The sun, moon and stars have fascinated humankind since time immemorial. Aside from giving us a measure of time and geographical orientation, celestial bodies feed our imagination. Gazing into the night sky, we sense the vastness of the universe and mysteries beyond our comprehension. Stargazing is humbling, endlessly fascinating and hopelessly romantic.
Before we lose our heads, there are a few important things to consider while reaching for the stars. NASA reportedly spent $2.1 billion to put the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit, which shows how bothersome the earth’s atmosphere can be to an astronomer. The best stargazing locations are generally the most remote, as light pollution seriously impedes a view of the night sky. Since humidity causes haze, a dry climate is also favorable.
Pursuit of such surroundings will lead to some interesting corners of the globe. The Atacama Desert in Chile, the driest desert in the world, features isolation, an altitude of 16,404 feet and ALMA, the most expensive ground-based telescope. (The acronym stands for Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array and means “soul” in Spanish.) These characteristics combined give you a closer look at the stars than anywhere else on the planet.
The Alqueva region in the south of Portugal is the first site in the world to receive the Starlight Tourism Destination certification; it has 286 clear nights a year and caters to astro tourists with a number of activities and services. At the Singita Grumeti Reserves in northern Tanzania, you can contemplate the Southern Cross with the local population of lions and hyenas.
No matter where you land, be sure to look up.