The first destination on the Lonely Planet list is Albania, which was once a destination for only the hardened traveler. The all new tourist board is starting to attract more than backpackers to its beaches, heritage sites and affordable hotels. 2011 could be the year for Albania to finally confirm its place on the tourist map. Albania is quite a conservative country, however gay and lesbian relationships are not illegal and gay and lesbian travelers will face little or no trouble in the country.
So pleased to see Brazil making the list, this vast country has so much to offer gay and lesbian tourists, whether you want to soak up the sun in Rio, or trek to beautiful waterfalls deeper inland. Celebrating recent wins for the World Cup and the Olympics, Brazil will start to see major investments all to the benefit of gay and lesbian tourist visiting the country. Brazil has a gay friendly reputation despite recent issues at both the Sao Paulo and Rio gay pride festivals.
Off the north west coast of Africa you will find Cape Verde, a beautiful island which is a mere speck on a world map. Close enough for European gay and lesbian tourist to reach and warm enough for almost year round travel.
A favorite destination for honeymooners, here you will find beaches mixing with mountains and vegetation. Gay and lesbian relationship were made legal in 2004 and gay and lesbian tourist will find most locals will either not say anything to you or will simply ignore the fact you are homosexual.
The majority of the world has felt the pain of the recent economic crisis and this has forced Panama to do a complete re-think, taking the destination back to basics. Gay and lesbian travelers will find a re-emergence of local festivals, jungle treks and holiday lodgings. 2011 will see the opening of the Frank Gehry designed Bio Museo, a museum celebrating ecological diversity. It was only back in 2008 that gay and lesbian lifestyles and relationships were decriminalized and the majority of the country are slowly catching up with these changing attitudes.
Bulgaria has a great deal to offer gay and lesbian travelers, with skiing on the snow caped peaks in the winter months and lying in the sun on the wonderful beaches in the summer months. The country has gone in and out of fashion over the years, and according to Lonely Planet it time has come around once more. Bulgaria provides a cheap European alternative for gay and lesbian travelers. The country is conservative by nature, but pro gay by history. If you look hard enough you will find a handful of gay events happening in Bulgaria.
I am ashamed to say this is the only country on the list that I have not visited, so had to do a little bit of research. (At least we all now know the destination of my next vacation). Lonely Planet claim this is the place to head for an ‘authentic experience’. Here you will find magnificent waterfalls, remote villages and mighty mountains for you to explore. This is a down to earth holiday destination, a place at which nature is the highlight. This is perfect for gay and lesbian tourists who have more eco leanings, but don’t be put of if that’s not you. Vanuata consists of 83 islands, leaving gay and lesbian tourists spoilt for choice. Gay and lesbian relationships are legal in Vanuata and the age of consent for gay sex was lowered to the same age as heterosexual sex back in 2007.
This may seem like the most mainstream choice on the Lonely Planet list, but still always good to see Italy getting the credit for being a must visit travel destination. Soak up the history of the world in Rome, admire the art in Florence, eat the best Pizza in the world in Naples or get romantic in Venice. Italy boasts 44 Unesco World Heritage sites, and in 2011 are celebrating 150 years as a country. Not that Italians need a good excuse for a party, expect the wine to be flowing and the food to be plentiful.
Tanzania is a place with locations whose names alone get travelers excited – Kilmanjaro and Zanzibar are just two such destinations. Clearly a highlight of Africa, but sadly not the warmest of places for gay and lesbian tourists to visit. If you choose to travel to Tanzania, be prepared to either keep your sexuality hidden or face rejection from locals. For wildlife lovers it may be worth stepping back into your gay closet for a short while. The country offers you the chance to see hippos, crocodiles, red colobus monkeys, black rhino and leatherback turtles.
You may only be familiar with Syria as a headline grabbing country, involved in nasty affairs with western countries, well according to Lonely Planet it is time to take a fresh look at the country. You will find your tourist dollar getting your further here, a chance for you to live it up in Syria. Gay and lesbian tourist will find Syria is a hospitable place, although homosexuality is still illegal in the country so don’t go and expect to be able to flaunt your sexuality.
The final destination on the Lonely Planet list is wonderful Japan, which I am personally so pleased to see making the list. From the non-stop buzz of Tokyo to the remote and peacefulness of the villages in the north of the country. This is not a cheap vacation choice for tourists, and gay and lesbian can find ways to make it fit their budget. Traveling around Japan is a dream, with a train system which is the envy of the world. Food does not have to be expensive, eat with locals and stay away from (the far too many) western chains which are springing up. Gay and lesbian tourist will find little objection to same sex couples (partly because of the conservative nature of the country). In Tokyo gay and lesbian tourist blend in, go further afield in Japan and you gay and lesbians are more likely to become a talking point.