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A common phrase is that the world is getting smaller, but for the queer community it’s only getting bigger. That’s because LGBT rights are only expanding around the world and destinations that were off limits only 10 years ago are now opening their arms to our community. Sure there are parts of the world where history sometimes takes a step backwards, but 2017 will no doubt shape up to be a big travel year for gays and lesbians. Pack your bags (and plenty of sunscreen), here’s where you should travel right now.

RELATED: 26 LGBT vacations you must take before you die

Todos Santos

Todos Santos | Flickr photos by J Kehoe

Todos Santos, Mexico

Out hotelier Liz Lambert has a magic touch. Her Hotel San Jose in Austin is hipster ground zero and since opening that crash pad more than a decade ago her company Bunkhouse Group has taken over management of the classic Austin Motel and also owns properties in Marfa, Texas and San Antonio. Her next project will be new digs in Todos Santos, a coastal town in Baja California. Although one lesbian-owned hotel does not a queer mecca make, Lambert is no doubt betting that Todos Santos—an artist’s haven that’s laid-back, beautiful and chock full of galleries—is just waiting to be “discovered” by dreamers, drifters and creative types of all sexual orientations. Look out Tulum, the next great Mexican resort town is on its way. Please don’t tell anyone.

Palm Springs, desert, midcentury, Coachella, California, SoCal

Palm Springs, CA

Palm Springs, CA

A perennial gay favorite, sleepy Palm Springs had long been resting on its laurels as a sun-drenched haven for retirees, golfers and the gay community. But a funny thing has recently happened to this desert city—its become cool again. It got a boost when Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival planted roots not far away and since that time all of young Hollywood is rushing to hipster resorts like the Avalon Hotel and Bungalows, the Ace Hotel and Swim Club and the nearby Saguaro. Food options have likewise improved (check out the Rooster and the Pig, Birba and Workshop + Kitchen and Bar among others). For queer visitors this means a ton of new options on top of what’s already great about the city including its two dozen gay, clothing optional resorts and annual bashes like the Dinah and the White Party. Even the nightlife has gotten a little better over the past ten years.

Montevideo, gay, LGBT, Uruguay

Montevideo | Photo courtesy of Jimmy Baikovic

Montevideo, Uruguay

If this South American city isn’t yet on your gaydar, you haven’t been doing your homework. Think stunning Art Deco and neoclassical architecture + a fierce love of the arts plus + beach side bliss + a thriving queer scene and it all adds up to same-sex heaven. As for its LGBT outreach, Uruguay is a South American leader in human rights. Homosexuality has been legal here since 1934 and it conferred full marriage equality as of 2013. Last year it hosted the Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference and both Montevideo and nearby Punta del Este host annual Pride events. Also, the beach and bar scenes are loud and swinging. Oh, and the city is a 2-hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires which means you can combine gaycations and get two superb destinations for the price of one plane ticket. Done!

punta-cana

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

There’s a fixed hostility toward LGBT rights in many Caribbean nations that’s been tough to shake loose and even as recently as 2010 the D.R. amended its constitution to prohibit same-sex couples from marriage. Yet Punta Cana remains an island (so to speak) unto itself. This honeymooner’s paradise, famed for its beaches, outdoor activities and all-inclusive resorts, maintains a welcoming and laid-back attitude toward same-sex couples that’s as breezy as its gentle, tropical winds. So why go now? Recently opened Mares, an all-welcoming gay bar and cocktail lounge signals a planting of the rainbow flag. Plus, numerous resorts like the Hard Rock Hotel and adults only Secrets Royal Beach and Breathless Punta Cana (which will host hundreds of queer women in October 2017 via an Olivia Travel resort experience) welcome queer travelers with open arms.

colorado

Colorado in autumn

Colorado

Wait a minute, you mean not every gaycation has to revolve around a swimming pool and a circuit party? Colorado is a fantastic destination for queers of every stripe and boasts a nationwide historic first: In 1975, Clela Rorex of Boulder County became the first county clerk in the nation to hand out marriage licenses. These days high times abound everywhere in live-and-let-live Colorado including gay ski weeks in premier winter towns like Aspen and Telluride, a lively bar and nightlife scene in once-sleepy Denver and low-key good times inside Boulder’s liberal bubble. But we love that Colorado also provides great escapes from big city living including four national parks, eight national monuments, nine national forests and 42 state parks. In fact, half the state belongs to public lands and the opportunities for the perfect gaycation are limitless. Did we mention there’s a lot of sunshine?

