In celebration of World Astronomy Day on 5 October 2020, below is a selection of stargazing destinations that will leave travellers starstruck.
From award-winning night skies in Namibia and northern Italy, to bright bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico or sleeping under the stars in a bubble lodge in Mauritius.
STARGAZING DESTINATIONS – Escape to the Isle of Wight with Wightlink for a stargazing experience
Designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Isle of Wight has some of the darkest skies in the UK making it perfect for a fabulous stargazing night out. Undeniably, the best stargazing locations lie anywhere along the Military Road that runs along the south-west coast of the Island and is here that visitors will be able to see all the big players including Milky Way, Cassiopeia, Orion and the Plough. Those looking for the low down on stargazing tips on the Island should head to the Island Planetarium at Fort Victoria. Wightlink transports visitors to their stargazing adventure on the Isle of Wight with just a 45-minute ferry ride. www.wightlink.co.uk
STARGAZING DESTINATIONS – Gaze at the sparkling night sky at NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia
With its vast landscapes and minimal light pollution, Namibia boasts some of the darkest skies measured on earth, allowing visitors to look deep into the atmosphere almost every night of the year. One of the best places to witness the dazzling night sky is at the NamibRand Nature Reserve, the second place in the world to be awarded gold tier Dark Sky Reserve status by the International Dark-Sky Association in 2012. The NamibRand is home to exceptionally dark skies, with its nearest community lying 60 miles away, allowing a clear view of the Southern Cross and Scorpio constellations, amongst others. Although many lodges across Namibia take advantage of the dark sky and offer their own telescopes for guests, stargazing enthusiasts should visit Boulders Safari Camp – part of The Wolwedans Collection – where tents can open up to showcase the purest views of the sky. Wolwedans also offers the chance to escape the main camp on a two-night hiking trail where guests can sleep out under the stars. www.namibiatourism.com
STARGAZING DESTINATIONS – Witness some ‘the most beautiful skies in Italy’, Trentino
The mountains of Trentino in northern Italy have been heralded as one of the best places to relish in nature and gaze up at the ‘Milky Way’, and in particular, the Val Di Sole valley offers a particularly clear view of the dark night sky. Surrounded by dense alpine scenery, visitors can rejuvenate in a cosy log cabin whilst absorbing the views above and around them. The village of Ossana has been given ‘the most beautiful skies in Italy’ Certificate of Quality by Astronomitaly. The certification is aimed at locations with a low percentage of light pollution and it is committed to the development of astronomical tourism in Italy. Trentino offers an ideal stargazing setting all year round, with warm Italian nights during the summer months and snow capped mountains during the winter months. www.visittrentino.info
STARGAZING DESTINATIONS – Witness bright stars and dark skies in Idaho, USA
The mountainous northwestern state of Idaho has more designated wilderness than anywhere else in the continental USA, and the beauty doesn’t end when the sun goes down. The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, which includes the communities of Ketchum, Sun Valley and Stanley, and the Sawtooth Mountains, was designated in December 2017 and is one of only 13 Dark Sky Reserves in the world, and the only one in the United States. Idaho’s low population base, coupled with its rural landscape and vast wilderness areas makes it easy to find dark skies. The reserve works with several organisations to offer stargazing events and educational astronomy programmes throughout the year. Adventurous travellers can also set up camp in the Dark Sky Reserve, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Bruneau Dunes State Park, or just about anywhere in Idaho’s rural areas, to marvel at the unbelievably brilliant, starry sky. www.visittheusa.co.uk
STARGAZING DESTINATIONS – Sleep under the stars in a bubble room in Mauritius
Astronomy enthusiasts visiting Mauritius can stargaze from the comfort of their air-conditioned bubble room at Bubble Lodge. The property consists of three luxurious, completely transparent and eco-friendly bubble rooms located on a tea plantation, where lush green jungles, a lake, and a mountainous landscape make the perfect backdrop for viewing the stars. The eco-friendly “dreaming bubbles”, created by French designer Pierre Stephane Dumashe, feature queen-sized beds, en suite bathrooms, outdoor showers and coffee makers, alongside other amenities. Each night an astronomer is on hand to help guests identify constellations and other night-sky phenomena such as Pegasus, Southern Cross, and the Milky Way, while the stargazing app, Skyview, assists with a private viewing throughout the night. www.tourism-mauritius.mu
STARGAZING DESTINATIONS – Experience celestial bliss in Scottsdale, Arizona
Unlike most cities, Scottsdale is optimal for stargazing year-round with its desert landscape, low light pollution and clear night skies. With Arizona being home to the International Dark-Sky Association, aiming to combat light pollution and raise awareness of the value of dark skies, Scottsdale offers incredible experiences for budding astronomers. Summer nights can be spent walking under the stars at Pinnacle Peak Park on a full moon hike or in a 4×4 vehicle, navigating through the pitch-black Sonoran Desert on a night-vision drive, ticking off unusual star patterns on their constellation chart along the way. Not to be missed by astronomy enthusiasts is a stay at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale.
As the night draws in, resort guests can join a complimentary tour led by astrologist Richard Allen, often with sightings of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars depending on the time of year. Alternatively, guests can spot the stars from their own bedroom with state-of-the-art telescopes and constellation charts offered in every suite room. For something a little more romantic, couples can book onto a celestial picnic under the starry sky including cosy blankets, a constellation chart, telescope, photographer and personal butler for the evening. www.experiencescottsdale.com
See the stars reflected in one of the world’s five bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico
The island of Vieques in Puerto Rico is fast becoming an astrotourism hotspot. With two-thirds of the island designated as a protected nature reserve, the low light pollution makes Vieques perfect for stargazing. Visitors to Vieques can take a Bio Bay Tour of Mosquito Bay, one of the world’s five bioluminescent bays, where guides will highlight the constellations and planets. Three of the world’s five bioluminescent bays are located in Puerto Rico and of these, Mosquito Bay was officially declared the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world by Guinness Book of World Records in 2006. The mesmerizing brightness of the bay is due to the remote location and abundant concentration of dinoflagellates. Night tours take place when the Moon isn’t full to ensure the best conditions for seeing both the stars and waters glow as the night sky is reflected in the bioluminescent waters of the bay creating a truly spectacular natural light show. www.discoverpuertorico.com