The world's best places for stargazing

written by
Lucy Cowie

updated 20.11.2023

The beauty of the night sky has been something that has inspired and humbled humanity for thousands of years. Movements like the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) are dedicated to preserving the night sky and reducing light pollution for the environment and astro-tourists alike. From remote islands to national parks and deserts, here’s our pick of the world’s best places for stargazing.

This article is inspired by our Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for travelling the world.

1. Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

The Brecon Beacons is Wales’s first "Dark Sky Reserve" and has effectively minimised light pollution with the involvement of local communities. The protected night sky here creates fantastic conditions to view meteor showers, nebulas and, more rarely, the Northern Lights.

City-dwellers from nearby Cardiff and Bristol can bring their binoculars to Hay Bluff or to the atmospheric ruins of medieval Llanthony Priory to experience one of the world’s best places for stargazing.

Milky Way over the Brecon Beacons National Park © Charles Palmer/Shutterstock

The outstanding natural beauty of the Milky Way over the Brecon Beacons © Charles Palmer/Shutterstock

2. Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, New Zealand

The night skies above New Zealand's mountainous Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and glacial Lake Tekapo are so clear and dark that the distant Magellanic Clouds are visible year-round. This is one of the world's largest Dark Sky discovery sites and has been awarded gold tier designation by the IDA.

Earth & Sky introduce astro-tourists to the southern hemisphere’s celestial highlights during tours of Mt John Observatory.

Or browse other accomodation near Aoraki National Park

Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve © Matt Makes Photos/Shutterstock

Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve © Matt Makes Photos/Shutterstock

3. Death Valley National Park, USA

Death Valley’s desolate canyons, salt flats and dunes are in and of themselves an inspirational site. At night, despite its proximity to the vivid city lights of Las Vegas, maintains "gold-tier" night skies.

Not for the faint-hearted, this park is known for its extremely harsh conditions and indomitable heat. Take the hassle out of planning and booking and go on the US trip of your dreams with our tailor-made trip service. Our trips are completely customisable and are created by local travel experts.


Zabriskie Point star trails, Death Valley © Jane Rix/Shutterstock

4. Pic du Midi, France - one of the best places for stargazing in Europe

Haute-Pyrénées in southern France, is home to Pyrénées National Park. Here you'll find Europe's largest area for starry skies — the International Dark Sky Reserve and the Pic du Midi Observatory.

The Pic du Midi is an extraordinary viewpoint by day and night. As sunset gradually dims the mountainous panorama, bright stars blanket the skies. Space enthusiasts can spot constellations and planets on evening or overnight trips with cable cars ascending to the summit, cocktails and guided stargazing sessions.

Find accommodation at any budget near Pyrénées National Park


Pyrénées National Park — one of the world's best places for stargazing © HUANG Zheng/Shutterstock

5. Atacama Desert, Chile

Exceptionally dry conditions and limited cloud cover combine with the desert’s 5000m elevation to make The Atacama Desert of Chile one of the world’s best places for stargazing.

International scientists use the high-tech satellites at the ALMA Observatory to "search for our cosmic origins", documenting the earliest stars and galaxies. The vast antennas clustered in the Atacama Desert are an otherworldly sight, angled expectantly towards the skies. Whether travelling in a group or alone, seeing the stars from the Atacama Desert is a site not to be missed.

Or see other accommodation near the Atacama Desert

Milky way in Licancabur volcano at Atacama Desert © Fotografo de los Andes/Shutterstock

Milky Way over the Licancabur Volcano at Atacama Desert © Fotografo de los Andes/Shutterstock

6. Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Thirteen huge telescopes occupy the summit of 4200m-high Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the southernmost Hawaiian island. In the darkness enabled by its altitude and low light pollution, scientists can scan the limits of the observable universe, detecting light from distant galaxies.

Between sunrise and sunset, the mountaintop is open to visitors who have acclimatised to the high elevation. Hawaii is also known for other fantastic night opportunities — including night dives with manta rays.

