Is South America the next big travel frontier for gay
The distances to many South American cities from Europe are no
than they are to the USA, and the costs of travel in South America range
dirt-cheap to fairly moderate, but few destinations here presently
popularity in the gay travel market.
Quite a few gay
have become aware that Brazil's sexy and scenic Rio de Janeiro (left) has a
and energetic gay scene, and some others have learned about the
sophistication and nightclub prowess of Argentina's Buenos Aires, but
other South American cities are rapidly developing cachet.|
Here's a quick primer on where you'll find the most happening and
scenes throughout the continent.
Few of the world's cities are more captivating
than Brazil's Rio de Janeiro.
Photo courtesy Rio de Janeiro Tourist Office
Buenos Aires, Argentina - Seasoned travel writer Michael Luongo calls
Argentina's capital city, Buenos Aires, as one of the world's "sexiest
most sophisticated" gay destinations. It's the only city in South
that compares with Rio in terms of gay popularity. Luongo further
Buenos Aires as an incredibly forward and flirtatious city, and notes
it's quite common for total strangers to strike up a conversation with
visitors, whether the intention is romantic or otherwise.|
This isn't a let-it-all-hang-out party place like Rio. Rather, in
Aires, lesbians and gay men socialize on a fairly low-keyed level,
the city's many trendy outdoor cafes and stylish restaurants - plus a
number of gay bars. While you won't necessarily encounter a Castro- or
Chelsea-like gay playground where same-sex couples stroll hand-in-hand,
will find that residents of Buenos Aires accept gays and lesbians as a
natural component of the urban fabric. This is a city that's equally
appealing among gay singles and couples, and of all ages. On the other
you may feel a bit out of place here if you're unable or uninterested
dressing the part - Buenos Aires takes its style cues from Milan and
The gay scene can be rather fashion- and image-conscious, which - of
suits its devotees just fine.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Rio de Janeiro is gay ground-central for many
American visitors, and it's the only real queer-visible destination in
Brazil. The city is ideally suited to revelers and late-night clubbers,
it's also a better match with travelers who both enjoy and are
with the tempo of a big city. Crime is an issue in Rio, although the
government has made tremendous strides in recent years making the city
LGBT Pride parade of Sao Paulo Brazil with gays, lesbians, flags and crowds. Photo - Luciano_Marques
Whereas Buenos Aires feels distinctly European, sultry Rio grooves to a
tropical beat - residents wear their lust for life on their sleeves.
nightclubs abound and pulse well into the wee hours, and the city's
are infested all day long with sexy and minimally covered bodies.
Matthew Link, author of the Rainbow Handbook Hawaii and numerous
articles, Rio "is one city that can claim to be actually grander than
postcard images, and more glamorous than the songs written for her."
scene here is spread among a few neighbourhoods. Several hotels and inns
to or encourage the gay market, and bars and clubs abound, most of them
kicking into high gear well into the evening, and more than a few of
employing a sexy stable of go-go boys.
Santiago, Valparaiso, and Vina del Mar, Chile - According to Mark
editor of the Fodor's Chile and Fodor's South America guidebooks
former editor of gay newspaper the New York Blade News), gay
life in Chile remains largely underground and discreet, although
the country, in general, has risen markedly since the fall of dictator
Augusto Pinochet in 1990. In Santiago, he notes, you'll find a
gay nightlife, but bars come and go and tend to be publicized primarily
Outside the capital, gay nightlife is limited. There are a couple bars
cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, but they're hard to find.
also notes that throughout most of Chile - even in very remote regions
sight of same-sex couples traveling together does not typically raise
eyebrows (although discretion is a good idea). As is the case in many
of South America, there's tremendous pressure on gay men, and even more
lesbians, to remain in the closet. In Chile, home-life centers heavily
family, and social mores depend heavily on the traditions and teachings
the conservative Catholic Church.
Bogota, Medillin, and Cartegena, Colombia - Charismatic Colombia, which
fronts the Caribbean and the Pacific, is a rich mix of magnificent
scenery, historic cities, and tremendously varied flora and fauna.
the reputation as a haven of drug-smuggling scare you - crime in Bogota
rarely affects tourists. This city of 6 million also claims an exciting
shopping and nightclubbing district, the Zona Rosa, plus an engaging
district, La Candelaria.
About three-fourths of Colombia's population reside in urban areas, and
because the country has several dense population centers, there are gay
businesses and bars in about a dozen cities. Bogota has most of the
and could arguably be considered the continent's third gay mecca.
everything from bars to saunas to gay-popular gyms - there's no gay
per se, but the northern part of Bogota tends to have most of the queer
Medillin is the second-largest city and has a decent
scene, too (it and Bogota both have had gay pride parades for the past
years) - this engaging and attractive university town lies in a scenic
mountain district. And every so often a gay cruise docks in Cartagena,
though charming and extremely romantic lacks a gay singles scene.
couples may wish to consider a trip to this safe and attractive
Gay Parade in São Paulo on Paulista Avenue, Pride Parade LGBT, people, costumes,
flags and much celebration. Photo - Luciano_Marques
Quito, Ecuador - Ecuador is a beautiful country, and with a
tourism industry - it's safe and comfortable for a same-sex couple to
most of this nation's geographically diverse and culturally rich
the capital city of Quito, you'll find a handful of gay-friendly cafes
nightclubs. Ecuador has been heavily influenced by North America and
Europe - many immigrants from Canada, France, and England live here and
businesses that cater heavily to visitors, and this in part accounts
generally accepting attitudes towards lesbians and gays. The Mariscal
district is a somewhat liberal and bohemian neighbourhood, with a
presence (including a few bars and gay-friendly accommodations) - the
significant numbers of college students contribute to the area's
Lima and Cuzco, Peru - Although the gay scene in Peru's capital city,
is quite limited, considering the population of nearly 8 million, the
does have a growing gay club scene, as well as some bathhouses. Most of
action is concentrated in the Miraflores neighborhood, an area that
draws more than its share of gay prostitutes, so be careful about whom
While it lacks a significant gay nightlife scene, the culturally rich
Cuzco is very comfortable for gay travellers. This is a
progressive and funky city by South American standards, and gay couples
fairly common, at least in touristy places. Famous for both unrivaled
beauty and fascinating archeological ruins, Peru contains many of the
continent's most spectacular attractions - be sure to set aside time to
Machu Picchu, as well as the luminous waters of Lake Titicaca.
Andrew Collins authored Fodor's Gay Guide to the USA, the Connecticut
Handbook, and six regional gay guides for Fodor's. He can be reached