1. Copenhagen, Denmark
Denmark may be the home of Lego and at the forefront of New Nordic Cuisine, but importantly it made history in 1998 by becoming the first nation in the world to recognise registered same-sex partnerships. And at Denmark's heart is the relaxed beauty of its compact cobblestoned capital, Copenhagen.
Copenhagen is home to Europe's oldest openly gay bar, Centralhjornet, whose origins date back to the 1950s; as well as the hip and super-cool district of Vesterbro, which also happens to be the city's red-light district. One of the most tolerant and open communities in Europe, Copenhagen's functional yet edgy fashion scene, brilliant array of cocktail bars, excellent range of gay-friendly boutique accommodation and packed calendar of queer events make it the gay-friendliest place on Earth.
At 105.6m, City Hall Tower is one of the tallest buildings in Copenhagen and provides some of the best views of the cobblestoned city. In 2014, the adjoining square was named the "Rainbow Square" in recognition of the quest for equal rights (visitcopenhagen.com).
2. New Zealand
The Land of the Long White Cloud has long been lauded for its inclusive and progressive behaviour toward the LGBT community. In 1998 New Zealand was the first nation to adopt the label of "gay/lesbian friendly" when referring to businesses and accommodation – an initiative now recognised globally. The country offers a brilliant network of gay- and lesbian-friendly homestays, which run the length and breadth of the country from the top of the semi-tropical North Island to the depths of the glacial South.
Since passing same-sex marriage laws in 2013, New Zealand has actively promoted same-sex marriage tourism to the likes of Australia and other Pacific nations where equality laws are less progressive. Gay Ski Week, part of Winter Pride, has become a perennial favourite on the queer calendar and takes place in picturesque Queenstown in late July or early August (gayskiweekqt.com).
Lonely Planet's top 10 gay-friendly travel destinations
Lonely Planet's top 10 gay-friendly travel destinations
1/10 1. Copenhagen, Denmark
2/10 2. New Zealand
3/10 3. Toronto, Canada
4/10 4. Palm Springs, US
5/10 5. Sitges, Spain
6/10 6. Berlin, Germany
7/10 7. Mykonos, Greece
8/10 8. New York City, US
9/10 9. Reykjavik, Iceland
10/10 10. Montevideo, Uruguay
3. Toronto, Canada
Toronto continues to be a beacon for the LGBT traveller in North America, and Canada is hands down the most advanced and progressive nation in the Americas for the queer community.
Toronto's The Village, located in Church-Wellesley, is the cultural queer hub of the city, bursting with galleries, theatres and gay-friendly businesses. Home to events such as Pride Week Celebrations, Pride March and Dyke March, gay sub-culture has blossomed and thrived in The Village for decades and it will soon be home to the world's first gay-focused athletic centre at 519 Church Street.
Forget dressing as a skeleton or witch, if you're attending the Village's fabulous Halloween Block Party, think Gwyneth Paltrow's pink Oscar gown or Lady Gaga's crab hat (churchwellesleyvillage.ca).
4. Palm Springs, US
Located approximately 100 miles south-east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs is a sun-seekers' paradise where the sun shines almost all year round and where the city has embraced everything queer.
Palm Springs provides the LGBT traveller with an amazing array of outdoor activities, excellent shopping and dining, and the world's best poolside lounging.
Palm Springs also offers the largest volume of male and female-only accommodation anywhere in the world (many of these places are clothing-optional). Pack the SPF and make the most of the sun, boys and girls! For the boys – one of the longest running clothing-optional gay resorts in Palm Springs is the Fifties-style Escape Resort (escapepalmsprings.com), and for the girls – check out the Spanish colonial-inspired Casita Laquita (casitaslaquita.com).
5. Sitges, Spain
The coastal city of Sitges rests approximately 35km south-west of Barcelona and is home to Spain's first-ever gay disco, which opened back in the 1980s. It's now one of Europe's "Big Four" destinations for the queer traveller. Its stretch of sandy, often clothing-optional beaches make it a favourite for the boys, but its eclectic calendar of events ensures that there's something for the entire community.
Europe's "Big Four" also includes Mykonos, Gran Canaria and Ibiza, all key stops on many same-sex-exclusive Mediterranean cruises (for more information see gaywelcome.com).
6. Berlin, Germany
Every fetish you could ever dream up can be catered for in Berlin. Germany's wild side is on display here and Berlin proudly boasts a vibrant and inclusive gay history that dates back to the golden age of the 1920s. The districts of Schoneberg (which hosts Gay Pride), Kreuzberg and Prenzlauerberg provide a diverse range of clubs, bars and restaurants for sampling. With no "closing time" in Berlin, the party never ends!
For the more adventurous, get your fetish on at Easter Fetish Week, or don some leather at Folsom Europe (folsomeurope.info).
7. Skiathos and Mykonos, Greece
Ever since Jackie Onassis started visiting the Greek island of Mykonos in the 1970s, gay men have been flocking to the island of whitewashed houses and flower-filled courtyards, seeking out glamour and the famous Mediterranean sun. For a less hedonistic holiday, the sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and pine forested hills of Skiathos offer a relaxed and authentic experience for the LGBT traveller.
The Elysium Hotel, an exclusively gay boutique hotel, is the perfect playground for hedonists heading to Mykonos town (elysiumhotel.com).
8. New York City, US
The Stonewall riots that occurred in the late Sixties in Greenwich Village are synonymous with the birth of the modern gay-rights movement. The incredibly inclusive communities of the West Village, Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen provide a fabulous array of gay-friendly accommodation options.
New York is littered with significant LGBT landmarks such as Christopher Street, the Harvey Milk School, the Lesbian Herstory Archives and, hello, Broadway and the Theatre District.
If you're considering getting hitched while in the Big Apple, see bit.ly/NYsamesex.
9. Reykjavik, Iceland
The world's northernmost capital, Reykjavik has been described as one of the friendliest places and most inclusive on Earth. In 2015, Reykjavik will host its 17th Gay Pride march (one of Europe's oldest queer parades), and the 11th Bears on Ice event. Iceland also has some of the world's most progressive laws. In 2006, same-sex couples were granted equal rights with their heterosexual counterparts without limitation.
Wander behind waterfalls, descend into dormant volcanoes, or while away a day in one of the many geothermal lagoons – this is an adventurer's dream. To attend the Bears on Ice event, you'll need to register (bearsonice.org).
10. Montevideo, Uruguay
This is a controversial inclusion on the list given the conservativeness of many Central and South American nations. But Uruguay, the smallest of the South American nations, is the most progressive. In 2013, Uruguay was the first Latin American country to legalise same-sex marriage, and homosexuality has been decriminalised since 1934. The relaxed attitude present in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo provides a brilliant juxtaposition to the hustle and bustle of the likes of Buenos Aires. Although progressive in protecting the rights of the LGBT community, excessive PDA (public displays of affection) are not advised.
This extract is adapted from Best in Travel 2015 (© Lonely Planet 2014). The book is available to buy from Tuesday 21 October, price £9.99 (shop.lonelyplanet.com).
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