Blue Flag Beaches

Holidays can’t go without lakes, beaches or sailing for you? You’re right, some say life is better at the beach.

Did you know that 4,500 sites, beaches, marinas and eco tourism boats in 47 different countries of the world are certified as eco-friendly?

Blue Flag International, the recognized eco-label for water destinations awarded 4,400 sites in the Northern Hemisphere and they officially announced the winners today!

Who is Blue Flag International?

The Blue Flag Program started in France in 1985 and was first implemented throughout Europe. Since 2001, the organisation became international. South Africa being the first country outside Europe to join the program.

Their mission is to promote sustainability in freshwater and marine destinations. Twice a year, an international jury award’s sites across the world for their achievements in sustainability.

Blue Flag Beach : what does it mean?

Awarded sites guarantee you are visiting places with excellent bathing water quality.  But, to be certified the candidate sites need to achieve many other required criteria regarding sustainability.

The criteria are getting stricter through the years, according to the French Pavillon Bleu Manager, Thomas Joly, who said in an interview:

To obtain the Blue Flag, our criteria are more and more severe. For example, we consider the average of the analyses of the last four years to measure water quality and only award the label if the quality is excellent. And we imposed that there should be at least one beach in the town accessible to the disabled people.

To be certified, destinations must first apply (note: and pay a fee) and then achieve most of the certification standards, after which they will be audited on a yearly basis.

The requirements

Actions should be achieved in 4 different fields to become an ecolabelled water destination.

Water Management

Probably the best known criteria by travellers and the first that comes to mind is bathing water quality. The program takes the quality of the bathing water into account based on the analysis of the last 4 years, and anlaysis should be conducted throughout the year.

Other water management criteria’s are judged,  like preventing the proliferation of green algae, monitoring the coral reefs or limiting water consumption at the destination, as well as offering easy access to drinking water on beaches.

Raising awareness, on the environment: a must!

All Blue Flag awarded sites take initiatives to educate their visitors on the environment. A lot of points need to be met in that respect to be able to raise the flag on the beaches.

For example:

  • Educating and informing visitors on the natural sites they should respect, or the protected animals and flora of the destination
  • Informing visitors about alternative clean transport options
  • Raising awareness on the shore
  • Develop initiatives for a responsible consumption by tourists and residents

Waste Management

Blue Flag destinations must have a selective waste sorting program in town, but also accessible selective sorting bins less than 100 meters from the beach, the lake or handy through the marina.

Beaches should be clean and marinas should have a very strict program to prevent pollution and waste water management within the harbor.


This has become essential, as we said earlier. To be awarded is to have at least one wheel chair accessible beach in the destination and take all disabilities into consideration.

How to recognize them

Easy ! You’ll recognize it with the Blue Flag floating on the beach, in the marina or the lake you’re visiting. We’ve put the blue flag logo beneath, just in case you never saw it.

Logo Pavillon Bleu

Top 3 Blue Flag destinations in the Northern Hemisphere

The 3 blue flag destinations with the most awarded sites are based in Europe. On the podium Spain comes first with 691 awarded sites, Greece  second with 534 sites followed by France with 506 sites.

The Northern hemisphere awarded destinations will be updated on the organization’s site live during the day.

An interactive map can help you find the Blue Flag site closest to your home or at your next holiday destination.

Blue Flag international programme is expanding, to new places mainly in Asia and South America. The new destinations integrating the Blue Flag International Program are Colombia, Aland Islands (Finland), India, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

The international jury will gather again in September to award the Southern Hemisphere sites of 2018, so stay tuned!

Holiable is an eco-friendly travel planner helping you find sustainable hotels, green restaurants and ethical tourism activities around the world. Holiable was developed to share experiences, advice and reviews on sustainable travel, making it easier to prepare your next eco-friendly holiday.
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