Where The Rainbow Flag Flies High For LGBTQ+ Travelers In 2015

A global shift toward common sense acceptance of the variety of sexual orientations that exist in the human form truly does seem to be picking up considerable momentum in 2015. At the same time, more and more travelers are considering the condition of a variety of human rights struggles in a given country as one of the decision making criteria for choosing destinations that are deserving of the influx of their valuable tourist dollars, as this is arguably the most effective means of influencing conditions in other countries that travelers have at their disposal.

For the LGBTQ+ traveler – this means that the combination of these 2 positive trends has unearthed some new travel destinations (that formerly weren’t considered particularly friendly to the community) lining up nicely right alongside the old standards – and the variety of stunning destinations that pass muster when evaluated in this light seems to grow now with each passing day.

We’ve scoured the breaking news from prominent mainstream media to LGBTQ+ specific legislative and travel resources to round up who some of the front-runners of change are this year.


Cheers to Ireland for becoming the very first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote! We didn’t want to count our sexually flexible chickens before they hatched (at time of writing) – but even the conservative Guardian reported last week:

The expected huge yes vote from the republic’s electorate will mark another major milestone in Ireland’s journey from a Catholic church-dominated state to a more liberal, secular society.

Amen to that!

Eligible voters traveled from as far as Abu Dhabi and Bangkok to cast their ballot in the historic Marriage Equality Referendum. If this clear demonstration of equality and acceptance isn’t enough to entice you to visit, let us show you a little more of what the Emerald Isle has to offer with Explore Ireland.


In a January 2015 decision, rules that prohibited same sex marriage were abolished, bringing Vietnam to the forefront of change toward acceptance in S.E Asia.

“No other country in Southeast Asia has taken as big a step toward accepting same-sex marriage as Vietnam,” said Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy director in Asia.

And if you haven’t already been enticed by this exotic locale, allow us to introduce you to just a little of its magic with Explore Vietnam.


Besides being a traveler’s mecca of stunning landscapes, rich history, and beautiful architecture, Scotland in 2015 was named the best country in Europe for LGBTQ+ legal equality (though clearly Ireland will be giving them a run for their money in 2016!). Same sex marriage got the green light from the Scottish Parliament in time for Valentine’s Day in February of 2014.

Countless castles, endless rolling green hills, stunning lochs and strapping dudes in kilts – what more could you ask for? Not convinced yet? Take a minute to Explore Scotland.


In its annual progress report rating Europe’s countries with regard to LGBTQ+ human rights achievements – the ILGA-Europe (European arm of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association ) recognized Malta in 2014 as the biggest game changer at +22% annual improvement  - most notably in the areas of family recognition and protection against hate speech and crime.

And did we mention that Lonely Planet describes Malta lovingly as:

A Mediterranean cocktail of prehistoric temples, fossil-studded cliffs, glittering hidden coves, thrilling diving opportunities and a history of remarkable intensity.

Sounds like it’s steeped in awesome sauce. Now where did I put that passport?

The Netherlands

Within the same assessment – even perennial favorite The Netherlands managed to eke out a 10% improvement on the year. While typically regarded as a liberal society, it is still encouraging that efforts are continuing to improve the political, legal and social conditions for people of all genders and sexual orientations.  And in case you’re curious – there’s absolutely no shortage of unique things to see and do here – we hit all the highlights in Explore The Netherlands.

6. Luxembourg

Despite its conservative good looks, Luxembourg has long been a leader in accepting and recognizing the LGBTQ+ community. Officially though, laws enabling same sex marriage and adoption rights were only passed by the Luxembourg parliament in June 2014 and did not take effect until January 1 2015.  That said, gays and lesbians serve openly in the military in Luxembourg and civil unions have been recognized since 2004.

With its culturally diverse population (40% plus have emigrated from elsewhere), well established reputation as a tax haven, home to the headquarters of Skype, Amazon and PayPal, and positioned as the country with the highest nominal GDP per capita in the world (3 times higher than the EU average), it’s easy to see why its popularity is rising.

We round out our list with Lonely Planet’s official 2015 “most gay friendly” travel destinations. This year their top 10 favorites list includes controversial Montevideo in a list peppered primarily with popular old stand-bys from prior years:

  1. Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. Everywhere, New Zealand
  3. Toronto, Canada
  4. Palm Springs, USA
  5. Sitges, Spain
  6. Berlin, Germany
  7. Skiathos & Mykonos, Greece

  8. New York City, USA
  9. Reykjavik, Iceland
  10. Montevideo, Uruguay

Given all this, it is clear that the LGBTQ+’s rumored $150B annual travel spend (GayStarNews puts the figure as high as £200B!) is likely to continue to have a positive influence on the imminent spread of global common sense. I say money well spent and the long overdue changes can’t happen soon enough!

Which countries do you see making notable strides towards equality?

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