Starlight Foundation visits this area as part of the Starlight Tourist Destination certification process

03 may 2019
Starlight Foundation visits this area as part of the Starlight Tourist Destination certification process
DarkSky Aldeias do Xisto: Under the stars. The Starlight Foundation visited the Aldeias do Xisto to begin field evaluations for the award of the international "Starlight Tourist Destination" accreditation.

This is a project promoted by ADXTUR and Intermunicipal Community of Coimbra Region in partnership with Dark Sky® Alqueva Association. Completing the network of initial partners are the Institute of Telecommunications of the University of Aveiro and the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto. These bodies recently assembled in Pampilhosa da Serra, a borough where there is already scientific activity associated with astronomical observation and monitoring.

Of the whole area to be certified, which extends to the 27 villages in the network, it is in the most remote interior of the Aldeias do Xisto that the best conditions for observing the night sky exist. Scientific measurements reveal that the Aldeias do Xisto have good parameters of visibility, transparency, darkness, and clear nights, excellent for enjoying the night sky and astronomical phenomena.

However, the "Starlight Tourist Destination" certification is only awarded to a destination that is also prepared to meet the resulting tourist demand. During a three-day visit to the Aldeias do Xisto, the Foundation's Auditor was able to confirm the cohesion and commitment of the partnership between public, private, and scientific bodies, as well as the area's level of readiness in terms of strategic positioning, quality of the welcome, excellence, and diversity of tourist services, and the genuine interest of the resident community.

This combination of factors makes up a tourist experience that goes beyond mere sky watching to become a moment of immersion and communion with nature and the cosmos, a fact which the evaluators positively endorsed.

The excellent dark sky conditions in the Aldeias do Xisto

The Aldeias do Xisto have the ideal conditions to become a DarkSky® Tourist Destination. The surrounding mountains act as natural barriers to protect against light pollution emanating from cities on the coast and inland. The rugged terrain limits population concentration in the area, so lighting is sparse and not very intense. This was what the team could see on Villa Pampilhosa Hotel’s terrace, at a moment in which the Town Hall turned off all public lighting, allowing the brightness of the night sky to illuminate the village (see picture).

This gesture symbolised the collective commitment of Pampilhosa da Serra Borough Council, ADXTUR, and all partners to this project supported by CENTRO 2020, to continue the development of internal resources and transform an ostensible weakness into a distinctive asset, bringing economic and cultural benifits.

Dark Sky® Places Network

Portugal has the world's first "Starlight Tourist Destination" under the Dark Sky® Alqueva trademark. Since 2007, the Dark Sky® Association has developed a sustainability strategy that combines the protection of the night sky with the development of astrotourism destinations. Dark Sky® destinations demonstrate that it is possible to promote economic development and light pollution reduction at the same time, resulting in high benefits for culture, human health, and the environment.

The right to a dark sky

The Starlight Foundation recognises that stargazing has always inspired the development of cultures and civilisations, and that many of the technical and scientific advances marking the progress of humankind have resulted from it. However, the conditions for observing the night sky have been deteriorating at a worrying rate in a process that faces humanity with cultural, scientific, and natural loss with unpredictable consequences. In this sense, the Foundation's actions recognise the value and importance of the relationship between humankind and the stars, fighting for the conservation, protection, and enhancement of this collective heritage.