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History

Unique in the whole world!
The Vera Playa naturist zone is, we believe, unique in that there are no barriers between it and the outside world - no checkpoints or high perimeter walls stopping the world at large from getting in. The roads and streets within the zone are ordinary public roads -pedestrians, cars, delivery vans, contractors, taxis, buses and coaches all use them.
    Spanish people have taken to naturism in a big way - and not just at Vera Playa - but at many official and unofficial beaches. The majority of the 2,000 or so properties within the naturist zone are owned by Spanish people - testimony to their enthusiasm for the freedom of naturist holidays and lifestyle. And full marks to the local population generally who have accepted naturism and the naturist zone as just a fact of life.

In the 1980s the beach area close to Vera, between Puerto Rey and Villaricos, in the province of Almeria in south-east Spain, was practically undeveloped. This superb beach is famous for three things:

Firstly, it is said to be the area where Hannibal's elephants landed in Roman times.

Secondly, on January 17 1966 an American nuclear bomber on patrol from its base in the United States collided with an American fuel-tanker aircraft 30,000 feet above Vera Playa. Both planes crashed. The B52 bomber was carrying four thermo-nuclear devices - believed to be H-bombs.. Three of the bombs stayed in the B52 bomber which crashed on Palomares, a village near to Vera Playa. The tanker aircraft also crashed with the loss of the whole crew. 5 members of the 7-man B52 bomber crew managed to parachute to safety.
Fortunately the nuclear bombs did not explode though the high explosive in two of them did contaminating local agricultural land with plutonium dust. A massive clear-up operation was mounted by the US authorities - 1400 tons - some 5000 200 litre drums - of Spanish soil were removed to the USA for disposal. The third bomb was recovered from near the crash site As part of its compensation the USA built a desalination plant at Vera Playa. Unfortunately, at the time, there was little local development and the plant was not used.

 

The Vera Playa Club Hotel now stands where the desalination plant once stood - and utilises the infrastructure, such as roads, which were built for the plant. Some of the American personnel stayed on and one or two still live in the area. The people of Palomares are given annual medical checks to this day.

If you were wondering about the fourth bomb - well, that took 80 days to find and eventually it was tracked down with the help of a local fisherman who had seen it floating down on a parachute - it was recovered from nearly 3,000 feet of water several miles off the coast. It is now on display in the atomic museum in the USA. Some 35 American and allied ships took part in the search and recovery operation and Soviet "trawlers" were also in the area. The Palomares "Broken Arrow" incident as it became known is still the worst accident to have occurred involving American nuclear weapons and the search and clear-up operation is said to have cost over $50m - at 1966 prices! More. Footnote - this topic is clearly not just history as in October 2006 the United States and Spain agreed to undertake a further clean-up of radioactive land in Palomares - some 10 hectares of land having been seized by the Spanish government in 2004.

Thirdly - and you may have thought we were never going to get round to this - it is now the site of the best naturist beach resort in the world!

Although many of the coastal areas in Almeria and Murcia provinces have been developed for horticulture and market-gardening in the late twentieth century, the area immediately adjoining the beach near Puerto Rey had many of the characteristics of desert. The splendid long, sandy beach was used by naturists for swimming and sun-bathing and was designated as naturist by a decree of the provincial government in 1979. The first developments were quite small scale in the 1980s and included the earlier phases of the NATSUN development and some other bungalows and apartments including a development which was incorporated into the Hotel Vera Playa Club when it was built in the late 1980s. The Vera Playa Club hotel - the first naturist hotel in Spain - opened in 1989. It is owned and run by Playa Hoteles, one of the premier Spanish seaside hotel groups. During the 1990s countless naturists from all over Europe, but especially Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain, stayed at the hotel. For many visitors it was their first taste of the naturist lifestyle and the hotel had a high level of repeat bookings. The hotel has been progressively improved and upgraded and now has 4-star status and excellent facilities. Holidays at the Vera Playa Club hotel can be booked direct with the hotel or through various specialist operators of naturist package holidays.


