Do you ever find yourself thinking in terms of “either/or”? You either take risks, or you play it safe. You either travel alone or never get a moment to yourself. You’re either off the beaten path or a lame tourist. A lot of people think in terms of black and white, but there are travel experiences out there that take these extreme dichotomies and create a hybrid adventure.
Going on an LGBTQ group tour is a great example of mixing and matching the best of both worlds. You get to be a solo traveler, without having to be completely alone. You get to discover an unknown destination, while still being surrounded by community. You can push yourself outside of your comfort zone, without actually putting yourself in danger. Admittedly, group tours have a reputation for being a little stale or old fashioned, but there’s a new generation of experiences on offer. Here are 10 LGBTQ group tours that are definitely worth signing up for.
1. Trek all the way to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.
This is a serious outdoor adventure. Training beforehand is a good idea, and you’ll need excellent hiking boots. While on the trek, you’ll be staying in rustic tea houses, some of which don’t have running water. Hiking through the Himalayas is best served unplugged, so you’re advised to leave your laptop at home.
The Tour: Nepal: Kathmandu & Everest Base Camp
Operator: OUT Adventures is a queer-owned tour company and travel brand with a keen interest in responsible tourism.
Duration: 17 days/16 nights
Trip highlight: You get to visit Nepal’s ancient capital, Kathmandu; fly over the Himalayas; and hike to Everest Base Camp (5,364 meters high), gracing “the same trails where many of the mountain’s epic ascents begin.”
2. Snorkel around the volcanic cliffs of Santorini.
With the tagline “a day fit for a Greek god,” it’s clear that this tour isn’t angling to be an adrenaline rush, but rather a quietly glamorous day of exploring the Greek island of Santorini from the sea. There’s mention of a private bay and gourmet meals, so if you’re more of the glamping type, then this just might be up your alley.
The Tour: Semi-Private Catamaran Cruise in Santorini
Operator: OUTstanding Travel is a queer-owned travel company that focuses specifically on creating gay travel experiences in Israel, Greece, and Italy.
Duration: Day tour
Trip highlight: Snorkelling, hot springs, and towering volcanic cliffs
3. Bungee jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge.
The Victoria Falls tour is actually offered as an add-on to the 12 Days in South Africa tour, but can presumably be booked on its own. Since Detours integrates a certain amount of customizability into its travel experiences, you could either go full-blown glamazon on this one (after all, you’ll be staying at a four-star boutique lodge, and there’s a luxury cruise down the Zambezi in the cards too), or you could inject some high adrenaline adventure into the mix.
The Tour: Victoria Falls
Operator: Detours is a laid-back gay adventure travel company. Founded by family and run by friends, its tours move away from “cookie cutter” daily itineraries.
Duration: 4 days/3 nights
Trip highlight: Choose from bungee jumping from the Victoria Falls Bridge, swinging through the gorge on the gorge swing, white-water rafting down the Zambezi River, or taking in the view of Mosi-oa-Tunya (“The Smoke that Thunders”) on a helicopter ride.
4. Hop on a quad bike and explore Gran Canaria.
The Quad Adventure is short, but it’s intense. Most of that time will be spent off-road, exploring the ravines and caves of Gran Canaria, the third biggest of the Canary Islands. If you don’t know how to drive a quad, the guides can teach you; they’ll also you how to drive respectfully through the environment, so rest assured — you won’t simply be ploughing through the wilderness.
The Tour: Quad Adventure
Operator: Rainbow Gay Tours offers group tours led by queer guides in some of Europe’s most gay-friendly cities, including Barcelona, London, Berlin, Lisbon, and Gran Canaria.
Duration: An hour and a half
Trip highlight: You get to drive an ATV Kawasaki 300 Quad (and have the whole thing filmed on a GoPro).
5. Dine with robots in Tokyo.
Okay, I’ll admit, this one is kind of the wild card in the pack, but you get a front row seat to what can only be described as a when-in-Japan experience — a robot entertainment show (with popcorn included). Plus, you get to visit Shinjuku Ni-Chome, Toyko’s gay hub (home to the world’s highest concentration of gay bars), where you’ll have a drink with your gay or gay-friendly tour guide.
