Sure there’s Amsterdam, Miami and Rio, but for travelers looking for an alternative to the typical gay-friendly destinations, there are cities around the world you might not have thought of as popular gay destinations. Check out our list of 10 up-and-coming gay travel hot spots in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East for LGBT-friendly vacations.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States
San Francisco may be the West Coast’s most popular gay-friendly city, but travel farther south to New Mexico and you’ll find the up-and-coming destination, Santa Fe. A relatively small city by comparison, Santa Fe is known for its rich history, culture, beauty and charm. Most visitors venture to Santa Fe for its abundance of art and exquisite dining. While there is no district or region specific to gay visitors, travelers of all backgrounds will be welcomed in New Mexico’s capital.
Long a mecca for sun seekers and spring breakers, Cancun has now begun to cater to the gay community as well. The whole of the Riviera Maya area offers a mix of scenes from laid back beach to luxury resort to party central – with gay alternatives at every turn. Ever the trendsetter, Cancun has even started to open “men only” hotels. And with beaches, diving and archeological wonders to entertain by day, and dining, dancing and general revelry for nighttime, there is never a shortage of fun in Cancun.
Cape Town, South Africa
There are few cities in Africa that have a reputation as being gay-friendly destinations, but Cape Town is definitely one of them. With growing support for rights and equality, and a developing population in support of pride, for travelers looking to cross off Africa from their list, there’s no better city than Cape Town. Additionally, Cape Town is known for its beautiful beaches, romantic wineries and vineyards and proximity to interesting wildlife and excursions.
Perhaps overlooked in comparison to Paris or Amsterdam, Berlin is one of Europe’s most interesting destinations. Because of the city’s tumultuous history, the juxtaposition of old and new adds to its uniqueness and provides the perfect backdrop for a vacation. While Berlin has been known as one of Germany’s most gay-friendly cities, it’s rapidly growing as a hot spot for all visitors thanks to its array of museums, art, restaurants, live music and late-night scene.
Hong Kong, China
While there is still a mildly conservative attitude among Hong Kong culture with regard to marriage, the people of Hong Kong are big supporters of personal freedoms, and this continues to grow as Hong Kong becomes a hot spot for gay and lesbian travel. This truly international city is rampant with shopping, museums, festivals and restaurants. Most of the gay districts are in the more westernized restaurant and bar areas, like Soho and Lan Kwai Fong, but the entirety of the city is considered gay friendly.
Barcelona is a mecca of art, architecture and Catalonian cuisine, but it’s the proximity to one of the top-rated gay beaches in the world that makes it a hot spot for gay travel. Stiges, a beautiful beach town just a short train ride from downtown Barcelona, is the perfect spot for breaking up the hustle and bustle of the busy city with some sun and sand. Deemed “Sitges gay,” Sitgest is famous for its kind and gay-friendly atmosphere.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
While Rio de Janeiro might seem like the obvious destination for travelers looking for a gay-friendly city, there’s much to do and see in Brazil’s largest and most populous city, Sao Paulo. As residents of one of the most diverse cities in South America, Paulistanos (as the locals are called) hail from all walks of life, but they are known to share one thing: a love of partying. While the city in its entirety is gay and lesbian friendly, Jardins is known as the popular restaurant and bar area for gay travelers.
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
What was once the destination for honeymooners and families has become a popular spot for travelers young, old, single, married, gay or straight. While Niagara Falls doesn’t have a particularly thriving district or regions specific to the gay and lesbian population, gay-friendly hotels and accommodations are abundant. And of course, the breathtaking falls make it a top vacation site for any traveler.
Tel Aviv, Israel
For travelers looking for a gay-friendly city to visit while venturing to the Middle East, Tel Aviv has a rapidly growing LGBT community. Known as “the city that doesn’t stop,” Tel Aviv is home to city beaches, amusement parks, performing arts and world-class museums. Its nightlife is similar to European nightlife with rock clubs, discos and English-style pubs. And if you’re heading there this summer, don’t miss out on White Night Festival (June 26), when the entire city is open all night long.
Amsterdam has made its mark time and time again as a destination for gay-friendly travel, but for the traveler looking for something a little quainter while still maintaining historical charm, Brussels is a top choice. Home to some of the world’s best beers, chocolate and cuisine, visitors are always impressed. While not as abundant as other cities, there are several LGBT-friendly accommodations and late-night establishments in and around the city.
(Main image: Guillame Paumier)