People are reconnecting with the stars thanks to dark sky tourism

BRIHUEGA, GUADALAJARA, SPAIN - 2021/08/13: The Milky Way, Jupiter and Saturn (brightest spots in the sky) rising over a dead tree during a clear summer night. (Photo by Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
BRIHUEGA, GUADALAJARA, SPAIN - 2021/08/13: The Milky Way, Jupiter and Saturn (brightest spots in the sky) rising over a dead tree during a clear summer night. (Photo by Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Enjoying the night sky is not an experience people are used to thanks to the immense amount of light pollution created by cities and more. But as dark sky tourism increases in popularity, a lot of communities are turning down the light and turning up the night.

Many spots have become Certified IDA International Dark Sky Places, giving visitors the chance to enjoy an unpolluted version of the cosmos. It’s always been there but a lot of people are finally getting the chance and taking the time to enjoy it.

What is dark sky tourism?

As humanity’s footprint has grown across the planet, so has the amount of light pollution it produces. Communities are huge offenders, from towns of 500 people to megacities with populations in the tens of millions. But they are not the only producers of light pollution by far.

Dark Sky
VAN, TURKEY – AUGUST 13: A photographer stands near a set-up to cover Perseid meteors, also known as “Shooting Stars”, streaking across the sky near Monastery of St. Thomas in Altinsac village in Gevas district of Van, Turkey on August 13, 2018. (Photo by Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) /

Anyone who has taken a plane at night over the Canadian Prairies or American Midwest has looked down and seen the lights that dot the landscape. In rural areas around the world, there are farmyards with lights of various types and purposes. All of this contributes to light pollution.

It’s become nearly impossible to find a truly dark patch of land where you can’t see man-made light anywhere. That’s why dark sky tourism has become something an increasing number of people are seeking out.

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This is simply the act of traveling to truly dark sky places where there is no man-made light pestering you at all. It is stargazing in spots that allow you to experience the night sky unencumbered by one of the most insidious signs of progress.

Being a certified dark sky place

Trying to find experiences like this has often required going on an adventure to some of the most remote places on Earth. And even then, it’s still almost impossible to escape the reach of humanity’s impact on the world. Light pollution is only one way that has become apparent.

To combat this, several places around the world have become certified by the International Dark-Sky Association. This is the organization at the forefront of fighting light pollution on a global scale. And it’s an important issue that impacts health, the economy, and more.

Beyond getting to enjoy the night sky, light pollution also plays havoc with wildlife, particularly anything that’s nocturnal. That’s why the work of the IDA has become so important in recent years. As such, achieving Dark Sky Certification has become quite important.

Becoming a certified International Dark Sky Place is a big deal. It requires meeting a set of requirements laid out by the IDA and making a long-term commitment to minimizing light pollution. While parks benefit hugely, there are other types of sanctuaries, reserves, and communities that can qualify.

Great dark sky spots

The only continent on Earth that doesn’t have an International Dark Sky Place on it is Antarctica. But for obvious reasons, it’s the continent that needs it the least. There are barely any people there let alone any light pollution.

Dark Sky
PORMA LAKE, SPAIN – AUGUST 05: Meteors along the Milky Way in the sky on August 05, 2021 in Porma Lake, Leon, Spain. Perseids can be seen between the days of July 17 to August 24 of each year. The most optimal day is August 11. (Photo by Samuel de Roman/Getty Images) /

So far the vast majority of Dark Sky Places are situated in North America and Europe. And in the United States, you will find a lot of them in the Southwest. Various State Parks, National Parks, National Monuments, and more have achieved the IDA’s certification as IDSPs.

That includes some of the most beautiful and popular National Parks in the world. Big names like Zion National Park, Arches National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park have achieved this. Being Dark Sky certified is just another reason to stop by one of these magnificent places.

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Until you actually manage to get outside of the lights of the city and take in the true beauty of the night sky, it can be hard to appreciate its power. But thanks to the IDA, dark sky tourism is becoming a reason to travel as well as part of a bigger push for a healthier world.