The term “stargazing” brings up memories of lying in the grass as a child and staring up into the sky, connecting the dots of light to create our own constellations. As our society develops and our cities spread, however, it has become increasingly harder to find a space where the vast galaxies and celestial bodies can be fully seen and appreciated.
Escaping light polluted cities may seem impossible in modern societies, but these dark sky parks and secluded reserves offer views of the cosmos that will leave anyone in awe. From Big Bend in Texas to Mount Bromo in Indonesia, these locations are a dream for anyone looking to stare up into the sky for hours and see the far reaches of our universe for themselves.
1. Atacama Desert; 2. Big Bend National Park; 3. Mt. Bromo; 4. Headlands International Dark Sky Park ; 5. Zselic Starry Sky Park; 6. Brecon Beacons National Park; 7. Westhavelland International Dark Sky Reserve
Lauren Leising is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia. She was probably dreaming of a trip to Mount Bromo while writing this.
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1. Atacama Desert, Chile
The Atacama Desert is the world's highest and driest desert, meaning that stargazers don't have to worry about clouds, light pollution or radio interference disrupting their fun. Chile has strict laws against light pollution that connect to the rich culture and history of the Inca people who believed that not only did stars have meaning, so did the black spaces between them. Local guides are more than happy to point out these invisible patterns and designs, making Chile one of the most unique places to see the stars and marvel at their complexity.
European Southern Observatory, CC-BY 2.0
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2. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend National Park was designated as an International Dark Sky Park in February 2012. Because of its location in the southern part of the Northern Hemisphere, visitors can see at least three of the four stars in the Southern Cross and the Southern Star, as well as the Andromeda Galaxy. Few places in the world offer stargazers such a clear view of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, not to mention 2,000 other stars that are most visible on clear nights.
Vincent Lock, CC-BY 2.0
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3. Mount Bromo, Indonesia
Mount Bromo is really an active volcano that is found in Java, Indonesia, and offers some of the most spectacular views of the Milky Way and of Mars and Jupiter. Rising 7,641 feet (2,329 meters), the volcano belongs to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. Combining the stunning environment with clouds covering the bases of the volcanos and clear skies makes for a truly astounding view.
Abdul Rahman, CC-BY 2.0
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4. Headlands International Dark Sky Park, Michigan
Headlands International Dark Sky Park, located in Michigan, became one of the first 10 International Dark Sky Parks in the world in 2011. It is nestled in Emmet County, which hosts events throughout the year to reconnect visitors to the night sky lore of North American indigenous cultures and traditions. The park covers a stretch of shoreline along Lake Michigan that is perfect for watching annual meteor showers reflected in the water.
Justin Leonard, CC-BY 2.0
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5. Zselic Starry Sky Park, Hungary
The Zselic Starry Sky Park in Hungary was designated as an International Dark Sky Park in 2009, and since then visitors have had the opportunity to witness zodiacal light and clear views of the constellations in one of the best stargazing sites in Europe. The park also offers sky maps and star walk programs where guests are taught about astronomy, light pollution and the habits of local nocturnal species. Not only does the park work to limit light pollution, it also emphasizes the importance of understanding the environment as a whole.
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6. Brecon Beacons National Park, UK
Brecon Beacons National Park became a designated International Dark Sky Reserve in February of 2013 and offers stunning views of Mars and Jupiter, both easily seen by the naked eye. Add in a telescope and you can catch a glimpse of Jupiter's largest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. One of the most interesting sites in the park is the ruins of the Llanthony Priory, part of which has been converted into a hotel and pub. Stop in for refreshments after a night of gazing at the stars.
Geoff Moore UK, CC-BY 2.0
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7. Westhavelland International Dark Sky Reserve, Germany
Designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2014, Westhavelland is the closest dark sky reserve to any major city with Berlin a mere 100 kilometers away. The park is known for its views of the Milky Way and occasional displays of the Aurora Borealis. In the autumn, birds that migrate through the park add to the starry backdrop and the clear skies between mid-May and mid-July allow the light of the new moon to be seen in all its glory.
Pascal Volk, CC BY-SA 2.0