Your next vacation might be written in the stars after discovering destinations where dark skies shimmer, with or without a telescope. These five destinations make for glowing nights spent under the stars.
Head to the highest volcano in Hawaii and go stargazing atop the 13,796-foot summit of Mauna Kea. This is also where the world’s largest optical telescope resides, which calls for more fun. Mauna Kea is also home to the world’s greatest collection of astronomy equipment and one of the best spots on Earth to go stargazing. The peak closes to tourists at nightfall, but there is a visitor’s center at a comforting 9,200 feet that stays open until 10 p.m., where there are free lectures and a chance for sky lovers to look through 11-, 14-, and 16-inch telescopes.
Go off the grid on The Northern Lights of Finland guided tour from Collette where you’ll spend the night in a glass igloo in the middle of the Lappish wilderness surrounded by green and bouncing blue hues. Every night of the tour, set out to immerse yourself in Helsinki and its cultural traditions, then during the day, enjoy a dog sled tour. This tour is a different type of stargazing, but still a unique and breathtaking experience when it comes to cosmic and astronomical wonders in the world.
Take a trip through space and time in the astronomy capital of the world atop mountains in Tucson, Arizona. Telescopes top the mountains, taking advantage of Tucson’s clean air and clear, dark skies and almost 350 nights out of the year you can use them to see the darkest skies with the shiniest stars. This is where the pros go and Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter allows travelers to go off the grid and see the universe and space in a way some people never get the chance to.
Take the path less traveled to the Dark Sky Festival in Alberta’s Jasper National Park, the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world. You’ll go through spruce and snow-covered pine forests throughout the Canadian Rockies and feel like you’re in a galaxy far away. This festival occurs every fall and aims to connect all ages to our universe and beyond with fun rocket launches, photography and telescope workshops, as well as a symphony under the stars. Additionally, there are space and science trivia challenges and space talks to attend. Go stargazing along the shores of Lake Annette or attend a VIP stargazing reception where you can actually meet the stars (the keynote speakers) of the Dark Sky Festival.
The only Dark Sky Park in the U.S. located on the east coast is Cherry Springs State Park in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. The 360-degree view creates an astonishing celestial experience for all, where you can experience the northern lights, Milky Way, meteor showers and the darkest sky east of the Mississippi. Ideal stargazing conditions with crystal clear skies and limited light pollution are around for 60-85 nights per year here, where more than 30,000 stars fill the sky and are actually visible. See celestial brilliance for yourself on a private guided star tour or a Nightscapes photography workshop.