Stargazing is one of the most popular and relaxing activities universally performed across the globe. There’s nothing like sitting in a large field of grass and looking up at the star-filled sky and contemplating just how small we all truly are. All around the world there are numerous locations where the universe looks close enough to touch based on how saturated the sky can get with stars. Here’s a list of some of the most widely-known destinations to view the night sky from:
The Atacama Desert, Chile: South America in general is known for its amazing stargazing. This desert located in the northern part of Chile is the driest place on the planet; besides the North and South Poles. It receives a couple millimeters of rain every year, however, the dry conditions mixed with the high altitude, minimal clouds, and near-zero pollution makes it perfect for viewing the night sky. The Tarantula Nebula, the Fornax Cluster of galaxies, the Southern Cross, and even the Large Magellanic Cloud are all visible from the desert. For this reason, locals refer to the desert as the best place in the world for looking at the stars.
The Atacama Desert
Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah: This national monument is located in Lake Powell, Utah, and was the first ever certified International Dark Sky Park, which is an accolade given to various areas of the world by the International Dark Sky Association, whose main goal is to combat light and air pollution worldwide. This designation advertises itself as having some of the darkest and clearest skies in the US and in the world. The biggest attraction is the “river of light” that appears at night which is created by the Milky Way’s reflection as it rises over the Owachomo Bridge. The bridge forms what looks like a clean-cut window into the night sky that “frames” the millions of stars visible with the naked eye. Locals recommend camping out under the stars for the best experience.
Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park, Japan: Japan is a country that’s known for it’s natural beauty. It’s cherry blossom trees and emphasis on nature in architecture make Japan one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It’s also one of the best places for stargazing, in the Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park especially, 84 out of the 88 constellations, that are recognized by the International Astronomical Union, are visible. The park is also an International Dark Sky Park.
Mauna Kea Observatory
Mauna Kea, Hawaii: The Mauna Kea summit on the Big Island is known as the most famous stargazing spot in Hawaii. The volcanic terrain and 13,800 foot high peak gives onlookers some of the most breathtaking views of the night sky imaginable. The Mauna Kea Observatory is located at the mountains peak, allowing for individuals to really look deeper into the night sky with it’s thirteen powerful telescopes.
Pic du Midi, France: Pic du Midi is located in the French Pyrénées mountains and is famous for being the spot where NASA scientists take photos of the surface of the moon. If that isn’t any indication for how amazing the stargazing is here then I don’t know what is. Individuals can easily take a cable car from La Mongie to the mountains summit where an observatory is located for ideal viewing.
La Fortuna, Costa Rica: This Costa Rican jungle may not seem like an ideal place for viewing the sky, especially considering tropical jungles are typically saturated in plant life making the sky nearly invisible, however, depending on the night, locals refer to this jungle as one of the few places where the Milky Way Galaxy becomes visible at night. The jungle is located right above the equator, which means during the dry season (December – April) visitors will have ample opportunity to view the stars.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.