Portugal and the Algarve – Blue Flag Beaches


After two years of pandemic hibernation we were ready for a vacation.  Due to continuing uncertainty we agreed to book the sort of holiday that we wouldn’t normally consider and booked a beach hotel holiday with Tui holidays.  Part of our logic was that if things did go wrong then Tui are reliable at giving refunds.

Also, we had been to the Algarve in 2019 and had liked it there.

We chose a hotel in the Alarve in the village of Olhos de Agua  near Albufeira at the western end of the six kilometre long blue flag beach of Praia da Falésia which according to TripAdvisor is considered the number one beach in Portugal, the third best beach in Europe and the twelfth best beach in the World.

Maybe, maybe not, these things are always subjective.  No one ever agrees about these matters.  My favourite beach in Portugal is Bordeira on the west coast south of Lisbon.  Oh I did so like it there…

The Blue Flag beach award was originally conceived in France in 1985 where the first coastal municipalities were awarded the Blue Flag on the basis of criteria covering standards relating to sewage treatment and bathing water quality.

Two years later, 1987 was the ‘European Year of the Environment’ and the concept of the Blue Flag was developed as a European initiative by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe to include other areas of environmental management, such as waste disposal and coastal planning and protection and in that first year two hundred and forty four beaches from ten countries were awarded the new Blue Flag status.  Thirty-five  years later in 2022 when the updated list was published there are over four thousand.

Spain has more blue flag beaches than any other participating country with six hundred and fifteen along almost five thousand kilometres of coastline.  The United Kingdom by comparison, has only one hundred and twenty-nine in nearly twelve thousand,  five hundred kilometres.  Greece has the second most blue flags at five hundred and forty-four  and the most in the Mediterranean Sea.  Italy has four hundred and sixteen and France has four hundred and ten.

Portugal completes the top five list with three hundred and seventy two.

This one is in the north at Furadouro…

What is interesting however is to put this into context by relating success in terms of numbers to the total length of coastline because that reveals that Portugal has a blue flag beach every seven kilometres  and Spain and France only every ten.  Lust my opinion but beaches in Portugal are way better than Spain and France because they are all on the Atlantic coast.

In the United Kingdom you have to travel almost one hundred kilometres between each blue flag beach and that puts us twenty fifth out of the top twenty-five.  That is even worse than our annual performance in the Eurovision song contest.  Mind you would have to travel a lot further in Norway because it has only three blue flag beaches in eighty-three thousand kilometres of coast.

The journey was spoilt by a flight delay and chaos at Faro airport passport control and then a lot of faffing about on the coach transfer but eventually we reached our destination, the monstrous three hundred and fifty room Tui Blue Falésia hotel with its seven or so hundred guests.  We normally like something like a maximum ten room place.

We approved the accommodation and ignoring the pool, the gardens and the cocktail bar made directly for the village and something more our style – a beachfront bar/restaurant and sat for an hour or so, had a pleasant lunch and admired the beach and the never ending view out over the Atlantic Ocean to the horizon.

Kim worked on her tan…

I would have been happier staying in the village rather than the hotel but we had a half board arrangement so returned now to the dining room buffet.

Inevitably I made the first mistake about buffet spreads.

I did no forward planning, made no menu preferences  in advance, had no idea what I wanted to eat so just blundered in and ended up with a selection of bizarre food combinations which if I had been a contestant on Masterchef would have led to an instant elimination.  You know the sort of thing, fish, beef, chicken goujons  and a slice of pizza all on the same plate.  A real gourmet mess.

It was all rather disappointing, rather like a school dinners experience and we were happy when it came to an end.  Never mind, we had a lovely room on the top floor, a large balcony and a good sea view.  We agreed that in future we would do some planning ahead and be more tactical and selective.

Tomorrow we planned to walk the Praia da Falésia.

30 responses to “Portugal and the Algarve – Blue Flag Beaches

  1. Fascinating. I’d never heard of the idea of a blue flag beach. but it is a really good one.


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  3. Sounds like a good – make that great – place to visit and refresh –
    But the food plate you described as a mess sounded hearty and like a good meal after traveling and visiting the beach –


  4. I like the statue! It’s very original. I wonder how they allow for the countries which do not have many beaches? Norway looks all cliffs and rocky shores. And a lot of Scotland too.
    Years ago, England was even worse than it is now. At Blackpool you could smell the sewage, and as a birdwatcher I knew that the best seabird watching on the Yorkshire was on a falling tide when the sewage was released. I was pleased, though, recently to see that “Surfers against Sewage” was still in business!


  5. Ah ha! I shall look forward to tomorrow’s beach walk! I have to admit that knowing your preferences I was surprised by your choice of venue, Andrew, but I could see the reasoning, So hard to pick a favourite beach! For me probably Monte Clerigo on the west coast, but Michael shivered the entire time we were there.


  6. Plenty but France has lots of beaches on the Atlantic if your read my blog you know it; can compete with any and I know about beaches been born in one lol!!


  7. So – good in parts


  8. I feel your pain Andrew


  9. I think Atlantic beaches are the best. I quite like our Cornish beaches and Pembrokeshire has some wonderful ones too. And Cape Town. Then again so does Northumberland. And Australia and New Zealand. Sigh… so many wonderful places.


  10. “Nul points” for Norway then. Almost. Not sure if you read the part of our recent trio when we stayed on the Red Sea coast – but given that experience, you’re just going to have to concentrate on seeing the funny side of those establishments. And then decide you won’t do it again (is my bet).


  11. Getting slightly less than positive vibes here! But you got away, somewhere different, with a bit of sunshine, so that’s good.


  12. Peggy and I enjoyed the beaches of Algarve, Andrew, although that trip is fading into distant memory. I laughed at your photos of you on top of the sand and Kim working on her tan. Funny. We crossed over the Rockies yesterday and our now camped out on the South Fork of the Rio Grande in southern Colorado. It’s absolutely beautiful around here. In three weeks we have to be in Virginia to get ready for our Rhine River trip. Hope to see you and Kim in Amsterdam. –Curt


  13. Pingback: Portugal and the Algarve – Blue Flag Beaches | Nelsapy

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