Back in the 1970s, if you fancied a carefree naturist holiday, you could do a lot worse than the Greek islands. The clothing optional beaches were well known (even if relatively few were “official”) and all of Europe flocked there. Then, from the 1980s onwards, things changed in Spain and the country and its territories became quite naturist friendly. Nowadays, Formentera or Fuertaventura are much more likely naturist destinations than the Greek islands. But is the Western end of the Mediterranean still worth a visit? It would take a lot more than one article to cast a naturist’s eye over all of the Greek islands, so I will focus on just one: Kefalonia.
Kefalonia – The First Visit
If first visited Kefalonia about 10 years ago. I stayed in Skala, a small town in the south of the island. I was attracted by the reputed lack of night clubs and the nearby naturist beach. I enjoyed my holiday, as I was after a restful time and that is what I got. Considering that its main source of income was tourism, Kefalonia seemed amazingly unspoilt. I spent most of my time in Skala, as I had no car. Typically a large chunk of either end of the day was taken with sunning myself on the naturist beach, which was quite easy to access (go to Skala’s main beach, turn right and keep going) and friendly – a fair number of people, mainly couples, but not overly crowded. When I left, I thought that I would like to return someday.
Return to Kefalonia
My life was quite eventful in the meantime, but in September 2012 I took my (then very new) wife Kefalonia. We decided to stay in Skala as it did not appear to have changed that much. And indeed, when we arrived, I was surprised to see how little the whole island had altered in a decade. I, however, had changed in some ways. Most significantly, I had experience of staying in quite naturist-friendly places and looked at Skala in a different way. Although the town was still very pleasant, I felt it was rather “buttoned up” – a little conservative, as the visitors were mainly fellow Brits. On the main beach, it was rare to even see a topless woman, so I was pleased to discover that the naturist beach was still there. However, many years of winter storms had taken their toll and rearranged many of the island’s beaches, which made access to Skala’s naturist beach much more tricky. It was still possible to get there, but a bit of nimble rock climbing and/or wading was necessary.
Notwithstanding the challenge with access, we did spend quite a bit of time on Skala naturist beach, which still had a pleasant atmosphere, but a slightly steep slope into the sea which I was less happy with. We rented a car for a couple of days and found another beach to the west of Skala that was very much to our liking: Kaminia, which is the northern end of a long beach normally called Mounda. There was a small taverna, with sun-beds and parasols on the beach. We just turned right and walked a couple of hundred metres and soon put distance between us and them. We found a nice expanse of sand and a smooth entry into the sea. We spent a couple of days there, covering up and visiting the taverna for lunch. We had no idea whether this was a “recognized” naturist beach or not, but we saw a few other nude people and other visitors seemed unconcerned about us.
Back in Skala, I got into the habit of having an early morning dip from the town beach each day. There were few people about, so skinny dipping was not a problem. Late afternoon one day we wanted to go to the beach, but realized that the sun was largely off of the naturist beach by that time. The main beach was still in sunshine, so we found a spot a discreet distance from other people and carried on regardless. Quite a few people saw us, but nobody seemed concerned.
Our week’s holiday was very restful and enjoyable, even from a naturist’s perspective, as it turned out. Something about the place – the island as a whole – appealed to us and we resolved to return for another visit. And, in September 2013, that is just what we did.
For our second holiday on the island, we decided to stay somewhere different. I had heard about Vassaliki, a naturist club, and it sounded interesting. My challenge was to persuade my wife. Her concern (and, to be fair, mine also) was that the place was either a hard core, “leave your clothes at the gate” naturist establishment or would be more “adult oriented” (i.e. open to swingers). My enquiries and the website gave the impression that we would not have any problems, so I made the booking. They could also help with car hire, so the only other thing to do was get some flights (we took Thomson from Birmingham).
The airport in Kefalonia is tiny, so, when we arrived, it took no time to locate our hire car and we set off in search of Vassaliki. The roads on the island are atrocious, but the directions were detailed and accurate and we were soon ringing the bell at the front gate. Our first impression was from a friendly welcome. We were quickly shown to our apartment and told everything we needed to know to get settled in.
The key members of the team are Sam, Mark, Sheryl and Simon (not forgetting Archie the dog), all of whom could not have been more friendly and helpful. Their clear focus was on every guest getting what they wanted out of Vassaliki and, to that end, there are as few rules as possible. The team very much set the atmosphere for the place. We were introduced to some other guests and it soon became clear that everyone felt comfortable and we were soon chatting with many people whom we had only just met. However, I felt sure that if a guest had wanted to keep themselves to themselves, that would not have been an issue.
