Image: tracking wildlife with Biosphere Expeditions
Courtesy Biosphere Expeditions
A trip with Biosphere Expeditions will get you up close and personal with the world's wildlife while collecting data to aid conservation efforts.
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updated 10/24/2010 11:31:52 AM ET 2010-10-24T15:31:52

It's time to take control of your vacation: to tackle the world at your own pace, without arguments over where to go or how much to spend, with no one to object if you decide to stay out until 3 am (or turn in at 8 p.m.). By going it alone, you can choose your own adventure and see where the day takes you. We've scoured the globe for amazing escapes — such as scuba diving in Belize, tracking snow leopards in central Asia, and motorcycling through the Dolomites — that are perfect for the solo traveler and for impressing your friends with your adventurousness. Of course, you could bring someone along on any of these vacations, but they'd just cramp your style.

1. Practicing Yoga in India
On your quest to achieve the perfect tree pose, the last thing you need to see is your partner looking more like a weeping willow (or, worse, executing it perfectly while you're still wobbly). That's why the path to enlightenment is one that's best traveled alone. SwaSwara, a yoga resort with 24 villas in Karnataka (south of Goa, on the Arabian Sea), is happy to take novices, but you'll be better off if you already know the difference between downward dog and warrior pose. On arrival, you'll meet with a resident yoga guru to design a personalized holistic regimen, so be ready to open up. Three hours of yoga and four hours of meditation classes are scheduled each day, ranging from quiet contemplation to laughing yoga, which is said to reduce stress hormones. Meals are strictly meat-free and are prepared with produce picked from the resort's farm and seafood plucked from the surrounding waters. Unlike at many health retreats, wine is available (Indian vintages only), although you might find that settling down on Om Beach to meditate on the pleasures of balancing your inner self — without worrying about anyone else's — to be equally relaxing.

SwaSwara
Om Beach, Gokarna
Karnataka, India
Tel: 91 484 266 8221
$1,900 for a seven-night stay, including meals

2. Scuba diving in Belize
Of course you can't chitchat when you're 100 feet under the sea off the coast of Belize, but even if you could, you'd probably still be rendered speechless by one of the most amazing displays on earth. Turneffe Island Resort, a 14-acre private island about an hour-long boat ride from Belize City, has a spa, a white-sand beach, and 21 rooms, the most basic of which have canopy beds and screened patios overlooking the Caribbean Sea. But most importantly, it's near 70 dive sites that teem with green moray eels, angelfish, nurse sharks, and other intriguing aquatic residents. After a day in the water, you'll join fellow guests in the wood-paneled dining room for a family-style meal, and to trade fish tales. With 15 dives in seven days — including a night dive as well as a day trip to the spectacular Blue Hole, a 400-foot-deep limestone sinkhole surrounded by Lighthouse Reef — you'll have lots to talk about.

Turneffe Island Resort
Turneffe Island, Belize
Tel: 800 874 0118
Seven-night dive packages from $2,500 (including single supplement), including meals and dives

3. Exploring Egypt
We're sorry to say it, but there are some destinations that are more challenging for female travelers. But don't let that stop you: On Abercrombie & Kent's Journeys for Women (to destinations like Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco), you can satisfy your adventurous spirit and skip the stress. Join the 11-day Egypt Unveiled trip, for example, and you'll get plenty of photo ops at the pyramids and tours of pharaoh tombs before setting off on a four-day Nile cruise to comparatively less-trafficked spots such as Dendera (home to one of the country's best-preserved temples), Edfu, and Kom Ombo. The itinerary is a little heavy on "girly" stuff, such as perfume making, henna painting, and a visit to a patisserie, but makes up for it with a lecture by (female) Egyptologist Manal Saad. Factor in stays at luxe hotels like the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo and the Mena House Oberoi, and it's the perfect way to celebrate the sisterhood, without having to actually travel with your own sister.

