Back in 2014, shortly after I started this blog, I began a series of posts called “One-Hundred Naked Places.” The idea was to document the places we had visited, including the ones we weren’t so keen on, in an effort to provide an admittedly biased resource for others who are looking for great places to get naked. The bias part is simply admitting that the very thing we’re not looking for may well be the thing somebody else is looking for.
I’ve listed those original posts at the end of this post, and I’m gradually working through them again as we’ve done a lot of traveling since 2014, and I never quite got to the end of the series. BUT NOW… we have interactive Google Maps, which can be updated as we go along.
Now you can click through to our personalized Google map of “Places we’ve Been Naked,” which will provide you with a link to the most recent information and photos on the web, and our brief commentary in the list view regarding our visit there. As noted on the map, I can’t quite figure out why all the pins don’t automatically appear on the map, but as soon as you click on the link from the list, it will pin it on the map.
By now, I have over a hundred blog posts since 2013, so if you’re looking for information about a particular place, or would like to know about our experiences there, use the form below to inquire. It’s always fun to chat with people who are looking to plan their next “nakation!”
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING WE’VE ALREADY BLOGGED ABOUT?
Alternatively, if you would like to suggest a place we need to add to our list, or have some other question regarding our naturist travels, we invite you to fill out the form below…
Hope this is useful, and that others can benefit from our thirty years (Oy!!) of naturist travel experience. Bon voyage!
In the meantime, here are the links to those previous posts:
It’s one thing to find a place for nakation that allows for a leisurely afternoon of nude sunbathing by the pool, but what if you are the restless type who needs to get up and stretch your legs now and again? Such was the topic of my previous installment called I ❤️ Naked Walks, focusing on a few of our favorite places in Croatia and France where naked trekking is possible.
The second installment in this series takes us hopping to the island of Crete, and even farther south to the incredibly remote island of Gavdos. Later, a few musings about the Spanish territories of Mallorca and the Canary Islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura – all of which afford fabulous naked walks along the sea.
GREECE: Southern Crete
We first visited Crete in 2008, flying into Chania with a good helping of fear and trepidation about renting a car to drive over the rugged mountains to the southern coast, where one will find Naturist Resort Vritomartis perched on the cliffs overlooking the Libyan Sea. Turns out the drive isn’t really that scary if you simply keep your eyes on the road, and even better now that they’ve reworked the tunnels that take you over the mountain pass with a few less encounters with wandering goats.
Just a short walk down the hill from Vritomartis is Filaki Beach, one of the only fully authorized naturist beaches in Greece. It’s actually a decent walk down to the road to the beach, and in recent years, the message has been to cover up when en route, though we find compliance with that rule to be hit and miss, and we have yet to be admonished when risking the right to bare all.
From the nearby village of Chora Sfakia, you can hire an early morning water taxi for a 15 minute clothing-optional boat ride to Sweetwater beach where you’ll find a nice mix of naturists and textiles, and even a snack bar that requires you to at least make an effort to wrap in a pareo should you wish to have a beverage or a sandwich. After a morning snooze under the scrubby trees, you can follow the coastal path to the east that will eventually bring you to the stunningly beautiful village of Loutro. I’ve made a habit of making the trek au naturel, though you most definitely need to cover up before entering the village, as there is even signage that forbids topless sunbathing near the hotels. You’ll get a good hour of naked trekking before you arrive, and there are plenty of spots to jump in the sea along the way if you’re feeling overheated. Once in Loutro, enjoy a frosty beer and some calamari along the marina before boarding the ferry back tho Chora Sfakia, thereby completing the loop!
The Vritomartis animation team organizes a wide variety of excursions each week, and we make it a point to plan our stay around the guided hike down a remote gorge that’s well off the beaten track of the more heavily touristy treks. After an exhilarating open air ride (in the back of a pick-up truck) up the hill to the trail head, the walk itself is typically about 90 minutes, followed by lunch (clothed) in the taverna in a neighboring village. I suspect there are other remote trails on Crete where naked walking would be tolerated, but again, we always exercise caution to avoid offending the locals.
GREECE: Island of Gavdos
We have made it to Gavdos twice, once on a smallish ferry that makes the round trip most days of the week from Chora Sfakia, and then a couple years later on the car ferry that runs on something of a “when we feel like it schedule” from several small ports on the southern coast.
Once considered a hippie enclave where nudity on the beach was largely the norm, Gavdos has become increasingly gentrified with the addition of several small hotels found on commercial sites like Booking.com. But we had no trouble finding roads and trails leading to various idyllic beaches where nobody seemed to care when they came upon naked hikers. Our personal favorites would have to be the walk from the sleepy village of Vatsiana all the way down to the Tripiti beach – the most southerly point in Europe – and on the north shore, Pyrgos Beach, reached by a trailhead that leads down the gentle slopes to one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve even seen. I have made the walk twice and only passed a couple others along the way; none of whom were naked, but none who seemed the least bit concerned that I was!
