We spent almost 2 years travelling in Latin America from Mexico all the way down to Patagonia.
Latin America is a fantastic destination to explore for gay travellers, with a range of beautiful natural scenery, classic world wonders, some of the best gay parties in the world, and the hottest guys you'll ever meet.
Although most countries in Latin America are very Catholic with a socially conservative outlook, we found that most are quickly evolving to embrace their LGBTQ communities. We particularly saw this in Uruguay, Argentina, the big cities of Colombia, parts of Mexico, south Brazil and Santiago in Chile.
These are our 10 favourite gay friendly cities in Latin America where we felt the most welcome, which have the best gay scene and most prominent pride festivals.
1. Santiago – Chile
We start this list with the capital city of Chile. Whilst Chile as a country is still very conservative, Santiago is definitely one of the most gay friendly places we visited. It has a huge gay scene in the “Bellavista” neighbourhood, with many bars, clubs and restaurants.
Our favourite place to start a gay night out in Santiago is at the large resto/bar called “Station”. Then we'd head to either “Bar 105” or one of the drag bars like “Burdel”. On weekends, there are a handful of large gay clubs to check out. Our favourite was “Barcelona at Bunker”, which always had a large crowd. Also worth nothing is that nearby to Santiago is one of the largest gay clubs in the South America called “Il Divino”, located in the nearby resort town of “Viña del Mar”. Read more in our gay guide to Santiago.
With regards to gay rights, Chile has certainly come a long way since the dark days of the oppressive Pinochet regime. Today, marriage equality is still on the cards, and soon may become law. One of our favourite things about the city is that as a sign of solidarity towards the LGBTQ community, the Moneda Palace (the formal offices for the President) in Central Santiago is lit up with rainbow colours on 17 May for the International Day Against Homophobia Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) – every year without fail. Read more in our interview with Ivan from Santiago about what it's like growing up gay in Chile.
2. Mexico City – Mexico
Mexico City is a lot of fun, with a huge gay scene. It also has a large annual gay pride event taking place in June, which usually attracts around half a million people. Like Chile, marriage equality is still not yet formally in place nationwide, although in 2015, the Supreme Court declared a ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional. Mexican society is generally very conservative as is evident from the strong opposition to gay marriage. Despite this, in 2010, Mexico City became the first area in the entire country to issue gay marriage licenses to gay couples.
The gay scene of Mexico City is largely based around the Zona Rosa area, with awesome bars and clubs like Almacen, Nicho and Kinky.
And don't forget of course that this is home to the very handsome Lito and Hernando of the Netflix Sense8 series:
3. Puerto Vallarta – Mexico
Puerto Vallarta is a beach resort city in Mexico’s Jalisco state, situated on the Pacific Ocean. Just like Mexico City, the Jalisco province is very gay friendly and has also been issuing gay marriage licenses since May 2016.
The city has a large LGBTQ community comprised of locals and expats who've chosen to settle here. The gay scene is largely based in the “Zona Romántica” neighbourhood, with bars/clubs like Reinas, Los Amigos, Blondies and La Noche.
One of our favourite gay events in Latin America is the Puerto Vallarta week long Pride festival. It's a mix of pool parties, beach parties, a fabulous parade and more. It takes place in late May to coincide with the US Memorial Day weekend. We definitely recommend checking it out. You can read more about our experience at the Puerto Vallarta Pride.
4. Buenos Aires – Argentina
We love Buenos Aires for so many reasons. Other than the rich tango culture and delicious steaks, the city has a fun gay scene and is very welcoming to gay visitors.
With regards to gay marriage, Argentina led the pack by becoming the first country in South America to legalise gay marriage in 2010. We also love that the government actively supports and funds gay events, in particular the GNetwork360 conference every August and the BA Pride in November.
The gay scene of Buenos Aires is mainly based in the Palermo neighbourhood, with bars/clubs like Glam, Sitges, Amerika and the Contramano bear club in Recoleta. if you're into twinks, you'll want to head to the weekly “Fiesta Puerca” + “Fiesta Plop!” parties at the Teatro Vorterix.
The other reason we love Buenos Aires is because of the renaissance of queer tango. There are a few gay “milongas” (tango halls) like “La Marshall” and “Tango Queer“, both in San Telmo, which each run LGBTQ nights, including dance lessons for all levels, followed by a live show with gay partners.
When we visit Buenos Aires we like to book a private airport transfer with Welcome Pickups to get to our accommodation. Their drivers are always English-speaking and professional, plus they monitor your flight so even in the case of delays they'll be waiting at the airport to whisk you away without any stress.
5. Sāo Paulo – Brazil
Brazil is a mixed bag with LGBTQ rights. On the one hand it legalised gay marriage in May 2013, yet on the other, it has serious problems with homophobic violence, particularly in the North.
Sāo Paulo has the country's largest LGBTQ community, with a gay scene to match it. The big highlight is the mega club called “The Week”.
Finally, no mention of SP is complete without reference to its infamous Pride. The “Parada do Orgulho LGBT de São Paulo” is the largest gay pride event in the world, with crowds of around 3 to 5 million people! What started as a tiny political protest march in 1997 with just 2,000 people attending has today grown into this huge annual gay event every June.