Abercrombie & Kent
Tel: 800 554 7016
From $7,000 (including single supplement)

4. Cruising the Mediterranean
It's long been the gripe of solo travelers that if you cruise, you lose. Lose out on low fares, that is, since most lines charge single travelers as much as twice what a passenger who shares a room would pay. Enter the Norwegian Epic, the world's second-largest cruise ship, which debuted in summer 2010 with 128 Studio cabins designed specifically for singles. Now, before you get all excited about solo cruisers finally achieving equal rights, there is one big caveat: All of the studios are interior cabins that, at a snug 100 square feet, are just wide enough to accommodate a full-size bed. There is, however, a one-way porthole into the hallway to help ward off claustrophobia, as well as a mod lounge, for Studio dwellers only, that serves coffee in the morning and cocktails in the evening. There are no assigned seats nor designated meal times aboard Norwegian's ships (they call it Freestyle Cruising), so you can make dinner plans with new friends instead of being stuck at a table with the same people night after night. The boat spends the fall and winter in the Caribbean before heading to the western Mediterranean for spring and summer.

Norwegian Epic
Tel: 866 234 7350
Studios from $799 for a seven-day Mediterranean cruise

5. Tracking Wildlife Worldwide
If your love of earth's creatures outweighs your passion for creature comforts, book a trip with Biosphere Expeditions: You'll get up close and personal with the world's wildlife while collecting data to aid conservation efforts. You don't need a degree in biology — or any particular skills at all, in fact — but it is work to be taken seriously. Each day, you'll head out into the field with scientists to conduct research. If your loved ones can spare you for two weeks, you can track snow leopards in the mountains of Central Asia's Altai Republic, or cheetahs, leopards, and caracals on the central Namibian savanna. Even if you have only a week, you can still get really hands-on — measuring and tagging flatback turtles on the western coast of Australia, for example. Accommodations are on the basic side (tent camps, eco resorts, or small guest lodges); a post-dinner lecture sums up each day's findings.

Biosphere Expeditions
Tel: 800 407 5761
One-week expeditions from $1,590

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6. Motorcycling in Europe
Road trips are great, but making small talk for hours on end, and arguing over who missed the turnoff 20 miles back, can tax any relationship. That's where motorcycles come in. Adriatic Mototours, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, will set you up with a bike, a GPS, and an amazing route through the wide-open roads and tricky mountain passes of eastern and central Europe (this is not a trip for first-time riders). There are 13 customizable itineraries: The Slovenia Dolomite tour, for example, suggests three days in the Italian mountains with a trip through Slovenia's Julian Alps. But if you want to add some time on the Croatian coast, no problem. The company takes care of all your hotel reservations and provides 24-hour emergency support. Guided group tours are also available (and perhaps best for the directionally challenged); the 11-day Czech Austria circuit makes two daylong pit stops in Prague and Vienna and will test your turning radius on the hairpin-riddled Grossglockner Pass, one of the highest roads in the Alps.

Adriatic Mototours
Tel: 386 41 332 418
Nine-day Slovenia Dolomite self-guided tour from $2,330; eleven-day Czech Austria group tour from $3,750 (including single supplement)

7. Cooking Class in Chile
Had enough of your kin? Why not make an escape and become part of the family at Mapuyampay. Belgian-born chef Ruth Van Waerebeek cooked all over the world before falling in love with Latin cuisine — as well as a Chilean man who's now her husband. Together, they opened this six-room guesthouse in a remote village in the Andean foothills, two hours from Santiago. In addition to whipping up five-course dinners — using fruits, veggies, and herbs from the hotel's organic garden and ingredients sourced from local producers — Van Waerebeek invites guests into her kitchen and shares her skills in four-hour cooking classes focused on traditional Latin favorites. (Note that this isn't just home cooking — Mapuyampay is one of the top schools for Latin cuisine in South America.) So, why go alone? If you burn your first batch of meat-and-onion empañadas, no one back home will be the wiser. And when you put the perfect crust on a crème brûlée made with lúcuma (a pumpkinlike Andean fruit with a sweet maple taste), you won't have to share.

Mapuyampay
Curicó, Chile
Tel: 56 9 9327 2589
Single room, $75 per night; cooking classes, $55

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