• WorldView
  • 3 Min Read

Best Places Around the World for Stargazing

The stars are one of humanity’s true universal languages. They’ve served as a compass, a muse, and a constant source of light across cultures for time immemorial. Today, however, a third of the world’s population can no longer see the Milky Way due to manmade light pollution, including 99 percent of the continental United States. Electricity has paved the way for endless opportunities, but in many cases, it’s also cost us our connection to the cosmos. To rediscover the wonders of the night sky, we have to go beyond our own backyards. Get Inspired By Photos, Videos, Webinars, Stories, And Exclusive Offers. Sign Up

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Star maps showing the constellations in both hemispheres.

Top Tips for Viewing the Night Sky

Before booking a sojourn to darker skies, you'll want to brush up on some
tips for stargazing. Skillwise, it seems as simple as looking up, but the key is being in the right place at the right time. Conditions are best in remote areas, and on cloudless nights during a new moon. The second most important skill is patience; it takes time for human eyesight to acclimate to pitch black. Even in the best places to see stars, you may not be immediately dazzled. Closing your eyes for 20-30 seconds might help expedite your transition to “night vision,” or you could borrow a trick from avid astronomers and wear sunglasses all evening before heading out. 

After 10-15 minutes in the dark, the depths of the galaxy will begin to reveal themselves. Hoping to spot blazing meteors and orbiting satellites among the more static celestial bodies? Relax your gaze and try focusing on your peripheral vision, which is better at picking up subtle movements.

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A view of zodiacal light, a cone of luminous white light that appears an hour or so after sunset or right before dawn. 

If you’ll need artificial light to navigate trails, be sure to bring red LEDs, which are least obtrusive. And to avoid the bright beam of your phone screen, familiarize yourself with the area’s constellation chart in advance. Stellarium, an open-source planetarium for your computer, allows you to simulate the stars in 3D from locations across the globe. 

Once you’ve got your aerial bearings, you won’t need NASA’s James Webb telescope to take amazing photos of the stars. Cameras with ultra-wide lenses and the capacity for long exposures are nice-to-haves, but a steady tripod tops the list of the best gear for astrophotography. Binoculars, too, will open up even more to explore above. Take advantage of the OM System Photo Gear Locker on board the Lindblad-National Geographic fleet and borrow some gear to test drive out in the field.

Now, it’s time to take your eyes to the skies! From the sprawling deserts of South America to some of Earth’s most isolated isles, these remote, dark sky destinations boast some of the world’s best stargazing.

Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific

More than three centuries after the infamous mutiny on the Bounty, the descendents of the mutineers are dedicated to preserving the natural splendor of Pitcairn’s land, waters, and skies. In 2019, the islands were named the Mata ki te Rangi (Tahitian for “eyes to the sky”) International Dark Sky Sanctuary. Each night at 10:30 p.m., the power supply shuts down and the island’s five sole street lights go dark, giving way to the brilliant stars of the southern hemisphere and the swirling nebulas of the Milky Way’s galactic core.

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Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia

Home to an estimated 70 percent of the world’s telescopes, Chile is considered the global capital of astronomy. While many observatories are located in the Atacama Desert, Patagonia shares its low levels of light pollution, high altitudes, and lack of precipitation. By day, Torres del Paine bursts with epic scenery—snow-capped mountains, windswept pampas, iconic wildlife—but an even more breathtaking show awaits after sunset, when the glittering universe seems to be made of more stars than sky.

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Channel Islands National Park, California

Many of America’s National Parks have earned International Dark Sky Park status, and this five-island nature preserve is one of the darkest among them. Less than 100 miles from Los Angeles and its particular brand of Hollywood stars, these rugged, volcanic isles seem to transport you back in time to a prehistoric Californian coast—with the inky blue-black skies to match. A tip from our expedition developer Karen Kuest: the best celestial views are often out over the Pacific, so focus your gaze westward, away from the coast.

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Java, Indonesia

In the tropics, twilight is short. Just moments after the sun sinks below the horizon, nightfall lowers its deep blue curtain and the show begins. Some of the first stars to emerge will likely be the four crystal-clear points of the Southern Cross, a beacon of nocturnal navigation for thousands of years. Indonesia is also one of Asia’s best places to see the Milky Way, which—when situated above the island’s 45 active volcanoes—paints the sky with its own form of astronomical eruption.

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Easter Island, Chile

Among the towering moai statues, stargazers on Rapa Nui can take in the wide-open southern skies from one of the most remote inhabited places on the planet. As early as 800 C.E., Polynesian wayfinders navigated using the same stars to reach this enigmatic enclave in the middle of the Pacific. Head out just as the sun is setting to catch the tropical phenomenon of zodiacal light, a reflection of meteoric dust that hovers over the horizon in a fleeting, ethereal glow.

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Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Isolation, clear skies, desert climate: the same conditions that have fostered a myriad of charismatic wildlife also happen to be ideal for stargazing. This legendary archipelago straddles the equator about 600 miles from the Ecuadorian coast, so light pollution is remarkably low. This latitude also offers a rare opportunity to observe both the northern and southern hemisphere’s constellations as they make their nocturnal promenades across the black velvet backdrop of space.

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Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s northwesternmost province is best known for its picture-perfect beaches and tropical rainforest. During the dry season, Guanacaste also becomes a stargazer’s paradise. It’s one of the only places in the Northern Hemisphere with a view of the Magellanic Clouds, two luminous dwarf galaxies that orbit our own. Countless other astral wonders await, from the steadfast Southern Cross to the fiery tendrils of the Carina Nebula. And don’t forget to look down! The ocean hosts another sparkly spectacle: the blue-green glow of bioluminescent plankton.

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Baja California, Mexico

In Baja California, the light is legendary. Sunrises and sunsets are stop-everything-and-stare events—where even the elusive green flash might make an appearance. As darkness sets in, see if you can find familiar constellations like the Big Dipper and Orion in a new context. Here, the sky’s clarity is often razor-sharp, even without binoculars. Though, you may want a pair to “zoom in” on Omega Centauri, which looks like a blurry star to the naked eye, but is in fact an unfathomable cluster of 10 million stars, 16,000 lightyears away.

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Photo: Michael S. Nolan