The Naturist Guide to Gavdos

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!)

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Walking to Trypiti Beach

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?

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What the locals wear!

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!”

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Surprising 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.

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Maps are posted all over the island. Generally, the dotted lines are safe for nude hiking.

  • 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.

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    On the road to Trypiti

  • 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!)

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    On the trail to Pyrgos

  • 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.

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    Pyrgos beach

  • 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.

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    Pyrgos beach

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?”

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Crete in the distance from Gavdos

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.

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The view from the most southerly point in Europe

 

Naked with Goats in a Distant Land

So there it is!

In my very first blog post, I stated that maybe one day I might be able to tie all my musings and travelogues together into a single publication. A printed on paper book? Eh… I doubt it. But maybe one of those Kindle publications that sells for something between free and three dollars, ninety-nine cents. I’ve read quite a few of those now, each time thinking, “Hey, I could do that!”

IMG_7259In the meantime, a friend said, “You’re headed out for nakation in Greece. What will your next blog post be?”

How about “Naked with Goats in a Distant Land! What do ya think?”

“I’m pumped. Send it when it’s done!”

It was a magical moment of sorts. Thinking about that potential book deal with Kindle. (Is that what you call it? A book deal? With Kindle?) And how would I frame such a volume? Does the planet need another book about clothing-optional recreation? Or for that matter, another blog post even? How much more can one say other than “Go find a beach, take your clothes off, fait accompli.”

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But alas, here we are on Gavdos, a small island off the southern coast of Crete that requires a significant acumen for travel planning along with – at least – a recessive gene for adventure. Gavdos hails itself as the most southerly point in Europe as the lower tip of the island points down into the Libyan Sea well south of the shores of northern Africa. Egypt and Israel are merely a Greek athlete’s stone’s throw from here.

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Not unlike naturism itself, Gavdos is something of a dichotomy. As most are moored in deep religious ideology, Greeks have something of a mixed opinion on the subject of social nudity. While a few are willing participants, most see naturism (and the beaches where such things take place) as one spoke in the wheel of the bigger tourism economy. The number of “nudity tolerated” beaches outnumber the number of “official nude beaches” by at least 100 to 1! Quite different than France or Croatia with their massive naturist centers where you can be naked 24/7 should you so desire. In Greece, you’re always playing the “Can I be naked here?” game.

But let’s get real! Getting naked after sundown in southwest France (where the biggest family naturist centers are located) requires a level of endurance and resolve that is only one step removed from those crazy people in the Northeast USA who participate in the annual Polar Bear Plunge, charging into the January sea to gather data about what really shrinks in cold water! France’s largest naturist centers on the south Atlantic coast can be downright frigid at night, even at the height of summer. Greece, on the other hand, has the perfect climate for naked – such a bummer that religious dogma and the like gets in the way of clothes-free progressives.

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At this writing, we are at the end of day two of our second visit to Gavdos, most infamous for its unrelenting hippie culture of, “Don’t worry, get naked.” Our first visit, a couple years ago, was merely a one-day turnaround from the port of Chora Sfakion, allowing exactly enough time to find our way to the “big chair” at the southern tip of Europe, exploit a quick photo op, and skedaddle back to the boat to make our way back to our cushy accommodations at Vritomartis just minutes from the port.

This time, we decided to double down and really discover Gavdos. Is nudity accepted everywhere? Is it accepted anywhere? Is there a naturist hotel on the island? (I’m going with “no.”) Can I be naked on the veranda of my room in a non-naturist property? The owner of Gavdos Princess says, “Yes – as long as you use the veranda not facing the restaurant.” Can I walk through the villages on the island without clothing and without judgment? I very much doubt that. The villagers look like long timers who have little or nothing to gain by keeping the naked hippies happy, a sub-culture here on the island that seems to keep to their own enclaves under the scrubby trees near the beach.

