8 LGBT+ friendly travel destinations
Deciding where to spend your next overseas adventure can sometimes be a stressful experience for members of the LGBT+ community, as attitudes and laws in other destinations may differ from what we’re used to at home.
We’ve pulled together a list of eight of the more inclusive and progressive places in the world, that welcome diversity with open arms, so the only thing you need to worry about is choosing where to go next.
1. Taipei, Taiwan
A thriving, modern metropolis dotted with colonial Japanese lanes, Taipei is also home to one of Asia’s largest annual Pride celebrations. If you want to visit during the four-day celebration, plan your holiday for the last Saturday in October. A huge dance party follows the parade, attended by travellers, locals and even celebrities.
You’ll never run out of sights to see in Taipei. Consider starting your trip with a bird’s-eye view of the city, from the observation deck of Taipei 101. Once the world’s tallest building, this modern architectural wonder resembles an enormous bamboo stalk. Before you leave Taipei 101, grab a coffee at the world’s highest Starbucks, and take a ride on the world’s fastest elevator.
If you plan a Taipei holiday in June, you can take part in an ancient Chinese tradition: the Dragon Boat Festival. Locals race dragon boats and eat sticky rice dumplings (known as zongzi), as they commemorate the death of celebrated poet and politician Qu Yuan.
2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
An LGBT+ destination since the 1950s, Rio hosts an enormously popular Pride festival. Though it seems that Rio celebrates year round, the official Gay Pride Rio festival takes place on Copacabana Beach each November. The parade shimmies its way along the glistening beach, alive with drums, music, dancing and a thousand colours.
Peer down at the tiny people below as you ride the famous Sugarloaf Cable Car to Morro da Urca. Here, you’ll board a second cable car to whisk you up to the death-defying heights at the summit of Sugarloaf. From the top, you can enjoy stunning views of Corcovado and the world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue.
Shop the colourful market stalls in Gloria, a short Metro ride from Copacabana. Buy handcrafted souvenirs, intoxicating spices, fresh seafood and sun-ripened fruit. Many locals sell their wares from characterful Volkswagen vans and carefully curated flatbed truck displays.
3. San Francisco, USA
An iconic city for the LGBT+ community, San Francisco welcomes a mix of travellers and visitors from all backgrounds, helping to create its famous come-as-you-are vibe. Its gay population per capita is one of the highest in the world, and it offers a slough of fascinating sights and culinary pleasures.
San Francisco is expensive, but you can stretch your travel budget by purchasing a San Francisco CityPASS, which offers unlimited rides on cable cars, MUNI buses and Muni rail for three consecutive days. Be sure to make stops in Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. Other must-dos include a cruise out to Alcatraz and a picnic in Golden Gate Park.
You’ve seen the row of pastel-painted Victorian houses in the movies, so take a trip over to the historic houses at Hayes and Steiner Streets. And no LGBT+ holiday would be complete without dining in a quaint cafe at Haight-Ashbury.
4. Berlin, Germany
Although homosexuality was a crime in Berlin as early as 1935, today it stands as one of the most liberated and open cities in Europe. In fact, Berlin has had an openly gay mayor since 2001, and this sprawling city (nine times the size of Paris) provides unexpected discoveries at every turn.
Brandenburg Gate, the city’s top tourist attraction, has come to symbolise unity. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1991, over 100,000 people assembled at the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate the nation’s first joint New Year’s Eve in the once-divided city.
The historic Schöneberg borough is home to well-established gay bars, cafés and shops. Home to Marlene Dietrich and English writer Christopher Isherwood, this neighborhood has retained its old world European sensibility. From the nightclubs and bars to the sidewalk cafés, Berlin delivers the holiday goods.
5. Banff, Canada
With its friendly locals and Canada’s long-time anti-discrimination laws, the resort town of Banff is the perfect getaway for members of the LGBT+ community seeking an adventure in the great outdoors.
Banff National Park is Canada’s very first national park, and is home to towering peaks, glacial lakes and plummeting waterfalls. Visitors flock to this spot to admire the magnificent views of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, discover an abundance of wildlife – from elk to grizzly bears – and spend their evenings relaxing by a warm fire in a cosy lodge.
Experience the town’s jaw-dropping beauty on the Banff Gondola, which whisks travellers up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain. At the end of a busy day, retreat to the Banff Upper Hot Springs, formerly regarded as sacred waters with special healing properties. Today, travellers can unwind and relax in waters infused with sulfate, bicarbonate, magnesium, sodium and calcium.
6. Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland was the first country in the world to elect an openly gay head of state, and the legal status of LGBT+ people is also one of the best in the world. It’s capital city, Reykjavik, has been hosting annual Pride events since 1999 – a huge festivity of colourful floats and outdoor concerts. The celebration of diversity make this the perfect playground for LGBT+ travellers.
From the steaming geothermal pools to the rolling waves of the Atlantic, Reykjavik is defined by water. What better way to connect with locals than to visit one of the local pools? Unlike public swimming pools in many areas, Reykjavik’s pools resemble luxury spas. Some pools have both indoor and outdoor areas, and they’re heated year-round, so you can enjoy them no matter when you’ve booked your trip.
Soaring over the centre of Reykjavik, the Hallgrímskirkja church is visible from just about everywhere in the city, making it easy to find. From the top of the building, you gain views of the entire city. Its unusual architecture was inspired by the Svartifoss waterfall in South Iceland.
And the cuisine? Reykjavik boasts some truly fabulous local and international delights. Besides incredibly fresh seafood and lamb, try one of the international restaurants where you can sample Thai, Chinese, Indian, Mexican and Ethiopian favourites.
7. Madrid, Spain
Spain is a very liberal-minded country, and Madrid is said to be the ‘gay capital of Europe’, hosting one of the largest Pride events in the world.
Madrid’s Chueca neighbourhood is a favourite district amongst the LGBT+ community. Here you’ll find hip rooftop bars, art galleries, nightclubs and book stores, set against a backdrop of traditional Spanish architecture. Visit this district via the Metro and you’ll exit the train to a station painted in rainbow colours. Head to the square to sip on coffee, sample the tapas and people watch.
If you’re visiting in Madrid during the summer months, seek solace from the heat at the Piscina Lago, a huge outdoor swimming pool with space to sunbathe. Just remember to pack a picnic as there aren’t any cafes on-site.
There are no end of culinary delights in Madrid, from fashionable restaurants, food markets and appetizing bakeries. From the traditional to the innovative, this is a rising foodie hotspot that boasts fresh seafood, quality meat and cheese, and some of the world’s best wine.
8. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentina was the first country in Latin America, the second in the Americas, and the tenth in the world to legalise same sex marriage. The capital city of Buenos Aires proudly celebrates a culture of diversity and freedom of expression.
Known as the ‘Paris of South America’, you’ll marvel at the stunning European style architecture. Don’t miss the opportunity to perfect your tango at a dance school, or alternatively catch a show to watch the experts perform this sensual dance.
The hip neighbourhood of Palermo is home to a large LGBT+ community. Here you’ll discover some of the city’s top sites – from pristine rose beds in the Botanical Gardens, to modern art at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA).
From quaint cafes and charming shops, to mega clubs and high end shopping, this district has something to satisfy everyone.
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