Do you love gazing at the night sky, keeping your eyes peeled for shooting stars? If you’re in search of the best view of the Milky Way, a chance to spot the elusive Northern Lights or simply want to sit back and admire the stars, here are seven places around the world that offer the very best views of the night sky.
Atacama Desert, Chile
For 600 miles, this stretch of desert in northern Chile offers unparalleled views of the night sky thanks to its high altitude, unpolluted skies and dry air. It’s no surprise that the world’s most powerful telescope is housed here, as the area offers the perfect viewing conditions for looking into deep space. Visitors can visit at night to see the magnificent views of the night sky for themselves, or can opt to stay in one of the hotels that boast cabins with glass roofs, allowing guests to star gaze from the comfort of their own beds.
Tenerife, Canary Islands
The remote location of the Canary Islands with their high altitude and proximity to the Equator make them ideal for stargazing. Tenerife, the largest of the Canaries, has a law that controls overhead flightpaths to protect its dark skies, making this the best of the island group for stargazing. The semi-annual Starmus Festival brings hordes of enthusiasts to the island to enjoy lectures and special events, but observatory tours and dinnertime stargazing on top of the volcano can be enjoyed all year round.
NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia
The first ever Dark Sky Reserve to reach Gold Tier status was NamibRand Nature Reserve in the Namib Desert. Over 60 miles to the nearest small village, this truly is the wilderness, meaning that there is no light pollution for hundreds of miles in each direction. Visitors can combine a wildlife experience with stargazing here, admiring the wonders of the nature reserve during the day before camping out under the stars and gazing at the Milky Way.
Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley is one of the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserves with over 300 acres of unspoilt views of the night sky. This is one of the very best places in the entire world to view the Milky Way with some of the darkest skies in the whole of North America. Be prepared for stifling hot daytime temperatures plummeting during the cool desert times by wrapping up warm under piles of blankets to gaze up at the stars.
Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, New Zealand
Another of the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserves, Aoraki Mackenzie sits within the Mackenzie Basin, completely ringed by towering mountains. This was the first Dark Sky Reserve to be named in the Southern Hemisphere and recently received Gold Tier status. The night skies here are almost entirely free of light pollution, allowing breath-taking views of the Magellanic Clouds and the Milky Way.
Anyone with an interest in stargazing surely has witnessing the Northern Lights on their bucket list. The Aurora Borealis is always unpredictable, but Trysil in eastern Norway is one of the best places on earth to witness it, thanks to its usually clear skies and little light pollution. When the lights make an appearance, dancing in green bursts across the skies, they put on a spectacular display. Even if the lights don’t appear, the night sky in winter is filled with stars.
Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Mauna Kea in Hawaii is the tallest sea mountain in the world; an observatory nestled on its peak boasting telescopes from 11 different countries. Visitors can travel to the summit during the day, but lower elevations of around 9,000 feet are the best for viewing the night sky. As well as dramatic views of the stars, the mountain is also the perfect place to admire daytime views of the rest of the island.
Emma Lavelle is a UK based writer and photographer and has her own blog Field and Nest.