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Can I walk the forest and coastal paths naked without fear of being convicted of a lewd or criminal deed? Well, there’s a question. Who’s going to arrest you? (I have yet to see a police car, let alone a person who would drive one, though my wife says she spotted a plain clothes police guy yesterday. Wonder if he notices we had no clothes?) And what would they arrest you for? Or more to the point, who comes to Gavdos without full knowledge that if you go near the sea, you will see naked people. And you don’t live on Gavdos without going near the sea.

What I can tell you for certain is that Gavdos is the small Greek Island that time seems to have forgotten. Said to have had thousands of inhabitants back in the Byzantine era, today it is the quiet, simple life that is most pervasive, where getting caught in traffic means you are surrounded in a herd of goats who take their time in crossing the road. In fact, it would be a great place to settle in for a few weeks, surrounded by calm seas and starry skies, and say… write a book! Maybe something like, Naked with Goats in a Distant Land.

Let me get to work on that.

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Naturist Extremes in Mexico – and figuring out what that means!

I’ve been procrastinating for nearly ten years in writing something about naturism in Mexico, mainly due to the fact that every time I think I have a comprehensive perspective as to what that means – naturism in Mexico – we visit again and I feel even more adrift in making any sweeping generalization that would help a newbie know what to expect. To be fair, our “research” on the topic has been limited to extended stays at two very different resorts, Hidden Beach near Tulum, and Playa Sonrisa at the southern tip of the Yucatan peninsula. We once stayed at a small inn on Solomon Bay that is no longer in business (for reasons that were evident during our stay), and we once did a walk-through at eco-resort Azulik which used to give more publicity to its clothing-optional status than it does today, but neither of those exist as viable naturist destinations today.

We have also met many people along the way who speak to the virtues – or lack thereof – of resorts with names like Desire and Temptation, but we’ve had neither the desire nor temptation to visit either of those as that simply isn’t our style, and thus, you’ll have to search those out on your own.

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Promotional photo from Hidden Beach

We have been to Playa Sonrisa twice in the past five years, perhaps four times to Hidden Beach over the past ten, most recently at the end of March in an effort to escape the mind/body-numbing cold of a prolonged Northeast winter. If only by price tag alone, Hidden Beach is most certainly high end, which has the implicit consequence of attracting a demographic that is willing to part with a small fortune for a week of naked nirvana. While many put down roots for a week or two at a time, we’ve never managed a stay longer than an extended weekend, partially due to the cost (Hmmm… A week at Hidden Beach or a month in Europe!?), but also due to the limited scope of the property. Beautiful and luxurious though it is, a walk down the length of the naturist beach might be stretched out to five minutes or so should you choose to stop and ponder the horizon along the way.

During our most recent visit, we arrived while a particularly convivial (read: boisterous) crowd was monopolizing the swim-up bar. While I’m typically pretty laisssez-faire about what one might encounter at a naked place, I found the tequila induced dancing on the bar a bit over-stimulating, having arrived this time in desperate need of respite and tranquility. But speaking frankly, my personal state of mind upon arrival should have little or nothing to do with an objective review of whether one’s nakation dollars are well invested in a visit to a specific naturist destination. A place is what it is The problem is figuring out what the place is before you arrive!

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Promotional photo from Hidden Beach

This, to me, seems a marketing nightmare for anyone charged with growing the market for clothing-optional recreation anywhere, but especially on the Mexican Riviera, which is such a bizarre mixture of Spring Break destinations and All-Inclusive mega-luxury resorts, each in their own right intended to produce an overdose of self-indulgence amidst a landscape where the other predominant feature is an infinite jungle punctuated with smallish enclaves of poverty. Perhaps the fastest road to sobriety after a fun-filled night at the swim up bar is the realization that the monthly income of a middle-class resident on the Yucatan peninsula is roughly equivalent to a one-night stay at Hidden Beach Resort. Talk about a buzz kill!

