A pragmatic person believes that the stars do not generate any profit. The dreamer, however, trips while looking up at them because he knows that good things come from above. Spain is a land of dreamers. So, for them and for you it has perfect places for stargazing and enjoying one of the clearest skies of Europe.
Now that fall begins, Nattule suggests that you switch the umbrella for the telescope and explore the night.
Jot down these 9 astronomical destinations in the Iberian Peninsula:
1. Cerro del Hierro, in Sierra Morena
In Andalusia, this mountain range includes part of the provinces of Jaén, Córdoba, Seville and Huelva. In its 400,000 hectares, just 2% of the Andalusian population lives, so there is very light pollution. This, together with a privileged natural setting, becomes the largest Astronomical Reserve in the world.
Throughout its vast expanse, you can choose from a wide network of lookouts in mountains, Mediterranean forests and meadows.
One of the most unique, Cerro del Hierro, is in the area of the Sierra Norte in Seville. The hill has been declared a Natural Monument for its geological and landscape values. In addition, it is a unique place for astronomical observation. You can settle in the parking lot next to the visitor center, half a kilometer from the village of Cerro del Hierro. It is easily accessed by the SE-163 road from San Nicolás del Puerto.
Although artificial light from Seville slightly damages a small part of the southern horizon, during the fall and winter months, you will have a spectacular view of the Milky Way to the north and west. In addition, constellations like the Big Dipper are clearly distinguishable throughout the year.
Milky Way from Cerro del Hierro © Manuel Jesús García Sánchez
2. La Pandera, in Sierra Sur
On top of steep ravines, hidden valleys and mountains stands one of the cleanest and dark skies of Andalusia. In the Sierra Sur of Jaén, the stars put the finishing touch on a spectacular area of natural heritage.
Within it, the village of Valdepeñas de Jaén has two of the most recommended places to install your telescope. One is located next to the former military base of La Pandera, where many astronomy fans gather.
If you want to join them, you just have to take the detour on the road from Los Villares to Valdepeñas and climb to the top of La Pandera, where the heliport is. Settle there and avoid the northern horizon, which is too illuminated by the nearby city of Jaén. The rest of the sky itself offers a magnificent spectacle.
Located at more than 1,800 meters high, this observation point is one of the best places to identify planets.
La Pandera © María Gallego
3. Campos de Hernán Perea, in Sierra de Segura
Also in the province of Jaén, there is another privileged natural environment located in the north, the Natural Park of Cazorla, Segura y las Villas. The topography here is marked by the mid-mountain, wide valleys and pine forests, and all of this located under an impressive night sky.
The village of Santiago de la Espada, which belongs to Sierra de Segura, brings together some of the darkest spots of the Iberian Peninsula, so it is an exceptional place to observe the sky.
You can enjoy it if you bring your telescope to the Campos de Hernán Perea, a huge plateau located at 1,600 meters above sea level, where there is not a village in sight for 40 kilometers. The only light that will illuminate your way will be the light of the stars.
You can get there from Santiago de la Espada, on the A-317 towards Puebla de Don Fadrique. At approximately 2 kilometers you have to turn right and continue to the village of Don Domingo, from which emerges a forest track that goes into the Campos de Hernán Perea.
An important notice: wear warm clothes, because this environment is considered one of the coldest areas of Spain.
Starry sky of the Natural Park of Cazorla, Segura y las Villas © Manuel Jesús García Sánchez
4. Montsec Astronomical Park, in Sierra de Montsec
In the north of the Peninsula, the Sierra de Montsec is considered one of the best points of astronomical observation in Europe. In this mountain range of 20,000 hectares between Aragón and Catalonia, the rain is scarce throughout the year and nights are mostly clear. In addition to the low amount of villages in the area, the result is a heaven ideal for spotting the stars.
To get the most complete astronomy experience possible, it is best that you head to Montsec Astronomical Park. From the city of Lérida, just take the C-12 north and take the fork in the road towards Àger.
In addition to stargazing, the Universal Observation Center has a dome in which the images captured by a large telescope installed in the same room are shown. This is a great idea to be able to immerse yourself in the skies without having to spend the night outdoors.
Night falls in Sierra de Montsec © Joan Gosa
5. Puerto Castilla, in Sierra de Gredos
Each year there are over 220 optimal days for stargazing in the Sierra de Gredos, a high figure if one takes into account its proximity to the capital city of Spain.
