakech and would love to share a traditional meal with a Moroccan family and tuck into fall-off-the-bone mechoui (slow-roasted lamb) cooked in a pit beneath the floor, you’ll love this solo-traveler-friendly 12-day tour in Morocco from the sustainability-focused travel experts at Intrepid Travel.
Getting there: You meet your group at 6 p.m. in Casablanca on the day your tour starts; it’s better to arrive a day early and take in some of the city’s sights. Beginning June 4, 2020, American Airlines will be the first U.S. carrier to offer nonstop service to Casablanca (CMN) from its hub in Philadelphia (PHL). It will be in a codeshare partnership with Royal Air Maroc, which will join the OneWorld alliance on March 31, 2020.
If you arrive early (or stay a night or two on the back end), book a room using points from Marriott Bonvoy at the Sheraton Casablanca Hotel & Towers, the Accor Live Limitless, the Sofitel Casablanca Tour Blanche Hotel or the Hyatt Regency Casablanca.
The tour: After exploring the Art Deco architecture, medina and beaches of Casablanca, take an early train the next morning to Meknes, which was transformed from a provincial town to imperial city in the 17th century. Lunch on a camel burger, learn about the region’s olive oil industry and dine on couscous at a local guesthouse in Moulay Idriss. In the city of Chefchaouen, one of the prettiest spots in all of Morocco, snap photos of the blue and white houses, red-tiled roofs and carved doorways, then sample local specialties at a home-cooked dinner. During two days in the medieval Arab city of Fes, slurp on harira (chickpea soup) and set off on a tasting trail and cooking demonstration where you learn to make pastilla — a salty-sweet pastry.
Next, it’s a drive south through the Middle Atlas Mountains to Midelt, a market town, for dinner prepared with indigenous aromatic herbs. A memorable ride toward the Sahara Desert takes you to Merzouga, where a demonstration and sampling of medfouna (stuffed pizza) is a great introduction to the area’s nomadic cuisine. In the M’Goun Valley, Berber tagine is prepared in a traditional clay pot cooked over an open fire and locals show you how to prepare Moroccan breads. Finally, during a few days in Marrakech, you’ll soak in the sights, sounds and smells of the spice markets, be tempted by snail soup and other dishes in the street food bazaar and inspired by the Amal Women’s Cooking Centre – a nonprofit empowering women through culinary skills and education.
Intrepid Travel’s tours are conducive to solo travel; you can choose to pay for a solo supplement or be paired with a solo roommate of the same gender. You are required to purchase a travel insurance policy for the trip if you don’t have an annual one, unless your credit card includes travel insurance like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express. You’ll also want a debit or credit card without foreign transaction fees to withdraw money for food and beverages (many but not all meals are included), souvenirs and other incidentals, ideally one that’s geared toward solo travelers.
Featured photo courtesy of LeDomaine.
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