SPAIN 1: GUADIANA TO CADIZ
Rayner Otter and the naked Fräulein begin their Europe’s Bare Beaches odyssey in south-west Spain.
Spain: a country where, officially anyway, every beach is clothes-optional. That’s the theory but it doesn’t quite work like that. For a start, certain local authorities pass by-laws prohibiting nudity which fly in the face of national legislation; then there are beaches where only the most daring (or stupid) of us would bare all. Can you imagine going naked on Benidorm’s main beach in August when it is inhabited by tens of thousands of oiks in their football shirts swilling lager? Neither can I.
Every bit of coastline has to be considered potentially naturist however, therefore we set out to cover each bay, cove and beach in the country, starting by crossing the Guadiana River from Portugal into Spain and heading for Isla Canella, which is now so developed that any naturism that once existed has faded into history. It’s much the same on the next island along, Isla Christina. We have bared all here on occasions in the past but I would not call its lovely beach ‘naturist’ as such.
To get comfortably naked it’s advisable to go east of the resort of La Antilla to where a lane traverses salt marshes near the mouth of the Rio Piedras. This leads to Nueva Umbría, a ten kilometre long sand spit or flecha as these things are known hereabouts. Alternatively stop in El Rompido, a pleasant port, and take a ferry across to where this same spit is otherwise known as Flecha del Rompido. Either way, this scrubbily-duned, bit of geography is so vast that most of it can be enjoyed in naked loneliness.
Just east of upwardly-moving El Portil, and before the somewhat larger Punta Umbría, there is an attractive stretch of sand, easily accessed from the beach road which swerves inland trapping an area of prairie between it and the sea. This beach, mostly known as Playa Punta-Umbría but also as Los Enebrales or Mata Negra, has long been used by naturists. The Fräulein and I have often spent a naked afternoon here but we notice that it is being increasingly populated by single men wandering off for jaunts in the woods. We once had a look at the beach at the very point where Punta Umbría’s river meets the sea and reckoned that, off season, it might be suitable for nudism; as would the opposite flecha of Playa Espigón. Neither of these, however, is listed as naturist in any site or book I have seen.
What most agree on, however, is that east of the city of Huelva the world becomes more naked. This is the coast of the Doñana National Park. It starts at the ‘yottie’ port of Mazagón and goes on for over 50 kilometres - most of them naturist. Thankfully (and unlike so much of the Spanish coast), it never seems to change. It is known at the western end as Playa de Mazagón, then, as you proceed east, as Playa de Rompeculos, Playa del Abalario, Playa del Aspirillo, Playa de Castilla, Playa Cuesta Maneli and finally Playa de Matalascañas, depending on where it is reachable from the parallel road.
Throughout this accessible stretch, the long straight beach is backed by eroding cliffs which drop away from the vast area of the Doñana with its millions of Mediterranean pines, all looking like lurid green lollipops, and which is also home to the rare Spanish lynx. Where boardwalks over the verdant dunes disgorge road-users onto the coast, the beach is generally textile, but these areas barely punctuate the huge shoreline. Just walk a short way beyond the Lycra-clothed, strip off and enjoy. It would be daft to wear clothes on such a vast beach with so much nature around.
Beyond the resort of Matalascañas the cliffs vanish and the Doñana becomes more primitive. So does the coast. From here, arcing off into perpetuity, the beach is devoid of anything. It is like arriving at the end of time - or rather the beginning of eternity. And it goes on like this for 25 desolate kilometres down to the mouth of the Rio Guardalquivir. The only sensible way to explore the Playa Doñana is by 4x4, preferably on an organised tour through the Parque Natural. Needless to say, even a short walk from Matalascañas brings you to acres of beach which can be enjoyed naked. If anyone can get as far as to where the coastline is backed by dunes it’s not just the seaside that can be deemed naturist but this mini-desert too. It’s a bit like Gran Canaria’s Maspalomas but without the adult activity - because there are no adults, no people at all... nothing.
It was a long drive around the Guardalquivir through Seville, then across blistering plains and over the chalky downs of the sherry region before we reached the coast again. Here, just south of Chipiona, we found Playa Camarón-Tres Piedras, an atmospheric and ‘alternative’ listed nude beach... with no nudes on it! Further south we came into the resort of Rota. Here a delightful shoreline known as Playa de Candor is backed by wooded dunes with the most amazing boardwalk system linking the beach with the town and just about everywhere else. This encourages lots of fit Spaniards to walk, jog, run or cycle through the lush woodland. It also encourages a number of young men to hang around the dunes naked. This is a gay pickup zone and the only nudity we encountered was from the cruising community.
From here it was a short drive to Santa Maria, the pretty port from which sherry is traditionally shipped. This is well worth a visit, if only for its interesting riverfront and sherry bodegas. Then, just beyond here, we visited the much-hyped nude beach of Playa Levante in the resort of Valdelagrana. Spectacular though this sweep of golden sand is, throughout its five kilometres I was unable to see one naked body. So we pushed on toward Cadiz where, we understand, nudity has recently been outlawed by the local council - despite Spanish law allowing it! Dare we challenge the authorities in the next episode?
Rayner Otter and the naked Fräulein are on an odyssey to visit every naturist beach from Calais to Greece. Read about their exploits every month in H&E naturist magazine.