The best 8 places to go stargazing
Stargazing is one of the simple pleasures of travel. Get out of the city and head somewhere remote - and you're likely to see stars you don't normally experience. We've enjoyed the stars from the top of Mount Teide in Tenerife, from dark sand beaches in Iceland and from Sri Lanka temples before dawn and we definitely recommend it.
You can enjoy dark skies - and certainly darker skies than you may be used to over any UK city - from almost anywhere, but a handful of destinations have been especially designated Dark Sky Parks or Reserves by the International Dark Sky Association, and these are often the very best spots for stargazing. Many of these hold festivals throughout the year, so here's our pick of the best spots around the world, and some of the best times to enjoy the dark skies.
In February, Dark Skies festivals kick off all over the UK, with most of the UK's best stargazing spots holding dedicated festivals. The North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Park are both recognised Dark Skies reserves and their festivals kick off on Feb 18 this year.
Highlights include night photography at Whitby, nighttime ghost walks at Robin Hood's Bay, the Aysgarth Falls planet trail and many opportunities to dine out under the stars at the various restaurants and hotels scattered through the Dales.
Death Valley, USA
Best known for cooking eggs on the bare rocks and the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth, on winter nights Death Valley is pleasantly mild - and also a great place to see the stars.
Death Valley National Park is a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park, which is the highest rating of darkness. Its Dark Skies Festival runs in the winter, and this year it's from Feb 25 to Feb 27. It's a collaboration between the park, SETI and various Californian scientific institutes and attractions on offer include the chance for kids to build a Mars lander (because "Death Valley is a lot like Mars"!).
The British Airways i360 pod, Brighton
The South Downs are another UK spot designated a Dark Skies Reserve, and on February 18 the i360 pod – you know, the giant glass elevator on Brighton sea front – is holding a stargazing evening from the pod.
Where better to see the stars than a whole 450 feet closer? Hop in the pod and hear all about the constellations from the Dark Skies Officer of the park himself.
International Dark Skies week
April 22 - April 30 is 2022's International Dark Skies Week, and many of the parks and reserves around the world expect to hold celebrations and events accordingly. The McDonald Observatory in Texas, for example, holds its annual festival then. Check out the list of reserves around the world for one that'll be holding a celebration in April.
NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia
The first, and still one of the only accredited Dark Skies Reserves in Africa, NamibRand offers sustainable and ecologically-sensitive safaris and balloon rides over the park. Guides on the Tok-Tokkie trails are trained in astronomy and tell you how to get the best view of the constellations and planets and Kwessie Dunes Lodge has dedicated stargazing rooms completely open to the sky.
Cévennes National Park, France
Les Nuits du Causse Noir at Cévennes park near Montpellier is traditionally held in July by the Montepellier Astronomical Society. Interrupted for the last couple of years like so many other events, we're hoping this opportunity to watch the stars from France's most spectacular Dark Skies Reserve will resume in 2022.
Jasper Dark Sky Festival, Canada
Held October 14 - 22 this year, if you want to enjoy the stars somewhere seriously remote this is the spot for you. The Jasper Dark Sky Festival takes place deep in the Canadian Rockies, not far from ski resort Banff and accessible by flying into Edmonton and then either driving, taking the bus or - our choice - the train through the mountains.
Exmoor National Park
Wrapping up a year of dark skies is the Exmoor festival, held October 13 - 30 in the Somerset and Devon national park. The programme isn't finalised yet but as in previous years is likely to include dusk safaris and stargazing excursions by boat.