I’m still trying to figure out the complexities of naturism in Spain, which is even a bit more complicated on the islands that fly the Spanish flag while maintaining their own customs and traditions. That said, it seems one could get themselves in trouble pretty quickly by getting naked in the wrong place at the wrong time on Mallorca, but when it comes to the seaside trail along the coast near Colonia San Jordi, it seems that nobody much cares. The famous Es Trenc beach is well known for clear turquoise waters as well as sustained popularity with people who celebrate their aversion to swimwear. That seems to have set the tone for the trails that stretch eastward toward the lighthouse near Ses Salines and onward to the gorgeous little cove where you’ll find the smallish Mármois Beach tucked away with it’s pristine sandy beach.
While staying at the nearby Skinny Dippers Naturist Retreat, we’ve made it out daily routine to arrive at the trailhead by sunrise each morning to exploit optimal lighting for photography while beating the heat of the day.
We’ve found a few other “naked tolerant” walks on the island as well, most notably the north coast beach that stretches to the west from Colonia de Saint Pere, but we much prefer the walks near Ses Salines as we have covered at least fifteen kilometers and have yet to exhaust all the naked walking options therein.
So… if you take a couple really big volcanoes, drop them in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco, then add a few millennia of lava flows and sediment accumulation, you end up with several barren little islands that are a little tricky to get to, but well worth it if you’re looking for a nakation spot that’s reasonably warm for most of the year.
We made our home base at the naturist village Charco del Palo, which is little more than an assemblage of self-catering apartments, a modest grocery store, and a couple local eateries that may or may not be open, depending on the season. But what you can count on is lovely beach walks in either direction from the village, without the need to even carry a pareo unless you plan on pushing the boundaries by getting too close to the neighboring villages.
While one of the locals warned us about being judicious when naked elsewhere on the island, it seems that some of the mountain trails offer excellent opportunities early in the morning, providing breathtaking mountaintop views along the way. If that seems too daring, you can most certainly count on a nice beach walk at Caleta de Famara, where we found a fairly even divide between the naked and the clothed. The bluffs along the Costa de Papagayo also seems suitable to naked trekking, with the nudist beach Playa Congrio nearby.
If long naked walks on an infinite sandy beach is your main squeeze, then Fuerteventura may well be your ultimate nakation destination. We spent a few days at each end of the island, first in Corralejo where we stayed in a naturist hotel that closed shortly after our visit. From that location at the edge of town, it was possible to walk quite a distance a la nude if you were willing to cover up now and again for the textile beaches adjoining to super-hotels about a mile down the beach.
But the real prize was the beach near Morro del Jable where we stayed in the apartments at Naturist Monte Marina. While we had to wrap up for the five minute walk to the beach, once along the sea, we set our sights a bit farther each morning expecting to come to a place where we would need to cover up. After walking nearly an hour-and-a-half one morning, we did finally reach a textile beach where we were feeling conspicuously naked, but I suspect had we just kept on heading north, we could have continued another hour or two. And even in August, the weather was perfect with the cool breeze coming off the water, which made 90-degrees days absolutely bearable if not downright pleasant.
So, I think I have one more installment left in this series of places for naked walking, as I have yet to talk up DeAnza Springs in California, and a couple more European locations that I will have a chance to visit in early June, so I may hold back on Part 3 until that critical research is complete!
In the meantime, I’m always looking for another place to get naked, and all the better if it allows the freedom to get out and about… in the altogether, of course!
Seems simple enough. Take off your clothes… and walk!
As it happens, neither of us have ever considered ourselves even remotely athletic. In fact, one could argue that a big part of what drew us into naturism in the first place was simply coming to terms with our own bodies. Neither of us had the talent nor the desire for championship skiing or body-builder weight-lifting, let alone the determination to train for bicycling across Europe. But a good brisk walk? We’re all in! Especially if it can be done in the buff.
And so it goes… that the main criteria for naturist places that garner our highest marks are those that offer the opportunity to move. In the best case, that means at least an hour’s walk at a brisk pace of about four miles-per-hour, which is about as fast as most people can walk before breaking into a run.
Doesn’t matter to us if it’s a circuit around an expansive naturist resort, or a walk along the sea where nudity is tolerated, as long as it doesn’t require getting dressed. So here is Part One of our recommendations for naked walking, hoping this will inspire a few readers to share their favorite places with us for future exploration.
CROATIA: Hvar and Istria
The naturist resorts on the Istrian peninsula are among the largest to be found anywhere on the planet. We are particularly fond of Valalta and Koversada – two resorts that face one another on opposing sides of the Lim Fjord near Rovinj. Each offers a wide variety of accommodations, and you can come pretty close to clocking your four miles simply by walking the periphery of each resort. During our last visit to Valalta, we finally figured out how to hire a water taxi from one resort to the other so we could enjoy the amenities of each, which has the potential of doubling your mileage, including a walk across the bridge to Koversada’s naturist island with our favorite fish restaurant.
