Astrotourism: The Best Places in the World to See the Stars

is discovering new planets, planning permission has been
granted for a hotel on the moon and billionaires are shooting for
the stars to send the first tourists into space – this is the Space
Race 2.0. But as cities expand, the primitive act of sitting
outside counting stars is becoming as rare as meteor showers. As
our skies become more polluted, astrotourism is soaring. We’re
heading to far-flung islands, to the tops of mountains and into the
desert to gaze into infinity and beyond.

These are the dark-sky destinations to make you


Canary Islands

WHY: Stargazing is such serious business here
that flight paths are adjusted in order to protect viewing
conditions (and that’s probably the reason your flight was
delayed). To feel like you can reach for the stars (thanks, S Club
7) take the cable car to the top of volcanic Mount Teide – it’s the
highest point on the Atlantic Ocean and nearly always blanketed
with stars.

STAY: Royal Hideaway Corales

Pitcairn Islands

South Pacific

WHY: Pretty impossible to spot on a map, the
Pitcairn Islands – found floating in the deep South Pacific between
New Zealand and Peru – are the first island group to be awarded
Dark Sky Sanctuary status. This is top-tier stargazing territory,
helped by a strict, lights-off policy from 10.30PM-6AM.

STAY: Book a homestay through the Pitcairn tourist board

Stewart Island

New Zealand

WHY: Every man and his Instagram grid has seen
the Northern Lights but few have witnessed the Aurora Australis,
the South Pole’s show-stopping celestial show. Remote, rustic and
rid of any light pollution, the whole of Stewart Island makes for a
prime viewing platform.

STAY: Anchorstone

Sagarmatha National Park


WHY: Strewn with snow-capped peaks and the
world’s most famous mountain, Sagarmatha means “forehead in the
sky” in Nepali. As its moniker suggests, you’ll be able to see a
power shower of constellations crowning Everest’s highest summit –
even without embarking on a gruelling trek.

STAY: Hotel Summit 4410m

Cambrian Mountains


WHY: Don’t worry if the only Milky Way you can
locate is the one at the bottom of your snack cupboard, Wales’s
50-mile astro-trail gives you all the tools and tips you need to
scope out the North Star and Great Plough that shine above the
Cambrian Mountains (just make sure bring your binoculars). If
clouds start to form, hunker down in one of the local pubs. There’s
plenty plotted on route.

STAY: The Royston

Wadi Rum


WHY: With a film reel of cameos under its
(Orion’s) belt, astrotourism in Wadi Rum is rocketing. Most will
visit the lunar landscapes on a day trip from Jordan, but bed down
in one of the Bedouin camps to truly be blown away by its

STAY: Wadi Rum Golden Sands Camp

Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park


WHY: More akin to Thailand’s blonde-sand shores
than Tokyo’s crowded, tech-obsessed metropolis, the sparsely
populated Ryukyu Islands are Japan’s version of paradise. With no
closing hours and no entries free, slip into the subtropical forest
– Japan’s first dark sky reserve – for undisturbed star-spotting

STAY: Sea Side House Hinano

Borrego Springs


WHY: You’ll find a different kind of A-list
star here. Scoot along from Palm Springs to a dark sky community
that’s said to possess a powerful cosmic energy. Drive out to
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to watch the sunrise over the
otherworldly terrain – it’s probably as close as we’ll ever come to
visiting Mars.

STAY: Borrego Valley Inn



WHY: At 3100 Kulmhotel Gornergrat – the highest
hotel in the Swiss Alps – in-room views across the Matterhorn are
almost as gorgeous as those from the in-house observatory. Wannabe
astronomers will want to visit during Space Trip (12-17 October) a
week dedicated to the skies.

STAY: 3100 Kulmhotel Gornergrat

La Fortuna

Costa Rica

WHY: Sure, Chile’s
Atacama Desert
is South America’s answer to Disneyland, but
more visitors means more light pollution and ultimately an
interruption in viewing conditions. Instead, travel to the small
village of La Fortuna, buried deep in the Costa Rican rainforest.
It’s one of the few places you can see the Magellanic Clouds, two
dwarf galaxies that merge into one another.

STAY: Nayara Springs

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