March 2, 2024

My last day on Gavdos Island hit different. I headed to Sarakiniko, the big shot beach, but guess what? A new sign slapped right there on the golden sands, shouting, “Nudity’s a no-go!” Yup, that’s right. The island known for letting it all hang out just said, “Not anymore.”

Tucked in the middle of the Libyan Sea, Gavdos is Europe’s southernmost spot. Until recently, it was like the nude paradise of Greece. See, according to Greek law from way back in 1983, nudism’s only cool in designated nudist resorts. But here on Gavdos? It was like a nudist haven. Cops turned a blind eye, and folks stripped down without a worry.

Vasilis Tzounaras

Vasilis Tzounaras, this dude who’s been living on the island for about two decades, was shook by the ban. He said Gavdos is all about freedom, and now, with no nudity allowed, it’s a bummer.

So, July 2023 hit, and boom! Signs banning nudity at Sarakiniko popped up. Locals and tourists went bonkers ’cause, hey, this island’s rep was all about the anything-goes vibe. But the mayor, Lilian Stefanaki, said it was only the tourists kicking up a fuss. Locals were apparently cool with the ban, wanting at least one spot for families without naked swimmers around.

People are stressing, thinking this nudity ban might spread island-wide, messing with Gavdos’ whole vibe. The place was a hot spot for free camping too, a total no-no anywhere else in Greece. That freedom drew backpackers and free spirits since the ’60s.

But Gelli Kallinikou, a former mayor, spilled the beans. Back in ’92, they made it official that nudism and camping were A-okay here to make sure nudists felt safe.

More Than Just a Hippie Hangout

Gavdos isn’t just about the hippie life, though. Legend has it; this 30-square-kilometer island is Homer’s mythical Ogygia, where Odysseus chilled with Calypso for seven years. It was even a spot for exiling alleged communists in the ’30s.

But come the ’60s and ’70s, Gavdos was the go-to spot for the boho crowd. Super remote, barely any central government influence, and just 142 locals in ’71? It was a paradise for the unconventional.

Before hitting Sarakiniko, I trekked down south to Trypiti. It’s the southern tip of Europe, marked by a giant wooden chair put up by some Russian scientists who got caught up in the Chernobyl mess. They needed clean air and a view, so they built it on this rocky spot. Sitting there, looking at the endless blue, it hit different.

Closest spot to Trypiti? Vatsiana, a village where Nikos Lougiakis runs a cafe. He’s got the southernmost joint in Europe. Nikos was born and bred here and opened his spot ’cause thirsty beachgoers kept stopping by. Now, his place is known for this goat dish cooked Cretan style.

But here’s the thing: Nikos is worried. Less tourists mean less business. People canceling trips ’cause of the nudity ban? That’s hitting him hard. He says those folks never caused trouble, always respected the island and its people.

Conclusion

Fewer folks showed up this summer on Greek, Gavdos. Sarakiniko was like a ghost town, and that’s not the norm. The ban sparked protests, with folks trying to save Gavdos’ rep by spreading the word online.

Gavdos isn’t a bustling place. It’s got like 208 peeps officially, but only about 70 stick around all year. Winters are rough, ferries don’t always swing by, and supplies can be iffy. But these folks make it work.

Public transport’s a couple of beat-up buses, the roads are mostly sand-lined, and you won’t find almond milk or gluten-free stuff here yet. It’s still pretty off-the-grid.