In the mid 1990s Spain suffered something of an economic recession and the development of the naturist area did not immediately take off. Indeed, some of the initial commercial development built at the same time as the hotel, failed to be taken up and there was not enough business to sustain others, leading to some obvious deterioration in the buildings concerned, some of which suffered vandalism. The open air pool at Vera Natura

As developments of urbanisations began to come forward, many of those who stayed at the hotel saw that there were great attractions in having their own apartments at Vera Playa - practically guaranteed sun, a beautiful sandy naturist beach, nice swimming pools and the opportunity to spend time in the company of like-minded friends for longer than the traditional two or three week hotel holidays. Many retired people saw the attraction of spending all or most of their winters in the warmer, drier climate which is particularly beneficial for sufferers from arthritis and rheumatism, rather than the cold and wet winters of more northern countries.

  The Natsun and Vera Luz bungalows were essentially accommodation for holidays and there was clearly a market for somewhat larger and better equipped accommodation for longer term occupation or permanent residents.

The first of these developments was Vera Natura which is situated south of the original NatSun apartment buildings and directly fronting on to the beach. This urbanisation consists of 25 3-storey buildings, each containing up to 8 apartments, mostly one-bedroomed, but with many two-bedroomed and studio apartments. Ground floor apartments have individual gardens, and upper storey apartments have sun terraces, in some cases 3 or 4. The development has a large outdoor pool and a heated, covered pool for winter use. There is a restaurant on site and another just outside the development, and an on-site supermarket and various other facilities.

Vera Natura commenced construction in 1996 and the development was completed in 2000. All the properties have long since been sold, but there is, at any one time, usually a handful of apartments available for sale and many owners offer their apartments for rent when they are not using them themselves. Apartments can be booked through individual owners, or via Vera Natura reception or, as part of package holidays, through specialist naturist holiday operators.


Since about 1999 the pace of development at Vera Playa (and, indeed, elsewhere in the area) has increased dramatically and there are now a large number of developments at various stages of development. These are listed on our Developments page. Whilst, in the mid 1990s it was unclear whether the whole naturist zone would "take off", it is now self-evident that it has, and that within a few years there will be no undeveloped land left within the naturist zone.

It seems unlikely that there can or will be any enlargement of the naturist zone - on both the northern and southern fringes of the zone the Council has allowed textile (or non-naturist) developments to proceed (at the southern end a split naturist/textile development has taken place, which seems less than satisfactory).

The western edge of the zone is the main coast road and the eastern edge is the sea, both, of course, natural boundaries to development.

Some of the developments are quite large - one has nearly 600 units of accommodation.

The naturist zone is now practically fully developed and has become an urban environment - albeit a very pleasant sea-side one - rather than the virtual desert it was little more than a decade ago. Vera Playa itself is now a large village or small town - certainly in terms of peak holiday season population - but, of course, in the shoulder and low seasons of autumn, winter and spring it will still be a quiet place, but with sufficient population to support shops, restaurants and bars year round.

  A view of the Bahia de Vera urbanisation
The last great naturist development in Europe was Cap d'Agde on the Mediterranean coast of France. This was, and still is, a remarkable development, but essentially a summer resort only. Vera Playa has the advantage of being substantially further south and of having winter temperatures which often permit outdoor eating and sun-bathing.

In some respects the naturist zone at Vera Playa is unique; Spain has come later to the provision of naturist development than some other countries, such as France and the former Yugoslavia, but it seems to accept the naturist lifestyle as unremarkable. In other countries, naturist developments tend to be segregated behind fences or barriers. Whilst some of the individual urbanisations at Vera Playa are fenced and have access through locking gates or electronically controlled barriers to maintain privacy and security, this is typical of similar urbanisations in textile developments. As far as access to the naturist zone as a whole is concerned, visitors and local people can drive in - or take the bus to - Vera Playa and there are no barriers at the perimeters, there is free access to the beach, shops, restaurants and bars, there is adequate free car parking and one can stroll the streets freely whether one is a naturist or textile.

The completion of the largest naturist urbanizacion (Natura World - 570 units) in 2005/6 marks the effective completion of this unique development area. The naturist zone is now bordered - and will soon be surrounded - by many more textile apartments -what effect this has on the naturist zone itself has yet to be seen, but already a substantial number of textiles are renting naturist properties long term because they are available and - presumably - cheap to rent.

Last update - November 2006


Additional material and/or corrections to this history of Vera Playa will be welcomed
- please contact  us - see homepage for contact information.

 

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