If you live somewhere with light pollution you might be thinking where can I go to stargaze? Here is a list of the best places to see stars including the darkest places on Earth. Are any near you?
Why are some places better for stargazing than others? Generally, it’s the absence of artificial lighting that makes the difference in making it easier to see the stars in the sky. Light pollution has a huge impact on the fun of stargazing.
So, as a rule, national parks and countryside or rural areas are better than cityscapes for stargazing. Other great places to stargaze are those at high altitudes.
18 Best Places to Stargaze Across the Globe
We’ve incorporated sites from the National Geographic list of the world’s best stargazing sites. These are places where stargazing with the naked eye is wonderous but where you’ll also get the most from using the optimal power of your telescope and astronomy binoculars.
The list includes southern hemisphere stargazing locations such as in Australia and New Zealand. The attraction here is that the southern hemisphere is where you’ll find the best places to see the Milky Way.
Index of places for stargazing Listed Here
1. Atacama Desert, Chile
Lauded as being nowhere better to see the stars, this place is about 2500 meters above sea level and 45-min by car from San Pedro. Some claim it’s the darkest place in the world.
It is a desolate spot with the nearest tourist town, Calama.
This is a southern hemisphere option and is one of the best places to see the Milky Way. You can view the southern night sky clearly at this dark location where the landscape makes you feel like you’re walking on Mars.
There is the observatory, San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations (SPACE), that is open to visitors.
Constellations: Southern Cross (Crux), the Big Dipper, and Alpha Centauri.
What’s good about this place? It’s low light pollution and lack of cloud cover, and of course, the observatory that’s open for sessions.
2. High Volcanoes of Hawaii
You’ll find a world-leading observatory along with the volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii, so it must be one of the best places for astronomy!
“The summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii hosts the world’s largest astronomical observatory, with telescopes operated by astronomers from eleven countries”, according to the University of Hawaii.
Why is this the best place to see stars, so much? The summit area is extremely dry. A tropical inversion cloud, about 600 meters (2,000 ft) thick, sits well below the summit, isolating the upper dry air from the lower moist atmosphere beneath. It is cloud-free with the chances of a clear night sky among the highest in the world.
Not only is it away from city lights, but the island itself has a lighting practice that maintains an extremely dark sky. The beautiful night sky from a volcano summit of the Big Island is guaranteed to be pure, dry, and free from atmospheric pollutants.
Visitors can stargaze from a designated level. Even so, you need to be a lover of high altitudes and cold temperatures for this one with the best viewing at 9-10 thousand feet.
3. National Parks of SW United States
There are a few US dark sky park options to choose from that are seasonally optimal for stargazing. These range from Acadia in the Northeast to Mount Rainier in the Northwest, Yellowstone in Wyoming, the Badlands in South Dakota, and Big Bend in Texas.
In 2007, the Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah became the world’s first designated dark-sky park.
Glacier Point in Yosemite is a popular summer viewing location for amateur astronomers.
Death Valley stargazing
Death Valley is one of the most famous (or infamous) desert areas in the country. While its dusty expanse might be home to some of the hottest temperatures on Earth, it’s also perfect for stargazing.
Death Valley has accommodation fitted out with sky-friendly lights to attract the sky-watchers.
When it comes to stargazing best spots are often determined by how far away from the bright lights of the city they are, and Death Valley is far from the cityscape of Los Angeles and San Diego.
4. La Palma, Canary Islands
Off the coast of north-west Africa, a major observatory exists on the Canary Islands at the edge of Caldera de Taburiente at an altitude of nearly eight thousand feet. This one requires some hiking.
Another high altitude spot at this location is Teide National Park, which boasts a volcano with the highest point in the Atlantic Ocean.
5. Western Australia Outback
In the southern hemisphere…
There are many parks and just open spaces of Western Australia that are great for stargazing within an hour or two of the capital city, Perth. Close locations include Gingin and Toodyay. There are observatory and space places designated nearby.
Known as the Wheatbelt, on a moonless night, the Milky Way will seem bright and endless.
The best national park location for this is the Pinnacles in the Nambung National Park. Travel along the Indian Ocean Drive on the Coral Coast and you’ll capture some great views.
Australia is a place known for its large open spaces with clear skies ideal for stargazing, particularly in the interior of Australia and not confined to Western Australia.
6. Arizona Sky Village
This 450-acre purpose-built village is nestled beside the Chiricahua Mountains. The closest city is Phoenix, which is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) away.
Astronomers, amateur stargazers and photographers from all over the globe come to this place for its spectacular night sky views.
What makes this place special is the village’s ‘no outdoor light’ rule.
There’s not much to do here in the daytime but the night is abuzz with activity.
Also in Arizona, is the Grand Canyon. It’s one to add to your bucket list – America’s most famous natural wonder also offers one of the best views of the night sky of anywhere in the Continental US.
7. The Sahara Desert, Morocco
Deserts are great for low light pollution and lack of cloud cover.
The sky at night in the Sahara illuminates as far as the eye can see. The Milky Way makes a clear statement and constellations like the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, and Cassiopeia can be clearly depicted.
There are tours on offer, so you don’t need to go it alone.
