Lonely Planet Writer

For the 31st year in a row, Spain has more blue flag beaches than anywhere else in the world

It’s almost not news at this point, but Spain has been officially declared the country with the most blue flag beaches in the world for the 31st year in a row. Awarded to beaches across the world that meet the highest standards of sanitary conditions, health and safety, lifeguard provision and accessibility, this year’s results saw Greece coming in second place again, Turkey up one place to third, France down one place to fourth and Italy again in fifth position.

Spain has 590 blue flag beaches for 2018. Image: S-F/Shutterstock

The international blue flag programme has been implemented in 47 countries around the world by the Copenhagen-based non-profit, Foundation for Environmental Education, since 1987. Local organisations are selected to implement and enforce the necessary criteria and ensure a consistency of the standards that make the blue flag award so trustworthy and valuable.

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

This year’s results show that Spain now has an impressive 590 blue flag beaches along its vast coastline, which is 11 more than the 579 that were awarded last year. It also won blue flags for 101 of its marinas and five of its cruise ship ports. Madrid has now been included, thanks to the Virgen de la Nueva beach on the San Juan reservoir. Valencia has 132 blue flags, making it the region with the highest number of recognised beaches, Galicia has 109, Catalonia has 101 and Andalusia has 97.

Playa de Rodas in the Cies Islands, Galicia. Image: Xulio Villarino/Cover/Getty Images

Runner-up Greece has 519 beaches recognised, as well as 15 Greek marinas and one sustainable tourism boat. The highest proportion of its awards – 89 – went to beaches in Halkidiki, northern Greece. While the local organisations in individual countries have started spreading the good news already, the official list of blue flag awardees for 2018 will be published on the Foundation for Environmental Education’s website on 24 May.