The second transnational partner meeting for the Dark Sky Ecotourism Project was recently hosted in Holar University in Iceland. The Dark Sky Ecotourism Project aims to empower businesses and other stakeholders in rural areas to take advantage of the tourism opportunities presented by the Dark Sky in an environmentally friendly way. Following a successful first meeting in Portugal where partners defined the project objectives, discussed some of the key considerations and saw how the Dark Sky is being utilised already with a night safari and visit to an observatory, this trip to Iceland, famous for its long winter nights, beautiful scenery and the northern lights promised to be a good one.
Landing in Rejkavik on Monday afternoon, Mark and partners from Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Denmark met our hosts from the Holar University tourism department, Kjartan and Magnea and began the journey up the west coast to the University. Partners were treated to views of the lava fields and the rugged coastline along the way as the sun set.
Stopping along the way for some dinner and to practice some night-time photography they eventually arrived in Holar and checked into the cabins. The arrival of the 8 partners apparently increasing the population of the small University town by 10%.
The next morning it was straight down to business with an early start in the University reviewing Project results and ensuring maximum impact of our resources. Having arrived in darkness and starting the meeting in Darkness the partners were eventually welcomed to Holar when the sujn rose at 10:30 revealing stunning views all around.
Well fed by the university staff with hot meals and traditional Icelandic cake originating from Holar, the partners worked through the day. After the sun set in the afternoon an excursion into the woods was in order for some more photography and to continue the discussions around the key considerations for building experiences at night. A dinner followed, naturally leading to an exchange of ghost stories before a trip to one of the famous black sand beaches for more dark sky viewing. Unfortunately, the northern lights were still being shy and so partners retired back to the pub in Holar where we had more luck!
The next morning the meeting continued where the Project Result workshops were carried out. Plans for the next meeting in Italy were made and the meeting was closed. One last lunch and a thank you to the staff in Holar before the long journey back to Rejkavik. Time for one last group stop at one of Icelands thousands of waterfalls before partners went their separate ways.
The low population densities of rural areas are perfect conditions for viewing the dark sky presenting them with the opportunity to develop their tourism industry as the demand for experiences outside of the norm rises. Nighttime darkness affords both us and our ecosystems a number of benefits and so it is imperative any new experiences are built responsibly and that rural regions manage the precious asset that is darkness. Following the closing of another successful meeting, one thing that is clear is that despite we all view the same stars the opportunities and needs of each region is vastly different and so strong collaboration within our project consortium and associated members is essential in the delivery of this project.
To keep up with the development of this impactful project visit the website: https://darkskytourism.eu/
While partners missed out on viewing the northern lights during the meeting itself, Mark stayed on and they did not disappoint….