Spain is officially the world leader when it comes to the quality of its beaches, after being awarded 696 Blue Flags for 2018.
The country has dominated the top of the list since the Blue Flag initiative was founded in 1987 and in 2018 comes ahead of Greece, France, Turkey and Portugal.
The results were released on Tuesday by the Association of Environmental Education and the Consumer (Adeac), the Spanish section of the European Federation of Environmental Education (FEE).
Blue Flag criteria include high standards for safety, water quality, environmental information and management. As well as beaches, flags have been granted to marinas and sustainable tourist boats.
The region of Valencia was awarded the most blue flags at 132, followed by Galicia with 109 and Catalonia with 101.
Spain has 11 more flags in 2018 than 2017, but there are some notable omissions.
Bye bye Barceloneta
Barcelona’s main city beach La Barceloneta lost its blue flag, as did the nearby Nova Icària. The City Council played down the disappointment, saying that the beaches had attained ‘good’ water bathing quality, rather than the ‘excellent’ that is demanded by the FEE for the Blue Flag rating.
Landlocked Madrid gets its first beach
Madrid, which is over 300 kilometres (186 miles) from the nearest coast, has been given its first Blue Flag. The Virgen de la Nueva beach is located on the banks of the San Juan reservoir near the town of San Martín de Valdeiglesia, around an hour west of Madrid.