Naturism is practiced throughout the Dalmatian Islands, but becomes less common as you work your way south toward Dubrovnik, due in large part to the increase of traditional tourism in the south. We have found some lovely resorts and beaches on Rab and Krk, but in terms of naked walking, our most satisfying stay was at Palmižana on a small island near Hvar, where walking naked on the trails and shorelines of the island seemed completely acceptable to the locals. Not that we passed lots of other naked people, but nobody seemed much concerned about our nudity. That works.
*See the comments below from Dalmaitian Traveler on the topic a naturism in Croatia. Insightful, I think.
FRANCE: Cote d’Argent
The Cote d’Argent, or Silver Coast of France, refers to the wide, infinite beaches of the Gironde Peninsula west of Bordeaux, on the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest corner of France. Despite the fact that the weather is not as dependable as that on the Mediterranean, this is where one will find the largest naturist centers in France, including Arnaoutchot, La Jenny, Euronat, and CHM Montalivet.
If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know we are partial to La Jenny, due in large part to the fact that a walk from one end of the resort to the other and back to your chalet will likely take the better part of an hour even if you resist a deviation across the dunes to the beach. If you really want to stretch your legs, you can walk for miles on the beach in either direction without worries about needing to cover up. Even if you have enough stamina to make it to the next village up the coast where most people are donning swimsuits, it seems the locals have grown accustomed to the random naked person wandering along the surf, and scarcely bat an eye.
Interestingly, there is a bike path that runs behind the dunes for much of this coastline, and from time to time, notice goes out that the gendarmes are “patrolling the path” to issue citations to those who think they can cross from the resort to the beach without at least covering one’s genitalia. We’ve never been the subject of such an interrogation, but it all seems pretty absurd, since anyone traveling the bike path will have certainly encountered naked people through the wire fence while passing the resort. Should someone stop anyplace in this region to have a peek over the dunes to the beach, chances are better than not they will be accosted with naked bums – young and old. But back to the point, we typically keep a pareo handy just in case, but rarely bother to wrap up, even at the risk of being caught with our pants off.
FRANCE: Ile du Levant
I’ve written quite a lot about Ile du Levant over the years as we tend to visit annually, if only for a long weekend each year. We think it’s just the right balance of civilization and wilderness, with several excellent restaurants (some of which encourage naked dining!) and a seaside trail that is especially inviting early in the day before the heat makes the walk back up the hill into the village too intense. (We’re fond of staying at Heliotel near the center of the village at the top of that hill, which means a steep climb at the end of any trek to the sea.)
Nudity on Ile du Levant is more complicated than one might think, (see our previous blog post, “Yet another round of CRAZY on Ile du Levant“) with strict rules pertaining to nudity near the ferry port, as well as a quirky policy that allows you be completely naked in the town square as long as you don’t stop to chat with a friend, in which case, you’re required to wear “le minimum” or face a potential fine. Reportedly, nobody ever gets more than a warning, and even those are seemingly rare, but it’s an ongoing controversy that keeps the French naturist community abuzz. It’s easy to find your way around the island without crossing the square, though you can’t get to the island’s only sandy beach without passing the port, which requires covering up for a minute or two until you’re a hundred meters or so around the corner. Of course, the curious people on the ferry will still see naked people if they’re looking for them, some who appear delighted to smile and wave to passengers from the rocks just beyond the port area. Yet another exercise in prudish futility.
FRANCE: Origan Village Naturist
I think France boasts well over 200 naturist establishments, though we think Club Origan is particularly special, if only for the naked walking potential. Situated about an hour north of Nice in a steep valley in the Var, the resort lies just above the village of Puget-Theniers. Accommodations range from tent camping to modest portable type bungalows, but it’s the location that makes the place. Since the property line extends well up the hillside toward the ridge, a trail looping from one end of the resort, along the ridge, and down the other side provides a solid hour-and-fifteen minute daily workout, providing you’re in good enough shape to scramble up the mountain in good time. The views are spectacular, and the mountain-top blue skies are exactly what you’d hope for when you think of the South of France.
Alternatively, you can make your way past the front gate and about another 20 minutes down the gorge to the river where apparently locals who ride the commuter train up the valley have grown accustomed to the naked people frolicking in the water. In either case, summer days in Provence can become unbearably warm, so we try to work out our day to take on the mountain while the air is still cool. And since you never actually leave the property of the naturist resort, you don’t need to worry about covering up en route.
CORSICA: Beaches, mountains, and waterfalls
While officially part of France, Corsica has a culture that is uniquely… well… Corsican! I suppose that an inherent peril of being located in such a strategic location just off the coast of mainland Europe is that just about every modern civilization has tried to overrun the Corsican people at one time or another, but as of this century, the people on Corsica speak French (and Corsican!) while the people on the next southerly island – Sardinia – speak Italian. Fortunately enough, with the French language comes a proliferation of naturist places, making Corsica the preferred naturist destination of these two Mediterranean islands.
The long, sandy Linguizzetta beach on the eastern coast of the island must harbor at least a half-dozen naturist resorts, several of which cater specifically to sun-seeking Germans. We once stayed at Riva Bella, which is essentially isolated from the others, and more recently at Bagherra, where you can walk naked directly to the beach and keep right on going north for several kilometers until you might notice a sign that indicates the end of the naturist beach, where we then found a woman who spends her days yelling at naked people (like us) who disregard that sign and keep walking.
