AUSTRALIA boasts a number of events to keep the LGBTI community satiated throughout the year. You’ll find gay couples lounging in the sun in Melbourne during the annual MIdsumma Carnival, and lesbians marching through the streets during Sydney’s Gay Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. There is a host of LGBTI performers on stage during Adelaide’s Feast Festival, and cinemas filled with patrons indulging in the latest queer films at the Brisbane Queer Film Festival.

However, before, after or in between those festivities you may want to travel across the Pacific and discover new experiences. Experiences that are gay-friendly and life affirming.

Star Observer MREC_300x250_2If it’s fun, adventure, and excitement that you’re looking for, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better destination than Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — especially during its world-famous Carnival. For just under a week in February, its streets are transformed into an endless parade of music, dance, and two million people joined together in celebration. It’s the perfect place to release your inhibitions and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

As a member of the LGBTI community, it can be difficult choosing a travel destination, as a lot more goes into the decision-making process than just working out where you’d most like to go. Often, LGBTI travellers must consider how hospitable their destination of choice is to their community, to ensure their trip is enjoyable and welcoming. Thankfully, Flight Centre knows how to cater to the community so this can all be taken care of for you as you make your bookings with them. In addition, their travel consultants are experts when it comes to South American holidays.

During Carnival, there are a number of gay parades where visitors can express their pride alongside LGBTI Brazilians, and even mingle with the local drag queens.

Held during the peak of the Brazilian summer, the main carnival parade takes place in the Sambodrome with colourful floats, costumes and samba rhythms. And if you need a quick rest from the all the festivities, you can relax in your hotel room — we recommend staying at the four-star Golden Tulip Regente Hotel — along the best stretch of beach in Copacabana.

This is why Rio de Janeiro is one of the top destinations for LGBTI jetsetters, having been recently voted as the number one gay travel destination in the world by a popular publication. To add to this, it is estimated that one in four visitors to Rio identify as either gay or lesbian.

Why stop at Brazil, though? Carnival is a great place to start, but South America is a fantastic location for LGBTI travellers when it comes to exciting things to do or places to see. After you’ve partied and soaked up the electric atmosphere in the streets of Rio, you should extend your trip and visit Argentina’s bustling city of Buenos Aires and Mendoza wine region, or trek from Cusco along the Inca Trail to the historic Machu Picchu in Peru.

Star Observer MREC_300x250_3Alongside Rio, Buenos Aires is regarded one of Latin America’s gay capitals — and for good reason. It achieved this status well before marriage equality was legislated in Argentina in 2010, having been attracting LGBTI travellers for a long time.

Buenos Aires was founded in 1580 on the Rio de la Plata, and is now made up of 12 million people spread across 47 neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct character. Here, the gay scene isn’t limited to a single neighbourhood. Rather, it’s spread across the cosmopolitan city and includes a mix of gay-friendly venues, as well as exciting clubs and cultural centres. When visiting, we recommend setting yourself up at the Hotel Moreno, situated right in the heart of it all.

In addition, it’s just a short flight away from Mendoza, the world-famous wine region of Argentina. If visiting here, you would be amiss not to visit Valle de Uco, the finest local wine region. Situated on the beautiful Tunuyán River, it boasts over 100 wineries, many of which have been set up by international investors. Even if you aren’t a wine aficionado, it’s worth the visit just to soak up the picturesque scenery and rural villages, and both the Posada Salentein and American Executive Hotel are the best places to stay in the region.

Mendoza is also the gateway to Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Andes, making it a wonderful place to sample locally-grown produce and visit ruins before Christopher Columbus came to South America.

Both Buenos Aires and Mendoza are perfect destinations for exploring some of the best that South America has to offer. You can go from exploring the city streets of Buenos Aires one day to meeting new people by the river at a winery in Mendoza the next.

For the more adventurous and active members of the gay community, a trek along Peru’s Inca Trail to Machu Picchu may be right up your alley. The trail starts from Cusco and takes around four to five days to complete, although a two-day trek is also possible.

Star Observer MREC_300x250_Machu Picchu is a 15th century Inca site, 2430ms above sea level. For all the LGBTI Australians who love the great outdoors, there’s no better site to behold than this historic mountain, as well as the beautiful trail that leads you there.

The Machu Picchu Sanctuary is also populated by over 250 species of orchid and diverse birds, and the trekking route combines beautiful mountain scenery, lush cloud forest and subtropical jungle.

The vista of snow peaks and valleys of the Huayanay massif from Warmiwanusca Pass, at 4200m, are sights to behold. The trek is rated moderate so you will need to be reasonably fit and in good health to cope with the altitude.

A South American holiday is one you would never forget. You can enjoy a few sparkling days at Carnival in Rio, visit Buenos Aires with a side trip to a winery in Mendoza, or you can trek along the historic and beautiful Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Regardless of your preference, South America is the perfect destination for LGBTI travellers, and there is something for everyone. Australia’s LGBTI events aren’t going anywhere, so in the meantime, pack your bags and head to South America for the trip of a lifetime.

Flight Centre’s South American holiday experts are available for any further information you require so call, pop into your local store or to discover more LGBTI-friendly holidays, visit: www.flightcentre.com.au/holidays/gay-and-lesbian

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PACKAGES

#1 BRAZIL

Rio de Janiero Carnival

WHERE TO STAY: Four-star Golden Tulip Regente Hotel

INCLUSIONS: Four nights accommodation in a standard room. Daily breakfast and private return airport transfers.

PLUS: One ticket to Rio’s Carnival parade sitting in the grandstand at the Sambodrome, including transfers (SIB)

TRAVEL DATES: February 5-9, 2016

PRICE: $1659 per person

DEAL NUMBER: 3867367

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#2 ARGENTINA

Buenos Aires

WHERE TO STAY: Hotel Moreno

INCLUSIONS: Three nights accommodation, with daily breakfast and private airport/hotel transfers.

PLUS: Private half-day city tour with Recoleta Cemetery, and a one-way economy airfare to Mendoza

Mendoza

WHERE TO STAY: Posada Salentein and American Executive Hotel

INCLUSIONS: Two nights in a superior room at the Posada, and one night in a deluxe room at the American Executive Hotel. Also includes three breakfasts and two dinners, and a transfer to the airport.

PLUS: An afternoon tour of Mendoza

TRAVEL DATES: October 15 – December 24, 2015. Dates for 2016 available upon request

PRICE: $2517 per person

DEAL NUMBER: 3867366

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#3 PERU

Machu Picchu/Inca Trail trek

PACKAGE INCLUDES: Three nights accommodation in two-person tents, with camping equipment, oxygen bottle, sleeping bag, chef and assistant. Porters to carry personal luggage.

PLUS: A licensed English-speaking guide per nine visitors, an Inca Trail Permit, transport from Cusco to the start of the trail, a one-way Vistadome train ticket from Machu Picchu Pueblo to Poroy, and transfer from Poroy to Cusco.

TRAVEL DATES: Ocober 15 – December 31, 2015. Dates for 2016 available upon request

PRICE: $2199 per person

DEAL NUMBER: 3864876

BOOKINGS: Call Flight Centre on 131 600 and quote the deal numbers on one of these packages

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