Taiwan, gay, travel, LGBT

Taiwan | Flicker photo courtesy of Sese_87

Taiwan

A rumble is happening off the coast of mainland China as the independent island nation of Taiwan begins a fierce debate over same-sex marriage. While feelings over the issue are almost evenly split, the country is nevertheless considered a bastion of LGBT tolerance in East Asia and it laws and attitudes toward the queer community are among the regions most progressive. If the marriage bill passes, it would make Taiwan the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex unions, but regardless the capital city of Taipei is a gay-friendly mecca boasting the biggest annual Pride celebration in Asia and a nightlife scene that includes a dozen queer bars and numerous saunas. Beyond queer life there are enchanting night markets, ancient temples, luxury hotels and the super tall skyscraper Taipei 101. And who knows, in 2017, any one of these attractions may just become a place where couples exchange wedding vows.

Florianópolis, Brazil | Flickr photo by Francisco Anzola

Florianópolis, Brazil | Flickr photo by Francisco Anzola

Florianópolis, Brazil

Brazil is big. So much so in fact that most of its citizens would forgive their North American counterparts for not being able to name its cities beyond Rio de Janeiro and maybe São Paulo. Perhaps that’s why Floripa (for short), the sunny and artsy island capital of Santa Catarina has been off-radar for so long. Yet it’s somewhat of a gay mecca boasting not only a thriving nightlife, amazing beaches and several restaurants helmed by gay women, but also South America’s first lesbian (but gay male and trans welcoming) surf camp which opened in 2015 under the name Gay Surf Brazil and is offered by lesbian-owned Brazil Ecojourneys. Additionally, there’s a bumping Carnival and Pride Week. No wonder Floripa is considered the Provincetown of South America.

Brighton Pride

Brighton Pride | Flickr photo by Andy Walker

Brighton, England

How many cities with a population of 150,000 can say they’ll be hosting their fifth annual Trans Pride weekend in 2017? We’re not talking an offshoot of Brighton Pride, but rather a full-fledged weekend boasting a talent competition, film night, picnic, after parties, art installations, a march and more. Coastal Brighton can make just such a claim. A seaside city that has long held the distinction of having the highest concentration of same-sex couples in Britain, queer-friendly Brighton and nearby Hove are bursting with gay-owned businesses and bars especially around Kemptown, although the boho vibe is everywhere. With the pound dropping to historic lows against the U.S. dollar, the time to visit is now. Bonus: London is only a half hour away via train.

Orlando, gay, LGBT, Pulse, Pride

Orlando Pride | Flickr photo by Grow by Love

Orlando, Fl

In the early hours of June 12, 2016 a status update appeared on the Facebook page of Orlando-based Pulse Nightclub that read, “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running.” The message was in response to a lone gunman who shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. It was the worst mass shooting in American history and happened in a city that is famously known for being a vacation paradise. It also brought out the best in people as both gay and straight communities rushed to donate blood to the victims, offer monetary support to the families and man crisis hotlines. But for queer visitors the city is still a mecca for good times including its promise of endless sunshine, a happening downtown and its ubiquitous theme parks which of course includes Gay Days at Disney World which attracts more than 150,000 LGBT visitors annually.  The city deserves our love and the time to offer it is now.

