If you’re looking for the best gay friendly travel destinations or the best LGBTQ+ friendly places to visit, this is the blog post for you. With a frightening number of countries still criminalizing homosexuality, finding safe travel destinations poses challenges for LGBTQ+ individuals. Fortunately, the number of places that punish them for existing is growing smaller, and there are many locations that embrace gay and queer travelers with open arms.
If you are looking for your next vacation getaway, here are some of the best travel destinations for LGBTQ+ travelers that are definitely worth checking out. We couldn’t fit them all on one list, so this is very much just a starting point – let us know in the comments below if there are more LGBTQ+ friendly travel destinations that you would add to this guide!
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The best LGBTQ+ friendly travel destinations in 2022
1. San Francisco, California, USA
The first place on our list of best LGBTQ+ friendly destinations is San Francisco. San Francisco might be one of the best known queer-friendly cities, sometimes called the the “Gay Mecca” of the world. Indeed, every queer should visit the city at least once. The enourmous gay clubs and rainbow crosswalks on Castro Street are packed any night of the week with drag queens and party goers, and the city boasts some of the world’d largest Pride and Leather events. In addition, there are many gay bars and organizations throughout the city, with a large and politically active queer community.
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If you are not into clubs, there is plenty of sightseeing to do, as well as many excellent restaurants and museums. Attractions include the massive Golden Gate Park, the bustling Ferry Building, and the seaside shops on Pier 39 or Fisherman’s Wharf. You can also find uniquely quirky accommodations and shopping, as well as food options to fit every budget. While the city is home to many queer artists and activists, there is a growing population in the surrounding cities, particularly across the bay in Oakland. Among other attractions, here you can find the historic White Horse Inn, one of the oldest gay bars in the United States.
2. Guadalajara, Mexico
While Puerto Vallarta is known as one of the gay capitals of Mexico and features on many lists of best LGBTQ+ destinations, the community tends to be focused on retired gay men. Just a few hours inland, Guadalajara–known as the “San Francisco of Mexico”–boasts a larger, younger, and hipper LGBTQ+ community. As the second largest city in Mexico, you can find travelers and expats from all over the world, including the largest population of Canadians outside of Canada. There is a cluster of gay bars, drag shows, and clubs in the Gay Village near the historic Zona Centro that are reminiscent of San Francisco’s Castro District, which a chance to get a post-dancing snack at the rainbow-draped Tacos Gay afterwards. However, there are gay bars and thriving nighlife neighborhoods all over the city, such as the one around Avenida Chapultetec.
Often overlooked as a tourist destination, Guadalajara is significantly more affordable than the more popular and coastal locations in Mexico. As the second-largest city in the county, it has modern accommodations while still maintaining a more “authentic” Mexican culture. The beautiful and historic city has many sights to explore, with incredible architecture and fountains. Visit the stunning cathedrals with their stained glass windows, such as the Catedral in Zona Centro and the Expiatorio. There are numerous museums, bars, and restaurants with incredible and affordable cuisine, as well as ample shopping opportunities. You can also take day excursions to the neighboring areas, such as Tequila or Lake Chapala.
3. Portland, Oregon, USA
While Portland is probably best known for rain, bridges, stripclubs, and food cart pods, there is a thriving LGBTQ+ community in the city. It’s not difficult to find queer bars, drag shows, sports leagues, community organizations, art, and queer-owned businesses. The city has a long history of gay rights activism, and was one of the first major cities to repeal anti-gay legislation and elect an openly gay mayor. Their annual Pride parade is a part of a two-day festival, and there are numerous queer-focused events all year long. On sunny days, you can also find many gay folks hanging out in the clothing-optional sections of Collins Beach. It’s definitely one of the best places to visit for LGBTQ+ travellers!
Portland is also known for its excellent food and craft breweries, and there are numerous opportunities to explore. The numerous food cart pods offer clusters of delicious food and beverage options at reasonable prices. There also are stunning parks, gardens, and scenic areas, such as the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens and Washington Park. The moderate temperatures and ample rain makes for some truly lush greenery. You can also find some incredible art and science museums to check out, or simply walk or bike around the city to enjoy the views. It is an affordable option whether you are looking for nightlife, nature, or cultural attractions.
4. Berlin, Germany
Berlin has long been a refuge for LGBTQ+ individuals, dating all the way back to the 1920s. Today, it’s one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly destinations in Europe: there are Pride Week events, gay bars, clubs, and parties, queer cinema, a gay museum, and more. The largest event of the year is Christopher Street Day (CSD Berlin), where up to 750,000 people march, celebrate, and demonstrate on the streets. While many of the queer-oriented venues can be found in the gay neighborhoods such as the Rainbow District, you are sure to find events throughout the city. There are also numerous businesses that are queer-owened or advertise themselves as LGBT friendly.
