The world is full of wonders, some easier found than others. Sometimes you just need the assistance of a friendly guide to take you in the right direction. Holiday Houseboys provides just that by hooking you up with an in-the-know local to navigate around the tourist traps and take you to all the best attractions off the beaten track. Finding these secret spots is the trick to living those valuable experiences we all seek when globe trotting. In collaboration with Holiday Houseboys, here are seven of our favorite hidden jewels. All found in – or close to – the seven most LGBTQ+ friendly cities of their respective countries.

El Capricho – Madrid, Spain

Madrid is one of the most LGBTQ+ welcoming cities in not just Europe, but the entire world. It is also famous for grandiose parks – the most notable being the iconic and highly instagramable, El Retiro. However, another less appreciated beauty sits tucked away on the city's edge. El Capricho, meaning “the folly”, was created by a Spanish Duchess and seems like it has been pulled straight from an 18th century romance novel. It's a veritable wonderland of English continental gardens with Spain's first iron bridge spanning a gorgeous swan filled lake, a temple to Bacchus – the Greek god of wine, a ducal palace and – best of all – a hedge maze. And who doesn't love a hedge maze! View Tour

Dolukanda Mountain- Negombo, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka may not be the most advanced country with regards to gay rights, however the friendly resort town of Negombo is the perfect base for the LGBTQ+ traveller, being home to several gay hotels and bars. Traveling up to Colombo, and a short bus trip, can take you to the Dolukanda mountain range. Within it stands one the most popular Ramayana sites, the towering Dolukanda Sanjeevani mountain. It's a bit of a trek up the mountain so you´ll need a guide and lots of water, but the jaw-dropping views of the forested Sri Lanka landscape make it well-worth the effort. If you brave a night in a cave, it’s also an unrivalled place to watch the sun rise and set. View Tour

Photo by Shaani Sewwandi

Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall – Denpasar, Bali

Hidden within the exotic jungles of northern Bali lies this stunning waterfall. It's a sight not to be missed: showering down over leafy rocks, glistening majestically in the sunlight and separating out into a myriad of cascades. You can even swim in a pool at its base. What's more, there are four almost equally beautiful waterfalls nearby. Bali in general is very gay friendly and so an expedition to the waterfalls in best launched from its lively capital city, Denpasar, just two hours away by car. View Tour

Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park- Mexico City, México

Mexico City is vast and it’s easy to lose yourself there – both literally and figuratively. As such, less tourists take the time to look beyond the city for potentially great things to see. The Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park is the place to go for a day trip, encompassing a humongous cave system as its principal wonder. There are an impressive twenty stalagmite filled caverns to explore and the caves are “live” – meaning there are always new formations growing. Beyond this, the park also holds two subterranean rivers, a pool and botanical garden. View Tour

Lake Guatavita – Bogota, Colombia

Colombia´s capital, Bogota, needs little introduction and has a vibrant gay scene on offer. However, if you wish to take a break from the city and see something literally off the beaten track, then head out to Lake Guatavita – just 50km Northeast of Bogota. This sacred lake rests within a crater at the center of a forest with walking paths encircling it to preserve it from the ravages of tourism. It’s the source of the ´El Dorado´ legend and its base is said to be lined with gold from the offerings of the indigenous Muisca peoples. I wouldn't dive in to find out though! View Tour

Buu Long Pagoda – Saigon, Vietnam

Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam – where most LGBTQ+ Vietnamese live – and a treasure trove of secret locations. You don't even have to leave the city itself to find sights the uninformed couldn´t. Buu Long Pagoda is one such place and has been voted one of the twenty most beautiful pagodas in the world. It's easy to see why with its shining gold and white exterior, carved Buddhist motifs and imposing dragon statues. The Pagoda is a welcome respite from the busy city – often used for mediation by the locals – and it can be found in a tranquil location on the outskirts of the city. View Tour

Mount Phousi (Secret Trail) – Luang Prabang, Laos

Laos may not be a thriving LGBTQ+ hotspot but Laotians are tolerant, friendly people, and the country is a land of beauty not to be overlooked. In fact, Laos itself could be considered an underrated wonder of the world. Luang Prabang, in north central Laos, is a city rich in culture and full of numerous buddhist temples and monasteries – not to mention every morning monks can be seen walking the street collecting alms. Mount Phousi is a popular attraction there with stunning views over the city, but what is less known is the back route up the mountain. This trail is often only used by monks and is lined with golden buddha statues and temples for the adventurous to enjoy away from the tourist crowds.  Be sure to reach the top in time to enjoy the sunset over the city and surrounding rivers! View Tour

Photo by Wichian Wichitsak

Holiday Houseboys is a travel company and guide service created with gay men in mind. Their tours offer friendly local guides to help navigate you around the tourist traps and maximize your holiday. They provide the invaluable experience of having a local who speaks the language and really knows what is what. Holiday Houseboys operate in over 110 countries around the world – including the seven mentioned in this article. They provide the key to a unique and memorable experience, wherever your adventures take you. In addition to providing guided tours, they also offer scheduled departure gay group tours to several destinations including Bali, Colombia, Egypt, Laos, Mexico, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Vietnam. View Guided Tours

This article was sponsored by Holiday Houseboys