Gay Pride Madrid

Gay Pride Madrid | Flickr photo by Antonio Tajuelo

Madrid, Spain

Spain is the Europe of our dreams. Between elegant Barcelona, heady Ibiza, gay happening Gran Canaria, a gay cruise ship in every port city and a nonstop calendar of annual queer events like Bear Week in Sitges and Ella International Lesbian Festival in Mallorca, it may in fact be the overall queerest country on the continent. Yet in 2017 all eyes will be fixed on Madrid. The madcap capital and home to filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is also a city of endless siestas, a tapas restaurant on every corner and a backroom in every bar. In May it will host Mr. Gay World 2017 and in late June it will host World Pride Madrid 2017 which coincides with the 40th anniversary of the city’s first Pride March. Come summer 2017, the city may just be the gayest place on planet earth.

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Tagged: Beach Vacation, California Vacation, Caribbean Vacation, Europe Vacation, International vacation, LGBT travel, Orlando vacation

Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is an associate editor at Orbitz, a social media marketing consultant and a freelance cultural reporter for numerous publications. His works has been featured in the Huffington Post, Time Out, Passport, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and many others.
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When you’re staying in a hotel, the lobby bar isn’t your only option for good times after the sun goes down. Check out these hotels that offer activities made especially for nighttime.

RELATED: 7 hotel bars that are actually cool

 

Tree frogs are easy to spot after dark at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa. Photo courtesy of Diamond Public Relations.

Tree frogs are easy to spot after dark at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa | Photo courtesy of Diamond Public Relations

Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa: Provincia de Alajuela, Costa Rica

Search for tree frogs, caiman, glass-winged butterflies and hundreds of other species during this guided night hike in one of the most environmentally diverse parts of the world. After the tour, enjoy empanadas de frijoles and agua dulce prepared by your guide’s family. Pura vida!

Capella Marigot Bay Resort and Marina: Castries City, St. Lucia

The hotel’s Auriga Spa offers four signature services inspired by the phases of the moon. But once the massage therapist starts going to town on you with salt scrubs, seaweed wraps and rose petals, you won’t care what phase it’s in. These massages actually take place indoors, making them perfect for travelers who want to experience nature minus the mosquitoes.

Namastay all night for moonlit meditation at The Resort at Longboat Key Club. Photo courtesy of Diamond Public Relations.

Nama-stay all night for moonlit meditation at the Resort at Longboat Key Club | Photo courtesy of Diamond Public Relations

The Resort at Longboat Key Club: Longboat Key, FL

As if a vacation along the beaches of Sarasota isn’t relaxing enough, cap off your lazy beach day with Moonlit Meditation. Once a month during full moon, enjoy guided enlightenment exercises accompanied by a live soundtrack of singing bowls. Class location moves based on wherever the moon is the brightest—maybe the golf course, marina or beachfront. You can’t go wrong, really.

The moon and wine are divine at Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel. Photo courtesy of Diamond Public Relations.

The moon and wine are divine at Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel | Photo courtesy of Diamond Public Relations

Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel: Petén, Guatemala

The Mayans have long revered the moon, and you’ll never look at it the same way after embarking on the Moon and Wine Boat Tour. Enjoy a bottle of vino and small charcuterie platter as you watch the moon rising over Quexil Lagoon.

Amazon Ecopark Jungle Lodge: Manaus, Brazil

Board an after-hours paddle or motor canoe, and keep your eyes peeled for alligators; fall and winter are your best chance to spot them. Your guide will try to catch a small one with his bare hands (we’re not making this up) and bring it on board for a short educational talk and photo ops before releasing it back into the dark waters.

Driving into the night | Photo courtesy of Emirates One and Only Wolgon Valley

Driving into the night | Photo courtesy of Emirates One&Only Wolgon Valley

Emirates One&Only Wolgon Valley: Wolgon Valley, Australia

You’ll spot plenty of kangaroos bouncing around the grounds of this resort about a three-hour drive inland from Sydney. But after dark, experience less-known Aussie wildlife. Activity options include the Guided Glow Worm Walk, Stargazing and Campfire Experience, and the Nocturnal Wildlife and Stargazing tour on a four-wheeler.

