From Asheville to Prague: 11 underrated LGBTQIA+ friendly destinations to visit in 2022

Dec 31, 2021

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There are many places around the world that have become known as LGBTQIA+ friendly hot spots, where people have visited for years to enjoy the benefits of community, comfort and kinship. Additionally, nearly all of the world’s major cities have neighborhoods that attract members of the gay community and their allies. San Francisco, New York, Chicago, London, Paris, Rome and many others all have significant LGBTQIA+ populations, neighborhoods, services, programs and businesses that welcome visitors from around the world.

Although all these places are wonderful, another tier of destinations is popping up — cities that might not come to mind at first when naming top queer ports of call. These off-the-beaten-path LGBTQIA+ destinations offer new opportunities for exploration and discovery.

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In This Post

Asheville, North Carolina

Ashville, North Carolina. (Photo by Sean Pavone/Getty Images)

For years, Asheville has served as a cultural and artistic mecca of the southern U.S., as well as the de facto center of LGBTQIA+ life in this area. In fact, one recent study indicates the city has 83% more LGBTQIA+ residents than the average destination.

Nestled in western North Carolina, Asheville sits at a juncture of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains. As a college town, Asheville has attracted an eclectic collection of residents and visitors who have created a colorful mix of Southern charm and global innovation. The LGBTQIA+ community here is rich, varied and thriving.

Asheville has a budding reputation for its culinary offerings, and its historic downtown buildings are now filled with trendy boutiques, breweries and galleries, plus several designer hotels. Although the area does not have an LGBTQIA+ neighborhood per se, many businesses that cater to the community are scattered throughout the city, offering bars, clubs and restaurants with primarily queer clientele. While visiting, guests often tour the massive mansion and grounds of the Biltmore Estate. For more adventurous visitors, activities like hiking, biking, rafting and zip lining are available in the nearby mountains.

Where to stay:

Located right downtown, the Kimpton Hotel Arras is steps from all the action. Restaurants, galleries, shops and colorful boutiques dot the blocks surrounding the hotel, including several that feature items with LGBTQIA+ themes. As with so many Kimpton properties, the Hotel Arras offers an award-winning restaurant and lounge featuring some exotic signature cocktails. Plus, you can use IHG points to book a stay here.

Part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, The Foundry Hotel is a former steel mill reimagined as a luxe hotel in downtown Asheville. Guests can stroll through the galleries and workshops of local artisans and take in the gorgeous backdrops of the nearby mountains.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo by DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images)

Long enjoyed as a spiritual and cultural retreat for people of all walks of life, Santa Fe is an iconic landscape that draws the LGBTQIA+ community with its peace and beauty.

The city is known as The City Different, which aptly captures the unique, complicated and quirky offerings of this colorful destination. A significant presence is dedicated to the Native American people who have a long history of residence in this area, and there is a reverence and respect for the impact this community has had on local art and culture.

There are few gay-specific bars or gathering places in Santa Fe, largely because they are not needed nor are they the focus of why LGBTQIA+ travelers flock here year-round. Residents and visitors are wholly accepting of others, so being out and proud here may not even be noticed.

With so much to look at in the way of scenery and the colorful art scene, the blend of communities isn’t surprising. The art scene is legendary, as are the culinary and spa offerings. There is a world-class opera company here and all kinds of museums. While visiting, you must experience the incredible landscapes. You’ll have your pick of tours that focus on hiking, rafting, cycling, horseback riding and more.

Where to stay

The Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza is housed inside a 300-year-old hacienda that sits a couple of blocks from the activities in downtown’s Santa Fe Plaza. Surrounded by some of the most acclaimed restaurants and art galleries in the world, the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza is also very close to the impressive Georgie O’Keefe Museum.

La Posada de Santa Fe, A Tribute Portfolio Resort & Spa is part of the Marriott Hotels family. It’s a true Southwestern resort in the middle of downtown Santa Fe. With all the luxury trappings, this resort is an indulgent retreat designed to pamper guests in the best possible ways.

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

Known by many as the California Riviera, Santa Barbara offers a beachy vibe with a relaxed, sun-kissed atmosphere of relaxation all year. The city is set apart by geography, lending it some exclusivity from Los Angeles to the south and the central California coastal towns farther north.

