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Naturism and nude beaches

The Spanish have a remarkably relaxed attitude towards nudity on their beaches especially when you consider that Spain is still such a staunchly catholic country.

As many foreigners have found, Spain can be a paradoxical place. Whilst elderly widows dress permanently in black in honour of their dead husbands and good catholic women don their “mantilla” lace headscarves in church, naked flesh abounds all around the Spanish costas.

American and Canadian tourists, generally more prudish than their European counterparts, are often shocked to find holidaymakers of all shapes, sizes and ages baring all on the beaches of the Iberian Peninsula and Spanish islands.

Spain's first official nudist beach

It’s probably no coincidence that the country’s first official nudist beach, Costa Natura near Estepona on the Costa del Sol, received formal approval from the authorities in 1979, just four years after Franco’s death. With the demise of the fascist dictator’s repressive regime, the Spanish set about enjoying their new found freedom with a vengeance.

Naturism was just one of the many phenomena to flourish in the new democratic Spain

Since the late 1970s hundreds of beaches, both official and unofficial, have been attracting naturists from all over Europe and beyond. In the Franco era only the bold few dared to risk nakedness in hidden coves with the possibility of arrest and punishment if they were spotted.

These days naturists are well catered for in all areas of coastal Spain – there are nudist beaches in secluded bays and bustling tourist complexes where nudity is obligatory rather than optional.

Costa Natura, with its 200 seafront apartments, is still a thriving naturist resort and has been joined by a string of similar complexes all along the Costa del Sol.

Some cater solely for naturists whilst others tolerate 'textiles' (otherwise known as people with clothes!).

One of the most famous naturist resorts is Vera Natura in Almeria in the North East corner of Andalucia where a huge gated complex with every conceivable tourist facility gives access to a three-kilometre stretch of nudist beach.

If you’re planning a holiday in one of these designated naturism complexes you’ll need to check the nudity rules in advance to make sure they’re in keeping with your own views on naturism. Some tourists have complained that the rules are at best confusing and at worst absurd – for example some hotels insist on nudity in their pools and gardens but demand clothing in their reception, shops and restaurant areas.

Topless sunbathing and swimming is common all over Spain and there are many beaches which are not officially naturist but where nudes happily co-exist with their scantily clad counterparts.

Take care when you bare

If you’re planning to celebrate your nakedness on a non-nudist beach it’s vital to take into account other people’s sensitivities. Many people, including parents with young children, find nudity offensive so you might need to find a quiet corner away from the “textiles” or stick with beaches officially designated as naturist by the local council.