The Tour: Robot Restaurant & gay evening tour
Operator: Out Asia Travel is somewhat enigmatic. The company is based in Japan and “offers a variety of tour packages in Asia for LGBT travelers from all over the world.”
Duration: Four hours
Trip highlight: ROBOTS!
6. Zipline and bridge swing your way across New Zealand.
This tour is a North-to-South, comprehensive exploration of New Zealand with an earthy, wholesome feel. You’ll learn about traditional and medicinal Maori uses for native plants on walks through native bush, discover springs and bubbling geysers, visit galleries, and see what a night sky looks like from the middle of an international dark sky reserve.
The Tour: New Zealand Highlights and Hot Spots
Operator: New Zealand Awaits is a lesbian-owned and operated company. Its focus is on transformative travel, coupled with environmental and social sustainability.
Duration: 13 days/12 nights
Trip highlight: To balance out all the natural serenity, you can pick from a wide selection of high adventure add-ons such as ziplining, taking a flight over an active volcano, a glacier hike, paragliding, and jet boating into a wilderness environment.
7. Sit in on a sumo wrestler’s training session in Japan.
This tour is all about cultural submersion. The itinerary is a carefully crafted journey through Japan’s history, including World Heritage sites, sleeping on futons, wandering through rock gardens, and learning about the Edo period (Japan’s golden age), only to lead you back to its futuristic present.
The Tour: Essential Japan
Operator: Go!GayJAPAN seems to be the fruit of one Spaniard’s love affair with the Land of the Rising Sun. Founder and guide Oscar López uses his tour company as the perfect excuse to stay connected to Japan.
Duration: 12 days/11 nights
Trip highlight: An overnight stay at a Buddhist temple, dinner served by real geishas, a day trip to Mount Fuji, and a private viewing of a sumo wrestler training session where you get to feel the floor beneath you shake.
8. Fly over the Alaskan wilderness in a helicopter and land on a glacier.
They call this the heli-hike tour, so while you’ll definitely get a lot of bird’s-eye views from the helicopter, you’ll also get a chance to step out into the tundra with a naturalist guide. The helicopter takes off and leaves you there, free to explore and go as far as you like, and then it’ll come and find you wherever you end up. Depending on the season, you might end up exploring icefalls, massive crevasses, and ice pools.
The Tour: Denali Glacier Landing
Operator: Stampede Excursions is a queer-owned and operated Alaskan tour operator based in Denali National Park.
Duration: Two hours
Trip highlight: You get to see the landscapes that lured Christopher McCandless to Alaska from the air, and then get a little lost in the wilderness for a while.
9. Swim with whale sharks in the waters of Isla Mujeres.
This tour is really about one thing and one thing only — maximizing your time in the water with whale sharks. Two out of the five days you’ll spend on the island will be spent off the coast snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea with whale sharks and manta rays. The rest of your time is very much yours to do with as you please.
The Tour: Swimming with Whale Sharks
Operator: Reefs to Rockies is a queer-owned travel tour duo that focuses on providing outdoor experiences in the world’s wildlife and birding hotspots. Co-founders Lynda and Sheridan have a strong green streak and have donated more than one percent of their gross sales to conservation and environmental education organizations.
Duration: 5 days/4 nights
Trip highlight: Swimming with whale sharks and visiting a turtle nursery
10. Join a Gay Surf Camp in the Canary Islands.
This experience will give you a solid week’s worth of getting out there in the waves. Its structure and format balances the rhythm and discipline needed to get practice, gives you a lot of time to recover, and also allows you to experience more than just Gran Canaria’s consistently warm waters. While the only LGBTQ aspect of some tours is the clientele they aim to attract, the Gay Surf Camp includes a guided gay nightlife tour, a viewing of a gay surfer documentary, and a drag show finale.
The Tour: Gay Surf Camp
Operator: Spain Seven Degrees is a small team of four, who share solid travel credentials and the joint mission of creating gay tours in Spain that are good for the body and soul.
Duration: 8 days/7 nights
Trip highlight: At least 15 solid hours of surfing, plus a little whale watching, and optional yoga for good measure
Keep in mind that these aren’t the only tours run by these operators. Be sure to browse their websites to check out the full scope of what they have to offer.