Should you be foolish enough to pick an argument with an acquaintance at a cocktail party about the birth time and place of European naturism, you’re likely to find three viable contenders in the final round for this illustrious title; Germany, France, and… CROATIA! The last of which, by the way, owes much of its naturist reputation to its proximity to Germany, but I’ll get to that in a while.
Regulars on my blog are already well acquainted with my infatuation with French naturism, and the various resorts that have come to define our own personal sense of family naturist nirvana. But as I kept digging deeper into the adverts and propaganda directed at those suffering from chronic-sun-addiction-disorder, names like Koversada and Valalta kept resurfacing in naturist guides and pre-Google-era web searches! Strangely enough, I had a vague awareness of this eastern European phenomena, as my first trip to Europe was in 1985 when I was in college; a trip that included a wide swing through (what was then) Yugoslavia, which generated a fair number of wise-cracks on the bus, “Hey, we should go to the beach and see the naked Germans!”
At twenty-two years of age, I had not yet ‘come out’ as a naturist, but at the time, I thought the whole thing sounded pretty intriguing. Given our two-day stopover in Zagreb, I hadn’t the vaguest idea as to where we were in relation to the nearest naturist beach or nudist resort. Turns out that beach would have been at least four hours away, on the Istrian peninsula on the Adriatic Sea.
Before I continue, I should proclaim that with this post, I am making a decisive departure from the documentary style of our Naturist Odyssey across Europe that I had intended to post – blow-by-blow – last summer as we actually forged our way some 10,000 kilometers from Spain to Greece. (You can read about that here.) My journalistic ambitions were thwarted by poor Internet connections and a limited skill-set in navigating the blogosphere, so I finally gave up. That’s a particularly important point, as I have decided to use this post to encapsulate five different visits to naturist Croatia over a period of the last ten years, amalgamating trip reports from 2005, 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013. The consequence is a series dated photos and details that may well be lacking in the realm of immediacy and accuracy, but my desire here is to capture the prevailing sense and atmosphere of naturism in Croatia.
That said, during the 2013 Naturist Odyssey, we made an early departure from Origan Village (in the foothills above Nice) with the objective of blasting straight across the admittedly prudish region of northern Italy (more about that in a future post) to reach naked Croatia by nightfall at the end of the day. Remarkably, our mission was accomplished, despite an aggravating, bumper-to-bumper, final approach down the narrow highway that leads to Istria, where 90% of Croatian naturist activity takes place. This particular time, our destination was the naturist apartment complex at Koversada; a sprawling property self-proclaimed as the largest naturist resort in all of Europe!
This would be our second visit to Koversada, our fourth visit to Istria, and in all, our fifth visit to Croatia. At the risk of being redundant and/or patronizing, it is worth reiterating the fact that Croatia is a part of former Yugoslavia, which was a ‘nation’ created in the wake of WWII, held together for nearly four decades with bailing wire, a charismatic dictator, and a good deal of imagination when it came to creating reasonably attractive seaside resorts with little in the way of external (or internal) capital investment. As one might imagine, the result of all this can be found in hotels and seaside apartment complexes that are… almost… luxurious! Things have improved, significantly, since our first visit in 2005, but suffice it to say, if you’re accustomed to traveling in Western Europe, once in Croatia, you will know that you’re in Eastern Europe.
Our first venture in 2005 included a mid-June visit to Valalta, near the Lim Fjord on the Istrian Penninsula, where you can see Koversada on the facing shore. I have recounted elsewhere in these pages the deep affections my children held for a place called La Jenny in the southwest of France, but to put it bluntly, the weather on the Cote d’Argent (southwest France) can be unpredictable at best. Seasoned travelers in the know suggested that we would have a better chance at winning the New York lottery than experiencing a rainy day on the Adriatic, so we took the bait, and as it happened, had a week of postcard-perfect weather in this Croatian naturist resort during the summer of 2005.
By this time, our kids were in their late teens, and I have vivid recollections of our youngest daughter trying to recreate the French naturist experience at the dance party near the Valalta pool. “A+ for effort,” but it simply wasn’t the same. Of course not, we were 1000 kilometers, and a million miles away from France. Sadly, that was the last time our entire family embarked on a naturist adventure to Europe. It wasn’t bad – it just wasn’t French!
