Top five stargazing locations around the world
| By Alison Cavatore | September 20, 2022
If you're searching for a stay that is out of this world, look no further. Our eyes are on the sky, too, as Hilton is the official hotel partner of Starlab, Voyager’s planned free-flying commercial space station. While we’re all on the ground, we’ll help you expand your travel horizons and prepare for some awe-inspiring sights as we take you to the top five stargazing locations around the world. Trust us, read on for a truly remarkable way to experience the great outdoors.
Look up: Forget the skyscrapers — stargazing amid sand dunes in Dubai provides an other-worldly experience
Visual thrills: Bundle up for an Icelandic adventure under the stars
Dreamy desert: Vast desert landscapes and high mountain peaks ensure vivid stargazing moments around Phoenix
Looking up in Dubai is nothing new — the skyscrapers will take your breath away any time of the day. But for an even more unique travel experience, head outside the bustling city for a serene nighttime safari that includes stargazing in the sand dunes.
To be fully prepared, visit the Al Thuraya Astronomy Center, located in the middle of Mushrif Park, to see the largest telescope in the region for public observation. The center offers a range of services, including daily showings of documentaries, series and movies related to astronomy and general sciences, astronomy and astrophotography courses and a solar experience where you can observe sunspots and solar flares.
Best of all, early morning or late evening stargazing is a perfect activity for those who want to beat the heat but still enjoy the great outdoors.
If you’re willing to brave the cold, Iceland’s dark winter skies and longer evenings cater to the extraordinary Northern Lights, which appear almost nightly from November through February. Not to worry if you’re visiting in a different month, though – stargazing is possible almost year-round here.
If you’re staying in Reykjavik, the Grotta Lighthouse and adjoining beach is only a 10-minute drive from downtown but still offer a clear view of the dark sky. For an even more majestic experience, travel farther north to Myvatn, a volcanic lake area known as the Northern Lights capital of Iceland where spectacular displays of green, purple, pink and red light up the sky eight months out of the year.
Golfing and hiking excursions may fill your days in Phoenix, but the nighttime skies have much to offer too. Ideal weather conditions and a commitment to fighting light pollution make Phoenix and its surrounding areas a stargazer’s dream destination.
Book a stargazing experience with an expert guide who can highlight the spectacular constellations or venture out on your own to one of the many prime stargazing locations, including the Phoenix Mountains Preserve (found just 20 minutes from downtown), which has some of the best panoramic views in the area.
Two hours outside of Phoenix, you’ll find yourself far enough away from city lights that you can see the Milky Way. The high-altitude desert community of Sedona is a certified International Dark Sky City, with stargazing events that grant access to expert astronomers and state-of-the-art equipment.
Well known for its challenging mountain trails and being home to Nevada’s only glacier, Great Basin National Park near Baker is also an International Dark Sky Park. Due to low humidity, minimal light pollution and high elevation, the area has some of the darkest night skies in the United States. On a clear evening, you’ll be able to see thousands of stars, numerous planets, the Milky Way, Andromeda Galaxy and even meteors with the naked eye.
Approximately four-and-a-half hours away from the bright lights of Las Vegas, this Nevada national park is a great weekend destination for those looking to try their luck at stargazing. Make it fun for all ages and check out the Star Train where Great Basin dark sky rangers answer questions, talk trivia and give out prizes. The train makes a stop out of town where passengers can disembark to look through high-powered telescopes before returning to Ely station.
A tropical haven of outdoor adventure, Maui is a prime stargazing destination. Approximately an hour and 15 minutes from Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort you’ll find Haleakala National Park, which features pristine dark skies from its summit. High elevation and minimal light pollution allow for ideal viewing conditions and makes this national park one of the best places to observe the heavens.
One insider travel tip? As with most nighttime excursions, be sure to pack warm clothes with the rest of your stargazing gear, even in tropical destinations. This way you’ll be prepared for clear skies, cool nights and most importantly, an out-of-this-world experience that won’t be forgotten.
Alison Cavatore is the assistant editor for the content marketing team at Hilton. She has written and copyedited for numerous print and digital publications in the U.S. and abroad. Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Alison has lived in Miami, Scottsdale, Holland, France, Switzerland and Canada. She currently resides in the Washington, D.C. area.