7. The Golden Triangle of Thailand
The Eco-Adventure: The Golden Triangle of northern Thailand is a lush teak-tree region where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge. Travelers here visit lavishly dressed hill tribes with their distinct elongated neck pieces, see ornate shrines to Buddha, cruise the rivers in long boats, bask in hot springs, and soak up the natural southeast Asian environment far away from the metropolitan rush of Bangkok.
Do It Gaily: Gay tour operator Zoom Vacations (866-966-6822) not only delves deeply into the cultures and ecological wonders of the Golden Triangle, they also take you to see Burmese temples across the border in Myanmar, and the friendly, earthy villages across the border in Laos. If you fall in love with the area and want to linger longer, check into PJ?s Place (+66-5340-4894) a gay-owned luxury property near Chiang Mai.
8. The Black Hills of South Dakota
The Eco-Adventure: The Black Hills of South Dakota are much more than the home of the impressive profiles of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt chiseled into Mount Rushmore. The area includes rock spires jutting out of thickly forested mountains, and the hills are also home to Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, and Custer State Park. The latter is 73,000 acres and home to one of the largest bison herds in the world (1,500), not to mention pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and a band of friendly burros that often come right up to your car. A must for outdoor types is a hike up to the 7,242-foot Harney Peak, a sacred mountain for the Sioux, with incredible 360-degree views of the Black Hills from a stone watchtower on its summit.
Do It Gaily: There isn?t much gay in this part of the world except a couple of down-home queer bars in nearby Rapid City, but you can check into the lesbian-owned Rustlin Pines B&B (605-255-4681), a log cabin at the base of the Black Hills with a hot tub, fireplace, and king-sized log bed.
9. The Loire Valley of France
The Eco-Adventure: The winding Loire Valley cuts through France?s heart in a deep green swath, sprinkled liberally with castles and vineyards. Some of Europe?s most opulent ch?teaux are tucked within the natural beauty of the region, which overflows with rolling hills and medieval, Renaissance, and Gothic architecture. There?s even Chateau d?Usse, the castle that inspired the book Sleeping Beauty.
Do It Gaily: The best way to get up close and personal to the lush region is via a bike tour. Alyson Adventures (800-825-9766) runs a five-day all-LGBT trip that includes peddling along pastoral roads to tiny hamlets where townsfolk live in hobbit-style caves, enormous chateaux with meticulous gardens, and little-known historical outpost villages. If you want to soak in the region longer, check into the gay-owned La Grande Maison D?Arthenay (+33-2-4140-3506) surrounded by vineyards, or the lesbian-owned Le Chateau des Ormeaux (+33-2-4723-2651), a virtual castle unto itself.
10. The Napa Valley of Northern California
The Eco-Adventure: Hundreds of wineries are nestled in the sunbaked, oak-filled, golden Napa Valley (a couple hours? drive north of San Francisco), a region that includes bubbling mud hot spring spas and forested state parks. Gay life is centered on the nearby redwood-shaded village of Guerneville, in a resort area better known as the Russian River.
Do It Gaily: Gay Napa Getaways (707-927-5115) is a local tour and concierge service that helps you live out your wine region fantasies with creative and exclusive excursions like lunch on a 300-acre horse ranch, an elegant dinner in a wine cave, and special tours of winery owners? private estates. Added bonus: They can coordinate legal same-sex marriages in gorgeous outdoor settings. You can also check into gay-owned Napa lodges like the Chateau de Vie (877-558-2513) on two acres of vineyards with a 40-foot heated lap pool and hot tub, or the Meadowlark Country House (800-942-5651), on 20 gently sloping acres with a mineral pool, covered bridge, red barn, and grassy fields for picnics.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four