But again, the mind of this naturist is meandering again, as what I find most fascinating about clothing-optional recreation in Mexico is simply defining what that is. And it seems I’m not the only one confused about that. Even in France, where naturist options abound, it doesn’t take a great deal of research to determine the difference between Cap d’Agde – famous and infamous for the pervasive sexual undercurrents, or family naturist destinations such as Montalivet or Belezy, where not only the “naturist etiquette” page makes the expectations forthright and clear, but the entirety of the website creates an ambiance where you quickly come to realize that this is not a good place to get frisky in the pool.

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The view from Hidden Beach

At this writing, I find the webpage for Hidden Beach to be particularly perplexing, where the splash page immediately triggers a brief video, along with seductive music, as a beautiful woman walks across the screen leaving a trail of undergarments (maybe a swimsuit?) in her wake. At last, the motto… “Come out of your shell… at Hidden Beach Resort.” That said, the policies at Hidden Beach are clear and seemingly well enforced, and beyond the aforementioned dancing on the bar, we’ve yet to experience anything there that would get one thrown out of a Disney resort. Nudity, notwithstanding, of course.

I also find it interesting that what has disappeared from the Hidden Beach website is the home-grown gallery of guest photos that was something like a TripAdvisor gallery, few of which featured full nudity, but most of which exemplified the people you actually meet and see at a typical clothing-optional destination, of which almost none (yours truly included) look like the 30-something models in the photos in the limited professional gallery that exists now. If you weren’t already intimidated by the naked factor, the beautiful people factor ought to frighten the self-conscious away, whether wrapped in a bathing suit or not.

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Playa Sonrisa

At the other end of the spectrum, and essentially at the other end of the country, is Playa Sonrisa, a quiet little resort that requires a five hour drive from the Cancun airport that leads you to a place that feels like the end of the world. Interestingly, owner/innkeeper Murph maintains two websites for this little naturist haven in the jungle; the original patchwork site found at www.playasonrisa.com, and a spiffier updated version at www.playasonrisa.net. In either case, however, he wants it to be clear before you make the long drive that what you will not find there is a swim-up bar, themed lingerie parties, or anything else that resembles a pulsing night-life. Additionally, your willingness to make the long drive will literally save you hundreds of dollars per day without compromising the main attraction – the opportunity for a few days of clothes-free, stress-free living.

We have many good things to say about Playa Sonrisa, beginning with the genuine hospitality of the owners best epitomized in the ethos of the 24/7 honor bar, to their unrelenting efforts in providing the necessary creature comforts in a part of the world just beyond the reach of broadband internet and your typical 900 channels of cable TV. In fact, that is their marketing niche, appealing to those who desire to get away from it all, including their clothing. With only eight or ten rooms at most, there seems to be enough appeal for this decidedly more rustic approach to make it difficult to book there less than a few months in advance. and Murph goes to great lengths to make sure you understand that what they offer is quite the opposite of the all-inclusive indulge-a-fest opportunities that lie to the north.

 

 

It’s worth noting that we’ve blown right past the opportunity to stopover at a newer condo-quasi-naturist resort in Tulum called Intima Resort, partially because we’ve never been willing to spend the time, and also, by name alone, we can’t quite figure out what it is. And therein lies the conundrum of the entire naturist marketing debacle. In fact, my confusion was confirmed recently when I stumbled across a GQ Magazine article from 2017 intended to help readers realize their clothing-optional swinging dreams. While focused on a couple resorts that are only mentioned casually here, they also gave a shout out to Hidden Beach as well, which explicitly rejects such playtime activities as part of their culture or acceptable behavior. (Thankfully, Murph and Playa Sonrisa dodged the bullet of an honorable mention altogether!) But how is the average consumer to know?

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A GQ artist’s depiction of clothing-optional Mexico

Or more importantly, how is the average moderately open-minded person to know what to think when clothing-optional vacations come up in casual lunchtime conversation? What if that spawns enough curiosity that she might go home and Google “clothing optional Mexico” just to figure out what it’s really about? That brings to mind another thread I recently saw on Twitter about the prudes who are so intolerant “about lingerie dances at nudist places.” What’s the big deal, she says?