We are also fond of La Chiappa, where – in addition to enjoying the amenities there – you can make the 40-minute trek on the seafront trail around the cape of the island to a sweet little beach called Tahiti Plage where you’re likely to find a balanced mix of textiles and naturists, young and old, peacefully co-existing. There’s even a modest snack bar hidden in the trees, but you’ll need to cover at least your waist should you wish to stop in for refreshments.
Corsica has some interesting options inland as well. Especially stunning early in the season (before things get too dry) is the secluded and rustic U-Furu naturist camping that offers a 30-minute walk up to a series of pools, and if you’re timing is right, a progression of waterfalls. A great place for a picnic and some stunning naked photo ops.
On our last visit to the island, I picked up a trail guide to the vast network of hiking routes on the island, and we found a couple that were particularly remote where I was brave enough to get naked even though my wife was not so brazen. The few people we passed along the way seemed unfazed by my lack of clothing, though I had a pareo handy in case we came upon a family. One trail led to another remote waterfall where sunbathing on the adjacent rocks was simply too enticing to resist. It seems on an island the size of Corsica, the possibilities are endless.
We have also found excellent naked walks on the Canary Islands, the Greek Islands of Crete and Gavdos, on Mallorca, as well as mainland Spain, which will be good fodder for the sequel to this post. We have also found beaches in Uruguay and Australia expansive enough for a viable walk, and I’ll also give a shout-out to our favorite place on US soil located in the high-desert above San Diego where you could probably walk for days along the abandoned railway tracks.
In the meantime, if you know of a great place for naked walks that we haven’t found already, please comment here so we can go find it and explore.
Naturism… and Instagram. Two words that are inherently
problematic when they appear in the same sentence.
I have several Instagram accounts, though it’s only been within the past six months or so that I’ve become one one might consider an active IG contributor. I find it quite annoying that the platform is almost impossible to maneuver from a real computer (as there are things that can only be done from your mobile device – like posting a new photo!) and it’s even more annoying that IG has been swallowed up by the Facebook conglomerate (where I have multiple personalities as well), and you simply have to concede to the fact all those platforms are connected and it’s pretty easy to inadvertently get your wires crossed.
Why so many different accounts? Well, at the risk of invoking a cascade of rage comments from the “bare all or go home” crowd, it’s a simple fact that while what you do in your free timeshouldn’t matter in your professional circles… it matters; especially when your work involves interactions with minors. Looking for an annoying example? Read this ridiculous article about the locals who staged a protest against a British Naturism event held at a water park in Great Britain last week!
And so, I have IG accounts that are connected to various elements of my professional life, but two accounts that I actually care about: one dedicated to our love of world travel (@mileagerundan), and another specifically focusing on… well, our naked asses (@naturistdan) as we’ve sought out naturist places all over the world.
I’m a little surprised at myself that I’ve gotten into the IG thing at all, but it’s turned out to be strangely cathartic! For starters, we’ve amassed over 100,000 photos since the advent of digital photography in the early 2000s, and digging back through the archives that document our travels – naked or otherwise – immediately lifts me out of the daily grind, if only to take a moment to muse over places we’ve been, people we’ve met, or moments of reveling in a great meal in a quirky cafe in Thailand.
But beyond that, it has been fascinating to watch the feed develop as the list of people I am following – naked and otherwise – has grown. Sometimes a quick shot of “naked in nature” is simply that inspirational jolt you need to augment that morning Cup of Joe. And on the mainstream travel feed, I’m forever finding places to add to our bucket list, quietly envious of some twenty-eight-year-old dude who’s working his way across Asia with one spare t-shirt and a smartphone, capturing images of nature and humanity along the way.
So, this all sounds lovely, I suppose, but there are decisions to be made and strategies to be considered in shaping one’s IG presence. These perils are best documented by a recent post from Nick and Lins blog (@n_wanderings is their new IG account!) where we were fortunate enough to make their Top Twelve List of IG naturist accounts. This, after they’ve been going through something of a reconciliation process with Instagram since their account with 42,000 followers was suddenly dropped after posting a screenshot from Austin Powers that, ostensibly, was well within the criteria for acceptability.
FORTY-TWO THOUSAND FOLLOWERS!! THINK ABOUT THAT! Knowing that in the current format, you get a sponsored ad for about every four or five “organic” posts on your feed, and here was an account that was playing by the rules, attracting a diverse and highly engaged audience, and POOF! Disappeared without a trace with no recourse or process for an appeal. In an age when people are so paranoid about censorship from the government, doesn’t anyone give a flip about censorship from commercial social media?
As I write this, my naturist IG account is creeping up on
1600 followers; the fully-clothed travel account continues to hover around 300
followers. Which brings up an intriguing element of the psychology of posting
on social media altogether. Quite directly… Why bother?
