No clothes needed

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine May 2016

Pictures by Kyle Rodriguez unless stated otherwise


It has nothing to do with sex or eroticism, it isn’t only old people practising it and it’s also not just for hippies. The three most common misconceptions about naturism are a lot of bollocks. What is true, is that the Algarve is a popular place to take your clothes off. But why walk around naked?

“If people ask me that, I always flip the question: why would you wear clothes?” says Paul Rouse (58) (pictured below). “There are several reasons: for example warmth, fashion and social conventions. So no, I don’t walk around naked in winter time or take my clothes off in the middle of the busy Praia dos Pescadores in Albufeira. Your nationality and the way you’re brought up also play a role sometimes. Normally us Brits are more modest,” says the freelance travel journalist and creator of Inspirations Algarve and Naturist Travel. Paul is originally from the UK, but has lived in the Algarve for almost a decade. “Protection is also a part of wearing clothing,” he explains as he continues his answer with a laugh. “There are three things you just don’t do naked and that’s playing the accordion, frying sausages and chopping vegetables.”

For the rest though, you can pretty much do anything without clothes. Nudism is something of all ages; in Europe, it was very popular in the second half of the twentieth century, especially in East Germany where the Freikörperkultur (FKK, translated as Free Body Culture) movement started a worldwide trend. Currently, naturism is also seen as a way to get back in touch with both your own body and the natural environment that’s surrounding you. Seeing as the north of Portugal has a bit more conservative attitude and a slightly colder climate, it’s mainly practised in the Algarve which is known for its não faz mal outlook. As it says in the Portuguese law: being naked in public isn’t illegal, as long as you aren’t causing offence.

There are three official naturist beaches in the Algarve: Adegas, Ilha Deserta and Praia do Homem Nu. Soon, Meia Praia in Lagos, which has been an unofficial nudist beach for already over 30 years, will be added to this list. Apart from these four, there are plenty of deserted beaches where sunbathing naked is accepted. But naturism isn’t just about lying on the beach. Also eating, playing volleyball and playing the piano, to name just three random activities, can be done while aiming for an all-over tan. Was naturism in the 1970s automatically associated with camping, now, upmarket B&Bs provide a more luxurious type of accommodation geared towards the nudist lifestyle. In the Algarve, there are just over a dozen of these guesthouses.

Cabana del Sol is situated in the hills of Alte. The B&B consists of a Jacuzzi, a pond, a sauna, a communal kitchen and five themed rooms, all with doors opening onto the poolside. The outdoor swimming pool overlooks the hills and looks very inviting. No need to put on a bikini or trunks before jumping in the water at Cabana del Sol, which is owned by Patricia (53) and Serge (57) (pictured above). The French couple started practising naturism when moving to Portugal, 18 years ago. Patricia: “Back in France, we lived in Bretagne, which is too cold. The Algarve is a great place for nudism; it’s hot, and here where we live there’s not too much wind from the sea. Your skin can absorb the sun’s energy. And seeing as our house isn’t visible from the road or our neighbours’ houses, you feel free.”

“It’d be harder to do this if we’d live in a small apartment, surrounded by nosey neighbours,” agrees her husband Serge. “For me naturism is a lifestyle. Things like working around the house or gardening, I do them naked. If that’s dangerous? No, why would it be? If you’d be doing jobs around the house with clothes on, you’d take care not to stain or rip your clothes – I take care not to damage my body.” Serge and Patricia usually practise naturism from April to October, but if the weather is nice enough, they take off their clothes on a sunny December day as well. Serge: “A towel is enough. For me, it’s about leading a simple life, going back to nature. It’s actually the most natural thing in the world.”

Some people think that ‘naturism’ is indeed derived from ‘nature’. And seeing as the word ‘naturist’ is also sometimes used to describe a person who appreciates the beauty and benefits of nature, this can lead to confusion. Serge explains about the time that they got guests who didn’t read the guesthouse’s description properly and were pretty surprised when seeing all naked people upon arrival. “As they had just seen some pictures of the rooms and the word ‘naturist’ and clicked ‘book’ without reading the rest of our website, they were expecting an extremely natural place, with flowers, grass and trees. Luckily we do have lots of almond and olive trees here. So after their initial surprise and hesitation, the couple decided to join in and take their clothes off as well. The naturist lifestyle suited them; they found it very liberating.”

This, indeed, is one of the main benefits. When the clothes fall away, so do the fashion-based prejudices. Paul agrees: “Being naked is a great leveller: you don’t judge people by the way they dress. I’d like to think that you accept people for who they are, not for what they look like.” All naturists claim that within five minutes, you forget that you’re naked (Enjoy the Algarve has of course tried and tested this – it’s true). Serge: “There’s respect in the naturist community. Everyone gets accepted, regardless of the way they look. You don’t have to be slim, young or pretty.” His wife Patricia adds: “Most females accept their body more without clothes on. Especially when they see that other women aren’t super-slim glamour models either. I think nudism is almost like a therapy, a very simple one.”

Martien van der Heide (51) (pictured below, picture by Paul Rouse) can relate to this: “When I’m feeling stressed, I feel more relaxed without clothes than when I’m clothed. It’s funny, sometimes I’m holding in my stomach when I’m wearing clothes, but I don’t do that when I’m naked.” Although she describes herself as a shy person, the Dutch Martien insists she feels less shy when she’s practising naturism. “Maybe because there are no clothes to hide behind, so there’s no point. I never really thought about it actually. For me, naturism is a way of life,” she says. Martien has been going naked on holidays since she was 14 years old. Two years ago, she moved from France to the hills of Santa Catarina in the Algarve where she bought her holiday homeCasa da Palma, which caters for naturist travellers.

“It was one of the first things I checked with the estate agent,” she explains. “I wanted a quiet place where I had the freedom to practise naturism as it’s a fundamental necessity in my life.” Painting, cooking, sleeping, Martien prefers to do it all without clothes. But only when the weather is good. “If it’s cold or rains, I get dressed. For me, naturism feels only logical when it’s hot. It’s like being naked when having a shower – that also just makes sense. Sometimes I’m walking through Tavira on a sweaty summer day and the clothes are clinging to my body, I just don’t enjoy that. I’d rather sit naked outside my house; it’s way more comfortable. I think that even someone who isn’t into naturism at all would take off his clothes after a while if he’s dropped on a tropical deserted island!”

Sounds like a good idea? Give it a try yourself and go au naturel next time the Algarvian temperatures rise over 30˚C. Or go-skinny dipping – most naturists don’t even own a swimsuit anymore. As Paul says: “Swim without clothes only once, and I guarantee, you’ll never go back to wearing a bathing suit that takes an hour to dry and sticks to your body.” Another plus: with no need for clothes, it saves on luggage and closet room. Pretty handy for those flying into the Algarve with budget airlines.


See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine May 2016

Posted in Features, People.