We have two naturist adventures this summer – the first being Gavdos and Crete (the second is yet to come) – each of which are stunning for naturists in very different ways. Where I live, the weather has been bleak, rainy, and humid, so I decided to binge a bit this morning while reminiscing about nakation in Greece. <sigh>
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.
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!”
In 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.