ALSO: Enjoy starry-eyed savings when you sign up for Orbitz Rewards!

Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco

This view gets even more picturesque at night | Photo courtesy of Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco

Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco: Tuscany, Italy

Your Facebook friends will seriously hate you after you post pictures from this after-hours horseback ride under the Tuscan moon. ‘Nuff said.

Skiing under the moonlight | Photo courtesy of Sundance Resort

Skiing under the moonlight | Photo courtesy of Sundance Resort

Sundance Mountain Resort: Sundance, UT

Strap on a head lamp (all the cool kids are doing it) and explore wooded trails at your own pace. Unguided options include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Keystone Resort: Keystone, CO

Keystone introduced nighttime downhill skiing back in 1985, and it remains popular today. As the sun sets over the Rocky Mountains and other resorts usher their guests inside for hot cocoa, you can keep skiing on one of the few slopes that’s open after dark.

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Tagged: Beach Vacation, Caribbean Vacation, Florida Vacation, Ski Resorts, Spa Vacation

Dalia Colon

Dalia Colon

Dalia is a multimedia journalist in Tampa and the Smart Travel Insider for VISIT FLORIDA. Follow her on Twitter @daliacolon.
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Hotel Deals for London
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We asked Orbitz Instagram followers which country they’d like to visit and they responded with a wide range of great destinations. Here are your top 8 dream vacations — including a five-way tie for eighth place! And the best part is that we’re going to send one lucky winner and a guest on a trip to the #1 location! Scroll down to see what is—we think you’ll like it—and then go to our Instagram to enter to win after reading the rules here. All we ask isthat when you book your trip, consider taking us with you.

#8: Australia (tie)
Why you love it: No other country of such immense size is inhabited by residents so laid back. Sure, the place is teeming with insects, animals and marine life that are deadly, and the country is largely made up of vast, inhospitable desert, but that hasn’t stopped the land down under from being the place that care forgot. Just try to not be charmed by sunny Sydney or sophisticated Melbourne. Of course, A visit isn’t complete without diving the Great Barrier Reef or a kangaroo encounter—the latter of which is all but guaranteed.

GreatBarrierReef

#8: Bali (tie)
Why you love it:
Visiting a tropical island is all about reclining on a white sand beach with paperback in hand, but if that was all you did in Bali—an island in Indonesia—you’d truly be missing out. Bali is home to ancienttemples, distinctive art and architecture, rollicking nightlife, eco resorts and yoga retreats, floral-colored reefs, gargantuan volcanoes and so much more. Come to Bali not only for the beach, but also for an awakening of the mind, body and spirit. And bring a a good pair of hiking/walking shoes; you’re going to need them.

Bali

#8: Fiji (tie)
Why you love it: Close your eyes and tell us what comes to mind when you hear the words tropical island? Chances are, whatever you’re imagining, Fiji looks exactly like that. An archipelago of 300 islands inhabited by 800,000 people, you love Fiji because it’s a place to live out the vacation fantasy of your dreams. It is where palm trees sway gently in the breeze, where crystal clear blue lagoons beckon swimmers and divers like a siren’s call and where the word hotel means a thatched hut in the middle of nowhere.

Fiji

#8: Italy
Why you love it: From the moment we’re old enough to slurp spaghetti noodles, boot-shaped Italy becomes a natural part of our vocabulary. You love for it hundreds of reasons namely people watching in Rome—the Eternal City—and wandering among its romantic piazzas and fabled ruins. There’s also cramped but beautiful Venice, art and culture-filled Florence, the tiny and intoxicating postcards towns lining the Italian Riviera, wine tasting in Tuscany and, lest we forget, awesome pizza. Need we say more?

