By Andy Stark
Don’t get me wrong, I love bear runs and I’ve been attending them for over fifteen years. Maybe I’m getting older, or the novelty has worn off, or I’ve developed a post-pandemic phobia of crowds, which I Google’d and it’s called Enochlophobia. Werk. But long weekends getting toasty in a beef-drenched pool surrounded by hairy heartthrobs, furry bellies and runway-quality sunglasses are beginning to seem, dare I say, monotonous.
Luckily, my newfound proximity to gay travel has opened this bear’s eyes to trips I never knew existed, and as I’ve gotten to know the ins-and-outs of these adventures, several have struck me as oso appealing. If you’re eager to discover something new with a more diverse crew, here are a few bear-friendly LGBTQ+ group tours to consider.
The Land Of Fire And Ice sits atop many bears’ lists of most desirable destinations. It’s never too hot, the scenery is distinct, people are beyond welcoming, and the food is *chef’s kiss.* Plus, there’s literally a rainbow running through the center of downtown Reykjavik.
After landing, we’ll get settled at the Alda Hotel, located mere steps from everything to see and do in town. Rainbow street and Kiki Queer Bar are right around the corner, as well as plenty of shops and eateries.
As for excursions and activities, we’ll be transported by a super-comfy tour van. Our gay guide will lead the way as we’re chauffeured out to see The Golden Circle, The Great Geysir, Gulfoss waterfall, and more incredible Icelandic wonders. We’ll also join a glacier trek where we’ll work off that hearty breakfast by exploring an ice cave. You may also opt-out of the trek if you’d rather have some free time.
Of course no trip to Iceland is complete without a pool party at the famous Blue Lagoon. This geothermally-heated natural pool is open year round. Bathers frequently will apply a white silica mud from the bottom of the lagoon as a facial. It has a rejuvenating effect and will keep your face warm while you float in serenity.
With its easy accessibility from North America and year-round warmth, Costa Rica is one of the most bear-friendly escapes you may have never considered. Our Eco-Adventure departs in late-March, when temperatures are moderate and (ahem) bear-able.
We’ll begin in fabulous San José at the Gran Hotel. It’s smack dab in the middle of downtown and walking distance from everything. With plenty of gay bars and attractions to choose from (Gold Museum, anyone?), you’ll certainly fall in love with the city, but the real adventure begins when we’re whisked away to Costa Rica’s famed Arenal Volcano. We’ll spend two days at Arenal Springs Resort which features a to-die-for pool, hot springs, and plenty of room to lounge around and check the apps.
The next two days will be spent at our sustainable (and all-inclusive) forest bungalows at Rio Perdido in Bagaces, where we’ll enjoy a zip-lining experience through the jungle. You can also soak up some rays by the pool, check-in to the spa, or simply explore the jungle surrounding the resort.
Finally, we end up at Tamarindo Beach, a gem situated on the Pacific coast, where we’ll hop aboard a catamaran for a day cruise. With the wind in our sails, we’ll likely see pods of dolphins, sea turtles, flying fish, and maybe even breaching whales. Halfway through, we’ll drop anchor and practice our cannonballs in the azure blue ocean. Later in the evening, we’ll enjoy tropical sunset cocktails and a beachside BBQ dinner.
If a Costa Rican Eco-Adventure sounds like your kind of jam, check out the full itinerary here.
While this tour is officially an extension of our Egypt Nile River Cruise, it’s perpetually popular and many guests enjoy it as a standalone adventure. While Jordan can be hot, our tours run in March and November, when temperatures are within reason.
After we land in Amman, we’ll take a private transfer to the Dead Sea Marriott. Once we’re settled, it’s time for a salubrious float and an exfoliating mud bath, which is said to have numerous healing properties! Ask nicely and a guide might just apply the mud like sunscreen.
From there we’ll check in to Memories Aicha Luxury Camp. Think 5-star glamping with air-conditioning and hotel amenities. We recommend upgrading to the Panoramic Tent which comes with a crazy view of the starry night sky from the comfort of your bed.
