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7 winter destinations in LGBTQ-friendly countries

Traveling this winter? Here are the most LGBTQ-friendly countries fit for travel during the winter months.
Image: New Zealand Pride Parade 2018
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walks in the Pride Parade on Feb. 17, 2018, in Auckland, New Zealand.Fiona Goodall / Getty Images file

As you're planning your winter travel and scrolling through options, you might want to check on the LGBTQ-friendliness of any given country you're considering.

As NBC Out reported last month, the Williams Institute published its latest Global Acceptance Index (GAI) last month. Crunching survey data from 174 countries, the UCLA School of Law think tank's researchers scored countries based on public beliefs and policies regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. They published those findings, along with the latest GAI, in their November report.

Of the 174 countries analyzed:

  • 131 experienced increases in acceptance since 1981
  • 16 experienced a decline
  • and 27 had no change in attitude

While some of the top countries on the list are more than fine to visit during winter — like list-topper Iceland, which is on Oprah Magazine's list of best winter destinations — we compiled both countries that scored highest in the GAI and those who scored high and boast warm temperatures during the American winter.

Most LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world

The three top ranked countries from the GAI are going to be cold in the winter. However, as you'll see below, that's not necessarily bad.

If you're planning to travel to any of the countries below (or anywhere else), be sure to visit sites like CheapOair, TripAdvisor, Expedia and so on to compare prices of hotels, flights, and more.

1. Iceland

Iceland took the leading GAI score in 2013, when previous top scorer the Netherlands was demoted to second place. On top of progressive values, Iceland offers up rare sights like this dragon-shaped aurora borealis. And traveling there during the winter could be great — it's one of Oprah Magazine's best winter trips to take — what with steamy outdoor spas, geothermal pools and the sights of the Northern Lights.

2. The Netherlands

The Netherlands dominated the LGBT GAI rankings when the GAI rankings first came out in 2003 and in the following round in 2008. By 2013, it fell to second place but has seen its GAI steadily rise in each iteration. And it can also boast a healthy haven for children, according to a 2017 UNICEF study about children's well-being. Need more? The winter Amsterdam Light Festival spans the city's canals for some likely breathtaking moments.

3. Norway

Norway gained several spots up the GAI ladder this year, having been ranked sixth in 2013 and seventh in 2008. Its jump has it superseding Spain, Canada and Sweden since the last ranking—all of which are still in the top 10 countries in the list. The country was deemed the "world's best democracy" in 2017 according to London-based consultancy Economist Intelligence Unit. It also made the list of Europe's winter getaways — for Europeans, but still— that The Guardian put together.

Best LGBTQ-friendly countries for warm weather getaways

4. Uruguay

While Uruguay's rank on the GAI dropped from fourth place in 2008 to 14th place in the latest round, its GAI score has actually increased from 6.6 to 7.6. How's that possible? There are just many more countries with even higher scores nowadays.

Still, at 14th place, Uruguay makes for the first country on list with commonly warm weather during the winter months (the US falls into that bucket and more on its options below). Find some solace in beach resort towns like Punta del Este or Punta del Diablo. Or glimpse into history at museums like the Taller de Casapueblo in Punta Ballena.

5. New Zealand

Like other countries in the GAI, New Zealand's GAI score rose from 5.9 to 7.5 since 2003 but its overall rank stayed the same: 15th place and your second warm-during-winter option.

You don't have to be a fan of the Lord of the Rings films to find yourself awestruck by some of the country's landscapes. New Zealand Geographic Editor Rebekah White shared her favorite places to check out in Sandringham, a suburb of Auckland, N.Z — like Potters Park in Mount Eden.

"During World War II, Potters Park was a garden whose produce sales raised funds for servicemen and their families. Today, it has a children’s playground and a huge piece of public art, a sculpture of a walking boy reminiscent of Waldo," White wrote. "The century-old green space is a regular stop on heritage tours for its view down Dominion Road of Auckland old and new."

6. Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico — which has a different GAI score than the US despite being an American territory — has seen its GAI score steadily climb in the last several rounds from 5.9 to the latest 7.4 and appears in Oprah Magazine’s list of the best trips to take during winter.

While Puerto Rico has been muddled with several years’ worth of turmoil, including bankruptcy and Hurricane Maria — investments in tourism are beginning to grow, according to Curbed, and especially in west coast cities like Rincon, Isabela, and Aguadilla. On top of that, Airbnb reported an exponential growth in booking there “travelers looking to help communities bounce back,” according to Newsweek.

San Juan has seen a nearly 400 percent increase in Airbnb bookings from last year,” Newsweek reported. “And reservations in Carolina, home to gorgeous Isla Verde Beach, have rocketed more than 640 percent.”

7. Hawaii

The US is steady at 21st (yes, 21st) on the list but made it way up from being ranked 29th in 2003. Still, it's also seen its GAI score only increase in the years since.

There are several American destinations ripe for winter travel — think South Florida's Wilton Manors or the New Orleans — so we're going with the only one that's in the Pacific Ocean and the only comprised entirely of islands. Winter is "whale-watching season," according to Oprah Magazine, which lists Hawaii as ones of it winter travel bests, too.

"While you’re on Maui, road trip to Haleakalā National Park for views of nesting seabirds, or take a hike through a dramatic, volcanic landscape.

Planning to travel this winter?