Five of our favorite spots for astrotourism, and what to know before you go.
Blessed with good weather and a “sky law” to protect the area from light pollution, the Canary Islands, situated off southwestern Morocco, are one of the world’s hottest destinations for astrotourism. Teide National Park in Tenerife is home to an area known as a Starlight Tourist Destination where visitors can observe constellations with the naked eye.
From indulgent camping experiences in the Bedouin tradition to planetariums, Oman offers several options for satisfying stargazing curiosity. Beyond Muscat is an area called Jebel Shams, known as the Grand Canyon of the Middle East. Situated 3,000 meters above sea level, it is beloved by astronomers for its elevation and dark skies.
Whether camping at nearby Joshua Tree National Park or gazing from the surrounding desert hills, visitors can be awed by the heavens courtesy of some of the darkest nights Southern California has to offer. The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage hosts Saturday Stargazing sessions, which uncover constellations and nearby planets, including Jupiter’s bands and four of its moons.
"Stars were our directional signs, traffic lights and signals,” says Clifford Naeole, cultural adviser at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, of Polynesian celestial navigation. Star-based navigation helped bring the first settlers across the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands, and that history, plus Hawaii’s legendary beauty, makes stargazing here a truly unique experience.
With open spaces and telescope-ready mountains, the Sonoran Desert is one of the top U.S. stargazing destinations. One reason: The Kitt Peak National Observatory, which boasts the largest collection of optical and radio telescopes in the world. Nearby, in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains, the desert atmosphere at Dove Mountain provides the perfect setting for stargazing under the saguaros.