When we travel, one of the greatest joys we can experience is feeling welcome in an unfamiliar environment, no matter your sexual preference, gender expression or gender identity. For LGBTQ+ folks, the concerns don’t just end at “Will I have a good time?” but also, “Will I feel safe?”
The best travel destinations for queer-identifying folks are places where, ideally, they feel not only accepted, but celebrated – where they can truly be rejuvenated, connect with locals and other travelers, and free to enjoy the experience without judgement, as we all should.
We’ve put together a list of our top five picks for LGBTQIA+ friendly destinations that are not just limited to one gay village or “gayborhood.” These are places where same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws have been in place for many years, the nightlife is vibrant and diverse, and annual Pride celebrations are as colorful and full of love as they come.
New York, NY
It’s impossible to talk about Pride without mentioning New York. After all, Pride Month began as a way of commemorating the Stonewall Riots, a series of riots for gay liberation that occurred in late June 1969. Since then, the community-led civil rights movement has grown exponentially, with Pride marches and protests spreading across the globe. In 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.
While activism continues to be a significant part of Pride month to this day, New York Pride is also famous for its grand celebration of queer communities. Stroll the historic West Village, home to the legendary Stonewall Inn. See a drag show and support local queens. And enjoy a night out on the town in Chelsea or Hell’s Kitchen, where you’ll find an abundance of gay clubs, comedy bars, and other performance venues.
The annual Pride march this year will be on June 25, but with Pride events happening all through the month of June, any time is a good time to visit.
In February of this year, Sydney hosted WorldPride 2023, so you already know this is a must-visit destination that welcomes folks within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum with open arms. The annual Mardi Gras festival is developed in partnership with First Nations and queer communities and acknowledges their continued commitment to equality and inclusion. You can learn so much more about the history of Mardi Gras in Sydney from this detailed timeline.
Sydney has a fantastic gay culture and is perched precisely on the Pacific Coast so you can enjoy the invigorating city and also experience the beautiful nature and wildlife. Party on Oxford Street, packed with fantastic bars and clubs. Then take a day trip to relax on picturesque beaches or embark on an adrenaline-filled adventure like hiking, snorkeling, or surfing.
This little Nordic nation ranks among the highest for LGBTQ+ rights in the world. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Iceland in 2010, with same-sex couples having access to adoption and IVF since 2006 and the introduction of registered partnerships for same-sex couples as early as 1996. Most recently, in 2019, Iceland made gender-affirming healthcare accessible via informed consent.
As a world leader for queer rights, you can imagine that Iceland has a prominent gay community, particularly in its capital of Reykjavik. Pride, which is celebrated in August, has blossomed into the largest annual event in the country and is only getting bigger each year. No matter how you choose to express yourself, you will find yourself welcome here. Marvel at spectacular waterfalls, glaciers, and geysers by day, and by night, put your dancing shoes on and visit Kiki, the country’s largest gay club.
Similarly, Uruguay also ranks high in the world for LGBTQ+ rights, as the first Latin American country to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples in 2008. Same-sex marriage was then legalized in 2013. Equaldex has even given Uruguay a score of 100/100 on legal rights for queer folks, so it’s safe to say that people across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum can openly express themselves on the streets of this country.
The nation’s capital, Montevideo, is full of history and diverse culture. It’s one of the safest cities in Latin America and very gay-friendly. Stay in the city center and experience a variety of shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and dance clubs. From here, you can also easily access some of the world’s most beautiful and unspoiled beaches for sunbathing, swimming, and people-watching.
Amsterdam is known for being a progressive city so there's no surprise that it’s a queer-friendly destination. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001 and its very common here to see gay couples holding hands and engaging in PDA. Amsterdam is famous for many things: canals, history, art and culture, pedestrian and bike-focused infrastructure, and, of course, its nightlife, where there’s no shortage of parties, performances, and unique experiences.
When it comes to Pride, nobody does it like the Dutch. Pride in Amsterdam is grand and one-of-a-kind, trading parade floats for floating down canals on party boats. People travel from around the world to experience the festival that begins at the end of July and ends with the parade on the first weekend of August.