But wait! Before you dismiss Croatia as a viable family naturist destination, I need to mention the calm, warm-water inlets, the deep blue skies, and the local eateries with lamb or roast pig on the spit; or the fact that especially in the northern region, almost any beach is a naturist beach! While traditionally Catholic Croatians aren’t so keen on naked sunbathing, they are quick to realize the value of the tourist revenue to be had from the good (naked) people of nearby Italy and Germany.
That, along with the weather, was enough to inspire us to venture back to Croatia four more times, with a penchant for more adventurous explorations to the islands of Rab and Hvar, the historical cities of Dubrovnik and Split, and two additional visits to the Istrian peninsula, with extended stays in the lovely, remodeled apartments at naturist Koversada that afford the luxuries of modern living (thinking dishwashers and air conditioning here) along with a stunning view of the Adriatic Sea.
To date, we have stayed once at Valalta (2005), twice at Koversada (2012 and 2013), made a day visit to a third major resort called Solaris (2012), and have worked our way down through the Dalmatian Islands with stops on the island of Rab (supposedly the birthplace of Croatian naturism), the large island of Hvar (including the lovely little naturist islet of Jerolim), and even paid a visit to a small naturist beach on an island near Dubrovnik, which as it turns out, proved to illustrate a very important point…
Croatia is a stunningly beautiful region! In fact, I dare say, with the dissolution of the Yugoslavian state, the Croatians ended up with the lion’s share of magnificent beachfront property! But typical tourist Croatia – Dubrovnik, Split, and Hvar – is a significant distance from the “bazillion naked Germans” Croatia, where you may, indeed, find Europe’s largest naturist resorts with loads of naked Europeans during the months of July and August. But all those naked people are a long day or two of travel from Hvar and Dubrovnik.
In fact, one of the most startling moments during our journey down the Adriatic coast was our visit to the island of Rab, renowned for her remote and exquisitely beautiful naturist beaches. We set out one day on foot to find said beaches when finally, upon discovery, overheated and dehydrated, I doffed my shorts underneath the sign that indicated we were on an FKK (naturist) beach. I waded out into the tranquil shallows, only to realize that I was the only naked guy on the entire beach! Nobody seemed to care, but I had clearly failed the ‘blend in with the locals’ test. Never had I been so cognizant of the fact that guidebooks, even naturist guidebooks, are outdated the day they are printed! Naturism may have been allowed on this beach, but it most certainly wasn’t the common practice on the day of our visit.
Once this post is up, I will go to work on a new photo gallery that should provide a good sense of naturist life in Croatia. We will go back one day, but as it turns out, the Adriatic weather can be temperamental as well as we have learned that Croatia is not a slam-dunk guarantee for uninterrupted sunshine. But swimming in the Adriatic is hard to beat, and for those who enjoy exploring the rocky coastline, there are an infinite number of places where jumping naked into the sea is completely acceptable.
In the meantime, the Istrian peninsula remains the principal naturist region, near the quasi-Italian villages of Rovinj and Poreč. Friends tell me Valalta is reaching out to make naturism more relevant to the modern naturist, which I take to mean they are updating accommodations and working to create dining and entertainment options that will keep your tourist dollars in the resort. I would rent our sweet little apartment at Koversada again in a heartbeat, as a naked afternoon at the fish restaurant on the adjoining naturist island there constitutes an indescribably delicious slice of nirvana. And even though we have only made a perfunctory visit to Solaris, I would stay there without hesitation as well – a smaller resort with newer apartments, and a great little pool area overlooking the sea. Given that these incredible naturist places are roughly a six-hour drive south from Munich, (ironically, much closer than driving from Dubrovnik!) it seems you could hardly go wrong if your main objectives are sun, swimming, and the sensuality that is a nakation.
In my humble opinion, there are two Croatias; one that caters to westerners who are willing and able to pay the price to stay in five-star hotels, and another that is a bit more earthy, where people go to lay out on innumerable and expansive rocky slabs for an all-over tan. We are quite enamored with each, but have come to realize that you can’t do it all in a week!
You may also be interested in our other Naturist Odyssey installments: