What Are Some Great Places to Visit for Star Gazers?

Some people love the vibrance of sunrise and sunsets, but some also enjoy the coziness of the nightlife. This is because the tranquility of the night gives more Zen to the rest of us. In fact, the beauty of the stars in the sky has long been praised, and the constellations have even been given names during ancient times.

However, light pollution is increasingly obstructing our ability to enjoy the grandeur of the night sky. 

Strangely, in 1994, during a blackout, people were stunned to see an unusual light in the night sky that they even called 911. Unbeknownst to them, the strange light they saw was the milky way. Subsequently, due to the amount of light pollution in the city, they had never seen it again. 

The Earth’s light pollution makes the sky brighter from below than the lights above. Fortunately, there are still some places where light pollution is minimized. As a result, the lovely darkness will reveal the true picture of the sky from Earth. Furthermore, several of those locations are easily accessible.

Even amateur astronomers may see the stars and have a once-in-a-lifetime celestial experience thanks to unique sites across the world that offer spectacular views of the night sky and low light pollution. 

So, if you love studying the heavenly bodies like the asteroids and comets, or if seeing the constellations, planets, and the Milky Way is on your bucket list, make a plan to visit one of the world’s top stargazing locations. Continue reading to learn about the places where to see stars throughout the world.

Photo of campers looking at the sky

1. Atacama Desert

If the North and South Poles are excluded, the Atacama Desert in northern Chile is the driest area on the planet. It receives only millimeters of rain during any given year, with the driest portions receiving even less than a millimeter.

However, while the dry condition in this desolate landscape is unsuitable for plant and animal life, they are ideal for stargazing due to the high altitude, lack of clouds, light pollution, and near-zero radio interference.

The near-perfect visibility of the Atacama Desert allows for crystal-clear views of the Southern Hemisphere’s most famous constellations, including the Tarantula Nebula, the Southern Cross, the Fornax Cluster of galaxies, and even the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.

With that, many believe the Atacama Desert to be the best spot in the world to stargaze for these reasons. In fact, numerous local outfitters offer excursions, and some local hotels even offer customized stargazing experiences, as astronomy tourists from all over the world travel to this bucket-list astronomy destination.

2. Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park

Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park is located near the Tropic of Cancer in the Yaeyama Islands. From there, you may see eighty-four out of the eighty-eight constellations recognized by the International Astronomical Union. The season and weather conditions, however, influence the viewing circumstances on any particular night.

Moreover, this park, in Okinawa Prefecture, was the first area in Japan, and the second in Asia, to earn International Dark Sky Places accreditation.

3. Natural Bridges National Monument

The main group combatting light pollution globally, the International Dark-Sky Association designated the Natural Bridges National Monument near isolated Lake Powell, Utah, as the first accredited International Dark Sky Park. There are now over 130 International Dark Sky Places accredited around the world.

The designation highlights the area for having some of the world’s clearest and darkest skies and the efforts made to preserve them. 

The Milky Way’s “river of light” phenomenon as it rises over the Owachomo Bridge, a natural rock formation, is the main attraction of the dark skies here. The bridge acts as a window into the night sky, framing the thousands of stars visible to the naked eye. 

The Natural Bridges National Monument is a great place for night photographers, but keep in mind that artificial light sources are definitely prohibited.

4. Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is South Africa’s largest game reserve, covering more than 7,500 square kilometers. Most visitors hope to see the iconic Big Five — lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, leopards, and water buffalo — as well as stay in a posh safari lodge.

On the other hand, the park’s distant position and the absence of light pollution make for excellent night-sky watching. Also, with the flat savanna and bushveld, it provide an ideal ground for binocular training on the Southern Cross, Scorpio, and Saturn’s rings. 

On any trip to Kruger National Park, including an astronomy experience in your drive itinerary is a must.

5. Mauna Kea, Hawaii

The islands of Hawaii, which are located around 2,500 miles southwest of California, have evolved into one of the world’s best astronomy locations, with the Mauna Kea summit on the Big Island being possibly the most famous stargazing spot in Hawaii.

The world’s largest research observatory, Mauna Kea Observatory, is located high above Hilo, near Mauna Kea’s 13,803-foot peak. It houses thirteen of the world’s largest and most powerful telescopes, making it a prominent astronomical center. Moreover, because Mauna Kea is close to the equator, it can view about 80% of Southern Hemisphere stars. In other words, about 85% of all the stars visible from Earth can be seen from Mauna Kea.

6. Pic du Midi

NASA scientists had used Pic du Midi in the French Pyrénées mountains to capture the image of the Moon’s surface in preparation for the Apollo missions. From La Mongie, you can ride a cable car to the summit, where a hilltop observatory is perched above the clouds.

In addition, the reserve includes a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Pyrénées-Mont Perdu, as well as a French national park – Pyrénées National Park, and you may even schedule an overnight stay at the Pic for a memorable night beneath the stars.

7. Kiruna, Sweden

Swedish Lapland is the place you could add to your bucket list if you want to be blown away by the night sky displays. Not only may you gaze up in awe at the blanket of dazzling constellations, but you might also be lucky to see the aurora borealis, often known as the northern lights.

Moreover, Kiruna lies just under thirty miles from Esrange Space Center, Europe’s largest civilian space center. It is located north of the Arctic Circle, not far from Sweden’s border with Norway and Finland.

8. La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Although a tropical forest does not usually imply excellent stargazing, Costa Rica may surprise you when the conditions are ideal. Because of its distance to the equator, this Central American country is in a unique position to see both northern and southern constellations.

It’s one of the few sites above the equator where you can see the Magellanic Clouds. During the first voyage across the world in the 1520s, explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his crew discovered these two irregular dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way Galaxy. Visitors who visit during the dry season, which runs roughly from December to April, have the highest chance of spotting them.

9. Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles may not appear to be an excellent location for stargazing, but the renowned Griffith Observatory positioned high atop Mount Hollywood makes it a worthwhile excursion for those interested in astronomy.

Jupiter, Venus, assorted double stars, clusters, and nebulae may be visible from Griffith Observatory depending on the time of year. With the facility’s giant telescopes, you can see the Moon and its rough surface in incredible detail.

10. Hortobagy National Park in Hungary

This national park frequently photographs and films the night sky from the Kilenclyuku Hid or the Nine Arch Bridge. This bridge is Hungary’s famous and longest stone bridge. Moreover, it is also considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Aside from tourism, the preservation of the night sky in this area is essential for preserving the culture of Hortobagy’s traditional shepherds, who rely primarily on star signs. The black night sky also serves as a safeguard for the local fauna.