8. Easter Island (Rapa Nui), Chile
The Polynesians were apt sea voyagers who used the night sky to navigate. On Easter Island, the stargazing interest continues and you can learn the about the principles and the key night-sky objects used by navigators.
This place is about 6 hours by plane from Santiago de Chile or from Tahiti (French Polynesia).
9. Trysil, Norway
In the remote alpine ski resort of Trysil you’ll find cabins for stargazing. The place is about 3½ hours drive from Oslo, Norway. This is a site for viewing the northern lights.
10. NamibRand National Reserve, Namibia
One of the best places to look at the night sky in Africa is the nature reserve of Namibia, located in the eastern portion of the Namib desert. It has low humidity, which has two benefits: not making you feel like you’re melting from sticky hot conditions and providing a clear view of the night sky.
NamibRand is a private nature reserve in the south of Namibia and is said to be Africa’s only International Dark Sky Reserve. It is another southern hemisphere option.
The site is about a 6-hour drive from Windhoek, the closest major city.
The reserve “lies in one of the naturally darkest, yet accessible, places on Earth” according to the International Dark-Sky Association.
It should be noted that this location is located relatively far out in the desert. The closest town is Maltahöhe, which is roughly 100 kilometers away. The area offers impeccable views of celestial bodies in the center of our galaxy as well as the Magellanic Clouds at the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge.
11. Pic du Midi, France
In France, you’ll find the Pic du Midi International Dark Sky Reserve. This is in the Pyrénées France and one of the best places to see beautiful stars at night in Europe.
You can view the amazing night sky to the north, east, and south from a vast terrace atop the 9439 ft (2,877 m) peak, deep in the French Pyrenees. This is a reserve to preserve darkest spots on Earth and covers 236 sq mi (612 km2).
12. Brecon Beacons National Park, UK
One of the leading stargazing sites in the UK, this spot is one of the best places in Europe to view the Galilean satellites of Callisto, Europa, Ganymede, and Io orbiting Jupiter.
As one of the best star watching places in Wales, you can view not just the beautiful night sky but a Welsh architectural treasure in Llanthony Priory. You can also hit up a pub nearby because, well, it’s Britain.
13. Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, New Zealand
New Zealand is another amazing night sky viewing place in the southern hemisphere. At the Aoraki Mackenzie International dark sky reserve, you can take advantage of Mt John Night-time Observatory Tours and see different parts of the Milky Way and local features such as Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo.
14. Central Idaho US Dark Sky Park, Idaho
Stretching for more than 1,400 square miles, the Central Idaho Dark Sky Park is one of the best-regarded stargazing locations in the United States.
This part of Idaho has done a remarkable job of protecting the quality of its clear bright skies. When it comes to stargazing best places, it is often a matter of location, and this spot in central Idaho is simply in the perfect place to catch many of the finest stellar shows North America has to offer.
15. Northumberland Dark Sky Park, UK
If you want to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site while stargazing, here’s your chance. While summer isn’t the ideal time for most stargazing, here you can see meteors and comets along with various sites in the Milky Way at the Kielder Observatory.
Astronomers here offer telescope workshops, family nights, and other events to get the public excited about space.
16. Galloway Forest Park, UK
This Scottish stargazing locale sits on a hill, “elevating” its stargazing ability while offering a lovely view of the park area itself. While there are some open evenings, you typically need to book a special session per event to gain access to the observatory.
Even without a telescope, however, you can see the Northern lights as well as meteors zipping past. The observatory allows you to see different stellar nurseries and nebulae.
17. Mont-Mégantic International Dark Sky Reserve, Canada
One of the finest stargazing spots in Canada, this center in Quebec can offer a dazzling array of different viewing opportunities, including different spots in not just the Milky Way but the Andromeda Galaxy.
In addition, you can see different planets, satellites, shooting stars, nebulae, star clusters, the Northern Lights, and much more. What’s more, the observatory has telescopes which are powerful enough to allow you to see the moon’s craters.
18. Westhavelland International Dark Sky Reserve, Germany
Before there were Bowie’s albums, there was Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, and it’s the Brandenburg region of Germany where we find our final stargazing capital. Located 100 kilometers west of Berlin, you can see everything from the Milky Way to the Aurora Borealis.
Other best stargazing spots, cited by numerous sources:
Many other locations exist that can give you a great clear night sky view.
There might be a place close to you
Wherever you are, you’ll want somewhere away from light pollution.
You may have to go farther afield than your neighborhood, with light pollution currently impacting the abodes of 80% of the North Americans.
Tool to Find the Dark Sky Places
Where is the darkest place on the planet? Or other dark sky places?
This may become the Holy Grail of astronomy given the extent of light pollution on Earth today. Earth’s nights are becoming ever brighter with modern development, making it increasingly harder to find good spots to view and study celestial objects.
Already, light has impinged on established astronomy research institutions, like the Sydney Observatory in Australia, which no longer operates for research because of light impingement.
One place, the San Pedro de Atacama region of Northern Chile is said to be the darkest place on Earth for stargazing.
Find a designated dark sky spot in US and elsewhere at darksky.org
Where’s Your Dark Spot for Stargazing?
You may have to travel some miles to find a dark location or perhaps you are lucky and only need to go a short distance to appreciate star brightness in a dark sky.
“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.” – Stephen Hawking