NOTE TO READERS:
Sorry, the photos don’t line up with the chronology of the post. Hopefully, the captions will help you figure that out.
This is our third trip to Greece is search of naked bliss. I have yet to blog about our naturist travels here, but now is a good time to start – having spent the morning on a naturist hike down through a gorge on southern Crete as we brace for our last day of nakation.
Pubic nudity in Greece is something of a dichotomy all in itself. Religion runs deep here, even among the younger generation that may not be “actively religious,” but frequently display small symbols representing their heritage (religious and otherwise) and how that permeates (or even dictates) cultural norms. Thus, unlike France – where many beaches have simply been designated naturist, so that is that – Greece has very few designated naturist beaches. In fact, the largest island in Greece (Crete) has only one “officially authorized fully naturist beach;” Filaki FKK Beach situated near the beautiful Vritomartis Naturist Hotel, where we happen to be staying as I write this. That is not to say that this is the only place to swim naked in these warm, crystal clear waters. Far from it, in fact. It seems that about fifty years ago, the Greek people realized that if they could learn to turn a blind eye – easy enough when faced with blindingly white bodies from northern Europe – that it might be good for tourism. Now on our third visit here, I’m still trying to figure out all the rules, but it seems there are only a few of them that matter:
- Be sensitive to the locals, especially when there are children around. All the more ironic, as the children are as likely as not to be playing naked in the surf.
- Beware of grandma, all dressed in black, who’s deep personal convictions may simply override the locals’ desire for the tourist dollar, and
- Pay attention to the signage, which is almost always in English and says “No Topless Bathing Here!” We have to assume, however, that means they want you to keep your bottoms on as well.
If you consider yourself a naturist, and haven’t found Captain Barefoot’s page yet, well… you have some homework to do. He has been maintaining this online community seemingly since the internet began, first built on his own personal research, and now powered by innumerable “community members” who send in location reports from one year to the next. Sort of the Trip Advisor of naked beaches in Greece.
Empowered with knowledge from his site, and a few recommendations from people we’ve met along the way, we have recently had enjoyable days on three naturist beaches, the likes of which simply go unparalleled (IMHO) to any clothing optional shoreline to be found in my beloved homeland, the US of A.
Faliraki Beach on Rhodes is only a short drive from the Old Town; the main tourist hub of the island. What we didn’t realize, however, is that Faliraki is actually a beach town, and a series of beaches – of which only the last one at the end of the road is “nudist.” As we were searching it out, we finally decided that we were actually looking for Mandomata Beach. (See sign below) We drove past the convenient and available parking spaces until we reached the end of the road near the taverna, where I should mention there were no parking (available) spaces, and turning around was anything but convenient. Once parked, we paid a few euros for two lounge chairs and an umbrella and made our way to the snack bar (taverna) where the dress code seemed to be “wrap something around some part of your body, and we’ll appreciate the gesture.”
The water was shallow quite a ways out, and calm in the cove of the surrounding mountains, but we had yet to purchase new water shoes (which we have quite a large collection of at home now) and walking this pebbly beach requires leather shoes or leather feet. The crowd was somewhat on the older side, but most everyone was nude, which amazingly enough, is not always the case. After one week on Rhodes, we made our way – only a 45 minute flight – to Crete to revisit two beaches that we discovered during our last visit about five years ago. As I mentioned earlier, Filaki Beach appears to be under the jurisdiction of the aforementioned Vritomartis Hotel, located down a well paved road perhaps a mile from the hotel itself. Perhaps it was our tendency to walk the road naked during our previous visit that precipitated the posting of signs that essentially say, “the beach is naturist, but the road is not! Put some clothes on!” Truthfully, I’ve always been baffled by these passive aggressive signage campaigns, never quite sure if the management is simply obliged to post the sign to appease the locals. It seems to me the goats meandering the hills wouldn’t be offended by our nudity, and as close as I can tell, you’d need a Hubble telescope to detect our naked asses (let alone genitalia) from the nearest domicile. But alas, this year we donned our pareos, which on this particularly windy day, did little good in covering the evidence.
Here again, the beach itself is in a protected cove, with sunbeds and umbrellas to rent, and a similarly stony, gravelly beach that plays havoc on barefootedness. But there’s a wonderful and ever-evolving collection of “rock art,” and a small taverna that has no signage related to nudity, so we’ve taken the liberty on both visits to have a snack and a frosty cold beer in full appreciation of the ocean breeze. Life rarely gets better than that. We made two trips this week to Plakias Beach, about an hour west of our hotel; the first intended, but disappointing; the second unanticipated, but serendipitously wonderful. We remembered our visit five years ago to this beautiful sandy beach with calm transparent waters at the foot of huge cliffs that changed colors as the sun moved across the sky. But on arrival this year, gale force winds were blowing off the sea, sending white caps all the way to the breaking waves on the shore. Occasionally, the soft white sand would come blasting at us, sending our floaty airborne into our sleeping naked neighbors.
We had remembered a tavern nearby, and assumed it to be the little beach bar just beyond the naturist area, where they served a wide variety of drinks, but only one choice for food – warmed-over panini. And my research assistant learned that showing up at the beach bar topless was forbidden, but not until after we had paid our bill and returned to our loungers where we were “kindly reprimanded” by the guy who collects fees on the nudist beach. Plakias revisited was a fail.
The next morning, we realized we had left a family keepsake hanging from our rented umbrella. We quickly rewrote the script for the day and headed back to Plakias Beach, prepared for another day there just in case conditions were right the second time around. Once there, we made a bee-line for our umbrella from the day before. The chairs were vacant, and the little stuffed monkey that’s traveled the world with us was still hanging from the spokes.
This day, the waters were calm and clear, and just as we remembered, you could walk 100 meters on the sandy bottom of the bay and still keep your head above water. We found the taverna across the street that we had remembered from five years ago and had a great lunch (fully clothed), then headed back to the beach for sunning, swimming, and floating before the “donut man” magically appeared, immediately drawing a queue of naked people who had clearly planned their day around his anticipated arrival. When the nude beach guy showed up to collect the fees for the sunbeds, he seemed truly delighted we had reclaimed the monkey. Plakias Beach bounced back to the top of that “A List,” just like that. We just have to remember not to go topless in the beach bar on a windy day. But that’s how these things work in Greece, and for that matter, in most places where you travel – naturist or not. There are always unspoken rules, traditions, expectations, and serendipitous discoveries to be made, and timing is everything. That’s probably another blog post, all in itself.
The good news about getting naked in Greece? Not only are there more formal establishments (hotels, etc) like the Naturist Angel on Rhodes and Vritomartis on Crete, but it seems to me that the general feeling about nudity here is slowly evolving from the “tolerance of naked foreigners” to “the acceptance of and participation in naturism” by more of the Greek population. That’s good news for naturists everywhere, and especially for those of us who think Greece is one of the best places in the world to get naked.