Rome

#8: Brazil
Why you love it:
Can human beings be this gorgeous? The answer is a definite yes. From the moment your feet hit the sand of Rio’s legendary beaches—Ipanema and Copacabana and Leblon to name a few—the site of Cariocas at play makes you want to linger in this large, complex and fascinating country. The rest of Rio—from Christ the Redeemer to a nighttime Samba—also intoxicates, but head inland for a raucous weekend in Sao Paulo, take a boat ride down the Amazon River or follow the coast and plop down on your very own secluded beach.

RioD

#7 Bora Bora
Why you love it: There are reasons why we all grin and bare our grueling work lives—aside from the fact that we have to—and counting down the days until a vacation in tropical Bora Bora is one of those reasons. The French Polynesian island is just 11 square miles and has a population of under 9,000 people which lends it an air of privacy and exclusivity for those in need of elbow room. It also boasts big time natural beauty, as in turquoise blue waters, emerald green landscapes and sunsets the color of an artist’s palette.

BoraBora

#6 Spain
Why you love it: Visiting Spain is like being drunk on life all the time. Occupying a majority of the Iberian Peninsula, the country is blessed with more than 3,000 miles of coastline which makes a beachy siesta a worthy afternoon endeavor. But forget for a moment its blessed maritime geography and consider instead madcap and bustling Madrid or elegant Barcelona with its fascinating Gaudi architecture. There’s also flamenco dancing in Seville, clubbing in Ibiza, sharing tapas with friends and so much more.

Barcelona

#5 Iceland
Why you love it: Perhaps the only destination on this list that brings to mind the adjective “quirky,” Iceland is a gurgling, spewing and constantly evolving land of vibrant people and wondrous natural attractions. Only in the coastal capital of Reykjavik is puffin a menu mainstay and lap swimming in geothermal pools a feature of daily life. Elsewhere on the island, blankets of emerald green come face to face with volcanic ash, the ground steams and the coastline reveals icy natural wonders.

Iceland

#4 Tahiti
Why you love it: If your knowledge of Tahiti comes down to the vanilla bean, we’ve got great news for you—the entire island is just as sweet. Although few among us would actually chuck it all to live on a tropical island, Tahiti makes a compelling case to do just that. In addition to being a pretty face—Tahiti is blessed with black sand beaches, lagoons, waterfalls and two inactive volcanoes—the country has a fascinating culture with a lively emphasis on dance, art and sport. Just try and not be captivated.

Tahiti

#3 Maldives
Why you love it: We’re not the least bit surprised you chose this tropical South Asian island nation—composed of a double chain of 26 coral atolls and 1,200 islands—as one of your dream destinations. Unlike other chart toppers on this list such as Italy and Spain, chances are you’ve never been. The Maldives thus loom large in the imaginations of would be paradise seekers and for good reason: they are every bit the picture postcard vision of azure waters, white sand beaches and endless sunshine.

Maldives

#2 Norway
Why you love it: Bikini be damned! We’d gladly trade our swimsuits for a fur coat—synthetic of course—and a chance to go deep into the heart of Norway’s fjords where lush green and snow capped mountains rise majestically from narrow inlets of navigable waters. Lovely, cosmopolitan Bergen makes for an excellent base of exploration of western Norway, but you’d never do a sweep of this quintessentially Scandinavian country without spending at least a couple days in the bustling, upbeat capital city of Oslo.

Norway

#1 Greece
Why you love it: Greece is the word—and why shouldn’t it be?! For more than 2,000 years this Mediterranean gem has beguiled the world with its early innovations in civilization and government, Greek Gods and Goddesses, and ancient monuments—not to mention fantastic art and mouthwatering cuisine. Dangling like a loose leaf at the end of Europe, you treasure it today because you know that a single visit affords the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Plato and Socrates followed by a beach day in Santorini.

Greece

Tagged: Beach Vacation, Europe Vacation, Top 10 Lists

Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is an associate editor at Orbitz, a social media marketing consultant and a freelance cultural reporter for numerous publications. His works has been featured in the Huffington Post, Time Out, Passport, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and many others.