Nude travel: holidays with cheek

Andrew Bain reports on options for nudists, including a new trail where walkers are welcome to strip off.

When hikers speak of exposure they are usually referring to open mountain slopes or cliff-top paths. But in Germany's Harz Mountains the concept is about to get a novel new definition, with a trail geared for nudist walkers to open in May.

The path will stretch 18 kilometres between the towns of Dankerode and Wippertalsperre. The idea follows a recent ban on naked hiking in the Swiss canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, imposed largely in response to the number of German visitors stripping off on the region's trails to experience nature in the full state of nature.

In Germany, the new hiking trail is another milestone in a long-established tradition of naturism. The country's nudist Freikorperkultur (FKK) movement, a term translating as "free body culture", is said to have around 45,000 members. In Munich's Englischer Garten, naked lunchtime sunbathing is routine.

The tour operator Oboena specialises in naturism holidays, from lounge-about resorts to Mediterranean cruises. Last year plans were announced for the country's first all-nudist hotel in the Black Forest town of Freudenstadt.

Disrobing for a holiday is not, however, a uniquely German experience, with so-called "nakations" becoming more mainstream across the world. The American Association for Nude Recreation has estimated the industry's value at about $US400 million ($444 million) a year.

On the French Atlantic coast, near the town of Le Porge, there is a six-hole golf course for the use of guests at the La Jenny naturist resort. In 2003, a one-off clothing-optional flight from Miami to Cancun was arranged by Naked Air, with about 90 passengers paying $US500 to take off their clothes as the plane took off.

But still the holiday opportunities for nuding up continue to grow. In the US a company called Bare Necessities Tour and Travel charters cruise ships for clothing-optional sea voyages, taking up to 2000 people at a time to places such as Hawaii, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

And if being naked above the water isn't enough, there's always Buff Divers, a travel club that organises clothing-optional diving trips. It claimed a world record for most nude divers in the water at a time - 72 people in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2001.

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By necessity, the club's activities are held in tropical waters, with half of the participants usually choosing to dive in wetsuits and half in birthday suits.

Perhaps you prefer naked archery? Or naked yoga? Or, back in naturism's German heartland, there's the naked bike rides, or nacktradler, organised around Bavaria on summer weekends.

In Australia, where we are traditionally more shy about revealing what we have "down under", the options are less varied. Even so, the Australian Nudist Federation lists more than 50 affiliate naturism resorts and venues from far north Queensland to the fringes of suburban Perth.

If nothing else, a nakation makes packing a whole lot simpler. Just don't forget the sunscreen.

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