Long a retreat for celebrities, world leaders, sports figures and royalty, Santa Barbara is also a major wine destination with vineyards and wineries dotting the landscape up into the Santa Ynez Valley. It’s common to sit down for a sip in one of the Funk Zone neighborhood’s wine-tasting rooms next to a celebrity, and no one makes a fuss.

LGBTQIA+ visitors love Santa Barbara because it offers a laid-back style, beautiful Spanish architecture, tropical gardens and fun nightlife. Rent bikes, surfboards or skates to enjoy the oceanfront boardwalk, or stroll along State Street to pop into the trendy boutiques and restaurants. At night, several bars are very LGBTQIA+ friendly, including the Sunday night gathering at EOS Lounge.

Where to stay

Directly across the street from one of Santa Barbara’s most beautiful beaches, the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort offers easy access to the Funk Zone, State Street’s shopping and nightlife, and all this beach town has to offer, from ocean to mountains.

Sporting a rooftop pool and stunning views, the Kimpton Canary Santa Barbara features Spanish-style architecture, including colorful tile work, wrought-iron railings, spacious rooms, high ceilings and balconies. State Street’s energy and nightlife are literally steps away.

Merida, Mexico

Merida, Mexico. (Photo by Pawel Toczynski/Getty Images)

Merida has been named Mexico’s safest city for several years running, but that’s not the only thing it has going for it. It’s an incredibly interesting, beautiful and gay-friendly destination for visitors from all around the globe.

Downtown Merida is filled with colorful buildings in the classic Spanish colonial style, many of which have been converted from grand mansions to museums, hotels, restaurants and more. The streets here are easily walkable and dotted with shady parks, festive cafes, boutiques and galleries that make this city both sophisticated and relaxed at the same time.

Located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, Merida is proud of its Mayan heritage. It’s easily reachable from its own airport, with direct flights from the U.S., and is a three-hour drive from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It’s also near the famous Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and other UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Not to mention, many gorgeous cenotes (natural freshwater grottos where people can swim and explore) can be found throughout the Yucatan jungle.

Where to stay

Housed in a sleek tower overlooking Merida’s historic downtown, the Hyatt Regency Merida provides guests with the best of both worlds: luxurious modern accommodations amid the history and grandeur of Merida’s colorful past and lively present.

Casa Lecanda is a charming boutique hotel cleverly hidden from the street. But behind the facade is a charming courtyard with a pool, lush gardens and impeccable service — plus rooms that feel like part of a private home.

Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. (Photo by Maremagnum/Getty Images)

A popular European destination for gay travelers for quite some time, Gran Canaria is now on the gaydar for the rest of the world because of its live-and-let-live locals and well-developed LGBTQIA+ friendly offerings. Part of the Canary Islands chain and officially an autonomous community of Spain, Gran Canaria is much loved by the LGBTQIA+ community — and vice versa.

The island itself is stunning, with wide sandy beaches, rocky coastlines and warm, crystal-clear water. The Maspalomas neighborhood of the island is particularly noteworthy for its gay appeal. Playa del Ingles touts a broad range of offerings, including nightclubs, casinos, theaters, shops, golf courses and many other diversions.

The beaches, however, remain the star attractions due to the year-round temperate climate, nudist options and popularity with the gay community. Of note are the festivals held on Gran Canaria, most famous of which is Carnival in February or March, and the Drag Queen Galas that gather divas from across the globe. Parties, parades, festivals and colorful pop-up events are a regular occurrence here.

Related: Fly to international Pride festivals on points and miles

Where to stay

The colorful adults-only Axel Beach Maspalomas is positioned in the middle of the action in the Playa del Ingles neighborhood. The hotel is complete with modern apartments that allow guests maximum comfort and convenience amid the fun and sun of this lively island.

A large-scale resort for adults, the Riu Palace Maspalomas is set amid rolling sand dunes and gardens along the oceanfront. It boasts 350 rooms and all the amenities guests could possibly want, including pools, spa, fitness facilities, restaurants and more.

Hvar, Croatia

Hvar, Croatia. (Photo by Copyright by Boonchet Ch/Getty Images)

An easy boat ride from Split or Dubrovnik, this gorgeous island off the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia is a relaxing waterfront destination nestled in the Adriatic Sea. A longtime summer paradise for European visitors, Hvar is now attracting global travelers (including Americans) looking for a place to breathe the fresh air, rejuvenate and float in the surprisingly buoyant waters.