The fervent naturist community likes to tout the mission of
normalizing nudity in mainstream media. That’s certainly been my stated
modus-operandus, though quite honestly, I can’t really tell if a presence on
social media is actually helping or hurting the cause. It seems there are three
positions on that front:
Converting the Converted: I don’t know that other naturists need to be convinced about the virtues of social nudity, though that sense of solidarity is sort of nice.
Entangling with Erotica: With all the preaching (from naturists) that nudity is not inherently sexual, I find it challenging to decide who I’m willing to follow on IG under the banner of naturism. A photo of a naked person walking in the woods, that draws you into their feed where you find photos of a couple in a deep embrace, then you scroll down and there she is posed in a decidedly seductive position. And then you’re suddenly getting suggestions for other accounts that are downright pornographic or hook-up leads for swingers. Again, no wonder people are so confused about social nudity!
Sustained Success to Sudden Death: So, you amass 1000 followers, or 10,000 followers, or 100,000 followers, then suddenly some algorithm in the nipple detection software catches one of your images and your entire identity disappears from the internet! Just like that! So many naturist profiles that read, “my last two accounts were deleted – Starting over!”
Starting over! Why bother? And what is that addictive drug that causes us to covet followers in the first place? That same impulse that causes you to check-in every few hours to see if your Pic of the Day is getting the love it deserves (measured in likes and comments). But if we’re going to be honest, there’s a clear hierarchy that garners “likes” in the Instagram game…
Pics of your family vacation will draw a handful of followers and a smattering of likes
Put humans in the picture (clothed) and you’ll get more
Put a naked human in the picture (Sorry – but especially an attractive female*) – and you’ll get a truckload of hits.
Hint at full frontal nudity and WOO-HOO… You’re an instant celebrity!
*I use the word “attractive” with a good bit of trepidation in this analysis, as naturists like to embrace the idea that every body is beautiful, but I think it illustrates the point.
This whole concept became a bit more curious when this topic came up with an IG-savvy friend who pointed out to me how people will follow your page just to get you to follow them back, then as soon as you do, they unfollow you! Huh! Turns out my social media friends aren’t such great friends at all!! They just liked my pic of the Golden Gate Bridge to curry my favor in adding one more follower to their own feed! Jeez! We humans are so petty!
My point in all this? Well for starters, I’m mad as hell that advocates like Nick and Lins have followed all the rules while doing all the right things to promote something I feel so passionately about – the right to embrace social nudity in an appropriate context. But in the last place, their efforts have been thwarted by the very cause they’re rallying against.
And what does that say for the rest of us who are chipping away at the social nudity acceptance cause. In the end, it seems that us naturist types can be as altruistic as we’d like, but amazingly enough, even given the bottomless pit of every kind of pornography anyone could ever hope for on the internet, the naturist cause will always fall victim the biological desires that sustain the human race. (Thank you for sharing your picture of Mt. Rushmore, but could you just put up a photo of a naked woman instead?) It’s simply a mystery to me why someone would spend time trolling naturist social media accounts for a glimpse of nipplage when there has never been such easy access to so much erotic material at one’s fingertips at any time. And this says nothing about the number of times I’ve gone searching for “genuine naturist information” on these very same prudish social media platforms, only to accidentally click into a thread of hardcore sex videos that have yet to be detected by the nipple and buttock detector bots. It seems those sites can survive for months – unnoticed and unfettered, even with direct links to porn sites.
Here we are in 2019. People in my age bracket have seen a fleeting image of Janet Jackson’s nipple – blurred of course, for our safety – and it’s almost impossible to set parental controls on the family computer to keep your seven-year-old from stumbling into a hard-core fetish site. All the while, protesters are gathering outside organized naturist events to “protect the children (they don’t even know) from psychological damage,” and butt recognition software is routinely freezing and deleting legitimate accounts that are lobbying for one simple concept: “A body part is a body part is a body part. Don’t objectify or sexualize. Just realize that most humans have one set of parts or the other, and they are all attractive and beautiful in their own right.”
And so, I’ll play the Instagram game for another day, knowing I’d best avoid posting an image of Austin Powers lest my followers and I are eliminated in an instant – just like that.
Humans! How can we be some complicated and so simple minded all at the same time? Can’t we all just be naked and get along?
Spring is a really difficult time in my line of work. No question that blogging is one of my favorite things to do in my free time, but that makes the bold assumption that I actually have free time.
Things are looking a bit more hopeful for that in the coming weeks, and I have several prompts in the queue, so I’m eager to get back out there on the web. In the meantime, I started posting to our naturist Instagram again @naturistdan, so I thought I’d lift a few photos from that feed to get back into the Meandering Naturist game.
Thanks for following our blog! Hope to be posting again soon about our most recent naturist travels, along with a few random musings about social nudity and life!
I’m writing this post from 38,000 feet on a flight home from
Berlin. My wife and I spent the weekend in this Renaissance city with the
intent of doing a bit of sight-seeing, enjoying a couple nice meals, but most specifically,
checking out a few German spas (“Saunas” or “Thermes”) that are particularly renowned
for their traditions in nude bathing – on in the case of the saunas – nude
I’ve already written this post from a somewhat different perspective in a piece called The Demographics of Nakedness, where I sought out to dispel the myth that nudity is the great equalizer. “We are all the same when we’re naked,” have said so many people in advocacy for nude recreation. “You can’t tell a doctor, from a business tycoon, from a pipe-fitter when everyone is nude, as clothing provides the social cues that allow us to form our preconceived notions about other humans.”
