5 of the Best Places on Earth for Stargazing

See recent posts by Stefanie Waldek

The night sky is one of the most marvelous sights to behold, but thanks to electricity, it’s not always easy to get a great view of the stars. To find a spot that’s flooded with starlight, you’ll have to head out into nature, away from the light pollution of cities. As civilization grows, dark skies become more difficult to come by -- there’s actually a non-profit organization, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), whose mission is to preserve the night sky. Here, we take a look at five amazing places with uninhibited views of the stars.

1. Atacama Desert, Chile

Courtesy of Flickr/European Southern Observatory

Courtesy of Flickr/European Southern Observatory

Remote, high in elevation, and dry, the Atacama Desert is the definition of a great stargazing destination. It’s home to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a series of powerful radio telescopes that is the largest astronomical project in the world. The public can register for weekend tours of ALMA.

2. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah


This national monument — the first in Utah — was declared by the IDA the first International Dark Sky Park, which, as the IDA explains on its website, “is a land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.” Some 15,000 stars can be seen on clear nights here.

Where to stay in Bluff, an hour drive from the national monument:

3. Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Courtesy of Flickr/Max Delaquis

Courtesy of Flickr/Max Delaquis

At 13,802 feet, the summit of Mauna Kea is the highest point in Hawaii, and with its dry environment, it’s a prime stargazing spot. The Mauna Kea Observatories are home to 13 different telescopes operated by a variety of international organizations. Visitors can drive all the way from sea level to the summit, but they should note that the summit closes after sunset. The Visitor Information Station at 9,200 feet is open until 10 p.m. every day, and it offers stargazing programs throughout the year.

A luxury pick nearby:

4. Kiruna, Sweden

Courtesy of Flickr/G V

Courtesy of Flickr/G V

The northernmost town in Sweden is home to the Esrange Space Center, the Institute of Space Physics, and Spaceport Sweden. Thanks to its location in a very population-sparse region, the night sky is virtually uninterrupted by light pollution. In the winter, it’s common to see the Northern Lights here.

5. NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia


One of the darkest destinations in the world, this 600-square-mile nature reserve serves as basecamp for the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET). The local organization hosts overnight trips in the reserve to educate visitors, including local schoolchildren, about the night sky.

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