Hvar Town is the main focus, as this easily walkable medieval village offers an attractive oceanfront, marina and narrow cobbled streets lined with bars, restaurants and shops. Nightlife is lively, with many outdoor clubs and bars in town and along the breezy waterfront that cater to LGBTQIA+ visitors and their friends.

A primary reason for visiting Hvar is the chance to cruise the nearby islands, which are mostly small and uninhabited yet are surrounded by some of the most stunning beaches, caves and grottos in this part of the world. The Green Cave and the more touristy Blue Cave are mysteriously sunlit by cracks through the rocks, casting an unearthly color to the water that is truly hard to imagine. If traveling with a group, consider cruising the islands via Sail Dalmatia, which offers chartered boats and yachts staffed by expert tour guides.

Where to stay

Perched on a hill overlooking the azure blue sea, the Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort is a leisurely walk from town. It offers cascading pools, a beach club, a swim-up bar and easy access to the waterfront and boat docks.

If a private villa is more your speed, Marriott Homes & Villas Hvar offers several that provide the best of both worlds: luxury and privacy just steps away from the rich nightlife, restaurants and shops of Hvar Town.

Medellin, Colombia

Medellin, Colombia. (Photo by John Coletti/Getty Images)

Medellin is the second-largest city in Colombia and home to a bustling LGBTQIA+ community of residents and visitors. Being out and on display is more comfortable here than most other parts of the country, and many queer visitors from throughout South America come to Medellin to relax and enjoy the progressive lifestyle. The city itself is rich and colorful and so is the LGBTQIA+ population, part of Medellin’s charming embrace of diversity and innovation.

Despite a sketchy past decades ago, today the city rejoices in freedom and acceptance — particularly in the gay-friendly area of Zona Rosa. This area is full of bars, restaurants and clubs catering to the queer lifestyle and is known as one of the safest spots in the city for LGBTQIA+ travelers. Visitors to the city for Pride in July are likely to be whisked into the festivities as the streets fill with beautiful people, colorful costumes and catchy music.

Related: Why Columbia is one of the easiest places to travel right now 

Where to stay

Tucked into an exclusive neighborhood of downtown Medellin, the Hotel Intercontinental Medellín allows guests luxury accommodations and sweeping views of the city from higher floors.

Ideally located near Zona Rosa in El Poblado neighborhood, the Medellín Marriott Hotel is within steps of the action and colorful nightlife so famous in this festive locale.

Osaka, Japan

Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

Home to Japan’s second-largest LGBTQIA+ scene, Osaka is more relaxed and liberal than some other Japanese destinations. It’s a city of contradictions in that Osaka is a banking and financial hub for Japan while also a hub for one of its most creative populations. Street food stalls are tucked in between blossoming cherry trees, and towering skyscrapers give way to tiny sake rooms. In fact, the area is known for its delicious food and fine sake, which is made locally, shipped around the world and revered by many.

The city possesses a surprising number of gay bars, clubs, saunas and more amid the traditional Japanese sense of organization and order. The bars here tend to be smaller and more niche-oriented, and of the three gay areas in Osaka, Doyamacho is the recommended neighborhood for gay visitors. Do keep in mind that as a quirk of local law, some clubs require foreigners to attend with a Japanese citizen, while others do not allow women.

In addition to the nightlife, there is plenty to see when visiting Osaka, such as Osaka Castle, eighth-century Nara Park (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Universal Studios and much more.

Where to stay:

If splurging is on the itinerary, the Intercontinental Hotel Osaka is a spectacularly beautiful environment. The hotel offers restaurants, a spa, a fitness facility and close proximity to some of Osaka’s most famous landmarks.

Towering over the city is the sleek and modern Hilton Osaka, which is connected to Osaka Train Station, an upscale mall and the subway that connects guests to all parts of the city.

Related: Japan’s first W hotel is now open in Osaka

Los Cabos, Mexico

Los Cabos, Mexico. (Photo by William Robison/EyeEm/Getty Images)

The combination of two towns — Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo — Los Cabos is a sunny, oceanfront resort destination filled with lounge chairs, umbrella drinks, disappearing edge pools and a festive atmosphere. For LGBTQIA+ travelers and friends, this is a popular experience for high-end service and a party vibe. Hotels and resorts span a range of price points and amenities — some with multiple pools, swim-up bars, nightclubs and signature restaurants. Many are all-inclusive, allowing guests the chance to sample all the resort offerings for one daily fee that the room price covers.

