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The International Dark Sky Places conservation program recognizes and promotes excellent stewardship of the night sky.

The award-winning International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.

The International Dark Sky Places Program offers five certification categories:

    1. International Dark Sky Sanctuaries
      Sanctuaries are the most remote (and often darkest) places in the world whose conservation state is most fragile.
    2. International Dark Sky Parks
      Parks are publicly- or privately-owned spaces protected for natural conservation that implement good outdoor lighting and provide dark sky programs for visitors.
    3. International Dark Sky Reserves
      Reserves consist of a dark “core” zone surrounded by a populated periphery where policy controls are enacted to protect the darkness of the core.
    4. Urban Night Sky Places
      Urban Night Sky Places are sites near or surrounded by large urban environs whose planning and design actively promote an authentic nighttime experience in the midst of significant artificial light at night.
    5. International Dark Sky Communities
      Communities are legally organized cities and towns that adopt quality outdoor lighting ordinances and undertake efforts to educate residents about the importance of dark skies.

In addition, the program previously included one additional designation category:

Dark Sky Friendly Developments of Distinction (retired 2020)
Dark Sky Friendly Developments of Distinction recognized subdivisions, master planned communities, and unincorporated neighborhoods and townships whose planning actively promotes a more natural night sky but did not qualify them for the International Dark Sky Community designation.

Japanese description of the IDSP Program (星空保護区認定制度), courtesy of IDA Tokyo

Where are the International Dark Sky Places located?

As of January 2023, there are 201 certified Dark Sky Places in the world. These include 115 Parks, 38 Communities, 20 Reserves, 16 Sanctuaries, 6 Urban Night Sky Places, and 6 Dark Sky Friendly Developments of Distinction. See where they are located on our interactive map.

How are International Dark Sky Places certified?

IDA certifies Dark Sky Places following a rigorous application process requiring applicants to demonstrate robust community support for dark-sky protection and document designation-specific program requirements.

Applications are reviewed periodically by an IDA standing committee composed of dark-sky experts and previously successful program applicants. Regular status updates after certification ensure that IDSPs continue their commitment to dark-sky preservation.

Upon certification, IDA works with certified places to promote their work through media relations, member communications, and social media. An International Dark Sky Place certification helps enhance the visibility of designated locations and foster increased tourism and local economic activity.

Ready to begin a nomination?