The 15 Most Majestic Destinations to Admire the Night Sky

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Bucket List Worthy  

Photo credit: Chase Dekker
Photo credit: Chase Dekker

Bright city lights, vehicle headlights and even porch lights have been stifling the beauty of the night sky with “light pollution” for decades. But that doesn’t mean those special places to throw a blanket on the ground and stare at the sky have gone extinct. In fact, groups like the International Dark-Sky Association have been promoting the preservation of night time darkness for the benefit of wild animals, plants and stargazers for years.

Thanks to such organizations, the following are some of the best and darkest places around the globe to just tilt your head back and stare.

#1. Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

New Zealand’s south island offers plenty of places to stargaze, but among the best is the expansive Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. Inside the reserve is the famous village of Lake Tekapo. No stargazer should miss a trip to this village that offers astro-tourism companies and plenty of darkness at night.

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#2. Atacama Desert, Chile

The Atacama Desert in northern Chile boasts high altitudes and practically zero light pollution. And because this area is one of the driest on earth, it’s very unlikely you’ll have to worry about cloud cover.

Photo credit: European Southern Observatory
Photo credit: European Southern Observatory

#3. Jasper National Park, Canada

Jasper National Park has long been known for its breathtaking landscapes, but many visitors don’t know that when the sun goes down, Jasper continues to shine. Visit during the annual Dark Sky Festival at the end of October to learn even more about Jasper’s after dark wonders.

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#4. County Kerry, Ireland

Stargazers traveling to southwest Ireland will find paradise in the remote Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve. The reserve is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and is so far from any major cities that it’s one of the darkest parks in all of Europe.

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#5. NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

The NamibRand Nature Reserve is one of Africa’s largest reserves filled with mountains, dunes and plenty of nighttime stars. This certified Dark Sky Reserve has been recognized for its efforts to preserve the dark night sky to maintain the park’s biological diversity as well as its out-of-this-world stargazing experience for guests.

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#6. Tuscany, Italy

It’s no wonder the famous astronomer Galileo Galilei first admired the night sky through his refracting telescope invention in the rolling hills of Tuscany. This area of Italy is known as one of the best places to view the moon’s surface, sunspots and Jupiter’s moons.

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#7. Mauna Kea, United States

Hike nearly 4,300 metres to the summit of the dormant Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii, and you’ll find the largest astronomical observatory in the world. The volcano’s dry atmosphere and lack of light pollution makes it one of the best places in the world gaze at the stars.

Photo credit: Bill Shupp
Photo credit: Bill Shupp

#8. Kiruna, Sweden

Kiruna, Sweden is on the path to become the hub of space tourism in Europe. But until space tourism fully takes off, Kiruna’s location — nearly 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle — makes it one of the most majestic places to admire the aurora borealis.

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#9. Death Valley National Park, United States

Death Valley National Park is one of three International Dark Sky Parks in the United States. And although the neon lights of Las Vegas shine roughly 200 kilometres away, Death Valley is still home to some of the darkest nights in all of the United States.

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#10. Poloniny Dark-Sky Park, Slovakia

If eastern Slovakia isn’t on your stargazing bucket list yet, it definitely should be. The Poloniny Dark-Sky Park is not only known as one of the darkest places in all of Europe, it’s home to the Astronomical Observatory on Kolonica Saddle, and the park’s beech and fir forests are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Photo credit: Pavol Duris
Photo credit: Pavol Duris

#11. Grasslands National Park, Canada

The west block of Grasslands National Park is known for being ridiculously dark, but the east block is even darker. Visitors are welcomed with detailed and colorful views of the Milky Way as well as airglow — a nighttime phenomenon only seen in the world’s darkest places.

Photo credit: Glendon Rolston
Photo credit: Glendon Rolston

#12. La Fortuna, Costa Rica

The Arenal Volcano in northwestern Costa Rica is one of the most active in the world. And the beauty of the Arenal Volcano is what gives admiring the night sky in La Fortuna a unique twist. Bright orange lava often flows down the sides of the volcano allowing stargazers the opportunity to view the volcano’s light show paired with shining stars.

Photo credit: Matthew Landry
Photo credit: Matthew Landry

#13. La Palma, Spain

Located in Spain’s Canary Islands is one of the best places in the world to admire the night sky from above the clouds. The Caldera de Taburiente National Park on the island of La Palma is home to the roughly 2,400-metre tall Roque de los Muchachos, which houses a number of observatories.

Photo credit: Otger!
Photo credit: Otger!

#14. Galloway Forest Park, Scotland

Galloway Forest Park is not just Britain’s largest forest park, it’s a hot spot for stargazers and astronomy buffs from around the world. The park’s remarkably dark skies make it ideal for admiring the aurora borealis, the Andromeda Galaxy and even stellar nurseries.

Photo credit: HJSP82
Photo credit: HJSP82

#15. Cerro Armazones, Chile

The Chilean Andes boast some of the most incredible places to admire the night sky due to a lack of atmospheric turbulence. And that’s exactly why the U.K. recently decided to build the largest telescope in the world on top of the Cerro Armazones mountain. If you can’t make it to Cerro Armazones, a multitude of other spots in the Chilean Andes offer breathtaking nighttime scenes.

Photo credit: European Southern Observatory
Photo credit: European Southern Observatory

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C, Mexico and around the world. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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