Unesco declares Gran Canaria a Starlight Destination in recognition of the high quality of its skies for star gazing.
Gran Canaria has graduated with honours at the school of amazing night skies. Unesco has declared the island a Starlight Destination, which certifies it as a privileged location for anyone who wishes to contemplate the stars and feel they can nearly touch them. Gran Canaria now joins a select club that includes Chile, New Zealand and Hawaii.
The prestigious Starlight Foundation is part of the United Nations and considers the night skies to be a universal heritage of considerable scientific value. To this end, astrophysicists are continually researching into it and therefore need a pitch-black sky overhead to be able to unravel the enigmas of the universe for the benefit of mankind.
The scientific director for the Starlight Foundation, Luis Martínez, points out that its second great value is a cultural one, because “man has traditionally looked up at the stars and has left vestiges of how the sky has influenced his life back on earth”. Gran Canaria is a clear example of this situation, manifested in the trail left by the ancient dwellers on the island, who were well versed in the use of astronomical markers.
This important seal of quality provides a great boost to plans put together by the Cabildo de Gran Canaria to help the cause for Risco Caído and Montañas Sagradas de Gran Canaria to be declared a World Heritage Site, as it includes the recuperation of the age-old tradition of looking up at the stars.
The privileged skies over Gran Canaria have been around since the very beginning, but its receiving the Starlight Destination is by no means the product of chance. Indeed, to achieve this recognition, the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, through its Tourist Board, commissioned a study to be done on the quality of its skies and an inventory of its astronomical resources.
A project was also set up together with town halls, specialist firms, top experts in the Canaries and tourist organizations, as well as representatives from a range of different areas on the island, from the Government of the Canary Islands and the Cabildos at La Palma and Tenerife.
Gran Canaria is now looking ahead to the second phase of its challenge, which involves generating a string of star viewing points on the back of the existing network of viewpoints belonging to the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, and equip them all with telescopes and planispheres, as well as organizing open days and training workshops aimed at businessmen and public technicians, in coordination with astrophysicists from the Universities of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and La Laguna.
The Cabildo will encourage public awareness about the need to look after the skies, develop different astro-tourism products and astronomical routes, promote the theming of accommodation (including houses, country hotels and house caves) and along with many other activities, will strive to boost visitor numbers to the most emblematic archaeological settlements in Gran Canaria.
Right now, Gran Canaria already offers an open window for anyone to look up and contemplate the bright haze of infinity.