When the sun nestles back behind the horizon it gives way to one of the universe’s most breathtaking wonders: the stars. The night sky, with its distant galaxies, remote constellations and fellow planets, has been subject of observation by humans for centuries. It is a reminder of the vastness of the universe, a lesson of humbleness by noticing how small and insignificant we are by comparison. It is proof of a greater force, that allows stars to shine through many millenniums and planets to keep orbiting.
Stars have always guided us – scientists study them to better understand our universe. Sailors, shepherds and nomads have found their path by following stars since ancient times. Astrologists turn to them to establish our horoscopes – going as far as believing that being born under the influence of a star can determine traits of your personality or your future. There is significant beauty, power and mystery associated to stars, so whether you love science and nature, astrology or beauty, you will never go wrong with stargazing.
It’s very hard to appreciate the night sky from most cities due to light and pollution, but there are still many destinations around the world that host spectacular night sceneries. Take a break from your city life and connect with nature by watching these glowing dust-like particles… Here are five breathtakingly beautiful star gazing destinations in the world.
1. Atacama Desert, Chile
Deserts may be associated with empty and inhospitable places. However, the Atacama is considered one of the driest but most visited deserts in the world, featuring some incredible landscapes and one of the world’s best stargazing sites. Why? Well, because of its transparent skies with no radio interference and limited light pollution. The near-perfect visibility paves way for the countless stars to shine radiantly amidst the deserted place, making it an astronomer’s paradise as the desert is also the abode of some distinguished astronomical observation facilities such as AMLA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array) and VLT (Very Large Telescope). Experience the stargazing of your lifetime by walking or camping under the canopy of stars in the Atacama Desert, and witness how the sterile setting of the land perfectly harmonizes with the spectacular scenery of the skies.
2. La Palma, Canary Islands
Whether you find the lofty landscapes impressive or the long hiking trails exciting, you’ll always appreciate the magnificent wonders of La Palma, especially during the solemn and scenic night sky. The heavenly volcanic island of La Palma is one of the most popular destinations for astro-tourists all over the world. As part of the Canary Islands archipelago, which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, La Palma boasts breathtakingly clear skies that brings an ocean of stars to perception. The island is also the world’s first ever Starlight Reserve— a certification to commit and defend the environmental features and night sky quality of a place. And twice a year, the island hosts the Starmus Festival, which is a celebration of music, arts, and science. The festival is the best way to experience the stargazing magic of the island as you will enjoy, not just the incredible scenery, but also some fruitful activities such as astronomy lectures and space-themed parties.
3. Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal
Nepal is not just the home of the world’s highest mountain— Mt. Everest, but also a country loaded with spectacular natural attractions. A fulfilling way to witness such beauty is by stargazing at one of the most attractive national parks in the country— the Sagarmatha National Park. The park is idyllically situated in the outskirts of Nepal, where several rare species like pandas and snow leopards are carefully sheltered, and astonishing landscapes such as mountains and glaciers are dramatically untouched. Since most national parks give exceptional starry nights, this well-loved spot in the country is no exception. The park is an ideal location to get away from the city bustle and revel in the calming wonders of nature, while beholding the sea of stars on your vision. And before we forget, the presence of the striking Sherpas also adds further interest to your stargazing moments, as well the ethereal silhouettes of the countryside.
4. NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia
Wanting some peaceful stargazing in the habitat of the wild? Then, you should try spending the night at the NamibRand Nature Reserve located in Namibia. Namibia is known for its dry lands and diverse wildlife, along with its striking nature reserves. One notable nature reserve is the NamibRand Nature Reserve, which is a popular place for stargazers and astro-tourists. The place lets you witness the authentically dark blue skies bathed with naturally bright lights. There is no artificial lighting or light pollution in this unscathed stargazing spot— just vast, dry space of endless horizons. That is why the country has become a renowned destination when it comes to astro-tourism despite of it being one of the oldest and driest deserts in the world. So, for your next stargazing activity, don’t forget to scratch this remotely beautiful location off your bucket list.
5. Mauna Kea Volcano, Hawaii
Watch the gleaming stars from above the clouds, and you’ll totally be enchanted with the surreal scenery it offers. The summit of Mauna Kea Volcano is just one of the spectacular stargazing spots in the volcanic archipelago of Hawaii. It stands more than 4, 000m above sea level, giving you breathtaking sights of the starry skies, as well as visible views of some celestial northern hemisphere attractions like Milky Way, Ursa Major and Orion. The volcano is visited by thousands of tourists every year, consequently becoming the world-leading observatory through its Mauna Kea Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii. And since you are driving up above sea level, be ready to feel the temperature drop and altitude effects!
Tips for capturing stars with your camera
As much as you want to capture the beauty of the scene with the naked eye, cameras also do great magic when it comes to seizing striking memories. Although smartphones already feature remarkably good cameras, it is really hard to capture the night sky without being able to control variables such as aperture, ISO and shutter speed.
A significant tip for those planning to capture the stars: Use the widest aperture and set the shutter speed within 15 to 20 seconds. You can also use a tripod to stabilize the captures, but as much as possible, avoid using HDR and flash.
To find out more about photographing the night sky, read our post How to Photograph Natural Phenomena at night!