Summer equinox is approaching, and that means warmer weather, longer days and clear night skies. Stargazing is popular in the summer, but ultimately a year round activity as the night sky constantly changes. From southern to northern hemisphere, the night sky presents a decorative celestial painting of stars, planets, milky way, comets and northern lights. To get a closer eye on the night sky, bring your telescope or visit a planetarium to get a view of the dark side of the moon. These are the world’s best places to stargaze where the night sky is the main attraction.
Blessed with high altitudes and clear skies, New Mexico features several star-searching hotspots. New Mexico skies allow for exceptional views of Venus, Mercury and various constellations such as Taurus, Gemini and Orion. Find your inner-astronomer with companies such as Astronomy Adventure or Night Sky Adventures. For a dark experience, stay at one of the contemporary cabins at New Mexico Skies, which is an overnight guest observatory in the Sacramento Mountains. Binoculars, telescope or a private observatory is available for rent. Only one rule, guests can not use artificial light.
Not far from the tri-border of Norway, Sweden and Finland is Kiruna, Sweden, Europe’s space tourism destination. Located 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Kiruna’s main fan base are those seeking the northern lights. Situated near Kiruna are various space research facilities, including Esrange Space Center. Flooded with stars and planets, a pair of binoculars magnifies these celestial balls in the cool, crisp sky.
Located in southeast Maui, this gold star location reaches ten thousand feet above sea level and light pollution. Stargazers keep eyes pealed for the milky way, bands of Jupiter, and constellations – Ursa Major and Orion. National Park rangers lead walking tours May through October, or self-guide yourself with a star map and binoculars available at one of the nearby shops. In Oahu, book a trip with Astro Tours Hawaii with a private observatory located near Waikiki. For a Big Island Adventure, Mauna Kea Summit Adventures offer stargazing tours using portable telescopes below the snowcapped peak.
La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Located several miles east of Arenal Volcano in northern Costa Rica is small village, La Fortuna. As the night sky approaches smoking hot trails of lava flow down the volcano, which leads to a red sunset. Stargazers wait for the Magellanic Cloud, and are best seen mid-December through mid-April. Costa Rica is one of the few visible Magellanic Cloud sites located north of the equator. Both galaxies discovered by Magellan in the 1520’s are visible at this site.
Kruegar National Park, South Africa
This flat, desert park is free from artificial light and light pollution. As the hot African sun sets, the night sky is a painted canvas filled with the Southern Cross, Scorpio and rings of Saturn. Olifants Camp is an ideal location to also gaze at the desert moon. Play it safe and book an astro trip with Singita Games Reserve, which sets in the most eastern region of the park. Its just you, the stars and a bunch of hyaenas and lions all experiencing a true night on the town.
Atacama Desert, Chile
Located west of the Andes adjacent to the ocean is the dry, but ideal stargazing desert. Due to the lack of rain, the skies are clear from clouds, pollution and radio activity. This pure, crystal-clear sky offers the best of what the Southern Hemisphere sky has to offer, including the Tarantula Nebula and the Fornax Cluster of Galaxies. Quasar Chile Adventures offers astronomy tours or visit the Paranal Observatory, which is home to the world’s largest telescope.
Elizabeth is a fitness professional, workshop presenter and freelance writer. She is an active traveler who treks the globe looking for interesting stories to write and places to photograph. Her most significant travel achievements include living and volunteering in Australia twice and studied yoga in India.