9 Incredible Stargazing Destinations Around the World

by Teresa Bitler

9 Incredible Stargazing Destinations Around the World

by Teresa Bitler

Remember when it seemed like you could reach up and touch the Milky Way, the ribbon of stars that make up our galaxy? Thanks to light pollution, it’s becoming harder and harder to see – unless you get yourself out to dark and remote locales. Here are eight stargazing sites, all recognized by the International Dark Sky Association for their inky-black nights, that offer stellar views of the heavens above.

Remember when it seemed like you could reach up and touch the Milky Way, the ribbon of stars that make up our galaxy? Thanks to light pollution, it’s becoming harder and harder to see – unless you get yourself out to dark and remote locales. Here are eight stargazing sites, all recognized by the International Dark Sky Association for their inky-black nights, that offer stellar views of the heavens above.

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Stargazing / iStock / standret
Flagstaff, Arizona
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Flagstaff, Arizona

Since Percival Lowell established his observatory here in 1894, Flagstaff has worked to keep its night skies dark. So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that it became the world’s first International Dark Sky City in October 2001. During the day, you can see where Pluto was discovered at Lowell Observatory or view the sun through Lowell’s specially equipped solar telescope. At night, look through telescopes at the moon, planets, and star clusters.

Since Percival Lowell established his observatory here in 1894, Flagstaff has worked to keep its night skies dark. So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that it became the world’s first International Dark Sky City in October 2001. During the day, you can see where Pluto was discovered at Lowell Observatory or view the sun through Lowell’s specially equipped solar telescope. At night, look through telescopes at the moon, planets, and star clusters.

Galloway, Scotland
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Galloway Forest Park, Scotland

Get a glimpse of over 7,000 stars in Galloway Forest Park, the United Kingdom’s first dark sky destination. All three park visitor centers offer great viewing areas and information points that help you identify constellations and planets, but we particularly like Clatteringshaws because it overlooks the unlit heart of the forest park. Another option is to head to the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory for evening viewings.

Read more: A Budget-Friendly Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Get a glimpse of over 7,000 stars in Galloway Forest Park, the United Kingdom’s first dark sky destination. All three park visitor centers offer great viewing areas and information points that help you identify constellations and planets, but we particularly like Clatteringshaws because it overlooks the unlit heart of the forest park. Another option is to head to the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory for evening viewings.

Read more: A Budget-Friendly Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Dark skies over New Mexico
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Chaco Canyon National Park, New Mexico

The Ancestral Puebloan ruins of Chaco Canyon National Park offer a unique viewing experience. Not only are the skies incredibly dark here, but archaeologists believe many of the buildings were constructed with celestial events in mind. Visit on Friday or Saturday nights, April through October, for free astronomy presentations that include discussions of archaeoastronomy and cultural history followed by telescope viewings. The park also hosts special opportunities to view the spring equinox, summer solstice, autumn equinox, and winter solstice, though you’ll need to make a reservation to attend.

Read more: 4 Reasons to Visit Northwest New Mexico

The Ancestral Puebloan ruins of Chaco Canyon National Park offer a unique viewing experience. Not only are the skies incredibly dark here, but archaeologists believe many of the buildings were constructed with celestial events in mind. Visit on Friday or Saturday nights, April through October, for free astronomy presentations that include discussions of archaeoastronomy and cultural history followed by telescope viewings. The park also hosts special opportunities to view the spring equinox, summer solstice, autumn equinox, and winter solstice, though you’ll need to make a reservation to attend.

Read more: 4 Reasons to Visit Northwest New Mexico

Big Bend National Park in Texas
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Big Bend National Park, Texas

Considered to have the least light pollution of any other national park in the lower 48 states, Big Bend National Park is not to be missed. Visitors here reportedly admire around 2,000 stars! All you'll need is a handy pair of binoculars. The park also offers ranger-led astronomy activities and workshops; learn more by visiting the park's website.  

