The Blue Flag Programme is an international system for awarding beaches and marinas that meet some strict criteria. More than 3500 beaches throughout the world have been awarded with the Blue Flag, with Greek beaches being one of the most awarded. In Greece, the Blue Flag Programme is supported by the Greek Society for the Protection of Nature, which determines which beaches meet the relevant criteria.
The award of a blue flag beach is based on compliance with 32 strict criteria covering the aspects of environmental education and information, water quality, environmental management, safety and services
Because the program is an indicator of proper management of the beaches and their quality, Cretans have made great efforts for classifying as many beaches in the Blue Flag program, as possible. Most beaches are located on the northern coast of the island, which are the most touristy, but there are some on the south coasts.
The award of a blue flag beach is based on the following criteria.
Environmental Education and Information
- Information about the Blue Flag must be displayed
- Environmental education activities must be offered and promoted to beach users
- Information about bathing water quality must be displayed
- Information relating to local eco-systems and environmental phenomena must be displayed
- A map of the beach indicating different facilities must be displayed
- A code of conduct that reflects appropriate laws governing the use of the beach and surrounding areas must be displayed
The beach must fully comply with the water quality sampling and frequency requirements
The beach must fully comply with the standards and requirements for water quality analysis
No industrial, waste-water or sewage-related discharges should affect the beach area
The beach must comply with the Blue Flag requirements for the microbiological parameter faecal coli bacteria (E.coli) and intestinal enterococci/streptococci
The beach must comply with the Blue Flag requirements for the following physical and chemical parameters\
- The local authority/beach operator should establish a beach management committee
- The local authority/beach operator must comply with all regulations affecting the location and operation of the beach
- The beach must be clean
- Algae vegetation or natural debris should be left on the beach
- Waste disposal bins/containers must be available at the beach in adequate numbers and they must be regularly maintained
- Facilities for the separation of recyclable waste materials should be available at the beach
- An adequate number of toilet or restroom facilities must be provided
- The toilet or restroom facilities must be kept clean
- The toilet or restroom facilities must have controlled sewage disposal
- On the beach there will be no unauthorised camping or driving and no dumping
- Access to the beach by dogs and other domestic animals must be strictly controlled
- All buildings and beach equipment must be properly maintained
- Coral reefs in the vicinity of the beach must be monitored
- A sustainable means of transportation should be promoted in the beach area
Safety and services
- An adequate number of lifeguards and/or lifesaving equipment must be available at the beach
- First aid equipment must be available on the beach
- Emergency plans to cope with pollution risks must be in place
- There must be management of different users and uses of the beach so as to prevent conflicts and accidents
- There must be safety measures in place to protect users of the beach
- A supply of drinking water should be available at the beach
- At least one Blue Flag beach in each municipality must have access and facilities provided for the physically disabled
Almiros Beach is located 2.5km south of Agios Nikolaos and is the most popular beach in the city. It is shaped near the exit of the Almiros River, which empties on the south part of the beach. Next to the beach, the protected wetland of Almiros hosts several rare birds, towering eucalyptus trees, reeds, and some palm trees.
Plaka is located 16km north of Agios Nikolaos, opposite the entrance of the lagoon of Korfos (or lagoon of Elounda), in one of the most beautiful places of Crete. A feature of Plaka is the wonderful views of the island Kalydon, on where the famous fortress of Spinalonga stands.
Skaleta beachfront starts 11km east of Rethymno and stretches 3km to the east. It is the last part of the vast beach of the Gulf of Rethymno. The first beach after Pighianos Kampos is Sfakaki, a very well organised resort.
Kalives is a seaside resort located 19km west of Chania, on the southern coast of Souda Bay. This small village is built on a fertile green valley, where three rivers flow. The village's name (i.e. “Huts” in Greece) seems to come from the huts that were built by farmers in their fields, to spend the summer nights.
The seaside resort of Kalamaki is located 6km west of Chania and is the seaside part of Galatas village. Galatas is located in a fertile plain with citrus and olive groves.
The peaceful resort of Anisaras is located 21km east of Heraklion, west of Cape Sarandaris. The area is now full with big hotels, which offer primarily all-inclusive services. In front of the hotels, there are small sandy beaches with rocky seabed. All beaches are well-organized with umbrellas and sun beds, which are offered for free to the customers of the hotels.
1km south of the village Agios Ioannis lies the Long Beach of St. John that has a length of 5km, being one of the longest in Crete. This wide quiet beach the characteristic wonderful coarse grayish sand of southern Crete, which in the sea turns to fine sand. This is an interesting detail, because although you walk on the fine sand in the sea, when you get out your feet is clean because you step on the fine pebbles.
Makrigialos is located 58km southeast of Agios Nikolaos and 23km east of Ierapetra. It is a large village, located near the exit of the lush canyon of Pefki. Being initially a humble harbor with no roads in the ‘50s, Makrigialos has faced strong growth and has become the largest tourist destination in the region. It actually consists of two settlements, Makrigialos and Analipsi, which are now united.