Île du Levant
Île du Levant (pronounced: [il dy ləvɑ̃]), sometimes referred to as Le Levant, is a Mediterranean French island off the coast of the Riviera, near Toulon. It is one of the four that constitute the Îles d'Hyères of France.
The island is 8 km long, 2 km wide, and located in the Gulf of Lion (geographical coordinates: 43°03' northern latitude, 6°28' eastern longitude). About 90% of the island is off-limits to the public, reserved for a military missile test center (the Centre d'Essais de Lancement de Missiles) which has launched numerous research and testing rockets since its establishment in 1948.
Monks lived on the island beginning in the 15th century; the ruins of their monastery still exist on the island. From 1861 until 1878, the island was a penitentiary for young offenders and orphans, of whom 89 died here. A plaque (located on the military part of the island) commemorates them.
In 1931, Gaston and André Durville, both doctors, established Héliopolis, Europe's first village dedicated to naturism, on the island. The village was built on hillsides and is dominated by Fort Napoleon. The village has a small school, a city hall, and a police station. There is one food shop (Le Bazar d'Héliopolis) and a few speciality clothing shops, offering varieties of "le minimum", the local dress code. There are a number of hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, and seven restaurants (Le Gecko, La Fourmi, La Palmeraie, La Gambaro, Héliotel, Le Minimum, La Pomme d'Adam), all catering for naturists.
The Bain de Diane and the Plage des Grottes (a nude beach) are reserved for naturists; nudity is formally obligatory there. Being nude is allowed (and expected) everywhere on the public area of the island, except in the immediate vicinity of the harbour and on the village square. On these locations, it is formally necessary to wear what the French jokingly call "le minimum", often a pareo or a string. In conformance with the relaxed atmosphere of the island, this rule is not really enforced, but generally well observed. In restaurants outside the village centre, some clothing is usually worn but toplessness (for women and men) is quite accepted there and "le minimum" considered sufficient attire. At least one restaurant, La Fourmi, actively encourages nude use.
The island sees a number of scuba divers; these generally do not partake in the nudist lifestyle.
The non-military part of the island is private property. The owners form the Association Syndicale Libre des Propriétaires à l'Île du Levant.
Outside of Héliopolis, the other main tourist attraction is the Domaine des Arbousiers, a voluntary natural reserve of 19ha28a, established on 3 December 1993.
- Arrêté Municipal Hyères N° 25, 14 March 1978 (http://www.aln.fr/html/documents/Arr%EAt%E9_1978_03_14_Mairie_Hy%E8res_Naturisme_au_Levant.pdf); modified 20 April 2005 (http://www.aln.fr/html/documents/Arr%EAt%E9_2005_04_28_modif-arr%EAt%E9-1978-naturisme-Levant.pdf). A request to allow nudity on the entirety of the island is under consideration.
- Le minimum is the term jokingly used by naturists on the island, for the tiny coverage required by regulations on a few locations. On the village square, near the harbour and inside shops and restaurants, the genitals have to be covered. As a good-humoured protest against this regulation, some naturists wear in these locations a tiny string or a loincloth that fulfils the legal requirement but does little to preserve modesty.
- Décision du Préfecture du Var, 3 December 1993.
- Map of the island in JPEG format, from the Hyères Office of Tourism
- Ile du Levant Chronology and Launch Log
- Google Maps: Satellite picture
- Ile du Levant Naturist Web Site
- Ile du Levant Photo Gallery