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Lights Out, Stars On: Explore The Universe from Europe

Picture this: you’re lying under a vast expanse of the night sky, with stars twinkling like diamonds and the Milky Way stretching majestically above you. There’s something magical about gazing up at a star-studded night sky, where the cosmos unveils its beauty and mystery. Unfortunately, however, this celestial wonder has become increasingly rare due to the rise in light pollution. Once a common experience, the growing issue threatens to dim our connection with the cosmos. 

Recent data from Citizen Scientists reveals that light pollution has increased nearly 10% annually since 2011, with Europe leading the way as the most light-polluted continent.

However, all is not lost! In this blog post, we’ll shed light on the issue of light pollution, its effects, and how you can play a part in preserving the greatness of clear night skies. Plus, we’ll introduce you to Europe’s top 15 least light-polluted destinations, where the universe comes alive like nowhere else. Ready for take-off?

 

 

Contents

Effects of Light Pollution

Taking Actions Against Light Pollution Globally

Europe’s Top 15 Least Light-Polluted Destinations

 

Effects of Light Pollution

As we mentioned earlier, there is a world where looking up at the night sky means seeing not just a few stars, but a dazzling array of constellations and maybe even the occasional meteor shower. Simply put, a dark, unpolluted sky can offer everything a dim, light-polluted one can’t.

Did you know that over 80% of the world’s population and more than 99% of Europeans live under illuminated skies at night?

Light pollution isn’t just about inconvenient glare; it has far-reaching consequences. The excessive and misdirected artificial light disrupts ecosystems, affects human health, and even hinders astronomical observations.

Taking Action Against Light Pollution

The good news is that there are global efforts underway to combat light pollution that each of us can contribute to. Here are some key ways you can get involved to make a difference:

Supporting Organisations like the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA):

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is at the forefront of the battle against light pollution. This dedicated organisation works tirelessly to promote responsible lighting practices, raise awareness about the importance of preserving dark skies, and provide valuable resources for individuals, communities, and businesses to combat light pollution.

By supporting and engaging with organisations like IDA, you can contribute directly to the preservation of natural nightscapes. Whether it’s through donations, volunteering, or spreading their message, your involvement can help make a significant impact.

Making Individual Changes:

On a personal level, you can make changes in your daily life to reduce light pollution.

By making simple changes to our lighting choices and supporting dark sky initiatives, we can collectively make a significant impact.

Europe's Top 15 Least Light-Polluted Destinations

Now, let’s turn our attention to Europe, where you can find some of the darkest and most pristine night skies on the planet. 

We dug into VIIRS data from NASA, which we found on the Light Pollution Map, to figure out how many light sources each European country has per square kilometre. After doing the math, we sorted the list from the countries with the fewest lights to the ones with the most. 

Based on our findings, here are the top 15 least light-polluted destinations where you can enjoy the darkest night skies in Europe:

Europes most impressive night skies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that we have unveiled which European gems have the clearest night skies, let’s have a look at each country’s prime stargazing locations and uncover the astronomical wonders they each have to offer.

Latvia

1. Lativa

The Gaiziņkalns mountain range found in Vidzeme sits at 312m above sea level – the highest point in Latvia, making it ideal for gazing at the night sky in a serene and natural setting.

Image Source: Lativa Travel

Norway

2. Norway

Head to Varanger in Norway, one of the most northern areas of the country, where the Milky Way passes just above and is clearly visible.

Image Source: norway-lights.com

Lithuania

3. Lithuania

For a more educational experience, visit the Molėtai Astronomical Observatory and see the biggest scientific telescope in Northern Europe where you can ponder the stars and planets above.

Image Source: intari.com

Sweden

4. Sweden

Hike into the Abisko National Park in Sweden – one of the best places in the world for seeing the aurora, where the mountains create a “rain shadow effect” which leads to clearer skies than surrounding areas, ideal for stargazing. 

