ASTROTOURISM: Star-struck hotspots around the world

New travel trend ‘Astrotourism’ sees travellers search for ‘black sky’ locations on the ultimate star gazing holidays

Astrotourism is a new trend that is seeing travellers choose remote destinations in order to enjoy the beauty of the galaxy. By visiting ‘black sky’ locations, astrotourists are distributing their money and ecological footprint more evenly across the planet. We have pulled together our top seven stargazing hotspots around the world…

WATCH THE NORTHERN LIGHTS AT DEPLAR FARM – A UNIQUE NORDIC RETREAT LOCATED NEAR THE ARCTIC CIRCLE, ICELAND’S MOST REMOTE AND LUXURIOUS LODGE

Due to limited light-pollution in Iceland, Deplar Farm’s impressive geo-thermally heated outdoor pool is the perfect spot from which guests can stargaze across the clear Icelandic night-sky and at certain times of the year (from October to March), even catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights. Deplar Farm is one of Eleven Experience’s most unique properties and has been transformed from a working sheep farm into the ultimate Icelandic retreat. The lodge’s extensive wellness area offers visitors a steam room, indoor/outdoor saunas, a gym and the stunning outdoor swimming pool, heated to 38 degrees from thermal springs all year-round, has its own built-in sound system and a swim-up bar.  Deplar Farm offers visitors the chance to hunker down, switch off and enjoy the lodge’s luxurious spa facilities and delicious Icelandic food, whilst the more adventurous can venture outside and experience the remote landscapes surrounding the lodge. Located in the remote Troll Peninsula and surrounded by 3,000 ft peaks, guests staying at Deplar Farm have unrivalled access to over 1,500 square miles of untouched mountain terrain. Back at the lodge, the Nordic inspired interiors are cosy and stylish and Deplar Farm also offers guests a library, entertainment room with a cinema screen, and a full band set up for late night jamming sessions in addition to two helicopter pads.

STARGAZING WITHIN THE DARK SKY ALQUEVA RESERVE IN ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL AT SAO LOURENCO DO BARROCAL

Just two hours east of cosmopolitan Lisbon, São Lourenço do Barrocal is a beautiful two-hundred-year-old country estate in rural Alentejo, Portugal. The unique farm hotel is a short distance from the impressive and first of its kind, Alqueva Lake Observatory where guests of Scott Dunn can visit the Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve, the first starlight tourism destination in the world. The reserve is a protected area with excellent atmospheric conditions and no light pollution, meaning visitors can enjoy stargazing for most of the year. The reserve is home to cutting-edge technology and telescopes for observing the stars and planets, and guests will learn about astronomy and the night sky from the resident experts. Surrounded by a patchwork of endless wheat fields, olive groves, vineyards and wildflower meadows, Sao Lourenco do Barrocal offers twenty-two rooms and sixteen cottages that perfectly reflect the rustic appeal of the area, each with its own outdoor space offering far reaching views over the fields and quaint farm buildings that surround the property. The estates charming restaurant serves delicious local specialties with dishes typical of the region and the two-thousand-acre estate is also home to a swimming pool, a superb spa and fitness area.

SPOT SATURN, JUPITER AND MARS FROM SIX SENSES CON DAO –
HOME TO THE FIRST PRIVATE ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY IN SOUTHERN VIETNAM

 Six Senses Con Dao – the first five-star resort in Vietnam’s Con Dao Archipelago – offers guests the opportunity to become one with the universe as they gaze out at the stars from the resort’s private Astronomical Observatory, the first and only privately-owned celestial viewing centre in the southernmost region of Vietnam.  Just a short flight from the bustling streets of Saigon lies this tranquil oasis on one of the archipelago’s 16 islands.  At the heart of the observatory is a Maksutov-Cassegrain 127mm telescope, allowing curious minds to marvel at Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and open clusters such as Pleiades and the Beehive Cluster.  Visitors can also witness dreamy nebulas and their evolving journeys as stars.  The observatory is open twice weekly and up to 30 guests can participate at one time on a complimentary basis at each evening session.  From conception to realisation, this imaginative project to build the observatory took a full year of planning and construction.  The grand idea originated from Six Senses’ regular celebrity astronomer, Dr Parag Mahajani – an independent consultant and trainer in the fields of science and technology, and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of London.  With 25 years’ experience under his belt, Dr Parag has been visiting all Six Senses resorts for over a decade, and in each location he delights guests with his wealth of knowledge and passion in the field of astronomy.  Dr Parag is in residence at Six Senses Con Dao several times a year, during which he hosts evening slide shows at authentic Vietnamese restaurant By The Market, as well as talks on astronomical observations, morning solar observation sessions and exclusive zodiac dinners.  Six Senses Con Dao is nestled on a curve of golden sand on the island of Con Son, looking out over the glistening South China Sea.  Contemporary in its design, the resort comprises 50 private pool villas and reflects the essence of a traditional fishing village.  Protected by lush forest-clad mountains on a mile-long stretch of sand, each private pool villa is designed to showcase the breathtaking natural surroundings.

