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Written and photographed by Mark Chesnut

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As I’ve already realized while savoring locally caught seafood, fine dining is big business in Florianopolis, and many of the places are gay-friendly. Bistrô Isadora Duncan, in fact, is gay-owned. This beautiful restaurant is bathed in candlelight at night and serves gourmet Brazilian and international cuisine. The restaurant recently opened a single suite on the second floor. If you can snag a reservation to stay here, you’ll enjoy a Jacuzzi with beautiful sea views.

Florianopolis may be attracting more gay travelers year-round, but there are two annual events that result in a major surge of queer vacationers: Carnaval, the annual pre-Lenten celebration, and Semana da Diversidade (Diversity Week), the local pride festival.

Carnaval includes the Pop Gay competition, a beauty contest for drag queens and transgender people. On Carnaval Saturday, the samba schools parade includes many local gay revelers. Happening throughout the week are a variety of parties, drawing DJs and partygoers from throughout Brazil and abroad. The Week, one of the top gay nightclubs in both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, organizes an annual gay Carnaval party event, transforming the gay-friendly Praia Mole Eco Village Resort and Spa into something like a big outdoor gay club—all just steps from the gay beach.

“Before I came to Florianopolis, my expectations were quite high,” says Dane Steele, president of Steele Luxury Travel, a gay tour operator based in New York City that offers packages to Brazil. “From traveling to Rio many times and operating trips both for Carnaval and New Year’s, I heard quite a buzz about Floripa. All of my new Brazilian friends were escaping from the overpopulated celebration times to head over to Floripa, a place where the beautiful and wealthy flock for their vacation time.” Steele is so impressed with the destination, in fact, that he’s introducing new gay Carnaval packages here.

“Florianopolis has always been a favorite destination for gays from Brazil and South America, especially during summer,” says Marta Dalla Chiesa, owner of Brazil Ecojourneys, a gay-owned, straight-friendly tour operator based in Florianopolis. “But I think it has potential to attract tourists from other regions as well, because it has a lot to offer. Some people compare it to Rio 20 years ago; it has a lot of natural beauty, it is laid-back and safe, and has always been a magnet for alternative lifestyles, so gays and lesbians feel comfortable here.”

The Semana da Diversidade, meanwhile, has continued to grow since its debut in 2005. This weeklong local pride festival includes a parade, outdoor festivities, and the Diversity Games, an LGBT sporting event. The dates for gay pride week (which takes place this year in September) change every year; check for more information and details.

An increasing number of gay-owned and gay-friendly tour operators are offering packages in Florianopolis. Locally based, lesbian-owned Brazil Ecojourneys offers a four-day package that includes lodging at Praia Mole, the gay beach, as well as gay New Year’s holiday celebration packages and a five- to seven-night gay Carnaval package that offers a choice of accommodations downtown or on Praia Mole.

Zoom Vacations, which has provided independent gay trips to Florianopolis for several years, is offering a gay group excursion for Carnaval from February 12–17, 2010. Zoom promises a “multi-sensory trip” that combines culture, relaxation, parties, and accommodations in a private villa.

New York City-based Steele Luxury Travel is offering a package to Florianopolis during Carnaval, with lodging in a private five-bedroom villa, next door to the Praia Mole Ecovillage, ground zero for some of Carnaval’s best gay parties. The eight-day trip will include the services of a private chef, a cleaning staff, and a lifestyle concierge that will help guests with VIP access to all of the events held at The Week, where participants will have their own VIP section and two pool parties.

The bomb attack that left 21 people injured during São Paulo’s massive gay pride parade this year, as well as ongoing crime and safety issues in both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, has made some travelers wary about heading to South America’s largest country. Some gay tourism experts say the São Paulo attack is no reason to cancel your next Brazilian vacation. “I believe that this incident was absolutely an isolated incident,” says Ylan Chrem, IGLTA regional ambassador for Latin America. “Brazil is one of the most open gay destinations in the world, and the government supports us and includes us in their travel and tourism marketing plans.”

According to the US State Department, “Street crime in Brazil remains a problem for visitors and local residents alike, especially in the evenings and late at night. Foreign tourists are often targets of crime and Americans are not exempt. This targeting occurs in all tourist areas but is especially problematic in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Recife.”

Indeed, a destination like Florianpolis, which is a fraction of the size of São Paulo or Rio, could be a safer alternative. “In terms of general safety, logically, a smaller city like Florianopolis is considered much safer,” says Marta Dalla Chiesa. “This is, in fact, one of the reasons that it’s attracting many foreign visitors to our city.”

To stay safe during any visit, Dalla Chiesa recommends common-sense tips that apply just about anywhere, including not walking alone late at night, especially in isolated parts of downtown. “Be street-wise, as you would be in any other big city,” she recommends. “Ask locals for tips on where to go and how to get there. At bars and clubs, avoid accepting drinks from strangers, and be careful who you take back to your hotel.”

Dalla Chiesa says safety has never been a major concern during Florianopolis’ biggest gay events. “We have two large events that [attract] the LGBT community: the Pop Gay Festival during Carnaval and our pride parade, both with around 40,000 to 50,000 people, and we’ve never had homophobic-related incidents reported.”

“Above all,” she says, “don’t let the news stop you from coming to Brazil. We are really a very welcoming people. Official polls even show that the friendliness of Brazilians is normally the number-one reason that tourists give for wanting to come back to our country.”

[Published: November, 2009]

Facebook Twitter Bookmark Florianopolis Brazil at Google Bookmarks Digg Florianopolis Brazil Mixx Florianopolis Brazil Bookmark Florianopolis Brazil at YahooMyWeb Bookmark using any bookmark manager! Print this article! E-mail this story to a friend!

Thank's for an excellent review. I will go to Floripa over the following holidays and I'm sure this will be very useful. And, I totally agree with Tom, that photo is amazing :-)
- Per Nilsson , Stockholm, Sweden

Mark Chestnut is a brilliant travel writer, but photographer as well. The photo of the most beautiful young man I have ever seen.! Just a casual photo of a local guy working at an oyster farm. Page 39, Nov.2009. I can't stop staring at it.!
- Tom Oswalt , Knoxville, Tennessee USA

The new Constitution does not set age limits: it determines that education is compulsory, aiming at providing the necessary structure to the development of the students potential as an element of selffulfillment, training for work, and conscious exercise
- jimmy , mumbai maharashtra, india

I agree with you, Floripa is the next jet set hot spot. I went there last year and now let me add two more beaches: Joaquina with its large dunes where you can do sandboarding and Santinho with prehistoric painted stones.
- Mario Bayle , Rivera, Uruguay

Congratulations on the matter. Excente Florianópolis is a city for the gay community.
- Julio Fantin (Portal G) , Brazil, SC

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