Today: Top 10 most gay-friendly travel destinations in the world
June is Pride month – a month dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ communities all around the world. LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender; the + is an inclusive symbol to mean ‘and others’ to include people of all identities. Pride month is about acceptance, equality, love, and raising awareness of issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. LGBTQ+ rights vary greatly around the world, even among countries we often think of as inclusive. Twenty years ago, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages. Since then, 28 countries have followed suit, including most of Western Europe. However, homosexuality is still a crime in 70 countries and some of them, including six nations that are members of the United Nations, impose the death penalty. So, depending on where they’re headed, gay travelers can face great risks and experience more stress compared to heterosexual travelers. Luckily, the world is (slowly) making progress though and the choices of LGBT-friendly travel places on offer are now better than ever. Here’s my selection of the world’s top 10 gay friendly travel destinations.
There is more information below the slide show. What is your favorite LGTBQ+ friendly travel destination? Leave a comment
10. MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY
Sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay is the smallest and most progressive country in South America. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1934; anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ+ people have been in place since 2004; and in 2013, gay marriage was legalized. The nation’s capital and home to nearly half of Uruguay’s population, Montevideo is a vibrant and laid-back city with a rich cultural life and stunning Atlantic Ocean beaches. Since Uruguay is a small country, Montevideo is also the perfect base from which to explore the country on day trips. Don’t miss the cities of Salto, Paysandu, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Colonia del Sacramento in the west, or do day trips to party-till-you-drop Punta del Este, La Paloma, and Punta del Diablo.
9. TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
The Middle East is a region that is notorious for being one of the least gay friendly places in the world (with same gender sex punishable by death in Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia). Israel is a notable exception though, being the most progressive concerning LGBTQ+ rights and even promoting its largest city Tel Aviv as a hotspot for gay tourism. Situated along the Mediterranean Sea, Tel Aviv is famously known for its beautiful beaches, nightlife, and LGBTQ+ community. The city is an open-minded and welcoming place that starkly contrasts some of the more religious and restrictive cities in Israel and the surrounding region. Tel Aviv is welcoming gay tourists with open arms and also offers a safe refuge for those from the LGBTQ+ community of surrounding countries in the region.
8. TAIPEI, TAIWAN
Located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, Taiwan is one of the most progressive countries in Asia. In 2019, it became the first country in the continent to legalize gay marriage. While some parts of this island might still be conservative, gay travelers can feel entirely at ease in Taipei, Taiwan’s largest city as well as its economic, political, and cultural center. From one of the world’s tallest buildings to the biggest collection of Chinese art, Taipei invites travelers into a world of fascinating contrasts, a mix of the modern and traditional. Add in tropical weather, gourmet food, stunning shopping experiences, lovely beaches, famous hot springs, and some of the most eclectic nightlife spots in Asia, and gay travelers are set for a holiday to remember.
7. NEW YORK, USA
New York, New York, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere! The Big Apple represents the ultimate cosmopolitan destination and defines the urban lifestyle. Here, you can visit some of the world’s best museum collections, shop till you drop, attend world-class performances, and find yourself having to make tough choices when it comes to dining out. With one of the world’s biggest queer scenes, a vibrant gay nightlife and a liberal population who have seen and done it all, New York was always destined to become one of the world’s greatest gay cities. New York City also has a rich history of LGBTQ activism: the 1969 riots that occurred at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village are synonymous with the birth of the modern gay-rights movement.
Every day, there is an adventure waiting to happen in Iceland. With an abundance of mountains, volcanoes, glaciers, rivers, lakes, caves, and otherwise rough terrain waiting to be tackled, Iceland is truly and outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Besides its natural grandeur, Iceland is also a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ travelers. There are very few places in the world where people from across the spectrums of gender and sexuality receive as much love, and encounter as little hate, as they do in Iceland. With almost full legal equality, strong representation in parliament and the media, and an infrastructure that exists to support and elevate queer people, Iceland has become a true rainbow paradise and a popular travel destination for gay people and gender minorities.
5. CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa legalized same-sex marriage in 2006, sixteen years after the first Johannesburg pride parade. Today, the Rainbow Nation is more LGBTQ+ friendly than any other country on the African continent. Although South Africans are generally very conservative, gay travelers can be themselves in the cities, especially Cape Town. Blessed with fabulous beaches, spectacular mountains, world-famous vineyards, gorgeous drives, and tons of trendy bars and restaurants, it is hard to imagine a more perfect travel destination than South Africa’s Mother city (and frankly, you won’t find a better one). Combine this with some of the best accommodation and service on offer anywhere in the world and you are left with one of the hottest city destinations you will ever visit.
4. SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
Travelers flock to Australia‘s most famous city to enjoy its multicultural ambiance, surf on some of Australia’s best beaches, and admire the iconic Opera House and Harbor Bridge. The city offers fantastic hospitality at bars and restaurants, unspoiled wilderness at nearby national parks and some of Australia’s oldest buildings. In Sydney (and Australia in general), discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression is strictly prohibited, and it is highly unlikely LGBTQ+ travelers will have any issues here. Over the past decades, Sydney has emerged as the de facto gay travel capital of the Southern Hemisphere, and is associated with many famous gay personalities and symbols, including Ian Thorpe, Matthew Mitcham, Mardi Gras, Speedos, and the movie “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
3. VANCOUVER, CANADA
Canada is hands down the most advanced and progressive nation in the Americas for the LGTBQ community. Nowhere is this more evident than in its largest city Toronto, which was home to home to the first (retroactively legalized) gay and lesbian marriages in the world. However, from a traveler’s perspective, the glass-towered city of Vancouver in Western Canada might be more attractive. Majestic mountains, a sparkling ocean, and lush rainforests make Vancouver one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Vancouver is also an inclusive place where people can be themselves. Visitors looking for the city’s thriving LGBTQ community should check out two distinctly different neighborhoods first – the West End (including Davie Village) and Commercial Drive, both of which enjoy a wide variety of restaurants, coffee shops, pubs and boutiques that openly welcome everyone.
2. MYKONOS, GREECE
Ever since Jackie Onassis started visiting this magnificent Aegean gem in the 1970s, the Greek island of Mykonos has built a reputation of glamour and fame, with hip new hotels, beach bars and restaurants mushrooming year after year. Mykonos has preserved its authentic Cycladic character, featuring century old windmills, cobblestoned mazy alleyways and traditional whitewashed houses. Most visitors come here though for the island’s party lifestyle and its beautiful beaches. The liberal mentality of the island has also attracted LGTBQ+ travelers and today, Mykonos has carved a niche for itself as a much sought after gay tourist destination. The island is actually one of the so-called ‘big 4’ gay summer travel destinations in Europe, alongside Ibiza, Gran Canaria and Sitges in Catalonia, but Mykonos is by far the most stylish and trendy spot.
Sweden has a reputation for being one of the most open-minded, welcoming countries in the world. It’s a place where diversity and inclusion is important, thus making it a fantastic travel destination for gay people from all over the world. The capital Stockholm is a beautiful and sophisticated city which is the scene for the Stockholm Pride, Scandinavia’s biggest Pride festival and allegedly Sweden’s biggest annual event. Gothenburg is another fabulous city with a strong LGBTQ+ community and a gateway to the gorgeous archipelago and countryside of West Sweden. Gothenburg boasts the world’s densest concentration of Michelin stars considering its population, so the city is sure to delight gay and lesbian foodies. But wherever you go in the country (including Lapland), Sweden is a place that truly welcomes travelers regardless of where they come from, who they love or whatever their interests.