Lonely Planet Writer

Spain leads the pack with the most Blue Flag beaches in the world

Boasting more Blue Flag beaches than any other country in the world, this year visitors to Spain can choose from an impressive 579 beaches and 100 marina resorts that have been certified with the prestigious award.

Playa de Rodiles blue flag beach in Spain.
Playa de Rodiles in Asturias, Spain. Image by Andres Alvarado / CC BY 2.0

Started in 1987 and bestowed by the European Environmental Foundation, the Blue Flag certification recognises beaches for their all-round high quality. In order to be eligible to receive the award, a series of environmental, educational, safety-related and access-related criteria must be met and maintained. These include water quality and the provision of services available at each location.

Young children with blue flag beach flags
Blue Flag beaches are recognised for the quality and excellence in the fields of environmentalism, safety and accessibility. Image by FEE International / CC BY 2.0

2017 sees Spain boasting a notable number, with one out of every five Spanish beaches holding the title. As well as that, one out of every six Blue Flag beaches around the world is now located in Spain. Spain’s Blue Flag beaches weave around the country’s coastline from regions in the north to the south, encompassing areas such as Galicia, which offers picturesque views of the town Sanxenxo, Rodas beach at the Islas Atlánticas National Park, down to Roquetas, Marbella and Rota in Andalusia. Catalonia’s Blue Flag sites include L’Ametlla de Mar in Tarragona, while the region of Valencia has several sites in Cullera and Orihuela. As well as that, Spain is also home to Costa Dulce de Orellana, the world’s first freshwater inland beach to be awarded a Blue Flag.

La Malvarrosa blue flag beach in Valencia, Spain.
La Malvarrosa beach in Valencia, Spain. Image by nito/Shutterstock

This year also saw five Blue Flags being awarded to sustainable tourist boats in Spain that offer activities such as whale-watching, fishing, scuba diving and bird-watching.

Greece came in second this year for countries with the most Blue Flag beaches, followed by France, Turkey and Italy.