The big deal is that it’s very difficult for the average person who has never experienced social nudity to differentiate where nakedness becomes provocative becomes sexually charged becomes the exchange of bodily fluids. And it’s always the GQ article that’s going to get the most hits and the most citations, especially from those looking for a reason to tell those crazies to “Put your clothes back on and behave!”

So there it is.

People are confused about clothing-optional recreation in Mexico. Sadly enough, I’ve been there at least a half-dozen times, and so am I. That’s not a good sign.

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Promotional photo from Hidden Beach

 

 

 

 

The Labyrinth to Social Nudity in Japan

I have changed planes at Narita airport near Tokyo perhaps a dozen times, but somehow, never quite made it out of the airport to actually see Japan – until just a few months ago when I had an opportunity to attend a conference in Kobe. And alas, with that came an opportunity to visit one of the celebrated hot spring public baths that I’ve heard so much about over the years.

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I really had no idea what to expect, except for vague recollections of travel pieces I’ve read over the years. Travel banter from a cocktail party someplace? Somehow, I remember somebody describing a dark hall with wooden planks, and old men groaning as they lowered themselves into the scalding water. Sounding quite a bit short of alluring, I went digging on the internet to see what this famously Japanese custom was about, and if it warranted an afternoon of exploration on a cold winter’s day.

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Trip Advisor led me to the Kobe suburb of Arima; something akin to an Austrian ski village, but lined with high rise apartment and hotel complexes, it seems that hot water flows out of the mountain here in copious amounts, creating a holiday mecca for those who wish to spend an hour, a day, a weekend soaking in the healing waters.

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Turns out this is one of the more well known spots in the Japan to hang out with the boys – or hang out with the girls, but not a place where the boys and the girls will hang out together, at least, not while bathing. As I made my way through various trip reviews, I learned that nearly every hotel in this little valley had their own onsen – or hot springs bath – with the incentive of one stop shopping. “Stay in our lovely hotel, have a hot stone massage, and bathe in the magic water.” I was getting the picture, and so far, it didn’t sound much like my preconceived image of groaning old men in a dark cavern.

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To cut to the chase, I chose the Taiko no Yu onsen about a 10 minute walk, up hill, from the local train station, chosen in large part due to a reviewer who took the time to explain the process while providing a valuable tip, “Good place for first-time foreigners” as most of the signage has English subtitles.” That, by itself, was worth the price of admission.

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Things I wasn’t prepared for… and keep in mind, I’ve been naked on six continents… are many and substantial in this case. Beginning with the procurement of three lockers! One to hold your shoes, one where you leave your everyday clothing, and finally, one where you bare all (leaving your pajama like robe behind) and find your way to the hot mineral baths that have revitalized SO many souls over the centuries.

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The take away of my exploration is that naked is different here than naked in the western world, and would probably be a good bit different yet had it not been for the influence of the western world. Seems that in the days before WWII, during which Japan had been at least moderately successful in isolating themselves form western influences, nudity was essentially a non-issue. “You have boy parts. I have girl parts. Let’s bathe.”

Between the missionaries and the American military generals, it seems we convinced the Japanese to come to their senses and realize that social nudity, left unchecked, will lead to… well I don’t know what it’ll lead to as you can find pretty much anything you want on the internet these days, so what’s the big deal? In any event, today most Japanese onsens are gender separated.

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My experience – though very much limited to a one-day visit to a recommended Trip Advisor spa – was anything but sexual. In fact, this was very much a family affair, where the main (sole) objective is soaking in the magical mineral waters, some of which are clear (I personally like that!) and some of which are milk-chocolate brown (How do you know how deep the pool is when you can’t see the bottom?)

