Congratulations astronomy fans, because for a while now we’ve been seeing a new travel trend: Travellers interested in what’s called star tourism or astro-tourism. An open air experience designed to discover the enigmas of the darkest skies, through observations with the naked eye or through specialized astronomical observatories.
There are few places in the world recognized for the exceptional quality of their night skies. Some of them are the Starlight Reserves -endorsed by UNESCO–, spaces that are protected from light pollution so you can access starlight. The excessive lighting of cities makes small stars invisible. Luckily, in Spain we still have some of these enclaves. Although of course, you have to get away from the large urban centres such as Madrid, Barcelona, or Valencia.
One of these starry horizons is that of the Canary Islands. Particularly, on the island La Palma, we find the world’s first Starlight Reserve, which is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary. This is one of the biggest astronomical complexes on the planet and its biggest attraction is the Great Canary Telescope, in Roque de los Muchachos. Here we will discover the mysteries of the firmament. For housing, and in order to not miss a minute of this universe, the bed and breakfast El Pósito, located in Villa de Mazo, has an astronomical space and is accredited by Starlight as a bed and breakfast for astronomical observation.
If you still have the urge to see more stars from the Canary Islands, we propose an unbeatable location, alongside the famous volcano in Teide National Park. On the island of Tenerife we find a mansion hidden between the mountains, Parador de las Cañadas del Teide. From its rooms, you can discover a sea of clouds, and the sky will give you the stars during the astronomical observations offered by the inn.
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At more than 2,600 meters above sea level, in the Sierra Nevada (Granada) you find the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia’s observatory, the third largest in Spain. And although the light of the nearby capital affects the mountain skies a little, we can still enjoy an exceptional visual quality for contemplating the universe. And the night in the Sierra Nevada offers not just night time ski slopes, but also the opportunity to use astronomical observation equipment and see double stars.
Here, we find the hotel Vincci Rumaykiyya, a sanctuary of winter snow sports due to its access to the slopes, but also to the night life, since you can sleep surrounded by mountains and get to know what the sky hides when we sleep in the big city.
Can you imagine the feeling of falling asleep under a starry sky? Would you sleep or would you stay up all night watching the stars and moon turn? This idyllic experience is offered by the hotel Mil Estrellas, in the town of Banyoles (Girona). Its rooms, with all the commodities of a luxury hotel, are gigantic transparent bubbles. Can you imagine the feeling of falling asleep looking at the stars?
The nights in Montsec are spectacular and Cal Maciarol, in Àger (Lleida), is one of the best hotels to spend the night, photographing the stars and galaxies nonstop. Montsec is a Starlight tourist destination that certifies the great quality of its night sky. The plan is to wait for nightfall; meanwhile you can visit the permanent exhibition that explains astronomical phenomena like the Big Bang. If you see the Milky Way, congratulations!
We already know that Galicia is a tourist destination. And if you didn’t know, all you have to do is search #Galifornia online. Lovely, isn’t it? Now, in addition to stuffing yourself with seafood and marvelling at the landscape, you can also surprise yourself with the phosphoresce of the stars. And from a sailboat anchored by the beaches of San Martiño or Rodas, in the Cíes Islands National Park. When night falls you will disembark on the island and there, on the white sand, you will find one of the just 14 places in the world that has the Starlight stamp of approval.
Not speechless yet? We go now to the highest point in Galicia, Peña Trevinca, in the town of A Veiga in Orense, another one of these Starlight certified skies. Here you can see meteor showers in their full splendour, like those in the image below.
These places are a different way to enjoy your vacation days with a combination of science and culture. They are unique enclaves for watching the sky, discovering the universe, and realizing that we are a small dot in space, like those stars that shine in the sky. And above all, to discover where the Milky Way or Saturn hides. If you can, don’t miss it: light pollution will only get worse.