I love the genuine sentiment and conviction of such statements, but
the longer we’ve participated in social nudity, the less I have been able to
lend any personal credibility to such a mantra. And never has that been so
evident as during this brief qualitative study we just completed while visiting
the most nudity-friendly spas in Berlin. What did the study prove? Well… naked
humans are simply human, but naked! Profound…
I know! 😐
SETTING: Just a couple
blocks from the Berlin Aquarium and Zoo, each of which border the expansive
Tiergarten, this is most definitely a center-city location that would probably
be best described as “my neighborhood sauna.” The striking element of this
particular venue is how it is situated amidst the commercial and residential
high-rises of downtown Berlin, with a rooftop view of several historical
landmarks. Of course, that means a reciprocal exposure of the sundecks to the
inhabitants of those high-rises, which must be a source of amusement in the
middle of summer when I suspect the rooftop nude sunbathers are plentiful and
in clear view of the apartment dwellers across the street.
We arrived late on a Thursday morning and stayed into the
early evening hours. Even on this near-freezing day, the “seasoned locals”
showed little reticence about meandering out onto the veranda in the
all-together. It immediately made me think of the insultingly redundant
comments on sites like Trip Advisor where first time nude beach goers comment
on “the perils of encountering the people you never want to see naked.”
But if I’m going to be completely truthful, there is a discomfort in visiting a naked place where the clientele is mainly in the “over-80-years-old” bracket, not unlike that of visiting my 93-year-old mother in a “sunset-living community” where everyone starts lining up with their walkers and wheelchairs at 4:00 pm for the first seating at dinner. This is always a reflective dance with one’s own mortality that has little to do with nakedness, but everything to do with how each of us grapple with the aging process. In that spirit, part of me wants to jump up and say “GOOD FOR YOU NAKED OLD PEOPLE!! I celebrate your confidence for putting so many decades of wrinkles and scars on display.” But in that very same breath, you find yourself catching a glimpse of yourself reflecting in the glass walls in an attempt to quickly assess where you are in that process. Sobering, at least.
As the day progressed at Europa-Therme, the crowd grew a bit
more diverse, with a couple dads and their kids (Yup – naked children at the
spa! That’s a thing in Berlin.), and some middle-agers that looked more or less
like us. You could tell this was a place that was once on the cutting edge, but
now on the backside of reality. Who knows, maybe the local hipsters show up on
Saturday night to soak in the rooftop pool and gaze at the Berlin skyline,
(Which sounds like fun!) but I sort of doubt it, because now they have other
between a city park and a soccer field, you could easily walk past the front
door of Vabali Spa Berlin amidst the local service industries and apartment
blocks in the sprawling development at the foot of the track where the Berlin
Wall once stood. But once inside the door, you are guided down the path of
Asian influenced self-realization into a labyrinth of saunas, hot tubs, tepid
swimming pools, and rest areas with luxurious waterbeds that invite napping
even when you thought you were wide awake. Children are allowed, but we only
saw one mom with her young daughter in tow. This is a mecca for young adults.
Interestingly enough, friends visited the Vabali Spa in Düsseldorf a few months ago, where their defining moment was a reprimand for being “too naked” – a result of walking from one attraction to the next without bothering to wrap themselves in a towel or a robe. That most certainly resonated with us as we observed this to be a place that is really well managed, or perhaps more appropriately – micro-managed!
As best I can tell, they opened in sometime in 2014 (with
the Düsseldorf establishment opening in 2017, and a third location scheduled
for Hamburg in 2021). As part of a consortium with Claudius Therme and
Neptunbad in Cologne, they have similarly strict policies that forbid you to
leave a towel or a robe on a lounger, at which point, said item will be
confiscated and sold on Ebay before you can utter the word Aufguss! Along with that comes a sense that you are being watched
all the time-in the pools, in the quiet rooms, walking around naked – whatever.
The rules are in place for a reason, and they must be adhered to.
I get it. There’s a strong tradition of sex clubs in Berlin
that have hijacked the “FKK” nomenclature that once belonged exclusively to
hard-core naturists, but now denotes a nightlife where, truly, anything goes.
Vabali is clearly seeking to set an industry standard, which could quickly be
tarnished by people getting frisky in the hot tub.
But alas, I’ve drifted off topic. And that is, who goes to
Vabali? Well, pretty much anyone that might identify themselves as a young
professional hipster, along with a few strays like ourselves. We were in a
smallish minority of those without tattoos ranging from subtle line-art to body
sleeves. Lots of young couples apparently took Friday off, while several “girls’
day out” groups seemed completely at ease with the co-ed naked part, but
uniformly uncomfortable with the “Crap! It’s cold out here” part. (Many of the
most alluring parts of the property are outdoors, decidedly uncomfortable when
making your way from the outdoor pool to the deep-heated resting areas.)