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Since it was a Sunday afternoon, many were there on family day outings, with children of all ages standing in line with their parents as if they we’re queuing up for admission to Disneyland. Of course, I can only speak to the ambiance of the male side, but once you leave your robe behind in the third locker room, nudity is prevalent and normal, even in congested areas where you can hardly get through the crowd without brushing up against another (naked) body. After the customary seated shower, I settled into one of the pools in the main area while observing with quiet awe that three generations of male humans were all enjoying the day of casual nudity and luxurious soaking. Not even in French family naturist resorts does inter-generational nudity seem like such a non issue. Somehow, they had missed the memo that a 10-year-old child seeing his father’s pubic hair or genitalia was an immediate and necessary precursor to psycho-therapy.

I’ve ruminated on this quite a lot since my visit to Japan, and have since found another great article from an author who’s experience was apparently quite similar to my own. The obvious and recurring theme continues to bare out the question: How is it we’ve made the human body so controversial when, in one version or another, our body parts are all pretty much the same. (That’s setting to one side that most cultures agree that the visibility of hands and feet is less far less egregious than the accidental sighting of a  penis or breasts.)  Seems to me the western world has done irreparable damage to this Japanese idea, as my impression is that fifty years ago, mom and dad would have been able to enjoy the entire day at the onsen together – as a whole family regardless of gender. But for those who worry about being caught climbing out of the shower by your 12-year-old, my brief qualitative survey suggests that children seeing their parents naked apparently does not scar them for lives. On this front, we westerners could learn a thing or two.

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Meandering Naked in 2017

Perhaps I should change the name of my blog to the “Sporadically Blogging Meandering Naturist.” Simply too much on my plate as of late to keep up with posting as much as I’d like.

That said, 2017 was an extraordinary year for us on the naturist travel front. We started out the year in Australia spending several days at each of three naturist venues, Seclude in Queensland, BB at Byron Bay, and BoBrene, not far from Brisbane. In addition to returning to a couple of our favorite haunts this past year in Croatia (Valalta), Mallorca (Skinny Dippers), and on Ile du Levant (Heliotel), we made our first visit to a few new (to us!) interesting naked places, including Paya Bay Resort in Honduras, Lemontree Naturist Resort in Thailand, and an extensive trek through the Canary Islands where we finally visited Charco del Palo on Lanzarote, Gran Hotel Natura and Monte Marina on Fuerteventura, and a brief stay at Magnolias Natura Resort on Gran Canaria. One day, I will catch up on more detailed reportage of our naturist meanderings, but this is not that day.

In the meantime, I very much doubt 2018 will offer so many nakation opportunities as we enjoyed last year. Seldom do the planets align like that. But I post this gallery in hope that people will click through and support these naturist travel destinations so that these businesses will continue to thrive, grow and multiply, bringing naturist travel ever more into the mainstream tourism industry.

Best wishes to all my readers tor a happy and prosperous nude year!

Naked at the ends of the Earth – Part I

At this writing, I’m sitting on the veranda of my apartment in a lovely little naturist resort on Phuket – Lemon Tree Resort – one of but a few places where it’s legal to get naked in Thailand. Well worth the trouble to get here, but it is, indeed a bit of trouble to get here, which inspired the name of this post. As it happens, I love to explore and find places that I wouldn’t stumble into without some sort of incentive. For a naturist, that incentive is finding a new naked destination; good enough reason to spend a bit of time on internet finding a way to get naked at the ends of the earth. The main criteria for making this list is: 1) I doubt I would have come here had it not been for the opportunity to discover a new naturist destination, and 2) it has to be someplace I would consider visiting again.


#1 – Lemon Tree Naturist Resort near Nai Harn Beach, Phuket, Thailand

IMG_2484This is my second visit to this fabulous little place, and if you look it up on Trip Advisor, you will see that the young couple that runs the place, Patty and Golf, have developed quite a following in their first 18 months of business. (If you keep reading the reviews, you’ll also see there are some interesting challenges in running a naturist business in Thailand!) But as reported, they are gracious hosts, and have found a niche market in naturism, despite the fact that they are not naturist themselves.