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In addition to the nightlife, the city has a rich history which makes for great sightseeing. Walk around under the fragrant linden trees enjoying the incredible architecture, visit museums, the Bradenburg Gate, or what remains of the Berlin Wall. At the Chekpoint Charlie Museum, you can see the old guardhouse and Cold War relics at what was the most famous crossing between East and West Berlin. On the eastern side of the city, you can still find the famous and adorable hat-wearing Ampelmännchen (“little traffic light men”) on the pedestrian crossing lights. There are also endless opportunities to enjoy traditional German cuisine, beer, wines, and spirits, and the excellent public transportation makes it easy to get around.
5. Kona, Hawaii, USA
Kona lies on the western side of the island of Hawai’i, commonly referred to the “Big Island” to avoid confusion with the state of Hawaii. It is the location of the island’s main airport, and you can find plenty of queer events and nightlife without leaving the city. There is a Pride festival, gay bars and organizations, and a number of of queer-friendly businesses in this tropical locale, making it one of the best gay friendly destinations. For a relaxed vacation, enjoy some drinks on the beach, hike under the mango trees, or explore the city’s many shops and restaurants.
However, the “Big” Island is not that big, and there are abundant sightseeing opportunities on the whole island. You can see the live volcano Kilauea at Volcanoes National Park, one of the island’s many stunning waterfalls, or the moon up close at the Mauna Kea Summit Observatory. On the east side of the island, Hilo offers many sites and attractions as well, including the not-to-be missed Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden. The western side of the island is drier, but is better known for its snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. You will need a car to get around, and can easily drive across the island in a day, with plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos of stunning roadside views or exploring lava tubes. While there, don’t miss the chance to attend a traditional luau with Hawaiian food, hula dance, and fire performances.
6. Denver, Colorado, USA
Denver is a lesser-known LGBTQ hot spot that is growing in popularity as a queer travel destination which attracts people all over the world. In fact, it’s River North (RiNo) neighborhood was named of one the country’s top five emerging gay neighborhoods. Some of the more popular annual events include the Pride Festival, a Queer Film Festival, and the Gay Rodeo. In addtion, the city abounds with queer-centered nightlife and events, inlcluding gay bars, dance clubs, and drag shows. The city is also well known for it’s excellent craft beer–but be aware that alcohol might hit you differently at the elevation of the “Mile High City!”
Denver is known as a friendly, affordable, easily walkable, and cultural city. There is an an abundance of amazing food, parks, tourist attractions, and festivals. However, Colorado is a beautiful state if you’re looking to explore beyond the Denver-Boulder Metro area. Depending on the type of vacation you are looking for, you can find national parks for hiking and camping, museums, concerts, and more. For the more adventurous, a scenic drive through the Rocky Mountains offers incredible sightseeing opportunities, as long as you are mindful of the weather and road conditions in the colder months. You can even see part of the Grand Canyon, if you’re up for a longer road trip.
7. Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Playa Del Carmen in the Mexican Riviera Maya is another up-and-coming LGBTQ+ hot spot. Formerly a small beach town, the small city has exploded with resorts and nightlife, to become one of the most popular places to visit in Mexico. While the city currently only has two official gay bars–both of which cater primarily to gay men–there are many drag shows, lesbian brunches, and gay-centered events to be found. Since many of the events are more “underground,” the best way to find them is to connect with other LGBTQ+ folks in the area via queer Facebook and WhatsApp groups. The city’s annual Pride Parade is a small one, but is reminiscent of the event’s original roots, where everyone is welcome to join the march for gay rights. In additon to the parade, there are numerous events during the entire Pride Week in June.
The primary tourist season for the area is Thanksgiving through New Years, but you can find travellers from all over the world at any time of the year. There are accommodation opportunities for every budget, from all-inclusive resorts to backpacker hostels. The city is packed with bars, restaurants, night clubs, beach clubs, and shopping on the main tourist strip, Avenida Quinta. There are also tons of outdoor activities, such as stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, and kite boarding. The city is easily accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists, and visitors can take advantage of the inexpensive BiciPlaya rental bike stations. Enjoy a meal with your feet in the white sands while gazing at the turquoise Caribbean waters, or take excursions to visit cenotes, ruins, or the other quirky coastal cities, such as Akumal or Tulum.
8. Montevideo, Uruguay
Uruguay is the smallest country in South America, but is is also the most progressive. Nestled between the more well-known tourist destinations of Brazil and Argentina, it has some of the the oldest and strongest legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals on the continent. The city is known for being culturally diverse and egalitarian, with many gay-focused events, organizations, and venues, as well as queer-owened businesses. Diversity month is celebrated every September, which ends with a March for Diversity.
Not only is Montevideo one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly destinations, but it’s a great place to explore. The vibe of the cosmopolitan city is vibrant and laid-back, with some truly beautiful beaches. As the capitol city, it is an excellent base to explore the rest of the small county with day trips. While it is less “touristy” than other Latin American countries, it is one of the safest, and offers many excursions and activities. Whether you are looking for nightlife, historical attractions, or time in nature, you are sure to find activities you enjoy. Options include hot springs, horseback riding, museums, wildlife watching, and more.
9. Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand is known for being one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in Asia, and is especially welcoming to transgender people. In fact, it has one of the largest transgender communites in the world, as many from Southeast Asia and elsewhere flock there to escape discrimination and for gender reassignment surgery. In Bangkok, trans men and women are a part of the mainstream, and are commonly seen working in shops, restaurants, hotels and elsewhere. It is also the home of the annual Miss International Queen, the largest transgender beauty competition in the world. The gay scene in Bangkok offers something for everyone, whether you are looking for wild nightlife or luxury spas. You can find X-Rated night shows on the Soi Twilight strip, but there is also gay cabarets, drag shows, merman shows, speakeasies, karaoke, saunas and more. There is also ample opportunity for shopping, cuisine, and sightseeing. Be sure not to miss some of the historic cultural attractions, such as the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha Temple.
The best way to find interesting things to do in Bangkok is by exploring the chaotic city rather than by looking for attractions online. It is also easily accessible to beach resort towns such as Pattaya or Phucket. In addition, you could take day trips to some of the famous markets and Buddhist temples. Public transportation makes it easy to get around, and inexpensive rideshare apps can get to you places the buses don’t reach. All in all it is an affordable travel destination with excellent food and a seemingly endless number of activities.
10. Tel Aviv, Israel
While the Middle East is generally not known for being especially safe for LGBTQ+ travelers, Tel Aviv is the exception. It’s known for being a hotspot for gay tourists, with a thriving community, nightlife, world-class cuisine and beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean Sea. While some of the surrounding cities are more conservative, Tel Aviv has become known as the “gay capital of the Middle East,” with the largest Pride Parade in the region. The gay nighlife revolves around massive parties rather than particular bars, and the beach in front of the Hilton is known as the city’s unofficial gay beach.
It is estimated that a quarter of the Tel Aviv’s population identifies as LGBTQ+, and they are able to enjoy legal protections and public displays of affection without fear. While city is known for being more open-minded and accepting than some of its neighbors, gay travelers shouldn’t be discouraged from visiting other parts of the country. You can easily take daylong excursions to see the historical sites in Petra, or to float in the Dead Sea. There are also culinary, art and boat tours, as well as markets, natural wonders, and wildlife.
11. Brighton, UK
Brighton is referred to as the LGBTQIA+ capital of England, and as well as being one of the best places to visit in the UK in general, it’s an absolute must visit on this list of LGBTQ+ friendly places to visit. The whole city is friendly and open-minded, with frequent events across the city as well as the infamous Brighton Pride, one of the largest Pride festivals in the UK, and the Trans Pride Festival, which take place every summer. Kempton is the area which is the heart of the LGBTQIA+ community and celebrations, so definitely look into staying there if you’re going!
12. Auckland, New Zealand
New Zealand is not only absolutely beautiful, but one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in the world. Auckland is often overlooked as a travel destination (I mean, it’s pretty hard to compete with the stunning natural beauty in other parts of New Zealand), but it’s a cosmopolitan city in a very liberal country and a great place to visit for LGBTQ+ travellers. It hosts a small but vibrant gay nightlife, as well as plenty of things to do in the city. And hey, it’s a great base for exploring the beaches, volcanoes and other nature that surround this beautiful city!
13. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The gay scene in Amsterdam is one of the largest in Europe, making it one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly destinations. In 2001, the Netherlands was the first ever country to legalise same-sex marriage and is one of the most progressive countries in the world. Many of the gay bars and clubs are centred in the areas of Reguliersdwarsstraat, Amstel and Kerkstraat, and you cannot miss the famous Canal Parade during Pride.
14. Vancouver, Canada
With mountains on its doorstep, Vancouver Island next door, and many things to do in the city… who wouldn’t want to go to Vancouver? And what’s more, like many cities in Canada, is a great destination for LGBTQ+ travellers. As well as exploring the city’s “gayborhood” of Davie Street, there’s also The Drive, a bohemian area popular with the lesbian community. In Vancouver you can find a rainbow pedestrian crossing at Davie/Bute Street, enjoy a LGBTQ history walking tour, celebrate Whistler Pride (one of the biggest LGBTQ+ ski events), as well as Vancouver Pride, the biggest gay pride festival in Western Canada.
It’s an unfortunate fact that there are many places in the world that are not the safest for LGBTQ+ travelers, and visiting a gay-friendly destination is not a guarantee of a vacation that is free from discrimination or harassment. If you are unsure of a destination that you wish to visit, it is wise to do some research before planning your trip, to ensure that you are more likely to enjoy a worry-free vacation. Finding gay-friendly travel destinatons provides unique opportunities to not only create happy memories, but to make new queer friends from all over the world.
More LGBTQ+ travel destinations for you to consider…
Despite the difficulty that many LGBTQ+ travellers have when visiting different parts of the world, this list of LGBTQ+ destinations is by no means exclusive. Here are some more links to blog posts you might like to read to get inspired…
Author : Brandi Ivy from brandileeivy.contently.com website
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