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15 of the most gay-friendly travel destinations

Aisha Shaibu-Lenoir

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Sydney's gay-friendly Bondi Beach in New South Wales.

Travelling is one part self-discovery and one part self-expression. When you see the world you have the freedom to march to the beat of your own drum and take like at your own pace. But picking a destination as an LGBTQIA+ traveller isn’t always hassle-free.

To help set you on the course of true adventure and dreams, we’ve compiled a list of 15 of the most gay-friendly travel destinations. Each of these countries have an inclusive spirit, offer love and compassion to all tourists, and allow the queer community to express themselves openly. From pride trips and festivals to coastal towns to major cities, discover the best gay-friendly travel destinations here.

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15. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The city of canals is steeped in rich culture, from renowned museums to an amazing cycling culture, Amsterdam is a must. In 2001, The Netherlands set the bar and became the first country in the world to officially recognise same-sex marriage and since then it’s been a legendary ally for the LGBTQIA+ community.

It’s no surprise then that Amsterdam kicks off our list! It’s a staple of gay travel and be sure to visit Reguliersdwarsstraat: Amsterdam’s most famous gay street where you’re find inclusive bars, shops, clubs, and cafes.

three young people walking in amsterdam

Image source:Contiki

14. New York City, USA

I mean, aside from NYC generally being on everyone’s travel bucket list and an amazing and one of a kind place to be, NYC is also seen as being the mecca for the equality movement.

For those unaware, NYC is where the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 happened, a major and historical event for the LGBTQIA+ community that marked a turning of the tides in acceptance and led to the first ever Pride parade. You can still visit the Stonewall Inn today and pay homage to those that rioted before us so that the queer community can have the freedoms it has today.

Other than that, there’s so much to see and do in the concrete jungle, but with a strong LGBTQIA+ community, you MUST experience New York’s coolest gayborhoods including: Chelsea, the West Village, Hell’s Kitchen, Williamsburg, and Parks Slope. Book your spot on New York Uncovered for a real city-slicker experience.

13. Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is a city that people fall in love with immediately and many claim that it has to do with the welcoming atmosphere of the locals. With open arms, the citizens of Cape Town welcome tourists no matter where they come from, how they identify, and how they express themselves.

Explore the beautiful coast of Cape Town by taking a cable car up to Table Mountain or stopping by Boulders Beach to pay a visit to a colony of penguins. Be sure to stop by the vibrant neighbourhood of De Waterkant in the heart of Cape Town’s rainbow district, where you’ll find tons of restaurants and bars.

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12. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona has become a fave destination for the LGBTQIA+ community as it offers a vibrant open-minded vibe and a gay scene. Spain itself is generally viewed as the most gay-friendly travel destination in the world. With tons of bars, clubs and restaurants to choose from throughout the city. L’Eixample and Gracia are fan favourite clubs for their vibrant scene.

The gay nightlife is insane but you don’t have to party in the evening, you can also party in the day on one of Barcelona‘s many gay beaches like San Sebastian and Platja de la Mar Bella.

Not to mention, Barcelona’s Pride parade is one of the best around the world.

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11. Vancouver, Canada

Whether you’re after city life or stunning ski resorts (less than an hour away), a vacation to Vancouver is unforgettable. This city is on the West coast of Canada and is seeing a surging number of visitors each year.

The city is vibrant and inclusive to all with some really cute cafés and bars and shops. And the outer city is just as gorgeous with many national parks just around the corner. Expect breathtaking nature, thriving art, theatre, and music scenes with an easygoing LGBTQIA+ accepting populace. Vancouver is the perfect place to reconnect with yourself and with nature as well.

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10. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The large seaside city of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, is famous for its Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, the towering and iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, and stunning views from Sugarloaf Mountain. This city is buzzing with culture and people left right and centre and all the amazement of it is right there for you to join in!

Carnival festivities in February bring in a diverse crowd from all over the world with major gay-friendly celebrations in town on Farme de Amoedo street in Ipanema. Join these celebrations full of colour and sequins and music, and though it’s not a Pride parade, it has all the love and energy of one – so time to let loose.

