Out Of This World
Out Of This World
Astrotourism Takes Flight
When even the most remote destinations don’t feel distant enough to unplug, savvy travelers are looking up and opting for astrotourism. Fortunately, you don’t need a spaceship for these above-and-beyond travel experiences — there are plenty of dark sky reserves, national parks and moonlit oceanside retreats that will transport you to another planet come nighttime. No telescope? No problem. Seasoned astronomers and casual observers alike come to these low light pollution atmospheres that offer astounding celestial sightings, even with the naked eye.
Head to the Valentine, Nebraska area in late July to experience the Nebraska Star Party, an annual celebration of star gazing held in the remote Merritt Reservoir Snake Campground. Make it an interactive experience by participating in the astro photo contest and their various observation challenges, or make it an introspective retreat and find a quiet place to trace the constellations on your own.
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
Dine by the light of the night sky with a Full Moon Dinner at the Thompson Playa del Carmen, where guests can feast on a curated three-course menu of fresh Mexican seafood just steps from the breaking waves of the ocean. Come for the amazing views of the starlit sky and delicious dinner, stay for the live music and signature cocktails.
A sign of perfection and infinity, the moon plays a significant role in Balinese culture, with the lunar phases determining the yearly calendar. Welcome the full moon with a heavenly seven-course La La Lune dinner at The Mulia Bali, where you’ll indulge your culinary senses under the stars as you listen to the Indian Ocean lap along the shore.
Yaeyama Islands, Japan
Take off to Japan to experience the vastness of the cosmos in Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park, the country’s first accredited Dark Sky Place. Located on the Yaeyama Islands in the southernmost territory of Japan, the park offers lush, tropical scenery by day and unobstructed views of the star-saturated sky by night.
Venture to Namibia for one of the darkest places on earth: The NamibRand Nature Reserve. Set in the red sand dunes of the Namib Desert, this Gold-Tier Dark Sky Reserve feels more Martian than anything else. For an out-of-this-world experience, we suggest the &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge: epic floor-to ceiling views, luxurious suites, astronomer-guided tours and even dune dining. The Lodge is set to reopen in October 2019.
Stewart Island, New Zealand
You’ve heard of the aurora borealis, but have you heard of the aurora australis? Venture to Stewart Island, New Zealand to watch the aurora australis (or Southern Lights) cast fantastic colors across the sky from March to September. Rakiura National Parkencompasses 85% of the island, making it the perfect place to wait out this dazzling phenomenon without interference from city lights.
Marvel at the constellations in a virtually light-free environment at the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve, the only Gold-Tier Dark Sky Reserve in the Northern hemisphere. Sheltered by the Kerry Mountains and Hills on one side and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the other, the reserve is said to be so dark on moonless nights that you can view the sky as the first humans did.