IMG_2437It’s a smallish resort, but the rooms are among the nicest we’ve seen at any naturist venue, anyplace. Well appointed, clean and complete with kitchenettes. The pools are also relatively small, but the water temperature is perfect for floating and lodging yourself – mostly submersed – in a corner with a good book. Getting naked outside the resort is tricky, though they do run boat excursions during high season to smaller nearby islands, secluded enough to make a naked picnic on the beach. My timing was right during my last visit to take advantage of that, and it was truly a perfect naturist day.

Patty tells me she is encouraged that they are already seeing a pattern of repeat guests, which is a good omen for the long-term prospects of this business venture, and good news for people who are looking for a naturist destination when it’s icy cold in Europe and the US.


#2 – BB at Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

IMG_7919I was pretty consistent about blogging about our naturist trek that took us down the east coast of Australia over New Years 2017, but I lost footing about the time we got to Byron Bay, where we stayed in what I guess you would call a naturist B&B there, named simply, BB at Byron Bay. Debra and Michael are an intriguing couple who purchased this gorgeous home on a hilltop surrounded by green rolling hills just inland from the hippie haven that is Byron Bay. Our room was simply lovely, with a veranda looking out toward the sea, and we found an interesting mix of guests there that, like us, seemed to think “If I’m going to pay for a place to stay, all the better if it’s a place I can be naked.”

IMG_1437While adhering to European naturist values, (Deb had a few interesting stories to tell about various booking inquiries) this is hardly your typical naturist place, and it took us a couple days to figure out the routine of simply coming and going. (I think we actually set off the burglar alarm one evening!) Our hosts were truly gracious in sharing their home, but as is often the case when staying at a B&B, it took a while to figure out what was ours and what was theirs, especially during the morning breakfast routine.

But all that aside, the location was fantastic for exploring the beach towns near Byron Bay, while affording us a visit to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to bulk up our photo collection of Koalas. I hear there’s some controversy regarding the continued naturist status of Byron Beach. Would be a shame should that become non-naturist as it was truly one of the finest naturist beaches we’ve visited with miles of walking to be had au naturel. Don’t know when or if we’ll get back to that part of the world, but if we do, I hope BB at Byron Bay, and the nearby naturist beach, are still alive and well.


#3 – Harmony Nature Farm near Rustenberg, South Africa

IMG_7336It’s been a few years since our visit to Harmony Nature Farm, and I think a lot has happened for Piet and his crew since that time, so I was delighted to see the recent update to their website, suggesting that naturism is booming in this unique hillside retreat about two hours north of Johannesburg. We stayed for a week in December of 2013 and were literally welcomed like family.

A stay in the local Hilton this is not! Accommodations are in little stone cabins that Piet and his father built one by one over years of developing their little naturist nirvana. As indicated on their new website, most of their naturist business is on the weekend, and we had to remain attuned to the sensitivities of the staff during the week, as social nudity IMG_9505is far from the norm in this part of the world. Piet took us along on his grocery run one day so we were able to lay in provisions to cook for ourselves during most of our stay.

While requiring clothing, the highlight of the week was most definitely Piet’s personal safari for us and one other couple who frequent the resort. It was a full-day affair as Piet forged the innumerable dirt roads of the Pilansburg Game Reserve outsmarting giraffes and elephants en route to the best watering holes. This is our only genuine safari experience to date, so we don’t have much to compare it too, but it’s difficult to believe it gets better that Piet’s version.

As a naturist destination, it’s a long ways to go to get naked, and even in the early South African summer (the week before Christmas) it was a bit chilly much of the time for total nudity, but a stay at Harmony most definitely provided a unique spin for our African adventure.


#4 – Panorama Naturist Hotel on Zakynthos, Greece

There are a few excellent opportunities for naturism in Greece, including nearly any secluded beach on a Greek island if the timing is right, but our visit to the Panorama Naturist Hotel on Zakynthos was particularly memorable, largely due to the people who run it. Natasha, her parents, and their little white dog Poochi won our hearts immediately upon arrival – once again, a case where a non-naturist family opened a naturist operation in hopes of finding a niche clientele. With so many repeat guests during our stay, it seems that was an excellent business decision.

