The stars are stunning and humbling reminders of the billions of lives lived. The night sky is a solid reminder of how vast the universe is every night.
The problem is that as the human population expands, so does light pollution, which obstructs the world’s view. Many metropolitan areas now only see 500 or fewer stars at night.
Nevertheless, several places on the planet offer a magnificent view of the night sky that allows people to learn more about the universe – the existence of black holes, the life of the stars, and reconnect with the beautiful planet.
Ready to cross stargazing and spotting the Milky Way Galaxy off your bucket list? Here’s a list of places you should check out for yourself.
Mauna Kea, Hawaii, United States
Located on the Big Island (Hawaii), the Mauna Kea volcano is a must-see. Dormant for more than 4,500 years, the Hawaiian name for Mauna Kea, short for “Mauna a Wakea,” translates as “the mountain belonging to the sky.”
The million-year-old Mauna Kea mountain stands at an astonishing 13,798 feet, so when the sun sets or rises, this is the best site to see the sky.
Volunteers set up the visitor center’s telescopes nightly to benefit those who make the trip. There are currently more than a dozen industrial telescopes housed at the Mauna Kea Observatory, making it one of the most important astronomical observatories in the world.
If you’re looking for even more breathtaking views, head on up to the summit, but you’ll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle or special authorization from your car rental company to go around this part of the state.
Unfortunately, the observatory at the summit of Mauna Kea prevents visitors from reaching the top as it is exclusive to scientists and research purposes.
Atacama Desert, Chile
A notable lack of cloud cover and the desert’s 5000m elevation make it ideal for space observation.
High altitudes, clear sky, and the driest (non-polar) air on the planet are all present in this 600-mile area of northern Chile. As expected, the Astro-tourism industry is thriving.
A dozen or so observatories are distributed over the Elqui Valley that attracts hundreds of visitors daily; among them is the ALMA Observatory, which houses the world’s most powerful radio telescope that uses 66 satellite antennas to peer into deep space.
If you prefer, however, a more intimate experience, you can look for Elqui Domos, tucked away in the desert’s edges, where guests can stay in glass-roofed wooden chalets or dome-shaped tents with open ceilings.
Aoraki Mackenzie, New Zealand
An international dark sky reserve in New Zealand’s Aoraki Mackenzie Basin in the South Island was established in 2012 to recognize the region’s astronomical opportunities.
Visitor centers at Lake Tekapo Earth and Sky and Aoraki/Mount Cook, two of the reserve’s 16 designated Dark Sky Reserves, draw crowds to the reserve’s planetariums, telescopes, and observatories, where guided tours are available.
The Southern Cross, the Southern Star, and the Aurora Australis can all be seen with the park’s namesake peak (which rises to more than 12,000 feet) in the background on clear evenings in the reserve that makes up Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Mont-Mégantic National Park, Quebec, Canada
The world’s first International Dark Sky Reserve, Mont-Mégantic National Park, is ingrained in Canadian history.
Residents in the surrounding area have joined the park’s efforts to reduce outdoor illumination to preserve the park’s quality as a place for stargazing.
Over 25,000 light fixtures were retrofitted with energy-efficient bulbs by the community, resulting in a 25 percent reduction in local light pollution.
With its location on the U.S. border between Vermont and Maine, this park is easily accessible to visitors from the United States, despite its Canadian location.
A spectacular observatory and the “Astrolab” visitor center are also located at Mont-Mégantic.
NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia
Due to its remote position, the NamibRand Nature Reserve is described by the International Dark-Sky Association as “one of the naturally darkest (but accessible) places on Earth.”
The Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET) Center protects almost 500,000 acres of land in southwest Namibia and conducts environmental education programs, mostly for local students.
The Wolwedans camps and lodges in the NamibRand Nature Reserve offer overnight stays under the starry skies of the desert under sustainable conditions for visitors interested in the NamibRand Nature Reserve’s unique night sky experience.
Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal
Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site not only for its stargazing but also because it is home to Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak.
But even if they don’t want to hike up the side of this not-so-gentle giant, tourists can still have an amazing day on the site.
Hikers can also explore the park’s lower-elevation forest zone, where they can see Mount Everest, framed by a vast night sky and a sprinkling of brilliant stars.
The unpolluted skies above Kerry’s beautiful peninsula, surrounded by the Kerry Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, allow observers to see star clusters, nebulas, and the Andromeda Galaxy.
A “Dark Sky Reserve” designation is a recent addition to the area’s prehistoric monuments. Still, the ancient inscriptions reveal that people in the area have been watching the planets for thousands of years.
With laser beams and telescopes, astronomical tour guides can give visitors a better glimpse of the night sky during their visit.
Rhön Biosphere Reserve, Germany
Mountains and high elevation characterize the Rhön Biosphere Reserve’s surrounding area, which is located in the heart of Germany and known as “the land of endless horizons.” Only in 2014 did it become an official International Dark Sky Reserve after being designated as a protected lands reserve in 1991.
This location is unique since its core has the darkest night sky, ideal for stargazing. The towns surrounding the center operate as a protective buffer zone, enforcing responsible anti-light pollution measures.
Additionally, the Rhön Biosphere Reserve is a popular destination for nature walks, cycling, and water activities. Gliding is also a popular pastime in the area.
Galloway Forest Park, Scotland
Galloway Forest Park is the perfect place to enjoy Scotland’s sweeping, lush landscapes and the starry, wide-open skies of the highlands.
This part of the Scottish highlands, the country’s largest national park, has some of the darkest skies in the world. To preserve the natural night sky and the stars that inhabit it, an entire portion of the park is dedicated completely to this purpose. The entire park is dedicated to protecting the nocturnal creatures and the night sky, and it is against the law to add any permanent lighting to that central region.
As a result, Galloway is well-known as one of the best spots in the United Kingdom to stare up at the night sky.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
With more than 7,500 square kilometers of land, Kruger National Park is South Africa’s largest game reserve. The Big Five – leopards, lions, rhinos, elephants, and water buffalo — and a luxurious safari lodge stay are the primary goals of most tourists.
The park’s remoteness and absence of light pollution, on the other hand, offer excellent night-sky viewing opportunities, with the flat savanna and bushveld making an ideal landscape for training binoculars to see the Southern Cross, Scorpio, and Saturn’s rings. Any trip to Kruger National Park should include a stop for a nocturnal astronomy experience.