How to Experience the Magic of Night Skies

Whether it’s to spot the northern lights, a solar eclipse or the Milky Way, night sky tourism is on the rise. 

A growing number of travellers are booking trips to explore locations around the world by day, and then experience them in a different way at night. The appeal of dark skies is multilayered. For city dwellers, they offer an escape from screen time and city light and provide a way to engage the eyes with a different kind of light source – the solar system. Nature lovers get to discover animals and ecosystems that thrive after dark. And everyone reaps the mental health benefits of the experience. Stargazing and time spent outdoors under darkness is calming, it fosters mindfulness and helps you put things in perspective. 

Night sky experiences typically happen in designated dark sky reserves, areas found around the world that are protected from development and committed to reducing or eliminating light pollution. They might involve a guided tour, astronomy lesson or storytelling, a photography tutorial or simply embracing the quiet and taking it all in. 

Night sky in New Zealand

Eruption on Sicily, best seen at night

Prime Locations for Night Sky Viewing

New Zealand is attempting to become the world’s second certified dark sky nation. (The tiny island country of Niue, in the South Pacific, became the first in 2020.) With the South Island’s Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, as well as off-grid islands like Aotea (also known as Great Barrier Island) and the peaks in Queenstown, there are plenty of spots in the Oceanic country to set your sights high. 

But you don’t need to be in a dark sky reserve to go star spotting. Because of their remote locations, countries in the far north and south lend themselves especially well to stargazing. Being in the arctic wilderness of Norway offers a high chance of seeing the northern lights, while a winter escape in Iceland is another optimal opportunity to be dazzled by the aurora. Like New Zealand, Patagonia is another prime location to catch sight of constellations unique to the southern hemisphere. 

You’re not limited to those locations, either. Nights spent on the water along Croatia’s Adriatic coast will reveal spectacular nocturnal sights. And cycling through Portugal offers the opportunity to meet with an astronomer for a guided viewing of the night sky.  

There’s a whole world after dark, and so many ways to explore it. The choice of which star to wish upon is yours.

Northern Lights in Norway

In the wilderness of British Columbia