The island of Gavdos, located south of Crete, stands out uniquely in Europe for one defining element that draws thousands of tourists worldwide each year – its culture of nudity and free camping on beaches.

According to a BBC report, Gavdos, a small island with only 208 inhabitants, holds the title of the most popular “bohemian” destination since the 1960s due to the freedom it offers to both locals and visitors. This reputation stems from what the BBC describes as having “nudity imprinted in its DNA.”

However, tensions escalated in July 2023 when a sign reading “nudity is prohibited” appeared on Sarakiniko Beach, the island’s most famous beach spot.
Following the placement of the sign banning nudity on beach, disputes and protests arose between locals and tourists making this decision by local authorities a point of contention. Numerous cancellations of planned trips have been reported, illustrating the potential impact of the mayor’s decision on the island’s tourism industry.

A recent article by the BBC titled “Gavdos: The European Island Known for Nudism” delves into the potential negative effects of a ban on the island’s tourism. Present and past mayors hold contrasting viewpoints on this matter.
“Fewer tourists visited Gavdos this summer,” claim locals.
Gavdos Mayor, Manolia Stefanaki, stated “Residents in the area have wanted this for years, to have at least one beach where a family can swim without the presence of nudists around.”
Contrarily, former island Mayor Gelli Kallinikou stated, “I’ve heard there’s an intention to soon prohibit free camping in a large area of the island. If this happens, it will signal the end of the island and its economic development.”

From Trypiti Beach, Nikos Lougiakis, with his family of four, are the “southernmost citizens of Europe.” When asked about the mayor’s recent decision, Mr. Nikos fears it could change the entire atmosphere of the island: “Many people canceled their trips this year because of this. These people (tourists) helped me raise my family, spend money on the island, and never came naked to my restaurant; they respected us.”

According to locals, fewer tourists visited Gavdos this summer after the decision to ban nudism in Sarakiniko, compared to previous years.
While nudity is allowed on other beaches of the island, many worry that the recent ban in Sarakiniko might soon expand to other parts of Gavdos, jeopardizing the island’s “DNA.” Additionally, the island is renowned for allowing free camping on its beaches, something prohibited elsewhere in Greece. “This right to wander without clothes is what attracts travelers who ‘flood’ the tiny 30-square-kilometer island every summer for over 60 years,” wrote the BBC article.