A look inside Queer Ranch Festival, a haven of LGBTQ+ utopia on the island of Lesbos

If you’re looking for a place where you can relax, dance all night and celebrate your identity, the Queer Ranch Festival in Lesbos is the place to be.

Photo of Lesbos, the island where the Queer Ranch Festival takes place, showing the sea in the background and nature.
Image: Val Hourigan

Val Hourigan recently returned from the Queer Ranch Festival in Lesbos, which was a life-affirming experience of vibrant present-day LGBTQ+ community, celebrating love, inclusivity, and the enduring legacy of queer identity. In the hopes that others may feel the pull to visit the festival and share in the community that exists there, Val shared their experience with us.‌

As a lesbian, there’s something profoundly moving about setting foot on Lesbos, an island steeped in a rich history of queer love and expression. This island, the birthplace of the legendary poet Sappho, vibrates with centuries-old homoerotic energy. It is not just the palpable history that creates this but also the vibrant present; like the she, gays, and theys laying it bare on the village’s nudist beach. For the past three years, at the start of summer, the Queer Ranch Festival has taken over Skala Eressos, a tiny village on the island, creating the closest thing I have experienced to an LGBTQ+ utopia.

This year, I had the privilege to experience it firsthand. The collective behind the festival, Ohana Lesbos, is a passionate and committed group of people with a focus on creating and nurturing safe spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals in Lesbos. Their approach is rooted in a blend of queer, political, spiritual, intersectional, and feminist values. They place a strong emphasis on building trust-based relationships with the local community while upholding and respecting Greek culture. They live as a community composed of lesbians, trans individuals, and non-binary folks residing at Ohana Ranch on the island.‌

“Sweet mother, I cannot weave – slender Aphrodite has overcome me with longing for a girl.”

From splashing in the Aegean to clambering up the island’s rugged hills at sunrise, I felt a profound connection to Sappho, who penned her sultry verses here around 600 BCE. Her poetry, brimming with expressions of love for other women, has echoed through the millennia, making her a timeless symbol of lesbian desire. Standing on the very soil that inspired Sappho, surrounded by queer people, is an exhilarating experience. It’s no surprise that Ohana has chosen this unique place for their festival that so gloriously celebrates queer identity and love.

The Queer Ranch Festival run by lesbians is not just an event; it’s a celebration of who we are. The festival encompasses five days of internationally renowned electronic music DJs, eclectic live music, stimulating workshops, beach parties, wild swimming, ranch life and much more. From the moment I arrived, I was enveloped in a community that felt like home. The festival is proudly trans and non-binary inclusive, ensuring that all members of the LGBTQ+ spectrum feel welcomed and represented.

Accommodation for the festival is inclusive, including the free option of camping on the beach, renting apartments or houses or staying at a range of hotels. The diverse activities, from workshops and discussions on LGBTQ+ issues to beach parties and art installations, are thoughtfully designed to cater to a wide range of identities and experiences. A particular favourite was a queer utopia writing workshop where I got to share my utopic ideas and laugh with people from Switzerland, Germany, Greece, and many other countries. We shared space, wrote together, and built our ideal queer city through a map of post-it notes. Our dream city, of course, had an unnecessary amount of saunas!


‌“Someone will remember us, I say, even in another time.”

‌The sense of community and connection flowed in the early summer air, and it was clear that we were all united by more than just our sexual orientation or gender identity; we were bound by our shared humanity and desire for a more inclusive world. The local people of Skala Eressos were incredibly welcoming. Their warmth and hospitality created an atmosphere of safety and calm. The festival not only boosts tourism at the start of the season but also fosters a spirit of acceptance that benefits everyone.

I stayed in an apartment with my wonderful girlfriend, and our gorgeous landlady, Nikki, was full of beautiful conversation and sent us home with fig syrups, olive oil, and the promise of a Christmas card. In a world where LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance can vary significantly, the importance of safe and inclusive gatherings like the Queer Ranch Festival cannot be overstated.

This festival is a vital space for queer individuals to connect, share experiences, and support one another. It is a reminder that despite the challenges we face globally, there are places where love and acceptance flourish. Being surrounded by like-minded people, forming lasting friendships, and building networks of support was an invaluable part of my experience. These connections extend beyond the festival itself, offering a sense of belonging and solidarity that many of us long for in our everyday lives.

Holidaying in a place that feels safe is nothing short of magical. For many LGBTQ+ individuals, travelling can be fraught with concerns about safety and acceptance. Lesbos, during the festival, transformed into a haven where we could relax, be ourselves, and enjoy the island’s beauty without fear of discrimination. The Queer Ranch Festival in Lesbos is more than just a festival; it’s a celebration of love, diversity, and community.

‌For me, the festival was not just a holiday but a transformative journey. It was a reminder of the power of coming together, celebrating our differences, and finding strength in our shared humanity. Whether you’re drawn by the island’s historical significance, its stunning landscapes, or the promise of a vibrant and inclusive community, the Queer Ranch Festival offers an unparalleled experience. It’s a testament to the enduring legacy of Sappho and the timeless power of love. So, if you’re looking for a place where you can bask in the sun, dance all night, and celebrate all things queer with an open heart and mind, Lesbos during the Queer Ranch Festival is the place to be.

“You came and I was crazy for you And you cooled my mind that burned with longing.”

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