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Heliopolis: a naturist haven

Witnessing the past

For most of its past, Le Levant’s history has been closely linked to its neighbour Port-Cros. From the 5th to the 16th century, Le Levant was the most prosperous of the three Golden Isles, protected by the different religious orders that occupied it. As Francis the 1st turned the island into a marquisate, Le Levant was placed under the protection of the baron Bertrand d’Ormezan who had as a mission to “put the island back to work and protect it from pirates”. The island was looted and ransacked by the British in 1793 and then left abandoned. In the 19th century, interest in the island rekindled as Bonaparte grasped the strategic importance of its geographic location and reinforced its defences by constructing the Arbousier Fort and the Titan Tower. In 1855, the island was turned into a penitential colony for children between the ages of 12 and 20 years old. Working in the fields, these children lived in very harsh conditions until a violently crushed uprising led to the closing of the colony in 1878.

The State bought the greater part of the island and turned it into a military base for the Marine. On the other side, the Durville brothers created the first naturist camp in 1931. It was to become the famous Naturist Domain of Heliopolis, complete with a magnificent beach, its own village and shops. 

Most of the island (5km) is a military base. Only a small part, to the west of the island is opened to the public. This part is mostly dedicated to naturism. Naturism is permitted everywhere except in public places located in the port and around the village square.

 

Fruity Fragrances

Le Domaine des Arbousiers is a self-organised natural reserve located to the north of the village that takes its name from the local vegetation of arbutus trees, a small tree with a dark red bark and round red fruit. Exploring these 20 hectares of protected vegetation, visitors will encounter an intoxicating olfactory universe where the smell of rosemary echoes the sweet perfume of honey exhaled by the myrtle tree and the amber scents left in the air by cistus shrubs.

 

A nature trail

A nature trail has been created to take walkers from the entrance of the domain, at the top of the village towards the Cirque de la Galère and then, along the sea all the way back to the port. Duration: 2.5 hours.

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