09 August 2018
With light pollution making the glories of our night skies less and less visible to most of us, ever-increasing numbers of travellers are looking for destinations guaranteeing them a spectacular view of the heavenly firmament, often using state-of-the-art telescopes and other technology. We’ve pulled together our favourite spots to head to if you want to combine your holiday with lovely views of the Milky Way, star clusters, gas clouds and other unforgettable sights.
Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife
Ascend to this UNESCO-listed volcanic landscape by an eight-minute cable-car ride – preferably on the evening of a new moon, when the skies are at their darkest – and you’ll be rewarded by unbelievable clarity when looking at constellations such as Orion’s belt and star clusters including Pleiades. By day, you can also take a guided tour of the Teide Astronomic Observatory.
Alqueva Dark Sky Route, Portugal
This Dark Sky Reserve centred on a lake in the middle of the Alentejo region about 90 minutes from Lisbon brings together several sights where you can enjoy the super-clear night skies, whether during a nocturnal canoeing trip, an astro-photography workshop or from the comfort of one of several hotels with their own telescopes.
Pic du Midi Observatory, South-west France
This world-class facility perched on a mountaintop in the Hautes-Pyrénées hosts overnight stays including guided astronomy tours during which you’ll likely get to marvel at the moon’s craters, Saturn’s rings and solar flares.
Atacama Desert, Chile
Seen by many as the ultimate dark sky destination, this high, dry and unpolluted spot is home to several world-leading observatories, a meteorite museum and a good choice of stargazing tours – although simply sitting on your hotel terrace will reap incredible rewards.
“San Pedro is a very chilled out place. We stayed in one of the typical single-storey adobe buildings, converted to a hostel with rooms around a central courtyard, featuring a hammock so you could take in the night skies. If you get a clear night I would recommend one of the stargazing tours or even visit the observatory.”
Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA
The national parks and monuments of the Colorado Plateau have some of the darkest skies in the United States. Among them is Canyonlands, where it’s been known for the rings of Saturn to be visible using regular binoculars. In spring or autumn, park rangers lead stargazing tours including telescope viewings.
Stargazing is a wonderful way to end your day in this gorgeous part of the world, whether from the beach, the deck of an overwater bar or villa or a local observatory. Alternatively, check into Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani – luxury retreats that include their very own observatories among a dizzying array of other facilities.
Jebel Shams, Oman
Oman’s highest peak, the ‘Mountain of the Sun’ within the Al Hajar Mountains is the first place in the country to receive the sunrise and also has spectacular views down into the deep Wadi Ghul or ‘Grand Canyon of Arabia’. But it’s best visited for its views of the night sky, which might include, if you’re here in spring, the southern hemisphere’s famous Southern Cross constellation on the horizon.
To book your holiday in one of these incredible dark sky destinations, contact your Travel Counsellor.