Going in search of starry skies is an impossible mission sometimes. Because of the full moon, or sometimes the supermoon, the clouds, the lampposts… In the villages we feel the sky closer, and let’s not say on top of a mountain, for example.
Of course, there are places where looking at the night sky is an immersive and poetic experience. Those remote places, protected from light pollution, become ideal destinations for astrotourism.
The Starlight Foundation, created in 2009, based in Tenerife, and promoted by the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands and the consulting firm Corporations, has as its main objective the protection of the night sky and the dissemination of astronomy. For this, it stimulates tourism of the stars, sustainable and of quality, through a system of certifications that accredits Starlight Tourist Destinations. The municipalities that apply to be a Starlight Destination have to meet a series of environmental requirements, services, smart lighting strategies, etc. For its part, the foundation develops special courses for the training of astronomical guides and monitors and promotes starry sky with activities related to astronomy.
The Starlight Foundation also grants certifications to Starlight hosts. Thus, there are hotels, rural houses and even Starlight campsites, for example, in Cuntis, Trevinca, Valdín, Cíes, Sanxenxo…
Today, Galicia has three Starlight Destinations: Trevinca, since 2015; the Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park, since 2016; and Muras, since 2020.
Trevinca. The Astronomical Center of Trevinca is in the municipality of A Veiga, in the region of Trevinca, southeast of the province of Ourense. In this area full of mountains is the highest point in Galicia, Pena Trevinca, with an altitude of 2,200 m. The Starlight Tourist Destination is located in the triangle formed between A Tablilla das Lagoas, Pico Maluro and O Rañadoiro, within the Pena Trevinca Protected Natural Area (ZEC and ZEPA zone). In addition to the altitude and the absence of light pollution, the climate of the area, especially clear, is perfect for discovering the sky.
Astronomy fans have always gathered in this area to see the stars. Later, with the impulse of astrotourism, in 2021 the Trevinca Astronomical Observatory was inaugurated, with two domes, eight telescopes and a planetarium, a real luxury. A great job of disseminating this science is done here through observation itself and the organization of activities: guided tours, conferences, concerts, workshops… In addition, they have two magnificent star viewpoints: As Tablillas, at 1,500 m of altitude, and O Rañadoiro, at 1,000 m, perfect for contemplating the Milky Way.
Maritime-terrestrial National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia. Any of these islands (archipelagos of Cortegada, Sálvora, Cíes and Ons) is a magnificent place to see the sky without interference, in the middle of the sea, only illuminated by the stars.
The Galician Federation of Astronomy and Radioastronomy (Fegar) is in charge of organizing different free activities around the skies. They include day and night observations, overnight stays, photographic practices… On the other hand, there are more and more private companies that organize night trips to see the stars.
The best observation points are the following: O Lago dos Nenos and A Pedra da Campá in Cíes; Caniveliñas, in Ons; Punta Fradiña, in Cortegada and Aldea, in Sálvora.
Muras. This small municipality in the north of Lugo, between rivers and mountains, in A Serra do Xistral, is one of the best observation points of the skies. Specifically, in two areas: on the one hand, at the viewpoints of A Cruz da Fraga Gorda, As Campelas da Auga and O Piocorto; on the other, in the area of Cruz de Bestemud. Manzoi Viewpoint, Gañidoira Viewpoint, Alto de Amosa, Motorhome Area, Cruz de Campo and Carballeira do Viveiró.
In Muras they already knew that they had a unique place to see the stars so, at the time, in addition to requesting the Starlight certification, they managed to do night activities with the heat as the protagonist, promoted by the Galician Society of Natural History, such as overnight camping, astrophotography workshops, etc.
We can only wait for night to fall, that there are not many clouds, that the moon is not at its maximum, and let ourselves be guided by the path of the stars…