CANARY ISLANDS NAKATION: Part One
I’ve been reading about naturism on the Canary Islands for years, and in doing so, had all but come to the conclusion that once you clear security at the airport, you can pretty much doff your clothes for an all-out naturist vacation. Not entirely true!
It’s easy to get confused about such matters, especially in Spain where the Spanish Naturist Federation has done a good job publicizing that “Any beach is a nude beach in Spain.” In fact, public nudity was not officially illegal anywhere in Spain until people started pushing the envelope in places like Barcelona – renowned for people roaming naked in the streets. And thus, today this most liberal of liberal cities has a specific ban against public nudity.
And so it seems to be that this is the way things are going with many Spanish beaches as well, especially those that are well known as family vacation destinations, and in recent years, similar regional bans are turning up in traditional naturist havens like Lanzarote and Tenerife. I suppose it’s simple math if you consider which tourist niche is likely to produce the most revenue, but not particularly good news for the traveling naturist, especially in the high family travel season of July and August.
Our home base was the famous (in naturist circles) little village of Charco del Palo, located about 45 minutes north of the Arrecife airport. I’ll talk a bit more about the quirky joys of this coastal village in a subsequent post, but I can say that it is well situated to get to just about anyplace you could want to go on this smallish island – everything is about an hour away.
There is really nothing you could refer to as a beach in the immediate proximity of Charco del Palo, though we did enjoy walking the coastline each morning along the craggy volcanic sculptures that looked like they could have been from an eruption two weeks ago. But seeking out bona-fide naturist friendly sandy beaches would take a bit of exploring. Using the excellent blog by NatBliss (MyNudeBeaches.com) as a source of guidance, we set out for our first destination straight across the island to Caleta de Famara.
Aside from its popularity with surfers, Famara Beach is a also well known for its sheer beauty; a long beach nestled against the imposing cliffs along the west side of the island. It also has a reputation as one of the windiest spots on Lanzarote, though we were fortunate enough to enjoy a day with calm winds at low tide. While not exclusively a naturist beach, you can follow the dirt track around the vacation cottages and find parking right along the beach where textiles and naturists seem quite tolerant of one another. From a safety perspective, it was affirming to find single females there; including a woman with her young child.
A bit of exploration on the way back home took us up to Las Nieves on the cliffs high above Famara Playa where we were clearly the only living creatures within seeing distance. This afforded a brief naturist walk along the mountain top for a few photo ops and some great views of the coastline below. Had hoped we might return for an early morning free-hike along a trail there, but we never got back to that.
LA GRACIOSA and PLAYA DE LAS CONCHAS
Despite our delusions of grandeur, the arduous journey to this remote beach turned out to be a huge disappointment, at least in the “getting naked” category. The trip to the small island of La Graciosa (immediately opposite Famara Playa mentioned above) requires a bumpy ferry ride around the tip of Lanzarote before arriving in the quaint village of Caleta del Sebo – renowned for its dirt streets and modest accommodations for those who really want to get away from it all. I had read several reports suggesting that the island is so remote that one need not concern himself with any clothing whatsoever once leaving the village. I put that to the test as we made the nearly 90-minute trek (by foot) across the island in the midday heat, where we only encountered one passerby on a bicycle whose sneer and harsh (but indiscernible) words suggested things were not quite as laid back as I had been led to believe.
Playa de las Conchas was to be the promised land, and indeed, it was a stunningly gorgeous beach, especially since we arrived quite early when only a few others could be seen anywhere along the surf. But shortly thereafter, the hired jeeps began to arrive with throngs of tourists, as if there was a contest that day for the brightest and most creative swimwear at play. Within two hours, the beach was packed. A few 20-something girls settled nearby, gradually trying out the topless thing, and there were two other couples where the woman went naked, but the man remained clothed, (Go figure!) but by noon, it seemed I was the only naked guy on the entire beach. When a family settled behind us with an adolescent son who was either reading Tolstoy on his iPhone, or more likely, mastering the two lens feature on his iPhone 7, we found the inspiration to get up, get dressed, and make our way back across to the port town where a cold beer and the next ferry was waiting. Again, this may simply have been one of the perils of visiting on a Saturday in July, but a guaranteed naturist beach this is not.
PAPAGAYO PLAYA (Playa del Congrio)
We nearly racked up another letdown here, until we finally got our bearings and figured out where all the cool (aka, naked) people go. It’s easy enough to get confused. You either need to park at Payagayo Playa and make your way over the mountain bluff to your left, (north) or park near the oppressive campground at Playa del Congrio, and make a similar jaunt to your right. (south) Either way, you’ll stumble upon a beautiful little cove where we found about half the inhabitants to be naturists of all ages, including a couple young families. The beach was gently sloping, and late in the day, the surrounding cliffs were providing an option for shady protection from the sun. Had we not found this during our last day on the island, it may well have become a go to place for us. Certainly the most naturist friendly we came across in the sandy beach category on Lanzarote.
Can you go naked on any beach at any time in Spain? That seems up to a fair amount of debate. In fact, the municipality of Teguise, a town located smack in the middle of the island, recently passed an ordinance prohibiting nudity within its jurisdiction, which apparently includes Charco del Palo and La Graciosaas as well. I didn’t spend much time researching the details of information I wasn’t so eager to know about, but that would explain the reticence of our acquaintance Alan – a full-time resident of Charco del Palo – who urged us to use discretion with nudity outside of those places where it is expressly ordained. Seems that may well vary a good bit from one month to the next, as is so often the case when seeking out a vacation paradise with all the perks that would please Adam and Eve.
NEXT UP: Nude Beach Combing on Fuerteventura
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