Our apartment was very comfortable, with plenty of space and well equipped enough that we could do some basic self-catering. However, very good food was available from the pool bar and there were a number of tavernas nearby, so there were options. There was a blissful absence of compulsory “entertainment”, which so many hotels seem to think is essential. On various evenings there were opportunities to participate in group activities – a barbecue, mezzes at local tavernas etc. – which were good value. But they were opportunities and totally optional.
From the naturist perspective, Vassaliki was much as you might expect – most people were nude much of the time, only dressing if it was too cool or they were venturing out of the site. But again, the emphasis was on being relaxed. When we first arrived and wanted to look around, my wife put on a light sun-dress, but I saw no reason to dress myself, and we headed to the pool area to get some lunch. Another newly arrived couple were dressed likewise. Soon both women were enjoying the sun and the pool and would only be dressed in the cool of the evenings thereafter.
I was very struck by the management ethos of Vassaliki, which is all about everyone’s needs being met. The amazing thing was the bar. Being a small team, manning the bar all day and all evening would be very hard. Their solution is simple. Outside of meal times, it is self-service. There are glasses to hand, a tap for draft beer and fridge full of wine and other drinks. Any guest can just help themselves and tick it off on a list; everything is simply added to the bill for settlement later. Such trust might sound risky, but it is a small place and I am sure that nobody abuses the system. Most people who feel trusted are then trustworthy. To me, encountering such a civilized attitude was a memorable highlight of the holiday and somehow very much part of the naturism culture.
As we had a car for the whole week that we were staying at Vassaliki, we explored that corner of the island, often looking for beaches. A very short distance from the club is a small village, Spartia, with a harbour. We walked down there on our first day, which was a bit of a stretch – we used the car on subsequent occasions. On the way down, we spotted a small paved footpath, which appeared to lead to the sea, so we investigated. This led down to a very nice small beach, which was deserted (at about 10:00), even though it was catching the sun. We had not come out prepared for swimming, but what equipment does a naturist need? The water was lovely and a combination of the warm sun and my T-shirt took care of drying us afterwards. We continued our walk to the harbour, but I returned to this beach most mornings for an early dip and we sometimes went later in the afternoon. We saw few other people and nobody was concerned about our mode of dress.
The good folks at Vassaliki provided us with a guide to local beaches and the nearest one that was considered naturist friendly was Avithos, which was just a short drive North. We found it easily. There are two tavernas, which are right next to the main beach. Stepping on the the beach, and walking to the right, we soon found ourselves in the next small bay, which was always quiet enough that I felt a naturist would be fine there. But we pressed on to the third beach, which is where naturists conventionally congregate. When we were there we were never alone, but it was far from crowded – almost all naturists. A good sandy beach, with reasonable access to the water.
On another day, we headed South towards Skala to investigate Mounda beach, which is one of the best known naturist favourites. It is easy to find and only a matter of walking along a few hundred yards to the left from the car parking to get to the naturist area. Another lovely beach, with about a 2 Km stretch along which swimming costumes are a rare sight. There were plenty of people there, but, with all that space, it did not feel crowded. Later in the day, we drove North along the coastal track (“road” would be an exaggeration) to check out Kaminia again, where we had been the previous year. We were alone for most of the time we were there, seeing only a few people who strolled along and either did not notice or care about us.
On another exploratory outing, we spotted a sign to Kanali Beach, which was between Lourdas and Trapezaki beaches, each of which are quite pleasant places with the inevitable tavernas. I had read that Kanali Beach could be reached along the coast from either Lourdas or Trapezaki, so I was surprised to see a sign to it from the top of the cliffs. We followed the sign and found a very small parking area, with no other cars around. A footpath led down the the beach. It was one of the most well made cliff paths I have seen anywhere in the world, with firm concrete steps and nice seats at frequent intervals. The beach, when we got there, was deserted. It was too late to stay around on that day, but we returned a day or two later for some sun and sea. This time there were other people – maybe 10 in total on a long stretch of beach. They were mostly non-naturists, but nobody seemed to mind sharing the place with a few nude bodies. In the course of the day, quite a few people walked along the beach – again nobody concerned about us or the other naturists.
Kefalonia for Naturists?
Would I recommend Keflonia to naturists? Yes, so long as you have a car, there are lots of beaches to go to, which cater for all tastes. Will we be going again? I am sure that we will – there are lots of beaches and large parts of the island left to explore. Would we stay at Vassaliki again? I cannot imagine anywhere better …
If you want to ask Colin about his Kefalonia experience you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org