But again, to the point… The crowd at Verbali looked very
much like what I would expect to encounter in the mainline nightclubs of
Berlin. Successful, educated young people out to have a relaxing and sensual
day at the spa. Naked was not the attraction for coming here – Chillaxing is
what’s on tap, and what’s the big deal about naked? “We all get naked… every
day… right? Why not spend the days that way with my friends?
SETTING: Kristalltherme is a chain of sauna and pool complexes scattered throughout Germany, though the venue at Ludwigsfelda, a 25-minute train ride outside of Berlin, is known to be “the most naked of the entire chain.” On Wednesdays and Sundays, bathing suits are allowed, but during the rest of the week, the expectation is total nudity in the saunas and in the pools. Covering with a robe or towel is the supposed expectation when walking about, but many – male and female – don’t bother to cover up at all unless making their way to the food concession, and even then, nobody seems to care. (A marked difference from Vabali where the immediate action upon exiting the pool was to wrap in a towel.) And on a Saturday? This is most definitely a family water park. Those under 18 are allowed to wear swimsuits, and I would say roughly half of those in that age bracket did so – but the rest were naked.
This was my third visit to this naked water wonderland, the most relaxing in some ways, and somewhat disorienting in others. If Europa-Therme has assumed the role of a senior day center, and Vabali has found its niche as an enclave for open-minded hipsters, then Kristalltherme falls in that middle ground of “a place for the rest of us.” To that end, it was interesting – given the lack of textile cues other than bathrobes and towels – to imagine the lives of these patrons fully clothed on a workday, and in that light, I would surmise this to be the most socio-economic diverse crowd I’ve encountered at any place where social nudity is practiced. Keep in mind that our ability to converse with the locals was essentially non-existent, leaving one to draw such conclusions on the basis of people-watching alone, the same way one does in an airport, a restaurant, or a grocery store. Sure enough, clothed or not, people send off innumerable non-verbal cues that define who they are and where they fit in.
We arrived early, having read that finding two loungers together after the opening bell on a weekend could be a challenge, and for a good while, we felt a good twenty-five years younger than the prevailing median age. But as the day progressed, families arrived in droves until our departure at dusk when the young couples surrounded the bar, creating an ever-evolving ambiance in the warm pool.
It occurred to me while I was sitting in one particularly
unique sauna at the Kristalltherme – called Brutal
Aufguss! that had this been my first experience at such a sauna, it might
have also been my last. Whereas the typical demeanor for the sauna infusion
ceremonies is one of meditation and mind-expansion, this particular theatrical presentation
– all in German, of course – involved an aggressive dialogue between to two
sauna-masters which apparently played a bit over the top even with the locals. (It
was called the “Brutal Sauna”
experience, after all.) But in that moment, it was something of an epiphany to
me. Just like anyone in the hospitality industry, the most important element in
a business plan is to know who your
target audience is, and why wouldn’t that be true for businesses that cater to
naked people as well, since as I stated earlier, naked people are just as
different from one another as clothed people, except without the clothes!
In Germany, I believe there are nearly 300 saunas, some similar to one another,
but none exactly the same as the next. In France, there are nearly as many
naturist centers, some of which cater to people looking for “lots of friends
with lots of benefits;” others which seek to create a family friendly
environment something akin to Disney World. But at the end of the day, except
for the very most adventurous, people want to hang out with people they feel
inherently comfortable with, which is why there are so many different restaurant
and hotel chains, boutique malls, and discount super-shopping centers. It’s
difficult enough to find one’s niche when fully clothed, let alone putting
yourself out there wearing nothing but your own skin. Perhaps the awkward truth
is that even if you have no intention of actually socializing with other people
at a particular place, most of us are hard-wired in our efforts not to stand out from the crowd.
I have written before that I think millennials may have a
golden opportunity to sway attitudes regarding social nudity in America in a
very positive way, but in the end, and in the same breath, one’s first
experience with public nakedness will quite likely be their last if it doesn’t
turn out to be at least a marginally positive experience. Especially in
America, given so few opportunities to even “give it a try,” it seems a bit of
a long shot for getting it right on
the first try. That can only lead to
the riveting cocktail party story that goes, “I got naked this one time, and
you wouldn’t believe how it turned out. OMG… SO awkward!”
Thanks to the ever-growing database of reviews such as those on Google, Yelp, and Trip Advisor, and a few tireless bloggers who are adding more substantive information about experiencing social nudity, there’s more information out there than ever to help you find the right place. That said, I suspect if you go to a subpar restaurant and don’t like the food, you may never go back to that place, but I doubt you’ll give up eating. But if you’re contemplating your first experience of getting naked with others, you may want to do a bit of research. I suppose it’s like any number of experiences that stretch your horizons – Once you find your way there and have a mountain top experience, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to try it in the first place. The tricky part? You have to get it right the first time!
