When it comes to stellar star-gazing, the destination you choose is all-important. Being far away from the glow of city lights is fundamental but there can be considerable divergence between each remote destination.
Would you prefer a cosy setting, wrapped up warm on a snowy mountain, or to lie in the desert on a balmy night?
To reconnect with nature and see distant galaxies and constellations against the darkest of skies, head to one of the following destinations.
A starting point for visiting the Sahara Desert, M’Hamid is a small oasis town in Morocco in an area long-inhabited by ancient Berber tribes. Morocco’s most extensive sand dunes, the Erg Chigaga, can be reached by (relatively uncomfortable but memorable) camel ride or by jeep. These dunes reach heights of around 60m and seeing them ripple in the wind while bathed in the amber glow of the Saharan sun is enough to move you to tears. There are several smaller dunes near M’Hamid too, which provide just as magical a setting for stargazing, all the more so when accompanied with live, traditional Berber music.
Seeing as desert climates with next to no precipitation tend to be ideal for clear night sky gazing, Sesriem also features as one of the world’s greatest stargazing spots. It’s famous for its massive red sand dunes, its canyon and the twisted, black, dead trees that cover the surrounding plains (and as striking photo subject matter). But it’s even more glorious to be here at night, enjoying the dazzling display of shooting stars and constellations.
Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
To visit Lake Tekapo is to witness nature in all her finery; by day, the milky-blue lake, its purple floral shores and surrounding pine forests form a hypnotizing backdrop. And by night, as an International Dark Sky Reserve it has so little light pollution that stargazing is utterly magical. Pitch up a tent to stay a few days and take a tour of the nearby astronomical observatory atop Mount John, with the largest telescope in New Zealand.
Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
There are no roads leading to this Uruguayan hamlet. Just a tiny collection of shacks constructed on a sliver of sand stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean, this is genuine seclusion. Luckily, building in Cabo has been restricted in recent years to save it from turning into a typical South American resort. Join the resident hippies for a session of sleeping under the stars and you’ll soon grow so attached it’ll be nigh impossible to leave.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
The barren, desert wilderness of Wadi Rum is a life-affirming place. The horizon is dotted with craggy canyons and orange sand, and watching the stars from this lunar-like landscape feels somewhat surreal. Camping with the Bedouin in isolated sites and enjoying an incredibly vivid view of our Milky Way will stun you into awed silence.
Sao Domingos Mine, Portugal
Though man-made, this deserted mine in Portugal is a phenomenal place to star gaze. Its interesting history dates back to the Roman era, and there’s a museum, an English cemetery and many old mine buildings dotted around. This is a good choice for those looking for a quirky but stunning place to lie back and enjoy a celestial show.