Dark Nights and Starry Skies: The Best Destinations for Star Gazers
With the majority of us being city dwellers these days, we often forget that the stars are even there.
Whereas our ancestors had a heightened awareness of the movements of the stars and often made decisions based on them or created belief systems centered on them, with the rise of the city and the dawn of electricity, light pollution blotted out the beauty of the night sky.
Whenever we do emerge from the city and look up to the sky, however, we’re reminded just how insignificant we are and just how vast the universe is. There’s nothing as beautiful as the site of the Milky Way and the sensation that you’ve escaped from ‘civilisation’ and are reconnecting with nature…
If you’ve been deprived of the night sky for too long and feel the need to head into wide, open spaces, then take a trip to one of these incredible spots and reconnect with the universe.
1. San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
Come here for the stars and you’ll be bewitched by the scenery, too. This outpost in the Atacama Desert is an amazing place to commune with the night sky.
As it’s a desert, there’s very little chance of clouds spoiling your view. Good stargazing spots are normally both high and dry, which makes the Atacama ideal. You won’t have to go far from the small town to escape the negligible effects of light pollution from it.
Whilst you’re here, cross the border into Bolivia and visit the legendary Uyuni Salt Flats and the famous Laguna Colorada, a red salt lake way up in the mountains.
Spend the night near the lake and gaze up at the perfect night sky. The altitude here means it’s extremely chilly at all times of the year, so wrap up very, very warm before you head out for your stargazing session.
2. La Palma, Canary Islands
It makes a lot of sense that a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean would be an incredible spot for a bit of stargazing. It’s 260 miles off the coast of Africa and becoming an increasingly popular spot for holidayers who specifically want to enjoy the night skies.
You can take tours to a spot very near a major observatory on the edge of Caldera de Taburiente, which is up at an altitude of 7,870 feet, meaning you’re normally above the clouds and will see a sea of white below you and a spangled velvety blanket above you.
There’s also Tenerife which is dominated by the Teide volcano. This volcano is so tall that it’s snow-capped during the winter despite the latitude of these islands. It’s the highest point anywhere on the Atlantic Ocean.
Though the coast of Tenerife is pretty densely populated, once you’re up in the National Park you’re safely away from artificial light and in for a treat.
3. Outback, Western Australia
Australia’s minute population, when you consider the size of the landmass, is clustered around its coastline, meaning that once you get away from the cities and into the wilderness you can quite easily be the only human beings for hundreds of kilometers.
Head to Western Australia’s national parks for the best skies and camp out under the stars. Seeing the night sky from the Southern Hemisphere is a magical experience for those used to the constellations visible from the northern half of our planet.
4. Death Valley National Park, California
Anyone headed to California should make a night in this National Park a priority.
Although only being two hours drive from the glowing metropolis of Las Vegas, it’s the world’s largest dark sky reserve, a massive 300 acres.
Enjoy the dramatic landscape whilst exploring the park during the day and stay after sunset to watch the Milky Away appear in all its glory.
5. Easter Island, Chile
Another island lost the in the ocean, but this time way out in the South Pacific. It isn’t that easy to reach Easter Island, but the rewards are more than worth the effort.
Seeing the glow of the night sky pick out the legendary and mysterious Easter Island heads is a sight you’ll never forget.
Give or take a few stars that will have died and been born since then, you’ll be marveling at the same night sky that the early Rapa Nui people, who erected the 887 majestic ‘moai’, did over a millennia ago.
Taking a stargazing trip here seems especially fitting as the original inhabitants use the stars as their guide on their epic sea voyages to reach the island in the first place.
Moai Under the Milky Way – Anne Dirkse cc by sa 4.0, Death Valley National Park by Mobilus In Mobili cc by sa 2.0, La Palma, Canary Islands by José Jiménez cc by 2.0, Alma Telescope San Pedro de Atacama by Alessandro Caproni cc by 2.0