Juan Carlos Poveda
A starry night. Laguna Hondera. Sierra Nevada, Granada.
Dirección General de Turismo de Extremadura
Viewing point at Monfragüe Castle. Monfragüe National Park
Meneari . Fotolia.
Circumpolar at the ruins of Caudilla castle. Toledo.
A starry night in Tenerife.
“Star Tourism” is becoming increasingly popular among tourists. If you too want to sign up for this experience of gazing and interpreting the firmament, we recommend that you come to Spain, which has some of the best vantage points in the world to marvel at the sky at night. Combine your passion for astronomy with an unforgettable trip to the countryside.
You can book your astrotourist activities and experiences on this page. Here you'll find information on prices, the dates when you can do the activity, how long it takes, what language options are available and its target public.
Its clear skies have preserved their natural darkness owing to the lack of light pollution. Indeed, at present the Canary Islands, along with Hawaii and Chile are the homes of the observatories where the telescopes of the future are to be installed. There is a high number of useful observation hours there. The good climate also affords a lot of nights with clear skies. A lot of the areas from which the stars can be observed are protected natural areas, such as nature reserves, that are sure to impress visitors. In addition to the magnificent installations, there are country house lodges and small hotels in Spain that specialise in star gazing. These normally have planispheres or star charts, educational material and a telescope. Can you imagine seeing the image of the Milky Way from a castle courtyard? There are companies and associations that specialise in organising events for important moments such as eclipses and meteor showers. Indeed, Tenerife even hosts the Starmus Festival, which is aimed at astronomy, science and music enthusiasts and which has counted with people of the stature of Stephen Hawking as speakers. It is usually held in June or July. You can combine star gazing with other activities such as horse riding, cycling, hiking and nature watching or simply relaxing in the natural surroundings.
Guaranteed destinations for star gazing: Starlight Certifications
There are several types of Starlight certifications (Starlight Reserves, Starlight Tourist Destinations, Stellar Parks, Starlight Hotels, etc.) that are granted to places that include sky watching as part of their natural heritage, thus ensuring a quality tourist experience. You can get more information at the Starlight Foundation website, created by the Canary Islands Institute of Astrophysics (IAC).
Where are the Starlight areas in Spain? Sierra Sur district.This is the mountain range of Sierra Sur de Jaén (in Andalusia, southern Spain). This is a landscape abounding in mountains and canyons where the air is clean and transparent. Different astronomy associations and the Andalusia Astronomy Observatory normally organise guided observation activities. There are even companies that provide private astronomy guide services at those country house lodges that have professional telescopes. Sierra Morena mountains. This is also located in Andalusia. There you will find a marvellous network of star gazing vantage points and accommodation. They also offer package holidays that include specialist guides, observation material, day and night activities, accommodation, 4x4 travel, etc. Montsec. This is a Starlight Tourist Destination located in the foothills of the Pyrenees in Lleida (Catalonia). You could do no better in this area than pay a visit to its large astronomy park made up of the Universe Observation Centre (COU) and an Astronomy Observatory. Did you know that the well known “Montsec Eye” is to be found there, the 12-m dome of which opens out to bring you “face to face” with the Montsec sky? Tenerife. The Teide National Park, other mountain peaks on Tenerife and the town of Granadilla de Abona all hold Starlight certification. If star gazing is exciting of itself, watching them from a volcano (the Canary Islands are a volcanic formation) at over 2,000 m above sea level is an incomparable experience. What better place to gaze at the moon than from a lunar-like landscape? The geographical situation of the Canary Islands affords visitors a chance to observe both the northern and southern hemispheres. Sign up for a guided visit to see inside one of the most modern telescopes in the world or to take a photograph of the night sky. La Palma. Known as the “beautiful island”, this is the most rugged of the Canary Islands and the one with the clearest skies. It is definitely an understatement to say that this is one of the best places on earth to observe the stars. All the towns on the island have astronomy vantage points. Its famous Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory, standing some 2,400 m above sea level is one of the most complex telescopes, and indeed one of the most complete, in the world. You can visit it, but only by prior arrangement. La Palma has several hotels and country house lodges with observation instruments, solar clocks and even restaurants that offer “galaxies” and “constellations” among their dishes. Gredos Norte. This is in the south of the province of Ávila (in Castile-León, inland Spain). It has a network of star watching vantage points that are equipped with information panels, car parks, etc. The Astronomy and Astrophotography Congress is held there every year. Valles del Jubera, Leza, Cidacos and Alhama Biosphere Reserve. We are talking about the beautiful countryside of La Rioja (northern part of inland Spain). Several activities have been organised there in recent years, such as talks about the sounds of nature, tours to spot nocturnal birds, explanations of the links between the Celtiberian culture and the stars, bathing under the stars in thermal springs, learning about the constellations, etc. La Rioja also has two star parks: La Laguna in Cameros, and Cervera del Río Alhama.
The Atlantic Islands National Park and the Trevinca massif, in Galicia. The former gives you the opportunity to stargaze under a dark sky in an extraordinarily beautiful protected natural space, known by many as "the islands of the gods"”. It is in Pontevedra, and we recommend checking their website to book night-time visits and workshops to learn about astronomy. Meanwhile, the Trevinca massif is located in the town of Veiga (Ourense) and is the highest point in Galicia.
Monfragüe National Park, in Extremadura. This is a unique bird-watching location in Spain. At night, good places for star-gazing include the Torrejón el Rubio Astronomical Observatory and the viewing point at Monfragüe Castle.
The Sierras of Gúdar and Javalambre, in Aragon. The Javalambre Astrophysical Observatory is here, alongside the GALACTICA project, a Centre for the Dissemination and Practice of Astronomy. In summer it holds night photography workshops, astronomy workshops, sunset viewings and explanations, and so on.
The island of Fuerteventura and Los Pedroches (Córdoba) are also Starlight Reserves, and other parts of Spain offer star parks or spaces for astronomy certified by the Starlight Foundation. These are the Tiedra Centre (in Valladolid); Tenerife Sky at Night (on the island of Tenerife); and the Botanical Garden of Santa Catalina (in Álava).
Always try and engage the services of specialist companies and associations for these activities. If you are going it alone, we advise you to go to the vantage points equipped for this purpose (you can find where they are located in the information links to the aforementioned areas). Most of them have car parks. If you bring your own telescope and resources, you will not only find a magnificent sky, but some of them have power sockets to which you can connect your equipment. One of the most popular times of the year to star gaze in Spain is during what is known as the “Tears of Saint Lawrence”. They refer to the Perseids meteor shower of shooting stars that usually takes place between the 11 and 13 August every year. Not every night is suitable for sky watching on account of moonlight and wind factors. The best nights are those just before and after a new moon. Bear in mind that you must distance yourself from built-up areas like cities and towns to avoid light pollution. And remember that temperatures always fall at night. Make sure to wear several layers of clothing. We recommend reading our Travel Tips. Given that the information provided may change, we advise you to check its accuracy always before starting out on your journey.
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