Like “which country has the best cuisine?”, there are few more heated topics of conversation around the coastlines of Europe than who can claim to have the finest beaches.
Some say Spain’s mainland marvels are better than their islands. Others are in a whirlpool of contention whether Italy or Greece have the finer stretches of sand.
Us? We just want our beach clean as can be – pristine waters and pollution-free shorelines. Blue flag ratings are green flags in our book. Our red flags? Bathers who leave their belongings behind, be it trash, personal objects, or even the residue from sunscreens that hurt marine life.
Before we dive in to our own little list of the top cleanest beaches in Europe, here are a few reminders for sunbathers who want to protect our shores:
- Don’t bring single-use items like plastics and styrofoam containers; bring reusable ones instead to ensure you take them home with you.
- If you see trash on the beach, pick it up and dispose of it properly.
- Consider wearing sunscreen that’s marine-life safe.
- Don’t bring old, damaged items like towels or beach equipment that may fall off or separate from the item.
- Consider joining a beach cleanup to meet new people while preserving the beach’s beauty.
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Top 9 Cleanest Beaches in Europe
Most of these sites have Blue Flag status which means they meet and maintain the highest standards for water quality and cleanliness as well as land environmental management, safety, and accessibility.
Kavourotripes | Sithonia, Greece
It’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Galicia. In Spain. In Europe. Possibly in the world. It’s Playa de Rodas and it’s a beachgoer’s dream.
Greece is already one of the best beach destinations in Europe. A car-free island means a literal breath of fresh air, plus fewer exhaust and engine runoff to soil the scene. Rodas is one of Spain’s 600-some Blue Flag beaches. White sand and blue sky; what more can you ask for? Cleanliness comes standard, thanks to this and all the beaches of the island of Cies being part of the Atlantic Islands National Park. Camp, enjoy the unblemished azure waters, and remember to leave only wet footprints.
Interested in exploring Spain’s fabulous playas on an unforgettable tour? We’ll take you to the popular beaches between Barcelona and Madrid. Plus, you can splash in more of the world’s waters with a tour that combines Spain with visits to Portugal and Morocco.
Praia de Tavira | Tavira, Portugal
If you’re spending any time in Portugal, the Algarve is the prime place to work on your tanlines. Head over the eastern part of the region to the seaside town of Tavira where a trio of Blue Flag beaches await.
And that’s saying something, as the Algarve has more Blue Flags than any other part of Portugal.
Praia da Ilha de Tavira, Praia da Terra Estreita, and Praia do Barril are the three proper beaches but you can appreciate the coast’s pristine natural beauty when kayaking or shellfishing around Ria Formosa Nature Park.
The Algarve has some of the best beaches in all of Europe. See the sunshine on the sands, plus visit 16 cities on Trafalgar’s Best of Portugal tour. You’ll spend 11 days covering the country from top to bottom, with your swimsuit at the ready under your coverup.
Baia dei Turchi | Otranto, Italy
Clean and crystalline: that’s what you get when you soak up the sun at Baia dei Turchi.
This little piece of paradise in Puglia has a full mile of white sand, standing in stark contrast to the green pine forests, challenging you to find a blemish. It’s no wonder the southern Italian region is considered one of the best beach destinations in Europe. Salento’s got its share of Blue Flag beaches but Baia dei Turchi has a special place in visitors’ hearts. Despite its size, the beach fills up fast so try to get there before the best sandcastle spots are gone.
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Dueodde Beach | Bornholm, Denmark
Dueodde Beach collects Blue Flags like children collect seashells.
One of the best beach destinations in Europe’s northern countries, Dueodde Beach was once owned by the King of Denmark. Over the last century, Denmark has fought hard to not only starve off development in the area, but to also preserve this wild space from its own ecological growth.
Today, the cleanliness of this beach is a top priority, with strict rules preventing any disturbance of plants and animals, as well as smoking and dumping.
Denmark is only one small slice of Scandinavia. Join other like-minded travelers on Trafalgar’s Scenic Scandinavia and its Fjords tour. 2 weeks of travel takes you through Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. And ending the trip in Stockholm means a Finnish trip to complete Scandinavia is only a quick flight away.
Lambanes Beach | Langanes, Iceland
Iceland’s black sand shores get all the attention — and for good reason — but don’t assume that black is the new beach. Lambanes Beach is one of the few “regular” sand beaches on the island. Situated up in North Iceland, it’s quite the hike to reach the Langanes area but well worth it in the summer for birdwatching and a rather cold dip in the undisturbed waters.
There’s a lot to see in Iceland, and trust us, it’s all…cool. Check out the black sand beaches, the Blue Lagoon, and the other dazzling colors of this country on Trafalgar’s Iceland including the Blue Lagoon tour. Spend 6-days traveling through just as many cities with your swimsuit at the ready.
Treyarnon Bay | Cornwall, England
Any Brit worth their salt knows that Cornwall has some of the finest beaches in all of Great Britain. Treyarnon Bay is just one of many.
This chill, golden sand spot is a perfect place for a family getaway. Low cliffs and sand dunes provide great settings for family photos. Surfers fill the shoreline and hikers on the South West Coast Path do rest their soles on the sand, but it does nothing to dirty up the vibe. Treyarnon Bay is a remarkably clean beach that parents and children alike will love.
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Qawra Point Beach |Ta’ Fra Ben Bay, Malta
Rocky and rather shallow, Qawra Point Beach isn’t as dive-in ready as some other swimming spots on this list. But what it lacks in flexibility, it makes up for with its views. Set against a coastal watch tower, this Blue Flag certified beach has clear waters for pristine snorkeling.
It’s not just a daytime beach, either. As the sunsets, you’ll find locals and visitors breaking out the barbecues and taking selfies against the beautiful backdrop.
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Alagadi Turtle Beach | Gözübüyük, Cyprus
When it comes to the purity of Cyprus’ waters, the European Environmental Agency graded Cyprus with a perfect score in 2020. And its beaches? It’s safely on the of the best beach destinations in Europe.
But don’t ask the swimmers; ask the turtles!
Alagadi Turtle Beach in Gözübüyük has two bays side by side where turtles lay their eggs. Hatchlings arrive every summer and make their way to the ultra-pure sea waters. SPOT (the Society for the Protection of Turtles) has a monitoring station on the beach where they’ll gladly tell you how you can help keep Cyprus’ beaches clean for the next generation of green and loggerhead hatchlings.
Have you been to a Blue Flag beach in Europe? Tell us which was your favorite in the comments