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International Dark Sky Places

The International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) program certifies communities, parks, and protected areas around the world that preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.

Dark Sky Places are all over the world

DarkSky has certified more than 200 Places since Flagstaff, Arizona, was named the first International Dark Sky City in 2001.

There are now over 160,000 square kilometers of protected land and night skies in 22 countries on 6 continents, and the list grows every year as new places achieve certification.


Dark Sky Places around the world


Countries represented


Square kilometers of protected land and night sky

Why Dark Sky Places are a conservation priority

The night sky and nocturnal environment are naturally, culturally, and historically important resources worthy of conservation.

The International Astronomical Union recommends that “to safeguard the right of any citizen to enjoy the vision of the starred sky, national and local governments [should] establish a suitable number of ‘Dark Sky Oases’ and protect them from excessive artificial light at night.”

Dark Sky Places connect us to nighttime nature

International Dark Sky Places protect ecologically sensitive areas and our universal heritage in the starry night sky.

Certified Places are required to use quality outdoor lighting, effective policies to reduce light pollution, ongoing stewardship practices, and more.


Dark Sky Place certifications

International Dark Sky Park seal

International Dark Sky Parks

Publicly or privately owned conservation areas that implement good outdoor lighting and provide dark sky programs.

International Dark Sky Sanctuary seal

International Dark Sky Sanctuaries

The most remote (and often darkest) places in the world, whose conservation state is most fragile.

International Dark Sky Reserve seal

International Dark Sky Reserves

Dark “core” zones surrounded by a populated periphery where policy controls protect the darkness of the core.

Urban Night Sky Place seal

Urban Night Sky Places

Urban sites that promote an authentic nighttime experience despite being in the midst of significant artificial light.

International Dark Sky Communities

Cities and towns with quality outdoor lighting ordinances that educate residents about the importance of dark skies.


Protecting the night since 2001

In 2001 Flagstaff, Arizona, U.S.A., was recognized by DarkSky (formerly, the International Dark-Sky Association) for its efforts in outdoor lighting policy and retrofits. The International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) program was created to provide an incentive for communities and protected places to follow Flagstaff’s example, encouraging people to choose better lighting and implement it through effective public policy.

In the years since, the IDSP program developed best practices in the management of outdoor lighting with conservation professionals, and deployed them in appropriate settings as the program expanded to include International Dark Sky Parks, Reserves, and Sanctuaries, as well as Urban Night Sky Places.

The IDSP program received the National Environmental Excellence Award in 2015.

With the subsequent introduction of the categories called Dark Sky Communities and Urban Night Sky Places, we’re now bridging the gap between cities and protected areas — in a way, bringing this effort almost full circle over 20 years on.

Learn why nocturnal conservation is important.

Frequently asked questions

What is the benefit of becoming certified as an International Dark Sky Place?
How do I find the nearest International Dark Sky Place to me?
What kind of an experience can I expect at an International Dark Sky Place?
Whom can I talk to about getting certified in the International Dark Sky Places Program?


The Dark Sky Places program certifies a range of places within the dark-to-very-dark gradient, from national parks, observatories, and lands managed by non-governmental organizations, to villages and cities.

Certification almost always begins with a small group of individuals seeking formal protection of their nightscape and setting a positive example for their communities and countries.

International Dark Sky Places

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