The Milky Way rising over Mauna Kea volcano © J nel/Shutterstock

The Milky Way rising over Mauna Kea Volcano © J nel/Shutterstock

7. Sark, Channel Islands

Designated as the world’s first "Dark Sky Island" in 2011, tiny Sark is free from cars and street lighting, keeping light pollution very low. After sunset, the skies above the smallest of the Channel Islands become an inky-black backdrop illuminated by thousands of bright stars. Planets and, occasionally, shooting stars can be spotted with the naked eye. Sark also has its own observatory for closer encounters with the solar system.

Sark, Channel Islands © Allard One/Shutterstock

Channel Islands © Allard One/Shutterstock

8. NamibRand Nature Reserve, Nambia

In daylight, the NamibRand Nature Reserve of Nambia is a dazzling wilderness of rust-coloured dunes and sandy plains, framed by the Nubib Mountains. Leopards, oryx and zebra roam through the desert, tracked by low-impact safari groups.

By dark, stargazing visitors are treated to magnificent sightings of the moon, planets and constellations, justifying NamibRand’s status as Africa’s first Dark Sky Reserve. A trip to Nambia is not complete without taking some time to bask in the glow of the stars.

Want to experience Nambia but without the hassle of booking and planning? Our Nambia Self-Drive trip offers you the experience of seeing many of the ruins that Mexico has to offer up close and in person.


Namib Desert sand dunes with Milky Way © jirawatfoto/Shutterstock

9. Teide Observatory, Tenerife

If your idea of the Canary Islands is limited to package holidays and karaoke bars, think again. Since 1964, the high-altitude Teide Observatory, perched on a volcano in Tenerife, has been an international hub for solar astronomy, with teams from around the world using its sophisticated telescopes to make new discoveries about the sun.

Volcano Teide offers fledgling astronomers guided tours of the observatory, while their "starlight guides" can point out constellations from both hemispheres, meteor showers and, in season, the Summer Triangle.

Night, starry sky above the astronomical observatory in the Teide volcano national park in Tenerife © Mike Mareen/Shutterstock

Starry night sky over Tenerife © Mike Mareen/Shutterstock

10. Kerry, Ireland

Star clusters, nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy are all visible to the naked eye in the unpolluted skies above the lush Kerry peninsula, which is flanked by the Kerry Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.

Although its "Dark Sky Reserve" title is a 21st-century acquisition, inscriptions found on the region’s prehistoric monuments suggest that its inhabitants have been observing the planets for thousands of years. Today, guides use laser beams and telescopes to further enhance visitors’ views of the heavens. Stargazing is one of the best things to do in Ireland.

Or see other accommodation in Kerry


Kerry is one of the best places for stargazing © Agatha Kadar/Shutterstock

11. Exmoor National Park, England

Exmoor, a region situated in the South West of England, is characterized by its rolling open moorland terrain, spanning across West Somerset and North Devon. At the end of October each year, this is the home of the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival which hosts a bounty of events for stargazers.

Throughout the year, however, Exmoor National Park is one of the best places for stargazing in the world. This park with dark sky status has many ideal spots to explore. Our picks are Holdstone Hill, County Gate or Haddon Hill.

Milky Way over Wimbleball Lake, Exmoor National Park, Devon UK © Shutterstock

Milky Way over Wimbleball Lake, Exmoor National Park, Devon UK © Shutterstock

Taking the perfect trip to see the stars

Our local experts can plan wonderful trips for you to Ireland, Norway, or anywhere you have been dreaming of travelling. Simply get in touch when you would like to travel. We will then create a personalized itinerary, which you can amend until you are totally happy with every detail of the booking. All of our planned itineraries can be tailored to meet your specific needs.

Ready to start planning your trip? Don't miss our Rough Guides Guidebooks for more travel tips and inspiration.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Ready to travel and discover

Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels

Plan my trip ⤍