Stargazing has been a popular hobby since time immemorial. As the centuries have passed, breakthroughs in science and technology have allowed us to view and appreciate the stars like never before.
Unfortunately, many of us live in areas with high levels of light pollution, which obscure many stars from view. In many urban areas, it's unlikely you'll see more than a smattering of stars.
Luckily, there are still places around the world where you can witness the night sky in all its glory. Here are some of the best places worldwide where you can enjoy breath-taking views of the stars, the Milky Way, and the Northern Lights.
1. Mauna Kea, Hawaii: Hawaii's Highest Point, With the Best Views
Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano, and home to a number of observatories. Located over 13,800 feet (4,207 meters) above sea level, and with a typically dry climate year-round, the peak of Mauna Kea is ideal for stargazing and astronomical observation.
The site is home to 13 observatories, owned by 11 different countries. The peak's Visitor Information Station provides publically-funded telescopes for enthusiastic stargazers to use, and there are volunteers to help you get the most out of your viewing experience.
It's the only place in the United States where you can witness the entirety of the Southern Cross - definitely not something astronomy aficionados will want to miss!
2. Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal: A Sky of Stars Above Mt. Everest
Located at the base of Mt. Everest lies the Sagarmatha National Park, a mountainous park consisting of 443 square miles (1,148 square km) of land. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a must-see for stargazers.
When darkness falls, visitors are treated to beautifully clear views of the Milky Way above the Himalayas. Tourists are advised to stay the night in order to get the most out of the incredible nightly shows.
3. Trysil, Norway: Witness the Aurora Borealis In All Its Glory
Trysil is located in the South-East of Norway, in Hedmark County. It's one of Norway's most popular destinations for skiing and other Winter sports, and also boasts some of the clearest skies in Scandinavia.
A perfect location for views of the Milky Way, as well as the Northern Lights, Trysil has plenty to offer stargazers who want to be wowed by natural phenomena, provided they don't mind the cold.
4. Easter Island: Iconic Statues and Glittering Skies
Easter Island is best known for its iconic heads - a series of statues dating between the 12th and 17th Centuries. The island also boasts a rich history of navigation and astronomy.
Early Polynesian settlers of Easter Island relied on their knowledge of the stars to guide them on their voyages throughout the Pacific. Today you can learn more about the intersection of navigation and astronomy while enjoying beautiful views for yourself, thanks to the Rapa Nui Stargazing Experience Tour.
5. Atacama Desert, Chile: Astronomical Observatories in the Middle of the Desert
The Atacama Desert is a 600 mile-long (1000 km) plateau along Chile's Pacific coast. Thanks to its distance from towns and cities, its altitude, and its dry climate, it is an ideal stargazing location.
There are a number of tours available to astro-tourists, allowing you to witness what is often regarded as the clearest skies on Earth. You can even visit the Alma Observatory, home of the biggest astronomical project in the world.
6. Nova Scotia, Canada: Unbeatable Night Skies Over the Atlantic
Canada's province of Novia Scotia offers some of the best stargazing sites in the country. The shores of Yarmouth, Argyle, and Clare have all been officially designated by the International Starlight Foundation.
There's a wealth of history in Nova Scotia concerned with astronomy too; from First Nations stories, to the navigation of French colonists. For the best possible views, visit during late Spring or early Summer when the skies are typically at their clearest.
7. Cherry Springs State National Park, USA: A View of Venus from Pennsylvania
The Cherry Springs State National Park is located in Pennsylvania, and boasts some of the best night sky views in the United States. Depending on the time of year, you can expect to see Venus, the International Space Station, and the Omega Nebula.
Though the park is open to stargazers year-round, they do offer advice on the best times to visit. Spring and Summer are the ideal times to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way, but Fall and Winter are better for overall clarity. The park also hosts a twice-yearly Star Party where astronomers from around the world gather for public viewings and lectures.
8. Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, New Zealand: The Southern Hemisphere's Only Dark Sky Reserve
The Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve is the only designated site of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, and a must-see for stargazers living south of the equator. The reserve was established in 2012, and since then has strictly controlled light pollution in the area.
Each night, the area is lit up by thousands of stars. Visitors can avail of stargazing tours, and can expect to see the Southern Cross, the Milky Way, and the Magellanic Clouds.
9. Death Valley National Park, USA: Hot, Dry, and Full of Stars
Death Valley is often considered to be one of the driest places on Earth, with an average annual rainfall of only 2.36 inches (60 mm). Thanks in part to its extreme weather conditions, in addition to its location far from major cities, Death Valley is a perfect site for stargazing.
Death Valley is the largest dark sky reserve in the U.S. designated by the International Dark Sky Association. Every year the Las Vegas Astronomical Society holds a Star Party at Death Valley, which is open to the public. Tours are also available to budding astronomy enthusiasts.
10. Natural Bridges National Monument, USA: Incredible Natural Structures and Stunning Views
Utah's Natural Bridges National Monument is best known for its sandstone structures, named Kachina, Owachomo, and Sipapu. These impressive natural bridges have been a feature of the landscape for millions of years.
At night, the skies above the natural bridges light up with up to 15,000 stars. The Milky Way can also be seen over the crest of the Owachomo bridge. The area has been a designated dark sky area since 2007.
11. Big Bend National Park, USA: Starry Skies in the Lone Star State
Situated in West Texas, the Big Bend National Park is a desert renowned for its abundance of dinosaur fossils. It's also the best stargazing site in the lone star state.
It has the lowest light pollution of any national park in the lower 48 states, and offers incredible clear views at night. Named by the Washington Post as the best place to fall asleep beneath the stars, it's an ideal spot to camp and enjoy a night of incredible stars.