INTO’s travel writers have collaborated to amass an adventurous, luxurious, and metamorphic top ten list of trending (and non-trending) destinations as readers consider travel plans for 2019. As always, we’ve combed for some of the most queer-friendly locales while making sure to include destinations outside of the typical LGBTQ+ travel circuit, so that seasoned travelers can push themselves out of their comfort zones. Happy trails, traveler.
On January 1, 2019 Austria will officially recognize same-sex marriage after a ruling from the country’s Constitutional Court, upgrading from legal partnerships. Wasting no time, its capital city, Vienna, will be the host of EuroPride 2019 (June 1-16th). But no matter when you visit, the city famous for its permanently gay-themed street crossing signals is a true epicenter for both the visual and performing arts. “The City of Music” is world renowned for its orchestras, operas, choirs, and chamber music—but also excites visitors with progressive house and electronic music at its over-the-top queer warehouse parties.
As in many other African countries, homosexual acts are illegal in Ghana and discrimination against the LGBTQ community is rampant. Yet, queer-friendly tour company Uprise Travel safely guides visitors through Ghana, training their guides in inclusivity and LGBTQ+ issues. Their Southern Ghana Road Trip is the perfect introduction to the country and explores the off-the-beaten-path (and gorgeous) Volta Region, two and a half hours north of Accra. The trip takes visitors to Amedzofe, the highest village in Ghana, to a sanctuary full of adorable mona monkeys, and to the dazzling Wli Falls (the highest waterfall in West Africa). The trip then ventures to the nation’s western coast to see sobering UNESCO World Heritage slave castles and stunning beaches, like the secluded, palm-lined Busua Beach.
While there are more prides, circuits, gay ski weeks, and queer film festivals than one can shake a stick at, there are still only a handful of queer music festivals. While GAYTIMES (February 15-17th, 2019) isn’t as big as Amsterdam’s Milkshake Festival, this intimate Australian festival, hosted high in the Central Victorian Highlands, may be one of the most unique. Hop down under to Melbourne, road trip up two hours to Lake Mountain Alpine Resort, and pitch your tent for a weekend of camping below the Southern Hemisphere stars at the height of Southern Hemisphere summer. Besides a lineup with over 36 acts, there are performance artists, art installments, and many workshops, classes, and activities. This is the queer summer camp you’ve always dreamed of.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is said to be “as close as the US gets to Egypt’s pyramids and Peru’s Machu Picchu” and the largest concentration of ruins north of Mexico. Chaco Canyon contains artifacts and campsites dating back to 7000-1500 BC, though its monumental public and ceremonial pueblos date to around 850-1250 AD. Besides the incredibly well-preserved ruins, history, and archeoastronomy petroglyphs, the site is an International Dark Sky Park. But why visit now? Well, the Bureau of Land Management, overseen by the Interior and the Trump Administration, has leased 90% of the greater Chaco area to oil and gas development , endangering outlying artifacts, ruins, ancient roads, and sacred sites, as well as the serenity of the dark sky reserve. When you make the 3 hour drive from Santa Fe to visit, sleep under the stars at the Gallo Campground, and see the night sky just as the Chacoans saw it thousands of years ago, at least for right now.
Tucked in the Northwest corner of Argentina — tickling Chile and Bolivia — is the larger-than-life Salta Province. Start your road trip in the province’s capital, Salta City, for delicious empanadas, folkloric music, and the chance to see 500 year-old-child-sacrifice-mummies at the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology before venturing south through the polychromatic Valles Calchaquíes to Cafayate, a legendary wine town full of delicious Torrontés and Malbecs. Dive deeper into the province by exploring its three remote national parks: the tropical Baritú National Park (home to jaguars, ocelots and speckled bears), El Rey National Park (home to giant anteaters and tapirs), and the arid Los Cardones National Park (home to vicuñas, dinosaur tracks, and 25-foot tall Argentine saguaros—all below the towering 20,000 foot Nevado de Cachi).
