11 best places to stargaze in the world
Imagine a pristine night sky, a blanket of stars stretching to infinity, and a sense of wonder that transcends time and place. Stargazing allows you to witness the vastness of the universe, reminding you of a larger world outside your every day worries.
Whether you're an astronomy enthusiast, an outdoor lover, or simply looking for a romantic escape, the night sky has something special for you. But here's the catch: to truly savor this celestial treat, you need to venture beyond the city lights. From the Canary Islands to Hawaii, here’s some of the best spots to go stargazing, and tips on how to make the most of it.
1. Joshua Tree National Park, California, United States
Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California is an International Dark Sky Park, dedicated to preserving the natural darkness of the night sky, allowing you to see the stars more clearly. By day, its rich history, archeological sites, and biodiversity make it perfect for hikes. But night time is when the park is at its most magical. Park your car in the roadside pullouts next to Skull Rock at night for beautiful starry views. Or, hike the short Cap Rock trail where the iconic Joshua Trees form perfect silhouettes against a backdrop of stars. Keys View also offers panoramic views of the Coachella Valley and the surrounding mountains enveloped by stars.
There are community-led stargazing events that provide free telescopes for you to see constellations more easily. For camping enthusiasts, Cottonwood Campground is a great option if you want to sleep under the stars.
2. Lahbab Desert, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Located in Dubai, the Lahbab Desert is a captivating stargazing destination, known for its pristine night skies. During the winter months from November to February, you can spot winter constellations like Taurus, Canis Minor, Canis Major, Gemini, and Orion. For the full desert experience, start your day with a hot air balloon or camel ride on this tour, and try sandboarding or dune bashing.
3. The Pinnacles Desert, Cervantes, Australia
The Pinnacles Desert, just two hours from Perth, unveils a surreal and otherworldly landscape adorned with thousands of limestone formations, resembling ancient pillars rising from the earth. Now imagine that over a sunset dinner with a sky full of stars.
On this stargazing tour, you’ll start your adventure sandboarding at the Lancelin Sand Dunes and then over to the white sand beaches of Hangover Bay Coast, before making your way to Nilgen Lookout for panoramic ocean views. If you can’t get enough, you can consider staying overnight in the nearby town of Cervantes.
4. Mauna Kea Summit, Hawaii, United States
Mauna Kea in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, is known for its exceptional stargazing experiences and its volcanic landscape. This dormant volcano rises above the clouds and houses numerous observatories at its summit. Here, you can stargaze through powerful telescopes and learn from expert astronomers.
This tour starts with a picnic dinner at the base of Mauna Kea, before heading to the summit to enjoy views of the sunset and Mauna Loa, one of the largest volcanoes in the world. Afterward, you’ll be driven down to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station to start your stargazing experience.
5. Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
The Canary Islands are home to three Starlight Reserves: La Palma, Tenerife, and Fuerteventura. These reserves are recognized for their exceptional efforts in preserving natural darkness for the best stargazing experiences.
On Tenerife’s Guajara Mountain, you'll find excellent conditions for stargazing, thanks to the high altitude and low light pollution. Or, come along on this guided tour where you can savor authentic Canarian cuisine and cava, and witness a breathtaking sunset above a sea of clouds, all while indulging in a glass of cava. Then, end off by uncovering the mystery behind the stars with computerized telescopes and laser-guided stargazing.
6. Lake Tekapo, South Island, New Zealand
Nestled in South Island is Lake Tekapo, famous for its celestial views and the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd. Grab your camera and admire the church beneath the starry sky. You can also witness the brilliance of the Milky Way—no equipment needed—at the Aoraki MacKenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the biggest dark sky reserve in the world.
7. Sedona, Arizona, United States
Sedona is known for its vortexes like Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock, which are believed to be natural energy centers that heighten one's cosmic connection. Join a guided stargazing tour to see the stunning night sky and delve into captivating constellation stories and local indigenous star associations. For the best stargazing experience, plan your visit during clear, moonless nights in Sedona's dark sky areas.
8. Andes Mountains, Santiago, Chile
Chile’s vibrant capital is nestled in the breathtaking Andes Mountains. High in the Andes, a private observatory is where your stargazing adventure begins. Sip on a welcoming glass of wine as you listen to an astronomer-led presentation that reveals the wonders of the universe. Under the Andean night sky, explore the cosmos with your naked eye, then binoculars, and finally, powerful telescopes. Join this stargazing tour for a full day of fun—you’ll start the day with sunrise views at the majestic valley of Cajón del Maipo, then head to the seven natural hot springs of Termas Valle de Colina, before ending the night stargazing in the Andes Mountains.
The best times to visit are March to May or September to November for the clearest skies.
9. Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
As the sun sets in the Blue Mountains, just a short drive from Sydney, the starry skies take center stage. Seek out a super dark spot for stargazing, like Lincoln’s Rock, and you'll be rewarded with unobstructed views of the cosmos.
In the day, the Blue Mountains is a road trip paradise. Explore dramatic canyons, the lush greenery of Mayfield Garden, the cascading waterfalls of Wentworth Falls, or hike to the Three Sisters. And for those who appreciate the wonders below the Earth's surface, be sure not to miss the breathtaking Jenolan Caves.
10. Death Valley National Park, California, United States
In the heart of Death Valley National Park, stargazing is a truly remarkable experience. As the lowest point in North America, the Badwater Basin’s depth and unique geographical features create a captivating setting for stargazing. The dark, expansive salt flats extend your field of view, allowing you to witness the stars from a unique vantage point.
The absence of vegetation, open terrain, and minimal light pollution also make Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes great for observing constellations. Visit during the spring or fall months when the desert climate is more moderate, offering clearer skies and pleasant temperatures for your nighttime explorations.
Start the day by escaping the heat with a hike to Darwin Falls, an unexpected desert oasis, before ending the day with wine tasting and capturing stunning night photos against the dramatic desert scenery on this tour.
11. Vicentine Coast Natural Park, Algarve, Portugal
With minimal light pollution and a backdrop of serene natural beauty, Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park offer several stargazing spots. The beach at Porto Covo is tucked away from the village lights, making it an ideal location for stargazing. On clear nights, you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye. The best time for stargazing is between June and September when there is limited rainfall.
Join this tour which starts in Lagos and trek across some of Portugal’s tallest coastal cliffs, learn about the coast’s history and plants, and finally, have a homemade picnic on the clifftop, under the stars.
Tips for stargazing:
- Choose nights with minimal moonlight. New moon nights, when the moon is absent from the sky, offer the clearest views of stars and celestial objects.
- Download stargazing apps or carry star maps to help identify stars and constellations. These tools enhance your understanding of the night sky, making locating and appreciating celestial wonders easier.
- Monitor weather forecasts and choose nights with favorable conditions to avoid cloud cover.
- It can get cold so dress warmly and bring blankets to stay comfortable during extended stargazing sessions.
- Bring a camera with manual settings for photos of the night sky. A tripod helps stabilize your camera, reducing blurriness in long-exposure shots.
- Join a stargazing tour led by experts. These tours provide valuable insights into the night sky's wonders, and even stargazing equipment like telescopes for a closer look at the stars.