When was the last time you actually switched off the TV, found a comfy spot outdoors, cleared your mind and just simply looked up at the sky and stars? Nowadays our lives are filled with such chaos and we are all too busy for our own good. Well, tomorrow is Look Up at the Sky Day, which is really just a fantastic excuse to escape reality (and wifi) and appreciate the sky above in all its glory.
We encourage you, wherever you are, to get outdoors and look up at the sky. Dust off the binoculars and do some birdwatching. Or take to the sky in a hot air balloon. Marvel at the ever-changing cloud formations and if there’s a storm brewing, photograph the dark, moody horizon. Celebrate the sunrise and toast the sunset. Visit an observatory to contemplate the planets and constellations that surround us. And once the moon eventually emerges, switch off the lights, watch the stars dance and savour the romantic twinkling night sky.
It’s time to slow down, escape the city confines, take a deep breath and ponder our place in this wondrous universe.
In celebration of Look Up at the Sky Day, here are some of our most favourite places in the world for star and moon-gazing adventures.
1. Namib Desert, Namibia
The luxuriously remote, tranquil and ever-romantic &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is situated within Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve. This pristine landscape was not only declared Africa’s first International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR) in 2013, but it also became the world’s first IDSR to be awarded Gold Tier status, meaning it has exceptionally little to no impact from artificial light. With the nearest town 90 miles away, the reserve is free of light pollution and boasts one of the darkest skies ever measured.
In addition to some of the most breathtakingly magnificent sunsets, guests can also enjoy some of the world’s most incredible stargazing from the lodge’s state-of-the-art observatory. A resident astronomer is on hand to reveal the enchanting night sky through the lodge’s high-tech Meade LX200R 12-inch telescope, one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. Read more here. Later, as guests retire to their spacious suites, they can continue to revel in the beauty of the impossibly starry sky in total privacy from the large skylight that sits above each bed.
2. Atacama Desert, Chile
An astronomer’s paradise, the vast Atacama Desert in Chile boasts a jaw-dropping desertscape of ragged, rocky mountains and ravines that are interspersed by a striking white salt pan and surrounded by towering volcanoes and an infinite skyline.
Hailed the world’s driest desert, the immense Atacama certainly lives up to its title, with some areas registering not even a single raindrop in over 150 years. Sitting at an impressive altitude of 3 500 m, coupled with its arid atmosphere, this dramatic and desolate desert boasts clear, unpolluted skies that allow for the most incredible, unforgettable stargazing.
Sunset image © Wayne Raymond.
3. Ladakh, India
Sitting at an altitude of 3 050 m, the jagged mountains, crystal-clear lakes, meandering rivers and picture-perfect skies of Ladakh make it one of the best places in India, not only for trekking, wildlife viewing and cultural pilgrimages, but also for stargazing.
This is big sky country and, just like the Atacama Desert, the altitude, aridity and lack of air pollution in Ladakh enable the vast kaleidoscope of glittering stars to shine brightly as far as the eye can see.
4. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Perhaps one of the best kept secrets for guests visiting Zambia/Zimbabwe is that, for just three days of every month, you can participate in a private guided full-moon tour of the mighty Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Savour the romantic night sky as you explore the world-famous, moonlit and mist-enshrouded Victoria Falls. If you’re lucky, you’ll witness a lunar rainbow.
Also known as a moonbow, these enchanting rainbows are only seen at night amidst the light surrounding a full moon. Also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, or the “smoke that thunders”, the enormous and thundering Victoria Falls create the world’s largest curtain of falling water, and the constant stream of mist that is created by the powerful waterfall refracts the moonlight thereby creating the magical lunar rainbow.