It took years of work and preparation, as well as numerous astronomy events taking place on Petrova Gora, organised by the Beskraj astronomical society, but it all paid off when the Petrova Gora – Biljeg area finally received recognition by the International Dark Sky Association, which officially gave it the prestigious title of an International Dark Sky Park, the very first of its kind in Croatia.
It thus entered the prestigious group of 15 such parks in Europe, where today, it’s estimated that most people can’t see the Milky Way at all due to light pollution. Light polution has been receiving attention recently, after years of it not having been considered a problem, today, more and more people and countries understand that it’s important to protect the dark night skies, as it’s important to the flora and fauna of an area.
Additionally, we should put some effort into preserving the beauty of starry skies for ourselves, and for the generations to come. Croatia has recognised that, and has enacted one of the most advanced national light pollution laws. The International Dark Sky Park designation for Petrova Gora will raise awareness of the importance of preserving starry skies all over the country as a tourist attraction as well.
The park spans over two counties (Karlovac and Sisak-Moslavina) and three municipalities, and it is also one of the many places in Croatia where the nights are, in fact, still dark. It’s quite close to the capital city, Zagreb, so it’s located perfectly for educational trips where people can get better acquainted with astronomy. Many amateur astronomers from Zagreb and elsewhere in Croatia often come to Petrova Gora to enjoy the darkness, and so-called “star parties” often get organised there.
One of the biggest events of the year is the yearly celebration of the Perseid meteor shower held each year in August there.
Other locations in Croatia where it’s as dark (or even darker!) than on Petrova Gora during the night are the island of Lastovo, parts of Lika on Velebit, and some parts of Cres, Vis, Mljet and Kornati, but those are not as easily accessible as Petrova Gora.
Most of those locations are seeing an increased number of tourist arrivals, so hopefully the new law will help in preventing too much light pollution, and allow the tourists to take some romantic walks under the starry nights.