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While not quite so far off the beaten track as Thailand or South Africa, what most surprised us about Panorama was how subtly it blended into the neighborhood, marked only by a simple sign that indicated Panorama Café and Swimming Pool. We would have never found it had we not know exactly what we were looking for.

As you will find in online reviews, the rooms and the food are basic, but Natasha’s cheerful personality made it pleasant and enticing for guests to hang out near the bar. And even though this is the quiet end of Zakynthos, we found several tavernas within walking distance with great food and lovely ambiance – worth getting dressed for.

IMG_7045As opposed to the vast possibilities on Crete, we found naturist beach combing on Zakynthos a bit disappointing, particularly by late September, though hanging by the pool proved a worthy endeavor, which is where we spent most of our naked time chatting up a few regulars from The Netherlands. For that alone, Panorama is most definitely on our “get back to one day” list.


#5 – Colina do Sol near Porto Alegre, Brazil

Many of our naturist quests have been spawned by the desire to find someplace dependably warm in the month of January, particularly challenging with the loss of some of the tried and true Caribbean locations. Since January is the height of summer in South America, naturism in Brazil seemed like the perfect answer.

IMG_0189As it happens, there are several naturist enclaves scattered throughout Brazil, though perhaps none as renowned as Colina do Sol in the rolling hills above Porto Alegre. The last time I mentioned this place in my blog was during our initial inquiries about the naturist scene in Brazil, which kept leading me back to this once vibrant naturist community. The whole place was the dream-child of one Celso Rossi; an entrepreneur of sorts who laid out the original plans for a community of cabins, shops with the basic amenities, and finally, a lakeside restaurant and hotel.

That post elicited a fiery response from an angry American who was part of a cohort of folks that sought to make Colina do Sol an American nudist destination. Despite hearing the stories from the Celso himself, it’s still difficult to figure out just what happened, but today, Colina do Sol remains a picturesque naturist community nestled in a lush valley of Brazil. The hotel and restaurant are now under new management and a new name – Hotel do Lago – and you can actually rent a couple of the cabins on Booking.com.

IMG_0223Our stay there was nothing short of pleasant and nostalgic, if not a bit moist with a good bit of rain and humidity. At the time, the hotel was still unfinished, but our simple room on the ground floor was adequate, and the makeshift restaurant-nightclub on the top floor afforded gorgeous sunset views over the lake. Were we to return, I think I would try one of the rental cabins, as many of them seemed well appointed with covered terraces and screened-in porches. It seems that in it’s heyday, naturism was a booming business in this little valley, and while most of the houses and cabins – perhaps 100-200 of them – seemed inhabited, it was very quiet during our stay. Not quite the mid-summer French naturist resort vibe we had been hoping for.

I’ll be eager to see what becomes of the new Hotel do Lago, and it appears there’s a new effort to make subletting the cabins a bit easier than it has been in the past. The place was an incredible dream, and alas, most definitely does offer a place to get naked in the dead of North American winter!

Watch for Part II about our travels to Corsica, the Canary Islands, Mexico, Honduras, and a very different naturist place in Thailand.

 

 

Nude Beach Combing on Lanzarote

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!

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Morning walk near Charco del Palo

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.

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Not exactly a sandy beach – near Charco del Palo

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.

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Unfathomable beauty at Famara Playa

FAMARA BEACH

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.

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The tide-pool bathtubs at Famara

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.

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The view of Famara, from the top!

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.

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Tranquility before the textile storm at Las Conchas

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.

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The long, hot walk to Las Conchas

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.

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Naturist bliss near Papagayo Playa

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.

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Charco del Palo; where you can walk home from work naked.

NEXT UP: Nude Beach Combing on Fuerteventura

I hope you’ll take a moment to browse my other blog called:

THE DISCERNING NUDIST: Selected reading for those who prefer to live without clothing.