Cabo San Lucas welcomes revelers from places across the U.S. and throughout Mexico. Easy to reach with direct flights from major U.S. and Canadian cities, Los Cabos is located at the tip of Baja California, where warm waters provide ample opportunities for snorkeling, sport fishing, boating adventures, whale watching and more. With no shortage of activities and things to do, Los Cabos offers a balanced combination of active and relaxing lifestyles. There are several gay clubs and friendly restaurants in downtown Cabo San Lucas.

Related: How to get to Los Cabos on points and miles 

Where to stay

Perched on a cliff overlooking the blue waters of the Sea of Cortez, the Westin Los Cabos Resort Villas and Spa is famous for its angular architecture and iconic pools, as well as world-class restaurants and a spa that attracts visitors from all across the globe.

The Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos is located in San Jose del Cabo and is just minutes from the airport and right on the warm sands of an expansive beachfront. An all-inclusive resort, the hotel features many restaurants and pools from which to choose, as well as an on-site nightclub and easy access to local hot spots.

Related: 11 all-inclusive beach resorts families can book with points

Recife, Brazil

Recife, Brazil. (Photo by FerreiraSilva/Getty Images)

Skip the crowds in some of Brazil’s more traveled spots and enjoy the beautiful oceanfront beach town of Recife by the sea of Pernambuco. Built on canals with bridges crossing picturesque waterways, Recife is often called the Venice of Brazil.

Colorful, boisterous and fun, the local vibe in Recife is an interesting mix of historic and modern. Locals and visitors alike have reverence for the culture that developed here over centuries, as well as the most modern of styles, trends and customs.

LGBTQIA+ life in Recife is carefree and breezy, just like the weather. The weather is a constant blend of sunny, balmy and tropical, and sunbathing clothed or nude is common at certain beaches. Whether the nightlife developed because of the influx of LGBTQIA+ tourists or vice versa, few would argue its position as an up-and-coming global LGBTQIA+ hot spot. Plus, the people here are gorgeous, with a background of heritages from around the world, including Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French.

Where to stay

Tall, sleek and gleaming in the plentiful sun, the Radisson Hotel Recife is situated on the beautiful white sands of Boa Viagem Beach. Sightseeing, nightlife, beach clubs and shopping are all nearby, making this hotel a convenient option for guests of all types.

Right in the middle of the action and close to the beaches, the Ramada by Wyndham Recife Boa Viagem offers affordable luxury with a rooftop pool, modern lines, a fitness center, restaurants and more.

Prague

Prague. (Photo by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

Prague is one of those beautiful LGBTQIA+-accepting cities where it can feel like time has stood still through history while modern sensibilities evolved. Wandering the ancient streets of the downtown district through the medieval buildings and across the picturesque Charles Bridge can conjure visions about what life might have been like centuries ago. Now, Prague is the center of activity for Eastern Europe and is inarguably its premier LGBTQIA+ focal point. The castle, the river, the friendly people and the cultural institutions welcome guests from all walks of life.

Winter in Prague can be picture perfect, with snowy streets, people bundled in warm and wooly gear, and frosted windows beaming with light from cozy indoor cafes and pubs. Summer here is equally enjoyable, warm and friendly, with music festivals, beer gardens and plenty of gorgeous people enjoying the balmy weather day and night. Although the Vinohrady neighborhood is considered the gay district, the entire downtown area is very accommodating. Visit for a week full of Prague Pride activities in August. The celebration is the largest pride festival in Central and Eastern Europe.

Related: The ultimate guide to visiting Prague with points and miles

Where to stay

Hotel Josef is a member of Design Hotels and is a modern mix of steel and glass amid the historic surrounding buildings of Old Town Prague. Views of the famous Charles Bridge are available from several vantage points, and the hotel’s stunning interiors are matched by its fantastic location just off the main square on a quiet back street.

A reconfigured Baroque palace is reborn as a modern hotel at The Grand Mark Prague, with richly appointed rooms, a grand staircase and lovely gardens all in a great location. The best surprise is the rates, which are surprisingly reasonable for this centrally positioned hotel.

Featured photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images.

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