Letting it all hang out has never been so newsworthy. In the past year or so, we have seen an influx of over-the-top pranks at world heritage sites including Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, and the Great Pyramids of Giza. It all culminated last summer when ten backpackers made headlines for baring all at the summit of Borneo’s Mount Kinabalu. Facing a possible prison sentence, their stunt prompted the UK government to issue a code of conduct for travellers.
As an antidote, here’s the naked truth on where to take your clothes off, legally, or just for fun. Spoiler alert: gratuitous nudity ahead!
Reveal it all in a Finnish sauna
In the depths of midwinter, Finns take off their clothes the way most of us put them on: swiftly, routinely, and often first thing in the morning.
In barely-lit, pine-clad rooms, they come at all hours of the day to socialise, catch up on news and even do business in the buff. Then they streak across the snow, before jumping into a hole cut in a frozen lake. It’s a ritual undertaken without any hint of prudish self-consciousness.
As the inventors of the sauna, boasting one for every household throughout the country, tradition is firmly on the Finn’s side. Each sauna, rich with steam and moisture, has its own rules, and swimsuits are often banned for hygienic reasons. That pocket square you see hanging up on the peg? It’s your towel.
Such awkward moments can be found at Rajaportin in Tampere, the oldest sauna in the country, dating back to 1906, while the popularity of smoke saunas and ice swimming brings nudists to Kakslauttanen, on the road north to the Arctic. Best not be shy: it can squeeze in a hundred people across its three bathhouses. Proof, if needed, that the Finnish sauna retains a life that goes way beyond legend.
Drop your trunks in Germany
If a Berliner asks you to go for a walk in the Tiergarten or Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg, maybe its best to double-check your answer. They’re prime tanning spots – think well-done frankfurters, without the buns.
Germany’s fastidious approach to nudity leaves the mind reeling. The country has a full catalogue of opportunities for naked pursuits, from nude sunbathing on river banks to more than 300 private nudist clubs – known as the FKK, or Free Body Culture – all of which endorse a naturistic approach of sport and outdoor living.
Munich has six official urban nude zones, including two large FKK areas for naked sun-tanners on the banks of the Eisbach creek. In the capital, meanwhile, it’s perfectly legal to get your kit off on all of Berlin’s public bathing beaches, which at times can feel like being an extra in a porn film.
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Go for a nude scrub in Istanbul
The Turkish hammam you imagine – the one flush with a gruff, moustachioed attendant mopping down a tiled washroom – still thrives in pockets of Istanbul. But close to the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya in tourist-friendly Sultanahmet, it’s possible – at a price – to experience the splendours of a soapy rubdown in far more palatial surroundings.
Such hedonism goes back to the days of Constantinople. Two Ottoman-era classics to try are Çemberlitaş Hamamı, dating back to 1584, and Cağaloğlu Hamamı, the last to be built by the empire.
Perhaps seeking to go out with a bang, it’s an extravaganza, with embroidered columns, tulip-inlaid stones, and marble ablution fountains, give plenty of distractions from having only a loin cloth covering your dignity.
Split into same-sex steam rooms, they’re both hardly racy affairs, but if Istanbul’s streets leave you a little grimy, that exfoliating, sandpaper-rough hand-mit applied by the masseuse will do just the trick. You’ll come out oily and as stewed as an onion, but primped and preened like a strutting pasha.
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Get cheeky at Burning Man in Nevada
Nude hippies have long made pilgrimages to festivals – cue Woodstock and the more hedonistic Glastonbury-goers of the 1970s. But more recently, naked ramblers have gone stark-raving nude in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada to party at Burning Man, the annual weeklong festival of revelry all in the name of self-expression and art.
Dazzled by a white-hot sun and dust storms, nudists come prepared with fashion goggles, disco masks, and unicorn heads, making the whole affair resemble a kind of apocalyptic Mad Max-themed, techno Coachella.
None of which matters to the 70,000 who immerse themselves in nude art rituals, sun salutations, and all manner of conflagration, while anticipation builds for the burning of the giant man-shaped bonfire. This year, festivities take place from 28 August to 5 September, and whether you dress or undress to impress, it’ll always be just the right amount of wrong.
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Let it all out for art’s sake in Scotland
On an overcast thundercloud grey day in Glasgow, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to take their clothes off. But at All the Young Nudes – a rock ’n’ roll drawing club – clothes-free models pose to a soundtrack of Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols and David Bowie, while students, office workers, bus drivers, grandmothers, sit sketching in concentration, supping beer and wine.
The idea is the brainchild of a former animation graduate at the Glasgow School of Art and it’s since spawned satellite nights in Edinburgh, Dundee, and, late last year, in East London. Life drawing clubs are nothing new, but this one is different: no tuition is offered, a DJ selects the playlist, and each week brings a different theme.
Previous weeks have introduced a trio of ballet dancers, a string quartert, and models posing naked with birds of prey, including a hawk and bald American eagle from the local zoo.
First-timers may be keen to bare all in the name of art, but a word of warning: it’s more popular than you’d at first think. Considering its runaway success, the club’s organisers now offer nude modelling classes to make sure those with a flair for the dramatic know how to pose properly, bits and all, in front of groups as big as a hundred.
Top image © sylv1rob1/Shutterstock