9. Madrid, Spain

Hosts of the largest Pride festival in all of Europe, Madrid is well-known for its amazing celebration. Its LGBTQIA+ friendly neighborhood, Chueca, boasts plenty of popular gay bars and clubs. So if you’re looking for a big city to keep you entertained for your entire trip, look no further.

Travel to Madrid ahead of Pride and you’ll experience a few days of cultural exploration, bike tours, tapas galore and of course valuable time to get your Pride on!

group of friends celebrating Pride in Spain

Image source:Contiki

8. Palm Springs, USA

Palm Springs‘ LGBTQIA+ community, history, and culture have consistently dubbed it as one of the top gay-friendly travel destinations in the world. Nestled in the Sonoran Desert, Palm Springs is less than a two-hour drive from Los Angeles and famous for its proximity to Coachella.

Beyond that, Palm Springs offers pool parties, best of the best brunches, outdoor adventures and the most gram-worthy mid-century modern aesthetic. Everything you’ll ever need to live your absolute best life as your best and most authentic self.

7. Reykjavik, Iceland

If there was ever a place to go to get in touch with yourself and feel at peace, it’s Iceland. Iceland is easily one of the coolest countries on the planet and it just so happens to be one of the most gay-friendly countries as well! What a win.

There are many ways LGBTQIA+ travellers can explore Iceland, and one of the best parts is there is no ‘zone’, the queer scene is in every space in Reykjavik and the entire country celebrates people from all backgrounds. What a way to feel right at home. To get a taste of pure wonder and relaxation, travel to Iceland with Contiki.

northern lights in Iceland

Image source:Contiki

6. Berlin, Germany

Famous for it’s energetic and youthful scene, Berlin is where you go to completely let loose and be free and be 100% yourself – no shame allowed! The city has a flourishing gay community and a dynamic scene. Der Boiler and SilverFuture are some of our favorite gay bars in Europe.

This countercultural capital has some of the most iconic nightlife in the world, as well as one of the biggest Pride parties which will really allow you to wave your freak flag high!

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5. Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Just 45 minutes north of Miami, you’ll find yourself in Fort Lauderdale, Florida – home to breathtaking beaches and boating canals, where millions of visitors vacation each year. Beyond the beach, you’ll find downtown has thriving nightlife. Each year, Fort Lauderdale welcomes more than 1 million LGBTQIA+ visitors, so inclusivity and a good time is a sure thing.

Florida-camping-spots-nature

4. Sydney, Australia

Sydney has become a popular LGBTQIA+ travel destination with plenty of queer-friendly beaches including Bronte Beach, Lady Jane Beach, and North Bondi Beach. The gay community is seen as an integral part of the city’s fabric, making it arguably one of the best cities to visit. And Sydney Pride is no joke at all! The city comes completely alive with a few weeks of celebrations including parades, live music, drag shows, and all the local businesses and communities participate.

3. Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok is the second-most gay-friendly travel destination in all of Asia because of its LGBTQIA+ scene, fun nightlife, and general openness. Silom Soi 4 is a great area to catch dinner, sing karaoke or watch drag fashion shows that often take place in the street. Prepare to be blown away with choice and a variety of fun things to do when you visit Bangkok.

Plus, in some absolutely brilliant news, Thailand has become the first Asian country to legalise same sex marriage!

group of travellers with a monk in Bangkok Thailand

Image source:Contiki

2. Nice, France

This charming queer city is located on the beautiful French Riviera, and hosts France’s second biggest LGBTQIA+ scene after Paris.

In Summer, Nice becomes packed with queer tourists from all around France and the rest of Europe, enjoying the community, culture, and food. The majority of Nice’s queer venues are located around the Old Town (Vieux Nice), and a plethora of cool bars and hangout spots are dotted throughout the Promenade, making the perfect destination for a merry summer’s evening.

1. Mykonos, Greece

And our number one spot goes to… Mykonos, not only a top gay-friendly travel destination in Europe, but in the ENTIRE world. Every August, over 30,000 queer travellers visit this beach destination to enjoy great DJs, beaches and all the sun, sea and fun that Mykonos has to offer. Take the time to explore the quiet side of the island like Ano Mera Village, Little Venice and the windmills… a sunset here will make you want to stay forever.

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