Greek beaches snap up Blue Flag awards
Greek beaches are back in the top rank after picking up 486 Blue Flag awards this year, up from 395 last year.
The awards put Greece second behind Spain in the worldwide ranking for clean and safe holiday beaches as judged by the Foundation for Environmental Education.
The non-profit organisation handed out prestigious blue flags to a total of 3,574 beaches, 662 marinas and 50 boats from 47participating countries.
Greek beach resorts picked up 56 more Blue Flag awards compared to 2016 with most new flags going to resorts in Halkidiki on the Greek mainland and to the island of Crete and other Geek island holiday hotspots in the Cyclades.
Among the Greek Islands, Crete tops the Blue Flag table this year with 112 beach awards followed by 68 in the south Aegean islands and 49 in the Ionian islands which include Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkas and Zante.
Crete is the biggest Greek Islands and was expected to garner most awards this year. The popular West Crete holiday regions of Chania and Rethymnon scooped 51 blue flags while Irakleon and Lasithi in the East took 61 awards.
Among the other Greek holiday islands, Rhodes is way out in front with 25 Blue Flag beaches followed by Lesvos with 11, Kos with eight, Santorini with six and Paros with five.
Most other Greek island beaches only picked up one to two Blue Flags, failing to make the grade not because the beaches are not clean but because they did not pass disabled access criteria.
Indeed many islands failed to pick up a single Blue Flag despite having some of the cleanest beaches and waters in Greece. SmallerIslands such as Sifnos, Serifos, Amorgos, Astypalaia, Karpathos, Ikaria, Skyros and Alonissos have pristine beaches but do not have lifeguards on duty or easy access for wheelchairs.
The Blue Flag awards scheme is operated by the non-profit Foundation for Environmental Education based in Copenhagen and celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
Greek marinas granted Blue Flag status this year are located in Halkidiki (Porto Karras, Sani and Miraggio), in Attica (Lavrio, Agios Kosmas and Flisvos), Lefkas, Corfu (Gouves), Kos, Leros and the Cleopatra marina on the west coast at Aetolo-Acarnania.