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Starlight destinations in Spain: the best landscapes for stargazing

Starlight destinations in Spain are places in our geography where the absence of light pollution and the combination of favorable atmospheric conditions make optimal astronomical observation possible.

These places are focused on the dissemination of astronomy and scientific values through the so-called “star tourism”.

To join the list of Starlight destinations not only the quality of the night sky and starlight is evaluated, but also the commitment to the conservation of the natural and scenic environments associated with the area and to have an adequate and environmentally sustainable tourism offer.



How is Starlight Destination certification awarded in Spain?

The Starlight Foundation is the entity in charge of granting this certification. Based in San Cristobal de la Laguna, Tenerife (Spain), this foundation was founded in 2009 as a non-profit organization.

It was created by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and has the support of important international organizations such as the International Astronomical Union, UNESCO and the World Tourism Organization.

Shortly before its founding, in 2007, the International Conference “Starlight, a Common Heritage“, held on the island of La Palma, promulgated the “Declaration in Defense of the Night Sky and the Right to Observe the Stars”.

It considers the sky as a universal heritage and claims the need for clean skies and the right to starlight, urging organizations and authorities to safeguard this right and establishing the criteria for valuing the scientific, environmental and cultural resources of what are now known as Starlight Tourist Destinations and Reserves.

In 2019, nearly thirty sites have Starlight certification.

The list of Starlight tourist destinations is a list that is not limited only to places in Spain.

Other countries, such as Chile, Canada or Portugal, have some of the best places to enjoy the starry sky and a wide range of rural houses and rural hotels that, by definition, are accommodations that respect the natural environment.


What modalities exist within the Starlight Destinations in Spain?


The most common recognition given to Starlight destinations in Spain is that of Starlight Tourist Destination, places where science, nature and tourism come together around the starry sky. However, there are different types of certifications.

What modalities will we find?

An extensive list of:

  • Starlight Villages
  • Starlight Accommodations
  • Starlight Star Parks
  • Starlight Stellars
  • Starlight Camps
  • Starlight sites and other certifications
  • Not to mention the Starlight Reserves, the most environmentally protected.

Among the different modalities, Starlight Reserves, by definition, must be accompanied by a set of recommendations aimed at preserving and, if necessary, restoring the sky and starlight.

Where are the Starlight Destinations in Spain?

Today, our country has the majority of the world’s Starlight Destinations recognized as such: Twenty Starlight Tourist Destinations -the most numerous on the list-, Starlight Reserves -more than ten scattered throughout the peninsula and the islands-, to which must be added the Startight Star Parks and is completed with a wide range of Starlight accommodations.

Starlight destinations in the Canary Islands
Photograph taken in the Starlight reserve located in the Cañadas del Teide. License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (Author: José Miguel)

The list of Starlight Reserves and the list of Tourist Destinations coincide almost completely, that is, practically all the Reserves are also recognized as Starlight Tourist Destinations (although not the other way around).

Starlight Reserves include the island of La Palma, Fuerteventura and the Cumbres de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Montsec and the Parc Nacional de Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici in Catalonia, the Gúdar-Javalambre region and the Cuencas Mineras region in Aragon.

The Sierra de Jaén and its region, Los Pedroches and Sierra Morena in Andalusia are also recognized as Starlight Reserves.

The most recent addition, (January 2019), was the Island of Menorca. All of them are also Starlight Tourist Destinations, with the exception of Fuerteventura.

Starlight Destinations in Spain are mostly those recognized as Tourist Destinations.

The oldest of them all is the Biosphere Reserve of the Valleys of Leza, Jubera, Cidacos and Alhama, in La Rioja, a place of exceptional interest that offers us a dark and clean sky in which to observe the Milky Way and the rest of the firmament in great detail.

Many other places soon joined the Rioja Biosphere Reserve:

Granadilla de Abona, El Teide and the Island of Gran Canaria (Canary Islands), the Sierra de Gredos Norte and Muriel-Viejo in Castilla y León, the Serranía de Cuenca in Castilla-La Mancha, Alto Turia in Valencia, Monfragüe in Extremadura, the Roncal Valley in Navarra and Trevinca and the Parque Natural das Illas Atlánticas in Galicia.

To all of these should be added the aforementioned Reserves.

Starlight destinations in Spain
Starry sky observation in Martos, Jaén (Spain). License: CC-BY-2.0 (Author: Victor)

In the Starlight Star Parks, astro-tourism and expert advice about the sky and the stars we observe go hand in hand.