To fully explore the Mars-like landscape, we’ll hop in some sweet pickup trucks for a thrilling ride that follows in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia.
For the finale of our trip, we’ll be Indiana Jonesing it through the many caves, tombs, monuments and ancient sacrificial sites that make up the Rose City, ending at the world-famous Petra. Full disclosure: there will be some walking involved, however once we’re inside the canyons and out of the sun, temperatures generally stay cool.
We’ll end our day and the trip with an authentic dinner and music under a Bedouin tent to truly connect with Jordanian culture.
New Zealand: North Island Cultural Adventure
The toughest thing about New Zealand is the (likely lengthy) flight, but once we’ve arrived it’s a breeze. We begin in Auckland, a wonderful city situated on an isthmus, with plenty to see and more to eat. Once we’ve got our bearings, our guide will wrangle the transfer and it’s off to hang with the hobbits in Hobbiton! We’ll have ample time to wander around this famous movie set, snap photos, visit hobbit houses, and pretend we’re a part of a fantasy world, all before second-breakfast.
From there, we’ll stop at Kohutapu Lodge in Murupara – a Māori village – to learn about Māori culture and sample traditional cuisine. Fuel up, because after this we’re off to nearby Lake Taupō, famous for its hot springs and scenic waterfront. While there are many thrilling activities to take part in here, like bungee jumping, the optional Huka Falls jet boat tour is by far the best way to wet your beard.
After another private transfer, we’ll find ourselves on the northern tip of New Zealand at the scenic Bay Of Islands. Here, we’ll partake in a guided Waipoua Forest hike (don’t worry, it’s not strenuous) where we’ll witness 2,000-year-old trees, some of which are quite girthy. And if that doesn’t satisfy the size queens among us, we’ll wander through twinkling canopies on a mystical journey through a Māori sacred forest.
We’ve saved the best for last, as our Croatia Gay Dalmatia Cruise is hands down the most bear-friendly trip we run. It’s also one of our most popular cruises so we recommend booking as early as you can.
After we land in Split, we’ll bond with our fellow shipmates over local fare at an included dinner. Disco nap if you need to, but this is the night to go out. Academia Club Ghetto and X Club are the places to be.
Muster up because we’re off to board our private luxury yacht, the Rhapsody, for a 7-day cruise along the historic Dalmatia coast. This ship has everything – spacious cabins, (some) private balconies, multiple bars and lounges, a glorious sun deck – plus, our very own chefs.
The immaculate itinerary has us island-hopping to charming ports unreachable by larger cruise ships, like Bol, Hvar, Vis, Korčula, and Trstenik. Our yacht pulls right into these ports, docking with ease and allowing us to hop on and off at will over the course of the day. Some days, we’ll even hit multiple ports in one day.
But prepare for the most epic finale, because we end the cruise in Dubrovnik.
These days, most bears know Dubrovnik as King’s Landing from Game Of Thrones. If only your 2019 GoT viewing party could see you now, sailing in like Daenerys Targaryen with the wind in your chest hair. There is no shame, shame, shame in it.
After a guided walking tour and cable-car ride up to the mountain overlook, we’ll settle in for an included gourmet dinner – a feast for kings (and queens).
If Croatia is a must-see, check out our Croatia Gay Dalmatia Cruise for a look at the full itinerary. This one always sells out far in advance, so don’t be dragon, ‘cuz the cabins will be gone faster than Robert Baratheon in season one!
Bear with me here…
If you made it this far and you’re still wondering what a bear run is, I can tell you it doesn’t involve running. However, bears do tend to move with haste when we’re thirsty. Or when there’s a sale on flannel shirts.
Like me, most of my bear friends enjoy the bear run scene. Many of them are simply unaware there’s an alternative form of gay travel, and while I’m certainly not advocating for my friends to forego bear runs, I do believe there’s merit in exploring the world, meeting unique people with interesting perspectives, indulging in authentic local cuisine, and gaining a diverse array of friends along the way.
And don’t worry, the bear runs will still be there when you get back 🙂
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