SPAIN has been unbeaten worldwide in its number of blue-flag beaches for 33 years on the trot, and 2020 is no exception – even though the bar had been raised much higher due to the criteria including ‘Coronavirus-safe’ measures.
This week, the annual blue flag awarding has been announced just ahead of the summer holiday season – which officially starts when schools break up around the second or third week in June – and, with 589 of these prestigious quality kitemarks, Spain continues to rule the coastlines of Planet Earth.
Although 80 beaches, yacht marinas and cruise ports lost last year’s flags, another 23 gained new ones, leaving a net increase of 19 on last year’s 669, giving a total of 688, of which 589 were for beaches.
In whole numbers, the Comunidad Valenciana holds more blue flags than anywhere else in Spain, which holds more than anywhere else in the world, at 148, followed by Andalucía at 120 – which is logical, given that these two regions have the longest coastlines.
Andalucía, of which 100 of its flags are for beaches, is celebrating having been awarded the highest number since these were invented in 1987 and having gained a whopping 22 this year – 21 for beaches and one for a yacht marina – with the Costa del Sol, or the Málaga province coast, gaining the most.
Málaga’s total increased more than anywhere else in Spain, with six more, although in whole numbers, the province with the most blue flags in the country is Alicante – whose coast is known as the Costa Blanca – now with 73.
Also in Andalucía, the province of Cádiz regained one it lost last year – for Zahara de los Atunes beach in Barbate.
The Balearics lost the most flags, with Menorca being stripped of four and Ibiza of two, and three marinas losing theirs, giving a net loss of nine – but it still has 54 blue-flag beaches and ports, with 39 on the largest island of Mallorca, 10 in Ibiza and five in Menorca.
Its total is similar to that of the Canaries which, with a net increase of seven, now has 56 – the most are, naturally, on the largest islands: 17 for Gran Canaria, 14 for Tenerife and nine for Lanzarote.
Fuerteventura, the third island in the Canarian province of Las Palmas – along with Lanzarote and Gran Canaria – now has seven, having retained its full total from 2019.
In the province of Santa Cruz, of which Tenerife is the biggest island, the other three have kept the same total as last year with five for La Palma, three for La Gomera and one for El Hierro.
La Graciosa did not apply, and neither did the Balearic island of Formentera, both of which are very small.
Galicia has the third-highest total – 119, the same as last year – of which 43 are in the province of A Coruña, 57 in that of Pontevedra, and 19 in the province of Lugo; the province of Ourense is land-locked and does not have any.
Catalunya has the fourth-highest number – 118, losing two – with 47 being in the province of Barcelona, 35 in Girona (Costa Brava) and 36 in that of Tarragona (Costa Daurada); again, the region’s fourth province, Lleida, does not have a coast.
The other coastal regions are much smaller in size: the Basque Country, which has five blue flags, the same as last year, is in fact the only one of these remaining regions with more than one province.
Murcia has gained one more and now has 32; Asturias has gained another and now has 14; and Cantabria has kept its last-year total of 11.
Offshore, the two Spanish regions of Ceuta and Melilla – both of which comprise just one city each, plus the wider boundaries of these – on the northern Moroccan coast have two and five blue flags respectively; Ceuta, which is just across the water from Gibraltar on the very tip of Morocco, has retained its 2019 total, and Melilla, which is close to the Algerian border and directly due south of the province of Almería, has gained one more from last year.