Black and bright: The world’s best places for stargazing

In Adventure, Travel Inspiration by Kai

Space: the final frontier, the place where no one can hear you scream and the home of the greatest light show in the galaxy.

Even if you don’t know your nebulas from your supernovas, you can appreciate the beauty of a clear night – or at least you could if it weren’t for those pesky streetlights. To witness the heavens at their jaw-dropping, camera-snapping, head-turning best, you need to get way outa town, to a place where night is as black as night and the skies are are bright as street lights.

My god, it’s full of stars!

The view from Death Valley
Image: Flickr

Starway to heaven

For the first 6,000 years of human history, seeing the stars was as simple as stepping outside on a clear night and casting your gaze heavenward. Then the industrial revolution arrived and the rest is smog-shrouded history. By the time gas lamps were illuminating the back streets of London, starry skies were on the wane. Today, it’s estimated that 90% of Brits never have the opportunity to witness a spectacle that was once taken for granted.

Gasping at the gorgeousness of it all 

Star-gazing may demand more effort these days, but the rewards are as rich as ever. Here are eight ink black destinations that will transport you to another galaxy.

Cerro Armazones, Chile
Cerro Armazones. Image: Flickr

1. Cerro Armazones, Chile

With cloudless nights for 90% of the year, Cerro Armazones is the perfect spot for star-gazing. No wonder an observatory has been built on the mountainside, complete with a 1.5m hexapod telescope for getting up close with the moon and her sparkling siblings.

Time delay shows the movement of the stars in the sky, as viewed from Cerro Armazones
Cerro Armazones. Image: Flickr

An inky black sky that’s perforated with stars 

2. Death Valley National Park California

Red rocks, plunging canyons and undulating plains: Death Valley is a beautiful, desolate kinda place. By day you get to marvel at the panorama. By night, you’re treated to an inky black sky that’s perforated with stars. If you believe in a Creator, prepare to have your faith reinforced; the rest of us can settle for gasping at the gorgeousness of it all.

Death Valley, California

3. Kelling Hill, Norfolk

Regular star watching parties assemble on Kelling Hill, where this stunning pic of the Seven Sisters cluster was captured.

Kelling Hill, Norfolk

4. Galloway Forest Park, Scotland

Pollution can assume many forms and for the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) the enemy is light. For serious star gazers, celestial light is welcomed, but all earthly forms are shunned. As one of only four Dark Sky Parks in the western world, Galloway Forest Park is as black as they come.

Galloway Forest Park, Scotland
Image: Flickr

5. Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Stars; constellations; galaxies – they’re all up there, hanging majestically over Lake Tekapo. Guided tours show aspiring astronomers where to cast their gaze and how to identify planets and stars. Shimmering under a full moon, the lake doesn’t look too shabby either.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Image: Flickr

Musala, Balkan Peninsula

6. Musala, Balkan Peninsula

Its name in Ottoman Turkish means “near god” and it’s easy to see why. The highest peak in the Balkan Peninsula stands just shy of 3,000 metres and promises unfettered views of the night sky. Just don’t expect your pictures to come out looking this good.

Musala, Balkan Peninsula

7. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

The world’s first International Dark Sky Park, National Bridges’ pedigree is impeccable. Officially, it’s a Bortle class two sky, which translates into plain English as “hella dark”. All the better for star spotting.

National Bridges, Utah

8. Paranal, Chile

In the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile lies a high-tech star-gazing device known as the VLT. What, pray, could VLT stand for? Why it’s the Very Large Telescope. How large are we talking? 8.2 metres. Put your binoculars away now before you embarrass yourself.

The galaxy as seen from Paranal, Chile

Take a trip to outer space

Searching for the stars? Choose a remote HomeAway rental and enjoy unfettered views of the night sky.

Click for inspiration

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KaiBlack and bright: The world’s best places for stargazing