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Stargazing in Spain

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When you are on holiday you probably like to go out for dinner at night and walk around a well-lit area, but have you tried turning off the light and looking at the sky? Have you ever seen the rings around Saturn through a telescope?Over 80% of the world’s population are not able to enjoy the stars in all their splendour due to light pollution. But Spain is lucky enough to do so because it has some of the best places for astrotourism in the world. The range of emotions you will tap into with this experience will get you hooked. You will notice planets, double stars, galaxies, and feel like you can touch the Milky Way with your hands.

WHY SPAIN

Its clear skies have preserved their natural darkness owing to the lack of light pollution.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 stargazing. These usually have planispheres or star charts, educational materials and a telescope. Can you imagine seeing the image of the Milky Way from a castle courtyard?

Astrotourism at the Sierra de Gata Beacon

There are companies and associations that specialise in organising events for important moments such as eclipses and meteor showers. You can combine stargazing with other activities such as horse riding, cycling, hiking and nature watching or simply relaxing in the natural surroundings.

GUARANTEED DESTINATIONS FOR STARGAZING: 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).

A starry night sky in Tenerife

AREAS

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 stargazing vantage points and accommodation. They also offer package holidays that include specialist guides, observation material, daytime activities, accommodation, 4x4 transport, etc.

Montsec Observatory

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 stargazing is exciting in 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 observatory

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.Gran Canaria. The island protects its skies from light pollution, and offers plenty of viewing points. Thanks to the Starlight certification, many of them have telescopes, creating a network of stargazing points.

Gredos Norte. This is in the south of the province of Ávila (in Castile and 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. The municipality of Muriel Viejo, in the province of Soria (also in Castilla y León) earned Starlight certification in 2017.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, and more. La Rioja also has two star parks, in Laguna de Cameros and Cervera del Río Alhama.

Sunset over the Gredos mountain range

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 municipal area of Veiga (Ourense) and is the highest point in Galicia.

Monfragüe National Park, in Cáceres (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. Sierras de Gúdar-Javalamabre, in Teruel (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 Roncal valley, in Navarre. In the heart of the Pyrenees, you can be sure of dark skies for stargazing. See for yourself by spending the night in any of the villages in the valley, such as Roncal, Burgui, Vidángoz, Garde, Urzainqui, Isaba, or Uztárrol.

Astrotourism at Monfragüe National Park

Serranía de Cuenca, in Castile-La Mancha. The Astronomy Park is in the Serranía de Cuenca Nature Reserve, and includes the municipalities of Tragacete, Las Majadas, Cuenca, Uña, Huélamo, Vega del Codorno, Sotorribas, Villalba de la Sierra, Poyatos, Arcos de la Sierra, Portilla, Fuertescusa, Fresneda de la Sierra, Castillejo de la Sierra, Mariana, Beamud, and Valdemeca.The island of Menorca, the Cuencas Mineras area (Teruel), Aigüestortes i Estanay de Sant Maurici National Park, the Alto Turia area (Region of Valencia) and the Alcudia Valley and Sierra Madrona are also Starlight Tourist Destinations. 

Aigüestortes National Park and San Mauricio Lake

There are star parks in other parts of Spain, such as El Jabalón (Ciudad Real), the Tiedra Astronomy Centre (in Valladolid), Tenerife Sky at Night (on the island of Tenerife), Santa Catalina Botanical Garden (in Álava), CIC Gorafe (in Granada) and Camino Barranco de Badajoz (Güímar-Tenerife). You can also find original places for stargazing such as San Pedro Cultural (in Becerril de Campos, Palencia), the first monument dedicated to astronomy. It is an old 12th century Romanesque church that has been converted into an astronomy centre, as it features a Foucault pendulum, or a device to demonstrate the earth’s rotation. Some more original activities? The sporting event Reventón Trail El Paso (La Palma) or the Basque-Navarre Railway Greenway Trail (Álava). Search for other suggestions for excursions, restaurants or farms on the official Starlight Foundation’s website. 

TIPS

  • 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”. These are the Perseids, a meteor shower of shooting stars that usually takes place on 11 to 13 August every year.

  • Not every night is suitable for stargazing, depending on the moon and the weather. The best nights are those just before and after a new moon.

  • Remember that you need to get well away from cities and towns to avoid light pollution, and that nights are always colder. Make sure to bring several layers of clothing.
  • Given that the information provided may change, we advise you to always check its accuracy before starting your journey.