So after the better part of a week on this virtually unknown little island in the Libyan Sea, I thought it time to write the blog post I’ve been looking for – mostly in vain – for the past five years. There are quite a few blogs and grassroot webpages that tell you what a peaceful place this is, (True!) and about the hippies who camp out all summer and swim nude, (Also true, but not to the extent of decades past.) and a lot of vague observations about nudity that put even the most seasoned naturist on edge. Statements like, “Nobody cares if and when you’re naked,” (Well actually, they do.) or “You can walk anywhere in the nude without turning an eye.” (Most definitely not true!)
Unlike Ile du Levant in France, or even the little town of Charco del Palo on the island of Lanzarote, Gavdos is not really a naturist destination; it just happens to be a place where there are a few more opportunities to get naked than on your typical Greek island. I suspect this has changed a good bit in the last two or three decades as mainstream tourism has brought electricity and several boutique hotels to the island, along with increased ferry service that even makes it possible for day trippers to get out and back in one day. (Gavdos Cruises just started up a couple years ago, and rumor has it they just upgraded to a larger boat! I suspect that’s not been particularly good for nudity on cruise days.)
In the meantime, I thought about naming this post Where Have All the Hippies Gone? Long time passing. Seriously. Are they just dying off of natural causes? Have they found another hamlet with secluded beaches in some hidden destination in the middle east? Or shudder the thought, did they give up the cause with a shopping spree at Target to clad themselves in polyurethane fabric made in China? Has it really gotten that bad?
As it happens, especially in July and August, the number of naked hippies – let alone the more purposeful and dedicated nudists – are well outnumbered by the more typical holiday-makers you might expect on Santorini or Mykonos. Oddly enough, as we headed off on a naked hike the other day my wife confessed, “I’m not worried about offending the Greeks, I just don’t want to surprise the tourists!”
Surprise the tourists? Are you kidding me? The tourists probably came here looking for naked people! But the Greeks!? Long pants and layered shirts in the dead of summer? The old women wrapped in fabric and head garments. How do they do it?
In any event, while I can hardly claim to be an expert on the matter, here are a few tips for those who may be charting a course to Gavdos for their next nakation, noting that a week on the island in June (and a previous day trip in August) does not represent a comprehensive guide, but I hope it will provide a few bits of information I would have found most useful in planning our time here.
- Where to Stay: As I mentioned in my previous post, there are no naturist accommodations on Gavdos, though there are small inns next to Sarakiniko Beach and the nearby Agia Ioannis (notably, Sofia Rooms, which was our second choice.) that are in easy walking distance to beaches where nudity is common. But you won’t see people walking naked from their room to the beach. For this stay, we chose to stay at the mountain top village of Kastri at the Gavdos Princess Hotel, where nudity on certain verandas is possible, but nowhere else on the property or in the village. Located at essentially the dead center of the island, you are about a 10 minute drive to most every beach on the island, though most of the nice ones require a significant walk beyond that.
- Nudity at the Beach: The easier the access, the fewer naked people to be found, and thus while nudity is tolerated at Sarakiniko, I suspect it is frowned upon by some of the mid-summer tourists. (Again, with the offending the tourists thing!) And if you wish to visit the nearby taverna, or for that matter, any taverna on Gavdos, you at least need a pareo to cover genitalia and breasts. (You don’t want to be scolded for that more than once!)
- The Best Nude Beaches: During our stay, we made it to Trypiti, Lavrakas, Ioannis, Sarakiniko, and Pyrgos. Trypiti is great simply given its proximity to the “big chair” at the southern point of Europe, and most of the people we’ve seen there have been naked. Our afternoon napping under the scrubby trees at Ioannis was lovely as well, and I would say approximately two-thirds of the people we saw there were nude. But our favorite has to be Pyrgos, a bit difficult to get to, but a gorgeous setting where we only encountered one other human during our afternoon on the beach. He scrambled down the rocks to the beach, dropped his shorts, jumped into the ocean for a swim, laid out naked to drip dry, put his shorts back on and disappeared. That seems to be pretty much standard operating procedure around here. There is NO shade in the midday at Pyrgos, so we were glad we packed in an umbrella. But the water is gorgeous, with a shallow slope of soft sand that goes well into the sea. One of our best beaches ever.
- Nudity on the Trails: We’ve asked a few of the locals and encountered a few on the trails as well. It seems that free-hiking (hiking in the nude) is not a Greek cultural norm, and those we encountered en route where significantly overdressed even by beachwear standards. But none seemed offended by our nudity, receiving a gentle smile from one older man, and a lively exchange about the dogs who accompanied a middle-aged woman. If she noticed we were naked, (How could she not?) it most certainly was of little concern. So I think the general rule is, once out of sight of nearby habitations – or as our server at our hotel put it, away from the subdivisions! – you are free to do as you wish. Keep in mind that here in mid-June we have actually encountered perhaps a half-dozen other people – all clothed, I might mention – during our extensive walks on the mountain and coastal paths, though typically we’re out in the early morning before the most intense heat.
The Final Analysis: Well? It’s pretty much like everywhere else we’ve been in Greece. This is a great place to take your clothes off to swim in the magical turquoise water, but show up topless at a taverna, or wander naked into a popular family spot and you might get chastised by an old woman all dressed in black. Just to be cautious, I carry a small pareo when entering doubtful territory that is simply enough to cover the crown jewels should it suddenly seem necessary. Such a small piece of fabric that is neither modest nor a fashion statement, which causes me time and again to ask, “Why all the fuss about naked?”
Does Gavdos make our Top Ten of Naturist Destinations? Probably not quite, simply due to the lack of a “place to stay naked” other than the tent cities that come and go on the beaches. As is often the case, sometimes I wish I could roll back the clock to have experienced Gavdos in all its hippie glory of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Who knows? Had I done that, I may have never left. You would find me down there on Lavrakas beach with the other leathery old men who emerge each morning to bathe in the sea. To be sure, that’s a commitment to a lifestyle that would have set the meandering naturist on a very different path.