In this modern age of bright lights and big cities, busy lifestyles and constant social connections, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of life’s simple pleasures.
Take, for example, a beautiful night sky with countless stars shimmering overhead. There are few things that can inspire a feeling of awe and wonder like gazing up at the celestial light show taking place above us every night.
On a clear evening, in the right location, it can be almost overwhelming.
Not all destinations are created equal when it comes to enjoying these views, however, as light pollution, smog and other manmade elements can conspire with one another to blot out the heavens. But fear not: There are still destinations on Earth that offer spectacular views of the night sky for us to enjoy.
Acadia National Park, Maine
While a number of national parks in the U.S. are lauded for their excellent stargazing, Acadia National Park is among the very best.
The park is considered one of the largest dark-sky zones east of the Mississippi River, and its rugged and beautiful coastline makes for a dramatic backdrop to the amazing views overhead. Stargazing is such a popular pastime in Acadia that there is even a yearly festival held there to celebrate the activity. The event draws hundreds of visitors to take in the wondrous view.
Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia
Located in a remote region of Australia’s Northern Territory, Uluru — also known as Ayers Rock — is one of the best places on Earth to view the night sky.
Because the massive sandstone monolith is located far from the lights of any major cities or townships, complete darkness surrounds the area after nightfall. This makes for unfettered viewing of the skies above and a truly awe-inspiring landscape in which to take it all in.
The fact that Aboriginal tribesmen have been observing the stars there for thousands of years only adds to the mystique.
The White Desert, Farafra Oasis, Egypt
Deserts always make for great stargazing because they are often completely devoid of people, free from pollution and rarely have enough water vapor to create cloud cover of any kind.
Egypt’s White Desert definitely meets all of those criteria, and as a result, the night skies are simply breathtaking. On most evenings the Milky Way can be clearly seen overhead; countless stars generate enough light to illuminate even the sand dunes that are spread out across the region.
It is a mesmerizing view, to say the least, and visitors will no doubt find themselves captivated by the wide-open expanse where the earth meets the sky.
Mauna Kea, Hawaii
The dormant volcano of Mauna Kea in the Hawaiian Islands is another top spot for stargazing — so much so that more than 13 observatories have been built at its summit to take advantage of the unique atmospheric conditions that exist there. With dry, clear air and an altitude of nearly 14,000 feet, the mountain is perfect for amateur and professional astronomers alike.
The fact that it happens to sit far enough away from any cities so as to prevent light pollution from becoming a problem is just icing on the cake. In fact, it is so dark atop Mauna Kea that even some of the faintest celestial bodies in the universe are visible from there. It is not uncommon to find a large group of stargazers on top of the mountain armed with their own personal telescopes.
Atacama Desert, Chile
There are few places on the planet that can match Chile’s Atacama Desert in terms of heavenly views.
As the driest place on the planet, its skies are completely free from clouds and water vapor, and since there are no large cities anywhere nearby, light pollution is practically nonexistent. Add in the fact that much of the desert sits at high altitude and you have all of the makings of an unbelievable celestial show.
In recent years a number of observatories have been built in the Atacama to take advantage of these conditions, but amateur astronomers need only glance up at the night sky to understand what all the fuss is about. It is an awe-inspiring sight that has the power to bring you to your knees with the grandeur of it all. You could travel the globe in search of a better night sky and yet the Atacama would still be without peer.
There are, of course, many other places across the globe that offer excellent stargazing as well. To find them, check out the website for the International Dark-Sky Association.