Image Source:Swedishlapland.com

Finland

5. Finland

In Finland, the Jyväskylä Region is not only a great spot for stargazing but also ideal for viewing the Northern Lights, which can be seen roughly once every four nights and can last anywhere between a minute and several hours.

Image Source: visitjyvaskyla.fi

Estonia

6. Estonia

Lake Peipus sits on the eastern border of Estonia and western border of Russia, offering dark skies perfect for viewing beautiful starry reflections on the freshwater lake.

Image Source: Jaanus Jagomägi

Bulgaria

7. Bulgaria

For an active stargazing excursion, the Lakatnik Cliffs provide many sporting opportunities such as rock climbing and hiking, where you can reach heights perfect for gazing at the dark skies when the sun goes down.

Image Source: Nikolay Dukov

Romania

8. Romania

24% of Romania’s territory has been declared a protected area – one third of which is taken up by the Carpathian Mountains, where you can walk through alpine meadows or trek up rocky mountains to witness spectacular unpolluted views of the stars – it’s not uncommon to see the Milky Way or even Saturn’s rings here. 

Image Source: iStock

Mayo

9. Ireland

With land mainly unsuitable for agriculture and buildings, the Mayo Dark Sky Park has very few cities, meaning their skies remain mainly untouched by light for prime stargazing conditions – particularly as an official Dark Sky Park. 

Image Source: Darksky.org

Austria

10. Austria

In Austria is another internationally recognised Dark Sky Park – the Naturpark Attersee-Traunsee – offering 360-degree panoramic views from unforested hilltops, this region boasts some of the darkest night skies still found in central Europe.

Image Source: Darksky.org

Denmark

11. Denmark

In 2014, the island of Møn was awarded a DarkSky certification as both an International Dark Sky Community and an International Dark Sky Park, allowing for completely unpolluted views of astronomical phenomena such as the Milky Way and even plenty of shooting stars in December. 

Image Source: Moenguide.com

Slovakia

12. Slovakia

Poloniny Dark Sky Park is officially the darkest location in Slovakia, where it’s possible to see the Zodiacal light amongst many other stars and sights in the natural sky. 

Image Source: Ondrej Králik, Flickr

Hungary

13. Hungary

At Hortobágy National Park – a Dark Sky Park as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site – you can take a special stargazing walk under the night sky for an evening adventure exploring the wonders of the Milky Way, as well as educating yourself about the importance of preserving the dark skies of the area. 

Image Source: Darksky.org

Slovenia

14. Slovenia

For the more adventurous few, take a drive up the highest road in Slovenia to the Mangart Saddle (a 2,072m high mountain pass in the Julian Alps), where you can observe galactic spectacles such as the Perseid Meteor Shower, witnessed by photographer Uroš Fink back in 2021.

Image Source: “Perseid Meteor Shower on Mangart Saddle” by Uroš Fink/ Frommers.com

Croatia

15. Croatia

Croatia actually boasts 3 official Dark Sky spots, which is a recognition of the country’s efforts to combat light pollution. One of these spots is Vrani Kamen – which actually earns a Gold Tier standard from the association – and is preserved and protected from light pollution. Stretching across 8,000 hectares of the Papuk mountain, it is an ideal spot for watching the nocturnal sky. 

Image Source: darksky.org

Let’s Share The Sky

Light pollution may be on the rise, but together, we can make a difference. By adopting responsible lighting practices and supporting initiatives to combat light pollution, we can ensure that future generations can still marvel at the wonders of the night sky.

So, why not plan your next adventure and set your sights on one of Europe’s top 15 least light-polluted destinations? 

And speaking of adventures, why not consider joining Cruise Croatia’s stargazing cruise? 

It’s the perfect opportunity to explore the world’s clearest night skies while enjoying the comforts of a cruise. Let’s turn off those lights and let the stars take centre stage. The universe awaits, and it’s a show you won’t want to miss!

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