A perfect beautiful starry night is a rare thing so much so in fact that there are only a handful of certified destinations in Europe that can offer the, the first to be certified and probably the most exquisite is Dark Sky Alqueva. Located in the Alentejo region of Portugal Alqueva is a wonderful and accessible place to see the stars, constellations, the Milky Way, and distant galaxies. Conditions in Alqueva are ideal, light pollution is at a minimum and the climate is warm.
So, should you decide that your next trip to Portugal will include a spot of night viewing then who better to guide you than the president of the Dark Sky Association, Apolónia Rodrigues. Apolónia is an experienced and award-winning professional with an excellent background in sustainable tourism.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. And what led you to founding Dark Sky?
My professional career began in 1998, before I completed my university studies in Tourism Management and Planning. I started with a public entity that was linked to tourism, and soon after I had an international project, which made me understand which path I would like to follow. In 2007 I chose a different path from working in public authorities and requested unpaid leave in order to develop what I loved most, development of sustainable and integrated destinations combined with future tourism trends in demand. To follow my passion I develop my own model and in that same year I begin creating Dark Sky® Alqueva.
Opposition arose when choosing the night sky as a resource for tourism, as locally it was considered a negative point of the region, the loss of population. An area with little population and widely dispersed urban zones provided a restraint in the growth of public lighting, and as such it provided a low level of light pollution. A destination needs a strong element that is capable of driving towards sustainable development, but that at the same time allows it to differentiate itself in the global market. Thus, in the Alqueva the night sky appeared. And with it, the creation of the concept and destination brand Dark Sky®, the first one being Dark Sky® Alqueva.
What is it about Alqueva that makes it such a perfect destination?
Dark Sky® Alqueva combines a night sky of exceptional quality with diversified and excellent tourism offer, together with natural beauty and rich material and intangible Heritage. At just over 1H30 away from an international airport it is possible to find a destination with an impressive night sky where one can observe the Milky Way, our great cosmic home, with the unaided eye.
With cutting-edge telescopes for solar and astronomical observations, one can embark on a unique visual experience from observing planets, the craters of the Moon, passing through the deep sky on a cosmic journey through nebulae, galaxies and star clusters which rise above in one of the best skies in the world. In addition to the activities developed by Dark Sky®, a Network of Official Partners was created.
Within the Network, the Official Partners include accommodation, restaurants, handicrafts and regional products, guided tours and night and daytime entertainment activities, who are all prepared to meet the needs of astrotourists. It is without a doubt a complete destination between the sky and Earth.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of visiting?
My advice is to stay among us at least four days to be able to enjoy the night and day of Dark Sky® Alqueva calmly. I propose a combination of stargazing in the Official Dark Sky® Alqueva Observatory, astrophotography with Miguel Claro, night canoeing and a night walk or a run with a day boat trip, long meals, visiting our castles, monuments and beautiful villages or just resting in the vast fields, near the Great Alqueva Lake, or close to the pool with a nice glass of Alentejo wine or a gin which is also produced locally.
Are there any activities you’d recommend?
Dark Sky® Alqueva offers a range of astronomical observation activities with the unaided eye or with telescopes, which can be held at the Official Dark Sky® Alqueva Observatory in Cumeada, or in any part of the certified territory, always with a Dark Sky® Guide.
In addition to these activities, other complimentary activities were created and developed which can be carried out both at night and during the day, such as walking tours that mix heritage and nature, canoeing, Solar System Yoga, horse riding, photographic tours and workshops, wine tours and normal and blind wine tasting, team building, orientation, bird watching, wildlife watching, among many others upon request. Among the activities that can be carried out at night, we emphasize the astrophotography workshops, which can be in a private 1-to-1 format or in group, held by the international astrophotographer Miguel Claro.
From daytime experiences, we emphasize the boat trips on the Alqueva Lake, fishing, the Sunset Dark Sky® which comprises of a solar observation with a solar telescope accompanied with Sharish Gin, wine or a non-alcoholic cocktail, and the hot air balloon trip at sunrise or sunset. These are a few of the most sought after activities but our team and our partners are always available and open to new ideas and to tailor made programs.
Dark Sky® Alqueva
Official Dark Sky® Alqueva Observatory
Rua de Nossa Senhora da Conceição S/N, Cumeada
7200-071 Campo Rmz
+ 351 91 310 35 40
Featured Image Credits: © Miguel Claro | Dark Sky® Alqueva