Ever since discovering naturist Europe – especially France – I’ve been hell-bent on finding something of an equivalent in the Southern Hemisphere. You know, when our cold, northeast winters are offset by their sun-drenched summers. We have now amassed a few options that meet that criteria, including Brazil, Uruguay, and South Africa, but it seems Thailand is quickly pulling into the lead as the single country in Asia that is at the ready to give the discerning naturist a few excellent choices.
I have written quite a bit about my previous visits to naturist venues near Chiang Mai and Phuket, with a particular fondness for the new PeaceBlue Resort near Rawai Beach. But this time I thought I’d head the other direction, flying into Bangkok’s international airport then driving about 90 minutes to the sprawling seaside metropolis, Pattaya. If there is an Asian equivalent to the Jersey Shore, this would most certainly be it, with towering apartment buildings and beaches packed with umbrellas and loungers, all for the privilege of splashing around in the murky waters where snorkeling would seem futile – if not a little disgusting – at best.
My base camp this time would be at the relatively new naturist resort – Phuan Naturist Village – located on the edge of a small village about 25 minutes (by car) outside the center of Pattaya. For those who have visited Oriental Village near Chiang Mai, you would find this somewhat similar given its proximity to a couple small stores and some other basic amenities, but you’re not likely to walk into the village for dinner in the evening – unless you’re really accustomed to hardcore “be like a local” travel.
To that end, Phuan has a restaurant on grounds that’s open pretty much all day every day, including the highly coveted luxury (at least to me) of fresh brewed coffee. (What is it with the rest of the world with their incredibly high tolerance for Nescafé. That is not coffee!) Otherwise, their menu is a bit limited, but enough choices to warrant staying in to eat naked.
In combing through their website, I had a difficult time figuring out the lodging configurations, which are most definitely a two tier affair. I stayed in one of the simple bungalows for the equivalent of about $45 USD per night. A small cabin with low ceilings and a shower that simply consisted of a sprayer head anchored to the wall below a small water heater – You know, the one that washes down the entire bathroom, draining to the lowest point in the corner of the room? But otherwise, the AC was excellent and the bed was comfortable enough. Certainly adequate for one person; perhaps a bit cozy for two.
The alternative looked to be a significant upgrade, beginning at about three times the price. The villas are referring to several modern two bedroom houses scattered about the property. You can rent the entire villa, or you can choose to “share” a villa, which means you and your housemates will each have your own bedroom, but share all the common spaces such as the bathroom, kitchen, and living room. I could certainly imagine doing that when traveling with good friends, but I guess it’s not uncommon for total strangers to rent “a shared villa” – at which point, I guess they would become good friends rather quickly. Seemed they were running near capacity during my stay, with an interesting mix of guests of both Asian and Caucasian heritage, including several northern Europeans, and perhaps two Russian couples traveling together as well. Clearly, their international marketing campaign is working.
Since I was only there for a long weekend, and quite enjoying the excellent Wifi connection to get some work done from the poolside open-air cabana, I debated about actually making the trek into the crowded and reportedly over-stimulating mecca of Pattaya, though it seemed a bit absurd to go to one of the world’s famous beach towns, and not go to the beach. And… I really wanted to duck in and see Chan Naturist Resort, somewhat famous in naturist circles for being the first such establishment in Thailand. I had written ahead to inquire about day use, and indeed, they offer a day-use fee of about $15 that gives you access to a locker, restaurant and pool. Having read mixed reviews of the rather confined feel of the place behind 10-foot walls along a city side street, I was pleased to find the place crowded and convivial, with a clientèle a bit older on the average than that of Phuan Village, but also quite international. (Meaning mainly European again, I think.)
I especially enjoyed the restaurant, with a significantly more extensive menu than Phuan, particularly given the ambiance of the small alcove (seen in the photo above) next to the pool. With all the rage for naked dining opportunities trending at the moment, I would actually say this is a naked dining destination, and best of all, if you go the “too spicy” route, you can jump in the pool once your meal is over. I didn’t bother to check out a room, but the property appeared comfortable, clean, and modern. In short – I would stay there in a heartbeat.
I think Bruce, the co-proprietor of Phuan Naturist Village hit the nail on the head. (The place is actually run by his wife and her sisters, but their previous place of residence was New Mexico, so her American English as extraordinary.) Bruce noted that if you’re looking for a place with solitude and the opportunity to read and snooze by the pool all day, it’s hard to beat the peaceful and serene atmosphere of Phuan Naturist Village. Agreed! But if nightlife is a priority to you, and a big part of your travel experience is seeking out the best local eatery with the highest rating on Yelp, then Chan Resort if your place. Should I have an opportunity to return, I would fancy a few days at each resort, as each has a unique ambiance, and if you’re hell-bent on spending your days on the beach – with a swimsuit, I should add – you’ll get there a lot faster from Chan Resort than from Phuan Village. (Though neither is in walking distance.)
As a post-script, it’s worth noting that the Thailand Naturist Association organizes a boat excursion to a secluded island with a make-do naturist beach on the last Sunday of each Month. Unfortunately, my stay didn’t coincide with this event, but it seems it would be worth planning one’s itinerary around that. Few things in life sound better than getting naked on an island in Thailand when it’s icy and below freezing at home.