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 www.turismoalqueva.pt/dark-sky or, for organised packages, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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.