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Aenos National Park named first International Dark Sky Park in Greece

AENOS ARGOSTOLI, Kefalonia, Greece – Aenos National Park achieves official designation by DarkSky International as the first certified International Dark Sky Park in Greece. Managed by Natural Environment & Climate Change Agency, Aenos National Park is recognized internationally as a protected area forming part of the Kefalonia-Ithaca UNESCO Global Geopark.

The certification recognizes Aenos National Park, on the Greek island of Kefalonia, as a protected area of exceptional starry nights and a protected night environment that values its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, and social heritage.

“This certification represents years of hard work and dedication on the part of DarkSky advocates, agency and community representatives, and residents. It demonstrates that it is possible to inspire change from the ground up. Gaining support from local authorities, agency personnel, and community residents can be a long and challenging process,” remarked Amber Harrison, International Dark Sky Place Program Associate.

“The Natural Environment & Climate Change Agency recognizes the importance of natural darkness to nature conservation, to ecological integrity of protected areas of Greece and welcomes the designation of Aenos National Park as the first International Dark Sky Park of Greece.” Ioannis Mitsopoulos, Director General of the Natural Environment & Climate Change Agency

Aenos, alternatively spelled Ainos, is the highest mountain in the Ionian Island of Kefalonia, Greece, with an elevation of 1,628 meters. Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands and the 6th largest island in Greece. The Ionian Sea, where the island is located, is an elongated bay of the Mediterranean Sea connected to the Adriatic Sea to the north and contains the westernmost territories of the Greek state. As an administrative region, Kefalonia also includes the neighboring island of Ithaca, world-famous for being the homeland of Odysseus, as written in Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad.

Aenos National Park is the smallest National Park in Greece, with a total area of 2,862 ha. It was declared a National Park in 1962, having as its primary purpose the protection of the Abies cephalonica (Cephalonian Fir) forest, an endemic species of Greece. At the same time, however, a second reason for declaring this National Park was the protection of its rich flora and fauna biodiversity. The core of the National Park consists of two unconnected yet neighboring areas. The larger area is the one around the summit of Megas Soros (alt. 1,627 m), which is 2,316 ha, and the second area is the one around the summit named Roudi or Gioupari (alt. 1,125 m), which is 546 ha.

In recognition of its importance, the Aenos National Park has been characterized as a European Biogenetic Reserve; it has been included in the European Ecologic Network of Special Zones “Natura 2000” (GR2220002) and the network of Special Protection Areas of the European Community for the protection of avifauna (GR2220006). Simultaneous to its declaration as a National Park, it was designated as a Wildlife Refuge. In 2022, UNESCO’s Executive Board approved the designation of Kefalonia-Ithaca UNESCO Global Geopark containing Aenos National Park as a main geological site.

Since 2022, the Management Unit responsible for the protection and management of Aenos National Park is the “Management Unit of Zakynthos and Ainos National Parks and Protected Areas of the Ionian islands” and operates under N.E.C.C.A.’s Protected Areas Management Directorate (Sector A), based in Zakynthos with branch offices in Kerkyra and Argostoli.

This designation comes after a three-years of close collaboration between the Greek chapter of DarkSky International and Aenos National Park. Various actions cofounded by the European Union and Greece were carried out, including light pollution measurements in the park, lighting retrofit in the Aenos antenna complex, lighting study for public lighting in the south of the island, regular astronomical activities, the design of an educational outreach program, publicity activities and a complete plan of operation for the Dark Sky Park.

“An idea, a vision, the change of the policy towards the protection of the night sky as a natural resource, as well as the enthusiasm of people of Kefalonia towards the magic of the dark sky led to the declaration of Aenos National Park as the first Dark Sky Park of Greece,” said Michalis Xanthakis, Deputy Head of Management Unit of Zakynthos and Ainos National Parks and Protected Areas of the Ionian islands

“It’s my hope and ambition that Aenos International Dark Sky Park will be the most important step of the new effort by the dark sky movement to preserve the dark skies of Greece for the generations to come,” added Andreas Papalambrou, President of the Greek chapter of DarkSky International.

“Human activity, our civilization, and the future of humanity are interconnected with the environment. We have made a significant effort for Aenos National Park to join national and international efforts that target a complete protection of the environment. The newly created Aenos International Dark-Sky Park is a step towards this effort that we hope will be repeated again in Greece,” stated George Drakatos, Kefalonia-Ithaca geopark coordinator.

Aenos International Dark Sky Park will officially celebrate its designation on Saturday, June 17th, 2023, with an open night dedicated to dark skies. Future plans of Aenos International Dark Sky Park include the installation of newly acquired continuous light pollution monitoring instruments, the development of astrotourism in the island of Kefalonia, and the close monitoring of LED public lighting upgrades in the island to ensure the protection of its dark skies.

About the International Dark Sky Places Program:

Founded in 2001, the International Dark Sky Places Program is a non-regulatory and voluntary program developed to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas worldwide to preserve and protect dark sites through effective lighting policies, environmentally responsible outdoor lighting, and public education. When used indiscriminately, artificial light can disrupt ecosystems, impact human health, waste money and energy, contribute to climate change, and block our view and connection to the universe.

Aenos National Park now joins more than 200 Places that have demonstrated robust community support for dark sky advocacy and strives to protect the night from light pollution. Learn more by visiting darksky.org/conservation/idsp.

About DarkSky International:

The mission of DarkSky International is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. Learn more at darksky.org

Media Contacts:

Michalis Xanthakis, Deputy Head of Management Unit of Zakynthos and
Ainos National Parks and Protected Areas of the Ionian islands
Tel: (+30) 2671029258
Email: [email protected]

Amber Harrison
Dark Sky Places Program Associate
Phone: +1 520-347-6363
Email: [email protected]