And of course our favourite show, “Sense8” also featured the Sāo Paulo Pride when handsome Lito came out to the world.
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, avoiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off your first booking.
6. Rio de Janeiro – Brazil
Rio is famous for its Carnival in February. But did you also know that Rio Pride is the country's second largest street party? It takes places each year around September-November, attracting over 1 million people.
We love it because it's not only a big Carnival-like atmosphere for the gays, it's also a big beach party along the famous Copacabana (with some of the hottest guys on the planet!) It culminates at Papa G's where the party atmosphere continues into the early hours.
Outside of Pride, the gay scene of Rio is largely based around Ipanema beach in front of Rua Farme do Amoedo, with big rainbow flags everywhere. Rua Farme is also the main gay club, along with “Le Boy” and “TV Bar”.
Another fact we came across about Rio, which gay boys need to take note: in a study carried out by the University of Sāo Paulo in 2009, the city has the highest percentage of non-heterosexual males, with 19.3% of its population being gay or bisexual men!
7. Bogota – Colombia
Everyone we mention our love for Colombia to recoils in horror…“are you crazy? Didn't you watch ‘Narcos'?!”
Yes, the country has had a turbulent history, but over the past decade, it has undergone a massive transition to not only become one of the safest places to visit in Latin America, it's also become one of the pioneers of LGBTQ friendly legislation. In 2016, Colombia became the 4th country in Latin America to legalise gay marriage after Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
Outside of the main cities of Colombia, homophobia is still prevalent, particularly along the coastal towns. However in the big cities like Bogota we discovered one of our favourite gay scenes in the Chapinero neighbourhood with many gay bars like “El Recreo de Adan” and “Brokeback Mountain”. However, the real highlight in Bogota is the mega-club called “Theatron”. This is the largest LGBTQ club in South America, split into 13 mini clubs spread over 5 floors. Each room has its own theme, like a men's only room (with strippers!), another for women, another for Latino pop hits, one for reggaeton, and more. For us, it's a huge gay playground, which we'd definitely plan a trip to Bogota for.
To find out more about gay life in Colombia, check out our interview with local boy Jesus from Barranquilla.
8. Montevideo – Uruguay
We found Uruguay to be Latin America's most chilled out and liberal country. This is the place where marjiuana is legal, one of the few countries where Catholicism isn't as strong, and in terms of LGBTQ rights, it's way ahead of the pack with anti-discrimination laws in place since 2003, adoption laws since 2009 and gay marriage implemented in early 2013. From our travels in Latin America, we found the Uruguayans to overall be the most accepting, tolerant and gay friendly.
We based ourselves on our Uruguay trip in Montevideo, the capital city, which also has the largest LGBTQ community and the best gay scene in the country. Our favourite gay hangouts in Montevideo are “Chains”, “Il Tempo” and “Cain”. On weekends, we'd start with a few drinks at Chains, before heading to Il Tempo or Cain for the drag shows and to dance.
Like in Buenos Aires, our favourite memory from Montevideo is the queer tango. Both cities are credited with introducing this UNESCO listed dance to the world and both offer queer tango classes. We did an awesome class at the Teatro Solis with cute teacher Rodrigo, who also gave us a fascinating insight into what it's like growing up gay in Montevideo.
9. Quito – Ecuador
Ecuador is home to the famous Galapagos Islands, which we visited twice during our travels in Latin America. This small country squeezed between Colombia and Peru is still largely socially conservative, but is quickly evolving with a new generation of progressively minded and forwarded thinking millennials like Mario from Quito.
The Quito gay scene is very much alive and flourishing, with hangouts like El Hueco, Capri and Kika based around the Mariscal neighbourhood. We love hanging out in the Foch square of the Mariscal where there is a fun and exciting party atmosphere every evening.
The city also has its own Pride event in June and film festival in November. Both are small events by comparison to other cities, but still just as important, and a sign that the country's LGBTQ community is thriving.
10. Lima – Peru
Lima is the final city in our list and a slightly controversial entry. On the one hand Peru is one of the more conservative countries when it comes to LGBTQ rights in Latin America. For example, the “Besos Contra La Homophobia” (Kisses Against Homophobia) demonstration at the Armory Plaza, Central Lima in February 2016 was stopped by the police and violently shut down.
Despite this, Lima has a modern and forward thinking community based mainly in the Miraflores and Barranco neighbourhoods. This is where you'll find the city's best hotels, restaurants and main gay hangouts like ValeTodo, Legendaris and Lola Bar.
Lima is also home to a mix of famous Peruvian celebrities, artists and politicians who are not only out and proud but actively supporting our LGBTQ family. You can read more about it as well as what gay life is like in Peru in our interview with Aaron from Lima.
If you're at all nervous about navigating Lima's public transport to get to your accommodation, make sure you check out the private transfer option provided by Welcome Pickups. Their drivers always speak excellent English and wait in the airport to meet you before driving you and your luggage directly to your hotel.
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Happy travels are safe travels
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