The sky of Extremadura is perfect for astronomical observation. It has what is called a very low light pollution for astronomical observation because of the large distances between municipalities; this avoids the overlap of lights between one village and the next village. Thus it has extensive dark areas that are ideal for discovering the sky. Another important factor for sky observation is the low rainfall level; this makes it a superb astronomical destination, which is cloudless most of the year. If we add these factors to the fact that, generally, the average temperature is pleasant from January to December, we have a cocktail of gifts from nature that favor astro-tourism in Extremadura. This is a region in Spain, which is west of Madrid and close to bordering country, Portugal. It has good roads and superb public transportation to most of the sites.
High sensitivity cameras at the inns
There have been interesting projects started by Public Administration and Private Business that have furthered the possibilities of sky observation. People can watch the sky from the Web site of the “Red de Hospederías de la Junta de Extremadura” (Network of Inns of the Board of Extremadura), which offers possibilities of watching the sky on “real time”. They have set up post at the National Park of Monfragüe in Torrejón El Rubio, at San Martín de Trevejo in Sierra de Gata, at Hervás in the Valley of Ambroz and at Jerte in the Valley of Jerte; where high sensitivity cameras have been installed that permit viewers to watch sunsets and sunrises directly from computers, tablets or mobile phones. The images are updated daily and on clear nights you might be able to delight in the observation of stars and constellations, which are highlighted with graphs. In addition, they are also working on updating the facilities of the Astronomical Observatory of Torrejon el Rubio and the Ceta-Ciemat Planetarium of Trujillo.
A program started in Extremadura is called “BAJO UN MANTO DE ESTRELLAS”(Under a Blanket of Stars) which is an attempt to popularize science and is being implemented by the Diputación of Badajoz since 2004. The objective is to expose both residents and visitors to the magnificent Universe. They have regular activities, for all ages, in August and September at Magacela, San Vicente de Alcantara and Torre de Miguel Sesmero.
Private entrepreneurs have included “ASTRO-TOURISM” in their offers by promoting guided tours with experts, rental of high quality observatories equipped with technologically sophisticated equipment and have designed routes/packages for stellar observation.
Corners pointing to the Universe
The rural nature of the region is one other distinct advantage for “astro-tourism” in Spain; given what abounds in Extremadura are stages to delight under the sky. Any corner of the extensive pasture areas would be appropriate for observation but if you are looking for the really special places we recommend a visit to the Monfragüe National Park, which is a candidate for the “Starlight “ diploma, endorsed by UNESCO and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Also, the “GEOPARQUE VILLUERCAS-IBORES-JARA” is another place to get lost among the stars, the very low population density combined with its clear and elevated points make it an ideal place to look for the perfect corner. Similarly, you will find the perfect spot at the Natural Monument of “Los Barruecos” at “Malpartida de Cáceres”. Another option is the “International Natural Park of the Tajo (Tagus), which has an important touristic activity directed to exploring astronomy.
There are many excellent choices, you just have to pick any remote corner of any location in this region, during any season of the year and enjoy the benefits of the sky in Extremadura.
Original article by Pilar Armero
Translated by Susana Windt
Published in August, 2016