In most cities, you’d be lucky to spot Orion’s Belt, let alone the Milky Way Galaxy thanks to light pollution, but if you’re interested in seeing a truly star studded sky there are a handful of places left. Situated primarily in high, dry and dark environments, many of the world’s major astronomical observatories or stargazing locations are located in dark sky parks or reserves. These dark places are hubs for Astro Tourism, drawing in visitors searching for nighttime skies to awe them.
Here are the top 5 locations
SAGARMATHA NATIONAL PARK, NEPAL
National Geography writes, “This is where the roof of the world touches the sky. My most dramatic stargazing experience was in Himalayan villages and on hiking treks here, especially in Sagarmatha (“Forehead in the Sky” in Nepali) National Park, near Namche Bazaar, where stars appear over Mount Everest.”
Sagarmatha National Park can be a majestic place to stargaze. With Mount Everest in the backdrop, the park being far from light pollution, and with a high elevation, it makes this national park one of the best places to stargaze.
HIGH VOLCANOES OF HAWAII
Slightly below the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island, lies a world-leading observatory. This mountain is the perfect night sky location because of its dryness, lack of clouds, stable atmosphere, and the separation of the lower and upper atmospheres which guarantees no atmospheric pollutants. The Mauna Kea Visitor Center is the spot to stare in awe at the star-studded sky.
While Mauna Kea allows a pure view of the night sky, Haleakalā in Hawaii offers one of the most easily accessible places to watch planets, stars, and moons after dark. The visual horizon in many places is up to 115 miles (185 km) out to sea. If you are going to take in the beautiful sunrises or sunsets from this location, be prepared because it can get very cold and wet.
LA PALMA, CANARY ISLANDS
This location in the Canary Islands makes the list for its sweeping views of mountains puncturing a layer of clouds and topped by stars illuminating a dark sky. The picture above from Caldera de Taburiente was only moments after the sun had set, and already the starscape was phenomenal!
Like the other locations, Caldera de Taburiente is a preferred spot because of the altitude and distance from major light sources. La Palma has received a Starlight Reserve award for the island’s conditions that stargazers love, and Astro Tourism is drawing in more visitors to the Canary Island.
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA
In the United States, Death Valley is the darkest of all the National Parks, making it an excellent place to stargaze over vast, dry land. While the park is slightly affected by the light pollution of Las Vegas, scientists regularly make efforts to keep the local light pollution to a bare minimum for optimal night sky conditions. If interested in visiting the park look into their guided tours, summertime heat causes extreme conditions for visits, making fall through spring ideal times.
ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE
For the ultimate stargazing experience, the Atacama desert in northern Chile has the clearest night skies on Earth. There’s no mystery as to why the Atacama is home to many observatories, just one night under its otherworldly sky would make many interested in studying the stars there. This location has also opened up the new world of Astro Tourism in Chile. Turning one of the world’s driest places into one of the most coveted places to visit.