First Starlight Tourism Destination in the World

Alqueva, in Portugal, is the first site in the world to be certified by the Starlight Foundation as a “Starlight Tourism Destination”. This certification, awarded by the Starlight foundation is supported by UNESCO, UNWTO and IAC.

Starlight destinations are places which have very low light pollution where visitors can enjoy unique and unparalleled opportunities to view the night sky. In much of Europe fewer and fewer people are able to view the galaxy clearly because of increasing light pollution but in Alqueva the excellent atmospheric conditions and clarity make it possible for visitors to enjoy stargazing for most of the year.

In addition Alqueva is a unique region very rich in cultural and natural heritage. Its megalithic remains provide a link with past civilisations who observed and responded to celestial movements. It is a region of small picturesque village which provide the visitor with a range of activities to fill the days and nights. The Alqueva Dark Sky Route initiative provides a focus for such activities providing opportunities for bird watching, hiking, horse riding, wildlife watching, canoeing, lake side dining, childrens activities and, of course, stargazing.

It is a memorable place to enjoy all the visual delights that the galaxy can offer stargazers at whatever level of knowledge. Telescopes and binoculars are made available as part of the route together with practical courses and guidance in stargazing.

Accommodation provided through the Dark Sky Route has been tailored to meet the special needs of astro tourists including late meals and take away food packs. Reservations can be made via the website in the list available at or, for organised packages, by e-mailing

The certification covers the municipalities of Alandroal, Reguengos, Monsaraz, Mourão, Barrancos, Portel and Moura, along 3.000 km2 surrounding the Great Lake Alqueva, the biggest artificial in Europe.

The Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve is coordinated by the Genuineland | Alentejo Network of Village Tourism in partnership with the Tourism Lands of the Great Lake Alqueva, the Alentejo Coordination and Regional Development Commission and EDIA, SA.

  • Clouds of absence > 50% with cloudless nights

The Reserve Dark Sky alqueva has an average of 286 nights clean, ie, without the presence of clouds.

  • Darkness > 21mag/arcsec2

The Dark Sky Reserve Alqueva records in some places measurements of 21,60 mag/arcsec2.

  • Seeing ≤ 2″


  • Transparency: mag 6

“The Starlight Foundation includes among its objectives the management and promotion of the Starlight Initiative. The Initiative is designed as an international action in defence of the values associated with the night sky and the general right to observe the stars. The final aim of the initiative is to strengthen the importance of clear skies for humankind, emphasizing and introducing the value of this endangered heritage for science, education, culture, technological development, nature conservation and tourism.

Starting from the proposal of IAC, the Starlight Initiative was launched in 2007 with the support of UNESCO, MaB Programme, UNWTO, IAU, and the collaboration of other international conventions: UNEP-CMS, SCBD and Ramsar Convention.

The aims of the Foundation include, among others:
*Dissemination and diffusion of science and, in particular, astrophysics and other sciences related to this branch of knowledge.
*Promote tourism activities related to the night sky as an effective way to seek a rapprochement between science and tourism.
*Promote training programs for guides and communicators on scientific and technological knowledge related with astronomy and associated values.
*Cooperation with international agencies and related organizations in the dissemination and defense on values ​​and heritage associated with astronomy and the night sky.