While astrotourism isn’t a new trend, this out-of-this-world segment of the travel sector has increased exponentially (some might even call it a meteoric recovery) over the past few years. The demand for unique, memorable adventure continues to soar higher than ever before with travelers literally going to ends of the Earth in search of one-of-a-kind travel experiences.
International Dark Sky Parks and far-flung corners of the globe without light pollution remain some of the best places to see the stars. Though, it’s worth noting that some rather accessible destinations put on quite the sensational show as well. It used to be that amateur cosmos-chasers needed to rough it for incredible stargazing, but that’s no longer the case either. Luxury lodgings are taking astrotourism to new heights with on-site observatories, astronomer-led programs and sky-view accommodations.
Fantasizing about witnessing the vastness of the Milky Way or timing a trip to a lunar event? These high-end hotels, from the Atacama Desert to Alentejo, give guests a privileged perch for admiring the celestial bodies.
Awasi Atacama (San Pedro de Atacama, Chile)
Staying at Awasi Atacama in the middle of the driest desert on Earth almost feels like venturing to an entirely different planet altogether. Surrounded by otherworldly sand dunes and salt flats with clear skies above, this all-inclusive Relais & Châteaux lodge hosts private guided stargazing excursions to a remote observatory that’s set up within the ancient archaeological site of Tulor. Far away from light pollution — and virtually everything — guests gaze upwards (and even get to peer through a powerful telescope) at constellations while learning about archeoastronomy.
Montage Healdsburg (Healdsburg, California)
Though most people associate Montage Healdsburg with sipping wine than stargazing, this luxury resort has a splurge-worthy astrotourism offering that will have you seeing stars (and dollar signs). For budding astronomers, the chance to do a private tour of the Robert Ferguson Observatory (prepare to geek out over the two-meter-long refractor telescope) and a session with acclaimed astrophotographer Rachid Dahnoun is a dream come true. This over-the-top package also covers private roundtrip flights, the keys to the enviable three-bedroom guest house and a bespoke dinner.
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Soneva Fushi (Maldives)
For the type of traveler with fantasies that exist somewhere in the realm between castaway and cosmologist and a proclivity for vacations involving the buzzwords “luxury” and “privacy,” Soneva Fushi might just be the ultimate dream-making holiday. This private island resort in the Maldives is a five-star slice of sustainable paradise with its own observatory. If that’s not enough stellar wow factor, it also offers an astronomical dinner cruise that begins at sunset and features a four-course meal with wine pairing, plus plenty of stargazing and insights into the secrets of the galaxy from the resident astronomer.
Mount Mulligan Lodge (Mount Mulligan, Australia)
Few places manage to strike the balance of bushwhacking adventure and luxury quite like Australia. Mount Mulligan Lodge, a luxury resort on a 70,000 acre working in the far-flung northern Queensland outback, channels the untamed spirit of its wild environs through nature-driven experiences such as stargazing. Yes, just tilting your head upwards from the privacy of an outdoor tub puts thousand of twinkling consultations on display instantly, however, the small-group astronomic appreciation tour brings the heavenly happenings of the southern night sky into closer view through a telescope. Cocktails, as well as Indigenous and Greek mythologies, related to the universe are also part of the package.
Primland, Auberge Resorts Collection (Meadows of Dan, Virginia)
Situated on 12,000 acres of Blue Ride Mountains real estate, Primland, Auberge Resorts Collection shines bright with a next-level stargazing experience at the fully-equipped on-site observatory. Not only does the altitude and darkness of the night sky create an unparalleled setting for observing the solar system, but the Celestron CGE Pro 1400 and CPC 800 telescopes make the great beyond appear much closer. To keep the planetary party going, book one of the secluded treehouses and soak in the starry spectacle from the outdoor deck.
andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (Sossusvlei Desert, Namibia)
We’re not sure what’s more appealing about a stay at andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, the promise of sinking into serenity mode or spotting sparkling constellations. Not that you need to choose. Both are pretty special! In regards to the luminous latter, this sustainable and luxurious camp borders an International Dark Sky Reserve and boasts an observatory with a Celestron CPC 1100 GPS (XLT) computerized telescope, plus the sleek glass and stone suites have large retractable skylights above the bed to continue the cosmos-hunting in comfort.
São Lourenço do Barrocal (Alentejo, Portugal)
Set within the first certified Starlight Tourism Destination in the world, São Lourenço do Barrocal, a family-run, five-star farm stay and member of Leading Hotels of the World in Alentejo, enjoys an unparalleled setting to marvel at the solar system. Visitors keen to do more than just stare at the heavens have the option of doing a private observation with Dark Sky Alqueva astronomers in the bee garden. The exclusive experience includes learning how to spot polar stars with the naked eye and using a telescope to observe nebulae, planets and galaxies.
Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat (South Canterbury, New Zealand)
While it’s no longer a requisite to travel to the far reaches of the Earth in search of stars, a long journey still comes with some pretty epic payoffs. Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat, a high-latitude estate located in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, is one of the best places to see the southern lights. Even outside of the prime aurora-peeping period, the celestial curiosities never cease to amaze. Stargazing and deep space astrophotography at the wine cellar observatory, which shows off a retractable roof and refractor telescope that’s capable of sighting the rings of Saturn, are high points of any visit.
Hotel Rangá (Hella, Iceland)
Hidden away in a sparsely populated town in southern Iceland, Hotel Rangá, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is a pilgrimage-worthy destination for astrotourism that’s ensconced by volcanic scenery and midnight skies. This boutique Golden Circler retreat flaunts an impressive roster of super-terrestrial amenities — including an observatory that’s equipped with two state-of-the-art telescopes and a roll-down roof for unobstructed stargazing. Guests can even opt for the aurora wake-up service, which nixes the chance that even jet-lagged travelers will sleep through the illusory glowing show.
One&Only Nyungwe House (Nyamasheke Nyungwe Forest Reserve, Rwanda)
Tucked on the edge of an ancient rainforest in Rwanda, One&Only Nyungwe House instills this wide-eyed sense of wonder in all who visit. The awe-inspiring scenery keeps guests grounded, yet the signature stargazing experience puts those same heads up in the clouds. It all starts just after sunset with a trip to the elevated decks to admire planets and constellations through the telescope and hear the legends of the equatorial night sky. As a terrestrial accompaniment to the galactic resplendence, the evening ends with a guided tour through the jungle to catch sight of nocturnal creatures.
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