12 Best Places in the World to Go Stargazing

12 Best Places in the World to Go Stargazing

Some of the best sights in the world are only visible at night, and these 12 places have particularly astonishing night skies.

Stargazing is exotic and wonderful. If, however, you stay in a busy city, the pollution and light make it impossible to find stars in the night sky. Thousands of professional and amateur astronomers as well as passionate stargazers search for a place that provides the perfect glimpse of the night sky. No light pollution, clear sky and preferably high altitude are essential for a great stargazing experience. If you’re looking for a perfect spot, go to these places and enjoy an unforgettable night under a dazzling starlit sky.

1. Mauna Kea, Hawaii

stargazing attractionsImage credit: Mark Ireland

Hawaii houses the world’s largest optical telescope atop Mauna Kea. There are various troubles like mountain sickness and low oxygen levels, but stargazers brave all these elements to catch a glimpse of the night sky at Mauna Kea. The peak is also known for its spectacular sunrise and sunset. The visitor centre remains open until 10pm and offers guided tours that include a ride to the observatory, mountain trek and even a dinner. Guests are also treated to free lectures, Q&As and a chance to peer through the telescopes. A lot of astronomical discoveries have been made from this observatory.

2. Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff, ArizonaImage credit: Logan Brumm

Arizona is famous for its observatory in Flagstaff which was established in the year 1894. Flagstaff experiences darkest of nights in Arizona and is known for its celebration of the World’s First International Dark Sky City that was first celebrated in October 2001. During this day, Pluto, which was discovered at Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory, is visible. You can also view the sun through Lowell’s specially designed solar telescope. Star clusters in the night sky look brilliant at night from Flagstaff.

3. Scotland

aurora borealis

Scotland is located in the northernmost part of the UK and is known to have one of the darkest skies in the continent. Occasionally, the awesome natural phenomenon of Aurora Borealis, common as the Northern Lights, is also visible from Scotland. The Royal Observatory of Edinburgh provides professional tours and public astronomy evenings. There are dark sky parks all over the country, where you can enjoy stargazing with your own equipment.

Also read: 10 Places Near Singapore to Go Stargazing

4. Atacama Desert, Chile

Image credit: S. Brunier/ESO

Atacama Desert is known to be the world’s driest place as it receives only a millimetre of rain annually. However, the no light pollution, clear sky and high altitude position of the place is very favourable for stars and planet watching. The ALMA Observatory is a place where the world’s most powerful radio telescope uses 66 satellite antennae to look into deep space, while the dozen or so observatories currently scattered across the Elqui Valley draw hundreds of visitors a day. Paranal Observatory is also known to be the proud owner of one of the largest telescopes in the world.

5. Tenerife, Canary Island

Image credit: Niels Hollenberg

The remote Canary Islands, off the mainland Morocco offers some of the darkest nights in the world, owing to its high altitude, proximity to the equator and distance from tropical storms. This island even controls flight paths in order to maintain the stargazing conditions. The semi-annual Starmus Festival is also another attraction of the place. A tour of the Teide Observatory and a cable car ride to the top of volcanic Mount Teide for dinnertime stargazing are experiences that no other place in the world can provide.

6. Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, New Zealand

Image credit: Jose Gallego

Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve is the largest dark-sky reserve and the first International Dark Sky Reserve in the southern hemisphere, spanning across a vast area of 1,700 square miles, sitting a high country plateau in New Zealand called the Mackenzie Basin. Mt.John Observatory, used by astronomers from Germany, Japan and U.S., is also a place to spot Magellanic Clouds, which are satellite galaxies of the Milky Way visible only from the southern hemisphere. This heavenly experience of stargazing from atop this plateau is beyond any wildest imagination!

7. Utah, USA

Image credit: Diana Robinson

Study has revealed that Utah is one of the darkest places in USA, thus ideal for stargazing. It is rated as Bortle class 2 sky, which is a typical truly dark site. The natural rock wonders with arcs and bridges during the day turn into amazing structures for stargazers at the night. Milky Way and the Zodiacal Light also appear very bright in Utah.

Also read: 9 Best Places to go Stargazing in the Philippines

8. Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany is rated as one of the best places on Earth to view the night sky as it is far from the city lights. In the valleys, on top of the hills, amateur astronomers set their equipment and admire the spectacular universe. This is the place where Galileo Galilei has developed his telescope in the 17th century. Tuscany is a great spot to view the Moon’s craters, sunspots and Jupiter’s satellites.

9. Wiruna, New South Wales, Australia

Wiruna hosts the annual South Pacific Star Party in the month of May, where both amateur and professional stargazers and astronomers join hands and share the common passion of stargazing.  The darkness of the place makes the night sky clearly visible, and millions of stars flicker together to create a magical enchantment on the onlookers.

10. Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve, Ireland

Image credit: Edoddridge

Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve in Ireland is protected on one side by the Kerry Mountains, while the Atlantic Ocean washes the other side. This dark sky reserve organises astronomy classes and workshops all year round for those passionate about stars and planets. The clear night sky provides brilliant view of the stars, the constellations and the planets.

11. Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania, USA

Image credit: Kevin Wigell

The Cherry Springs State Park is highly admired by both amateur, as well as professional stargazers. This 82-acre park has experienced the northern lights four times in 2014, which is generally witnessed only in high-latitude regions. The park also arranges an annual Black Forest Star Party from September 13 to 15, which brings together hundreds of stargazers for a weekend of communal stargazing. The park provides striking glimpse to the nucleus of the Milky Way with a 360-degree view from atop a 2,300 ft hill, which is free from any light pollution and electrical lines.

12. Leh – Ladakh, India

Image credit: Subhankar Saha

Leh-Ladakh, located at very high altitude, gives stargazers an out-of-the-world experience. The dark night and clear sky give ample opportunities for astrophotographers and stargazers. Places like Chumathangery, Leh, Nubra Valley and Ladakh are known for the scintillating night sky. Indian Astronomical Observatory in Hanle, Ladakh is one of the world’s highest sites for optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes. It is located 14,764 ft above and is freezing with cold Himalayan wind blowing from the northern side. The stargazing in Ladakh is indeed an absolute delight.

About Author

Rajyashree Halder
Rajyashree Halder

An adventurer at heart, Rajyashree wishes to go on a world tour someday and explore as many places as she can. She loves travelling, looking at beautiful pictures and writing about her experiences. She spends her leisure time watching movies, reading, or going through her old travel photographs. Visiting serene, secluded and unconventional places, away from the crowd, heals her senses like nothing else.

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