Hortobágy National Park – World Heritage site and also an International Dark Sky Park

Hortobágy – the first proclaimed Hungarian national park – is an almost flat plain landscape, a great and continous grassland area with wetland mosaics, the most extended in its category in Europe, occupied by alkaline marshes, meadows, dry alkline pastures and remnant loess-steppe vegetation. The National Park is not only the first but also the biggest (82 000 hectares) hungarian national park, also a world heritage, Ramsar site and Biosphere reserve.

Hortobágy as one of the biggest unpopulated areas in Hungary has dark and pristine (unpolluted) starry sky. Recognizeing the dark-sky value of Hortobágy, the National Park got a silver tier Dark Sky Park designation from the International Dark Sky Association in 2011.

The dark-sky park’s significance is mostly related to undisturbed nighttime landscape, the sheperd tradition related to starry sky and the protection of the high biodiversity, especially the great number of migrating bird species and special nocturnal insect species. It is notable that many of the important breeding and nesting bird species (geese, crain, crakes etc.) and other species especially many rare insect species are light-pollution sensitive.

To be a dark sky park is an important tool to protect the nocturnal wildlife habitats as well as the landscape values of Hortobágy which is an outstanding and unaltered wilderness area in the Great Hungarian Plain, in the middle of Europe.

The Park has cooperation agreement with local and national conservation and astronomy NGOs to protect the area’s dark sky values as well as with the local stakeholders.

The Park included the articles of the Lighting Plan of the Dark Sky Park to its Management Plan to protect the natural and scenic values of the undisturbed nighttime environment. The lighting regulation and zoning gives possibility to control artificial lights within the park.

The National Park organizes nighttime stargazing walks, special interpretation programs related to the Dark Sky Park values and good lighting practices. There is a high interest by the general public to attend these night adventures.

Astronomy became part of the park’s Field Study Center’s curriculum. A public astronomical observatory is part of the Center.