REMOTE & REMOVED: DISCOVER THE GLORIOUS GALAXY AT BAWAH RESERVE, THE ANAMBAS ISLANDS, INDONESIA

Bawah Reserve is located between Malaysia and Borneo in the Anambas Islands, Indonesia and thanks to its remote location, each night spent at the resort promises a spectacular star show. Guests are invited to join weekly star gazing sessions on the jetty with the resort’s Head of Activities, Didi, who will help identify different constellations and stars. Guests can also enjoy stargazing from the comfort of their suites, while dining at the signature restaurant, Treetops or using the telescope on the jetty. Guests will see constellations, shooting stars and may even witness a meteor shower, all enhanced by the reflection off the surrounding ocean. With just 35 beautifully designed beach suites and overwater bungalows, the exclusive resort offers a sensational private island experience in an un-discovered and richly diverse part of Indonesia. In addition to stargazing, Bawah offers a plethora of activities, allowing guests to get explore the six islands, 13 beaches and three lagoons that make up Bawah Reserve. These include paddle boarding, snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, diving, boat excursions, hiking, bird watching and nature trails, while those who prefer to take it easy can unwind at the wellness centre complete with an outdoor yoga pavilion. In the evenings guests can even watch a film under the stars in the open-air cinema.

 

SLEEP UNDER THE STARS ON YOUR VERY OWN PRIVATE ISLAND AT MILAIDHOO ISLAND MALDIVES

Milaidhoo Island Maldives, set over 13 acres atop the Baa Atoll’s beautiful UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is offering a new ‘Sleep Under the Stars Experience’. Hotel guests can now spend the night as castaways under the stars on their very own private sandbank. Stunningly secluded and void of any light pollution, this experience offers guests a breath-taking front row seat to admire the stars. Transformed with the luxury facilities of a Milaidhoo Villa, the sandbank is complete with a canopied four-poster bed draped in muslin and a yacht anchored by the sandbank with a dressing room and bathroom with all the amenities guests would expect to find back at the hotel. The castaway experience kicks off with a sunset dolphin cruise in a choice of a luxury yacht or a traditional Maldivian sailing boat, complete with champagne and canapés. After arriving at the sandbank, cocktails and a four-course dinner are served followed post-dinner drinks by a fire just after sunset, surrounded by candles and lanterns to maximise the glistening starlit views overhead. Maldivian-owned Milaidhoo is a small, elegant island featuring 50 spacious thatched-roof villas each with a private pool. A member of The Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the resort has three top-class restaurants, a fitness centre and spa, yoga, and spectacular diving.

 

STARGAZE FROM YOUR PRIVATE JUNGLE ROOFTOP WITH TAJ SAFARIS IN UNTOUCHED & RURAL MADHYA PRADESH

Venture into Madhya Pradesh, Central India where the untouched national parks offer a rural and peaceful region ideal for spotting the stars and free from the chaos of the city. The collection’s four lodges throughout India’s lesser known reserves allow guests to experience the unparalleled beauty of the jungle – imbued with a uniquely Indian flavour – and spot rare wildlife including Star Birds, Sloth Bears and the Bengal Tiger. A stand out lodge is Banjaar Tola, stretched across a 90-acre private estate overlooking Kanha National Park and aimed at protecting tigers and their ecosystems. This all-suite camp offers a lavish retreat in the heart of prime cat country, with indulgent tents and floating verandas perched on the banks of a tranquil river teaming with life.  Guests will feel a world away in the presence of such wildlife, with twice-daily jungle drives, walking safaris and sleep-outs on each suite’s unique ‘machan’ or private jungle rooftop. They can also head out on a night walk with the lodge’s naturalist amidst the pristine jungles to take a look at some of the clearest skies. The vast expanses of star studded horizons are a treat to the eyes, offering views of the North Star, the Milky Way and other popular constellations are often visible.

 

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Caoilfhionn Rose

Caoilfhionn is a freelance travel writer who enjoys slow travel and avoiding landmarks in favour of diving into a destination's culture. Instagram: @CaoilfhionnRose

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