Visit Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world, with Outstanding Travel, a leader in gay travel within Israel and the surrounding region. Travel to Petra via Wadi Yatam and drive through gorgeous landscapes that lead you to the far end of Wadi Musa. The road there winds through the narrow, deep and stunning Siq (the shaft), at which the splendor of the burial shrine Al Khazneh (the treasury) is revealed. The tour then continues to the desert of Wadi Rum, filled with shades of red and orange sandstones. Here you can overnight in a luxury camp inside a bubble star tent so that you can enjoy the night sky from the comfort of your warm bed. It’s important to note that LGBTQ+ rights in Jordan are considered to be relatively advanced when compared to other countries within the Middle East. Homosexual conduct remains legal in Jordan, after the country adopted its own penal code that did not criminalize homosexuality as it previously was under the British Mandate Criminal Code Ordinance that lasted until 1951. That being said, LGBTQ+ people displaying public affection can be prosecuted for “disrupting public morality.”
In a historic decision, India’s Supreme Court ruled in September of 2018 that gay sex is no longer a criminal offense, overturning a 2013 judgment that upheld a colonial-era law categorizing gay sex as an “unnatural offense.” The court ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a fundamental violation of rights. And if you still don’t know about India’s famous gay prince, you should, because he is doing so many good things for the LGBTQ community in India. LGBTQ tourism in India is rising and now is the time to go (but please, just avoid North Sentinel Island…). As long as you are respectful of the local culture and understand that things may not run as smoothly as they would back home, you’ll find that India can be not only fascinating but also safe. Plan your trip around some amazing LGBTQ events like Mumbai Pride, which takes place in January/February, or some of the other prides in cities like Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore or Kolkata. Or, if queer cinema is more your vibe, check out the annual Kashish Mumbai Queer Film Festival, typically held in May.
News Alert: Did you catch the news of Madonna mysteriously showing up at the Stonewall Inn for a surprise New Year’s Eve performance? She gave a powerful speech before performing a couple of her hit songs and exiting. Many are speculating that she will somehow be involved in the 30 days of celebration that span June 1 – 30, 2019 in New York City. NYC Pride will be welcoming WorldPride as they mark the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and a half-century of LGBTQIA + activism. There will be over 50 events throughout the month with more than 3 million people expected to gather for the experiences. If you’ve been thinking about NYC pride, this would be the year to go!
Quick shout-out to Colorado residents for electing the first gay man to serve as Governor of a U.S. State. Jared Polis made history this past November by winning the state’s gubernatorial race with 51.7% of the vote. Now, that alone doesn’t necessarily qualify Colorado as a top queer destination, but it does add to the long list of reasons why Colorado is extremely open-minded and welcoming. Colorado was also one of the first two states to legalize marijuana back in 2012 and the weed culture there is booming. Consider taking a marijuana tour while visiting the state to get a sense of how big the industry is (and because, well, it really is just a fun way to spend an afternoon). While on your tour (which mostly operate out of Denver), pick up some essentials and head out to seek adventure in some of the state’s most beautiful destinations. Ski towns like Breckenridge, Telluride, and Aspen are surrounded by the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains— the inspiration for John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” (1972). Best of all, each town also hosts their own gay ski week.
If you haven’t been to Antarctica yet, don’t worry, most of the world hasn’t either. It’s estimated that a very tiny fraction of the of the world’s population has made it to the 7th continent. Why go? Well, if you are an adventurer at heart and want to see things that most people will never see in their lifetime, a trip way down south might be just right. The icebergs alone make the trip worth it. But beyond the massive floating ice, the wildlife sightings are infinite and being up close and personal with whales, penguins and seals will melt your heart, but hopefully not the polar ice caps. Consider traveling with National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions for a once in a lifetime opportunity to not only visit the untouched region but to learn so much while doing so. Traveling with you on your expedition will be a team of experts and naturalists who use a range of exploration tools to help you experience wildlife and wild places up close. During your trip you can kayak amid the icebergs, stroll through crowds of penguins and step foot (many, many times) on the spectacularly remote continent.