This Regional Park south of Ávila is one of the 25 points around the world awarded with the dark sky designation, which means, it is thinly light polluted. From there you can see thousands of stars with the naked eye on a clear night.
Just like in Sierra Morena, there are many viewpoints in the north where you can settle and just wait the night. One of them is the Puerto Castilla, located southwest of the province, next to Jerte Valley. It is reached by the N-110 from Ávila or from Plasencia.
Stellar lookouts of Sierra de Gredos are perfectly equipped for amateur astronomers with parking and observation platforms where you can install your own telescope. From this one in particular, you will see the Milky Way, eclipses and enjoy and discover planets and nebulae.
The mountains of Sierra de Gredos
6. Collado del Diablo, in Sierra Nevada
Some of the highest peaks of the Iberian Peninsula are located in Sierra Nevada. It’s not hard to imagine that from this mountain range in Granada, we are able to watch some of the clearest and starriest skies in all of Spain.
Collado del Diablo, located between Monachil and Genil Rivers, is a privileged observation point for cosmo lovers. With an altitude of over 2,300 meters, it has excellent views, but runs the risk of being almost always exposed to high winds.
To get there, you just have to follow the road that goes from Granada to the Sierra and approximately at kilometer 35, take the track where almost right afterwards, you will have to park.
Bundle up well because the nights are cold even in summer time. Also, prepare yourself and your telescope to discover galaxies, nebulae and double stars among many others. To the east, you will recognize the planets of Venus and Saturn near the horizon.
Sunset in Sierra Nevada
7. Laguna de Cameros, in Leza Valley
The basins of the Rivers Leza, Jubera, Cidacos and Alhama constitute a Biosphere Reserve covering almost a quarter of the territory of La Rioja. Among ravines and Mediterranean forests are hidden springs and paleontological remains. Also, there are a few privileged places from which to watch the clear and starry skies.
One of them is in the vicinity of Laguna de Cameros, in the valley of the River Leza. This small village is just 50 kilometers away from Logroño, by the LR-250 road, so getting there is very easy.
The observation area is located in an area near the river protected from the road and the low light pollution of the village. Since there are usually few clouds and the sharpness of the sky is high, it will be easy to see the planets like Saturn and Mars, along with many stars from there.
Leza Valley © Alicja Scigaczewska
8. Peña Trevinca, in the mountains of Trevinca
Another location to go and watch large quantities of stars is located in the province of Orense. Peña Trevinca, the highest point of Galicia, is a privileged place for this purpose because of the total darkness in the area.
It is located in the mountains of Trevinca, a Natural Protected Area where yew forests and glacial lakes of crystal clear waters abound. The easiest route departs from the town of Sobradelo. You have to follow the provincial road OU-122 and go through Casaio, where it begins to ascend to the summit at 2,127 meters above sea level.
At this altitude, and without any light pollution, you can see the Milky Way from side to side.
Grab your telescope and discover what other surprises the sky has for you.
A canopy of stars in Trevinca © Juan del Río
9. Llano de Ucanca, in Teide National Park
The Canary Islands were pioneers of the astronomical tourism in Spain. Even today it is estimated that more than 200,000 people visit each year just for stargazing.
Tenerife Island followed in La Palma’s steps, and since the early twentieth century has drawn experts and fans to their peaks for this purpose. In fact, in 1910, the famous astronomer Jean Mascart installed his telescope at the Guajara peak to follow Halley’s Comet from there.
The conditions of these islands make them suitable for firmament watching: mild weather, clear skies and a spectacular protected areas. In Tenerife, the possibility of combining the astronomical activities along with volcanology is a plus for tourists.
The best watching points are in the Teide National Park. Being situated in such high places, the light pollution is zero and visibility is impressive.
You can go to Llano de Ucanca, in the southern part of the National Park, which is accessed by the TF-21 road. From there you can see numerous galaxies and nebulae, the craters of the moon and even Saturn’s rings.
Meteor shower over Teide National Park © Manuel Jesús García Sánchez
Nights out don’t always mean going to nightclubs. In fact, there are who prefer the silence of the telescope instead of a noisy pub. It seems like a paradox, but those who choose to admire the night rather than live it up, actually live it while watching it.