These are places that are associated with municipalities with a clear commitment to the quality of the night sky and the Starlight declaration. We found Stellar Parks in Tenerife, Jabalón, Iruña de Oca, Valladolid, Granada…

In them, all kinds of activities related to stargazing are carried out in order to disseminate astronomical knowledge. Many amateur astronomers conduct courses, cultural activities, events, conferences and field trips there, which enhance the Starlight experience.

For more information on the Tourist Destinations and the rest of the destinations Starlight in Spain can be consulted on the website of the Starlight FoundationThe Starlight website, in which we will find all kinds of content, news and links to learn about each of these privileged areas, the projected action and conservation plans and more information about the Starlight Reserves, a list of Starlight accommodations and the requirements to be able to obtain this recognition.

Starlight Accommodations, a new Starlight Destination concept

Starlight Reserves in the Atlantic Islands of Galicia

In Spain there are currently more than fifty rural houses and hotels that have been distinguished as Starlight Accommodations.

These establishments, in addition to having an adequate lodging capacity, must disseminate and promote star tourism, actively participating in the commitment to the quality of the night sky and fighting against light pollution in accordance with Starlight values.

Among the advantages of the Starlight Accommodations The availability of instruments for observing the stars, with which the facility undertakes to provide in proportion to its capacity, as well as the ability to provide all the information necessary for the correct use of these instruments, should be emphasized.

Trained staff is in charge of assisting guests in the recognition and interpretation of the sky and courses, routes, excursions and astronomical talks are organized, emphasizing the educational work on the right to observe the stars defended by the Starlight Declaration.

The procedure that Starlight accommodations must follow to obtain the proper distinction is detailed in all the contact channels offered by the Starlight Foundation. If you have a rural hotel or rural house and want to join the initiative and become the new Starlight destination in Spain, do not hesitate to contact us.


Starlight villages, more astrotourism for rural areas

Starlight villages in Spain

Since March 2019, it was decided to grant a new recognition by the Starlight Foundation: the Starlight Villages.

The definition of Starlight Villages would be that of small municipalities in rural areas with a strong identity of their own and, of course, a firm commitment to the conservation of a quality starry sky, free of light pollution.

In contrast to Starlight Tourist Destinations, Starlight Villages have more limited objectives.

However, it is a perfect framework for these small towns to boost their economy and avoid depopulation through the development of initiatives and infrastructures that guarantee a good tourist offer integrated in the nocturnal nature.

As this is the most recent initiative of the Starlight Foundation, the list of Starlight Villages is a list that has yet to be drawn up, pending applications received in the near future. If you would like to learn about the first steps to Starlight Certification or obtain more information about Starlight Villages, you can find everything you need on the Foundation’s website.


Galicia’s Atlantic Islands, one of the best Starlight sites in Spain

Starlight destinations in the Atlantic Islands of Galicia: Cíes, Ons...

Since the beginning of 2016, the Parque Nacional das Illas Atlánticas de Galicia is one of the places awarded with the distinction of Spanish Starlight Tourist Destination.

This park, formed by the Cíes Islands, the Ons Archipelago, Sálvora and Cortegada, is located in an enviable environment for the study and observation of the most spectacular sunsets and a magnificent night sky, free of atmospheric and light pollution.

Since its entry into the select group of Starlight destinations in Spain, both the organization of the National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia and the accommodations and campsites located there have taken an active role in the scientific dissemination and preservation of the starry sky of Galicia.

Offering guided night tours with an instructor, star, constellation and nightscape photography contests, astronomical interpretation courses and many other activities, especially during the summer months.

The shipping companies in charge of transporting visitors to the park are also involved in this type of initiatives, carrying out interesting outings such as the Starlight Route Cíes from the seaThe Starlight trip, where you can enjoy the magic of the sky in the middle of the sea, anchoring off the islands; an essential trip for any nature and astronomy lover, where the ocean itself is the best observatory.


Starlight destinations in Spain, another way to enjoy nature

  star parks and Starlight sites

The Declaration in Defense of the Night Sky and the Right to Observe the Stars has been pursuing, for more than a decade, a global commitment to respect the sky and preserve the light and atmospheric conditions so that all of us, as well as future generations, can enjoy an unbeatable sky for stargazing.

Since 2007, many places have been decorated as Starlight Destinations, both in Spain and the rest of the world.

Privileged spots where the traveler learns to appreciate the beauty of the night in the landscape, the sky and the stars. The list of destinations and possible trips has only grown since then. If you have not yet participated in one of these experiences it is never too late for the first time, do not wait any longer and look for your next Starlight destination in Spain.

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