With our feet firmly planted, we turn our heads upwards and discover anew the night sky.

Dark Sky Aldeias do Xisto – A Planet under the stars

The Aldeias do Xisto Villages’ dark skies are unique, not only because they have excellent stargazing conditions, but because of the beauty and serenity of the surroundings. Dark Sky Aldeias do Xisto explores, promotes and develops these opportunities emerging from the perfect pairing between earth and sky, bringing together tourism, regional development, science and innovation. The coordination of brands and partners, the implementation of an observatory and corresponding lighting design, the creation of a mobile workshop linked to dark skies, technical training of partners, technical and scientific support, promotional events in this new destination, national and international marketing and impact assessment are the strategic axes of the Dark Sky Aldeias do Xisto project.

Turning an apparent weakness into an asset

Nature drives our innate humanity, which extends to communal and cultural aspects, manifesting itself in wonder and awe at the cosmos. If we could turn off all the lights on earth, the sky would become wonderful and amazing everywhere. Unfortunately, as we turn on the lights, we turn off the sky. It is this phenomenon that has led the Schist Villages to be certified as one of the few rare skies in the western world. What has protected this fantastic resource is an apparent weakness: the absence of economic activity, a sparse population, less light pollution, combined with the rugged topography of the central mountain range that blocks light pollution from the coast.

Aldeias do Xisto has the Starlight Tourism Destination certification

In 2019 the Starlight Foundation awarded the Dark Sky Aldeias do Xisto Project with the Starlight Tourist Destination certification. Alongside the excellent conditions of visibility, transparency and darkness of the sky, low light pollution and the number of dark nights, this endorsement also attests to the commitment of public, private, and scientific bodies, and the readiness and quality of tourist services, augmented by the genuine interest of the resident community. In addition to all this, around half the nights are completely clear and allow for a pristine view of the sky. This combination of factors shapes the future for this region's relationship with the sky, which goes beyond mere observation to become a strategic focus that reconciles tourism development, integration with the Scientific and Technological System, social and environmental sustainability, the empowerment of people and the stimulation of the economy. The Schist Villages have joined the first Starlight Tourism Destination in the world, Dark Sky® Alqueva. In 2020, the Tua Valley Sky became the first protected area in Portugal to receive this certification.

The right to a dark sky

The Starlight Foundation recognises that stargazing has always inspired the development of cultures and civilisations, and that many of the technical and scientific advances marking the progress of humankind have resulted from it. However, the conditions for observing the night sky have been deteriorating at a worrying rate in a process that threatens humanity with a cultural, scientific, and natural loss of unpredictable consequences. In this sense, the Foundation's actions recognise the value and importance of the relationship between humankind and the stars, fighting for the conservation, protection, and enhancement of this collective heritage. A mission with which the Aldeias do Xisto identifies and have taken up as their own. 


All it takes in the Aldeias do Xisto Villages is to look up on a clear night with a new moon and simply be amazed by the explosion of sparkling points suspended in the celestial vault. If we give ourselves to this moment, if we truly allow ourselves to be saturated by this concept of the profound infinite, we will return to our place as part of nature and its inexorable rotation, finally reconnected with a transcendent search for meaning that, instead of distressing us, reconciles us with the purest human condition. Look up and find yourself.

Aldeias do Xisto Schist Villages Laboratory

The Aldeias do Xisto are a destination brand whose path has always taken into account the strong relationship with nature, with the land and with the people, in a constant search for the revitalisation of the territory from its cultural uniqueness. Investment in the implementation of Dark Sky Aldeias do Xisto is another project that meets this philosophy: by recognising the night sky as a resource, it further reinforces the value of the landscape and the communities in the development of new products and services capable of attracting increasingly distinct and demanding audiences. Aldeias do Xisto called upon students and teachers from the Design course at the University of Aveiro to develop concepts and new ideas to enhance the enjoyment of the territory at night. 

Porto da Balsa Radio Astronomy Station 

Whilst not a purely scientific project, Dark Sky Aldeias do Xisto is based on, and takes advantage of, infrastructures that already exist in the territory, such as the Radio Astronomy Station of Porto da Balsa in Pampilhosa da Serra. This is a piece of equipment unique to the Northern Hemisphere that can track and detect satellites, as well as monitor space debris that may damage them. In addition to the scientific and research aspect, this station has a strong propensity for astrotourism. The idea is to make the station accessible to visitors, giving them the opportunity to handle the available equipment and/or use their own equipment.

Consortium of partners

Dark Sky Aldeias do Xisto is led by ADXTUR, in partnership with the Dark Sky Alqueva Association, and is funded by Centro 2020 and Turismo de Portugal. Completing the network of initial partners are the Coimbra Region Intermunicipal Community, the Institute of Telecommunications of the University of Aveiro and the University of Porto Faculty of Sciences. The Dark Sky Aldeias do Xisto project was formalized on July 8, 2021, in the Fajão Schist Village in Pampilhosa da Serra, with the signing of a protocol that unites 24 organisations closely and directly involved in territorial development. Strengthening strategic connections, generating economic and social opportunities, developing exclusive tourism services, safeguarding the natural and man-made heritage and promoting quality of life are some of the central guidelines of this document.