Considered to have the least light pollution of any other national park in the lower 48 states, Big Bend National Park is not to be missed. Visitors here reportedly admire around 2,000 stars! All you'll need is a handy pair of binoculars. The park also offers ranger-led astronomy activities and workshops; learn more by visiting the park's website.  

Dark skies over Ireland
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Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve, Ireland

Protected on one side by the Kerry Mountains and the other by the Atlantic Ocean, Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve offers astronomy classes and workshops throughout the year. Here, you'll be able to spot the Milky Way Galaxy, planets, and, of course, lots of stars. Interestingly enough, The reserve is also home to a playground, church, pub, hostel, graveyard, several beaches, and a chocolate factory!

Read more: 10 Perfectly Affordable Stops Along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Protected on one side by the Kerry Mountains and the other by the Atlantic Ocean, Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve offers astronomy classes and workshops throughout the year. Here, you'll be able to spot the Milky Way Galaxy, planets, and, of course, lots of stars. Interestingly enough, The reserve is also home to a playground, church, pub, hostel, graveyard, several beaches, and a chocolate factory!

Read more: 10 Perfectly Affordable Stops Along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

New Zealand's dark skies
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Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, New Zealand

The first International Dark Sky Reserve in the southern hemisphere is also the world’s largest dark sky reserve, spanning nearly 1,700 square miles. Because there is very little light pollution in the area, visitors will be treated to magnificent views of the galaxies and stars form above. For the best experience, book a tour with operators like Dark Sky Project, Big Sky Stargazing, and Tekapo Starlight.

The first International Dark Sky Reserve in the southern hemisphere is also the world’s largest dark sky reserve, spanning nearly 1,700 square miles. Because there is very little light pollution in the area, visitors will be treated to magnificent views of the galaxies and stars form above. For the best experience, book a tour with operators like Dark Sky Project, Big Sky Stargazing, and Tekapo Starlight.

Namibia
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Namibrand Nature Reserve, Namibia

Located in the Namib Desert in southern Africa, the Namibrand Nature Reserve is one of the darkest places on the planet. You can observe the stars on your own from anywhere in the park, but Sossusvlei Desert Lodge caters to stargazers. The lodge has its own observatory and a resident astronomer who will answer questions and point out stars and planets after the sun goes down.

Read more: The Real Cost of An African Safari, From Budget to Splurge

Located in the Namib Desert in southern Africa, the Namibrand Nature Reserve is one of the darkest places on the planet. You can observe the stars on your own from anywhere in the park, but Sossusvlei Desert Lodge caters to stargazers. The lodge has its own observatory and a resident astronomer who will answer questions and point out stars and planets after the sun goes down.

Read more: The Real Cost of An African Safari, From Budget to Splurge

Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah
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Utah’s International Dark Sky Parks

Most Americans live in an area where they cannot see the Milky Way due to the light pollution -- but that's not an issue when stargazing in Utah, which has 15 certified International Dark Sky Parks. This includes Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Antelope Island State Park, Steinaker State Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, and Dinosaur National Monument.

Most Americans live in an area where they cannot see the Milky Way due to the light pollution -- but that's not an issue when stargazing in Utah, which has 15 certified International Dark Sky Parks. This includes Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Antelope Island State Park, Steinaker State Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, and Dinosaur National Monument.

Atacama Desert, Chile
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Atacama Desert, Chile

Chile is full of natural wonders, from scenic valleys, snowcapped mountains, and, of course, beautiful night skies. The latter is especially true in the Atacama Desert, where there is very little light pollution. And, because of its high elevation (about 2,500 meters, or 8,200 feet above sea level), travelers are able to get a closer, more intimate view of the dazzling night sky. 

Read more: What to See, Do, and Eat in Santiago, Chile

Chile is full of natural wonders, from scenic valleys, snowcapped mountains, and, of course, beautiful night skies. The latter is especially true in the Atacama Desert, where there is very little light pollution. And, because of its high elevation (about 2,500 meters, or 8,200 feet above sea level), travelers are able to get a closer, more intimate view of the dazzling night sky. 

Read more: What to See, Do, and Eat in Santiago, Chile

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