For centuries we have looked to the heavens and marvelled at the mysteries of the universe. Throughout history, stars and the night sky have formed part of religious practices, folklore and mythology, and have been used for navigation and orientation.
With the rise of urbanisation and increasing light pollution across the world’s immense cities, the sight of a starry night sky is becoming a rarity with a meagre 125 stars visible from some areas of Sydney and Melbourne, according to the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences. The rise of ‘Astro-tourism’ has seen vast numbers of stargazers enticed to darksky preserves across the globe, from the deserts of Chile, Namibia and Iran, to the national parks of Utah, California and Ireland. Amateur astronomers are drawn to the grand observatories of Greenwich in the UK, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea and Tenerife in the Canary Islands, and contemplators of the universe enjoy celestial phenomenon such as the Northern Lights and solar eclipses from vantage points across the globe.
However, perfect conditions for stargazing usually come with one thing in common – isolation. For some travellers this is the icing on the cake, but others prefer to enjoy the mysteries of the universe in luxury and comfort, from a destination boasting other attractions. If you are the type of traveller that would like your holiday filled with amazing daytime activities, yet also enjoy the beauty and spectacle of the night sky, here are a few of our top spots to make the most of the heavens above as well as your time on Earth.
Canada - Snow & Stars
The alpine town of Jasper in Alberta is a haven for outdoor activities by day. The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge offers golf, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and kayaking in the summer and snow sports in the winter, including skiing, snowshoeing and ice-skating. Relax after an active day at the hotel spa and enjoy a spot of stargazing from your cedar chalet. It is a common misconception that the Northern Lights can only be seen from the far northern reaches of the planet.
On a clear night in winter, the magical light phenomenon can be enjoyed from Fairmont Jasper Park. Jasper is the second largest dark-sky preserve in the world. This designation protects Jasper National Park and the sky above it by restricting levels of artificial light and light pollution in the area. Annually in October, Jasper celebrates the cosmos with the Dark Sky Festival, which offers an opportunity to power down and look up, with past features including Symphony under the Stars, guided stargazing, photography workshops and space talks from astronauts and scientific experts.
Okavanga Delta - Safari by Day, Stars by Night
Set among the shady trees of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the Sanctuary Baines’ Camp is an intimate eco retreat with five luxurious suites. By day, enjoy African adventures including exploring the winding waterways on a mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe, or in specially adapted motorboats. Watch wildlife including elephants and hippos from the camp’s pool, take game drives in open 4×4 safari vehicles or enjoy an introspective walking safari.
Once night settles, your romantic oasis awaits. Retreat to your suite and take an indulgent soak in your opulent star bath under a clear night sky. Or wheel your mobile four-poster bed out onto your private deck, overlooking the shimmering waters of the Boro River, and sleep under a star-studded sky.
Maldives - The Best of Sea Sky
Observe the magical mirror effect of sea and sky at the opulent Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas. Perfectly situated on a private island in the Maldives, this luxury resort has long been renowned as an ideal destination to explore the underwater world of the stunning Indian Ocean, with dolphin-watching cruises, turtle or manta ray snorkelling trips, scuba courses or Seabob experiences. You can even dine below the ocean’s surface at SEA, the resort’s underwater restaurant and wine cellar. Once the sun sets, turn your focus to the skies.
The recently opened Overwater Observatory, complete with SKY cocktail bar and custom-built, research-grade telescope provides the ultimate in leisurely stargazing. The Maldives’ position just above the equator, coupled with low light pollution and clear skies, allows for perfect viewing of both northern and southern hemispheres stars. Ascend to the SKY bar roof for cocktails as the night sky reveals a galaxy of stars. Sip champagne as you lay back on large circular day beds with the sky above, enjoy the expertise of the resident SKY Guru, or take a peek through the telescope. Your biggest decision is whether to sip, swim or stargaze, what to do first?
Uluru - Dine under the Stars
Nestled among ancient dunes overlooking iconic Uluru, Longitude 131° is a gathering of 16 tented pavilions that take glamping to a new level of luxury. Explore the area’s pristine natural beauty, flora and fauna and enjoy the ever-changing colours of Uluru against the timeless desert landscape. Australia’s Red Centre offers some of the world’s best stargazing opportunities. At Uluru, the moon and stars are almost the only source of light at night.
The low level of unnatural light, low humidity and desert landscape allow you to explore the galaxy of stars above. Dine under the stars at the exclusive Table 131 for one of the world’s most remarkable dining experiences, featuring local flavours in a desert setting. Listen as the resident astrologist locates constellations and learn of the significance of the night sky in Aboriginal stories of creation.