What we think of as a star-filled sky doesn't even come close to some locations around the world, where the milky way and far-off galaxies rule pitch-black skies. It's a humbling reminder that we're pretty small here on earth, but also a reminder that light exists even in the darkest of times.
These reminders are more obvious to those who have a breathtaking view every night and believe it or not, these places can be visited. It's a foreign concept to book a vacation based on what a place looks like at night rather than in daylight but trust us, it's worth it for these locales.
The first time you see the milky way or a bit of another galaxy in a full-color array for the first time can be life-changing, so here are 15 places you can catch a glimpse at some serious space dust, and five that, sadly, have no stars at all.
20 Cherry Springs Park In PA Is The Darkest In The East
Cherry Springs Park is one of 11 other parks in the world that offer such stunning nighttime views. This collection of parks are referred to as International Dark Sky Parks, and this location, in particular, offers a view of the Milky Way like no other in the northeast.
19 NamibRand Nature Reserve In Namibia Offers Tours
Most people head to Africa to check out Capetown in the southern half of the country, but what they don't realize is that Namibia is a sight to behold. At night, tourists can schedule tours to some of the darkest skies to date, all from the vantage point of a 600-acre park.
18 Galloway Forest Park Is The Only Place For Stargazing In The UK
While you wouldn't go to a place like London for stargazing, Galloway Forest Park is a hidden gem in the UK. This area of Scotland is the only designated Dark Sky Park in the United Kingdom, and it's a great place to relax, take in the history, and watch the aurora borealis as it lights up the sky.
17 No Stars: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Rated as the topmost light-polluted city in the world back in 2018, Saint Petersburg is a city rich in history, but not so much in stars. There are dazzling light shows on the ground (as pictured above) but when it comes to stars, this city is 8.1x brighter than the average locale.
16 Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve Is New Zealand's Nighttime Theater
New Zealand is essentially nature's playground and its night sky is no different. A dark country, to begin with, Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is something you need to see to believe. It's so unbelievably dark and clear that on some nights, dwarf galaxies are able to be observed.
15 Death Valley Is The Largest Platform For Viewing The Nighttime Sky
Death Valley, local to the US, is another one of the world's official Dark Sky Parks. The park is one of the largest viewing platforms and simply massive in scale, but this creates a significant distance between it and society - which happens to be Las Vegas, roughly 100 miles out.
14 Zselic Starry Sky Park Is Named Adequately
It's been speculated that this park might just be the best place for viewing in Europe, and it's located in Hungary. The main attraction this stargazing spot has going for it is the fact that constellations are easily pinpointed, appearing in the sky as clearly as if they were drawn on a black canvas.
13 No Stars: Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is an awesome city for those who love urban exploration, but it definitely lacks a star-speckled night sky. As one of the brightest cities in the world, Chicago came in at number four back in 2018, with a light pollution level that was 4.5x the average of other cities.
12 Paranal Observatory Gives Stargazers A Winning View Of A Nebula
Finding its permanent home in Chile, the Paranal Observatory gives visitors a unique view of the sky that is unlike any other. Due to its high altitude, stargazing becomes much easier, as cloud cover isn't what it would be at sea level. The jewel box nebula can be viewed here, unbelievably bright and vibrant in color.
11 Denali National Park Gives Way To Brilliant Sights Of The Aurora Borealis
The northern lights (otherwise known as the aurora borealis) are no strangers to the Alaska skies. These colorful displays of neon lights are affected by the magnetic pull of the North Pole, and they can be seen any time after mid-August, but are most likely to be seen more vibrantly during the winter.
10 Mauna Kea Provides Viewing From A Volcanic Summit
Normally, we wouldn't suggest heading to the summit of a volcano for sightseeing. However, Mauna Kea is home to visitors center that's 9,200' above sea level, which means you can see the night sky without any interference. Here, you can even watch a documentary on the island's astronomy.
9 No Stars: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Mecca is not a small city, so it's not entirely surprising that its sky is often unclear for viewers. It came in second behind Saint Petersburg in 2018 according to The Revelator, with a light pollution level of 7.4x brighter than any other city in the world, obviously besides Saint Petersburg.
8 Tenerife, Spain, Is Part Of The EU Skyroute
In the Canary Islands lies a stargazing location that you might not realize is actually part of the EU Skyroute. With the naked eye, you might catch a glimpse of Canis Major, Orion, and even the Rosetta Nebula. This is one of seven sites in the EU Skyroute that provides stellar (no pun intended) views.
7 Sagarmatha National Park Gives Way To Stars And Mount Everest
For those who are more adventurous and not afraid of a little height (and are experienced high-altitude hikers), Sagarmatha National Park is waiting at the base of Mount Everest. The park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and an overnight stay could give you a glimpse of the Milky Way over Everest.
6 No Stars: Calgary, Canada
While Canada is home to Nova Scotia - one of the best stargazing spots in the country - it's also home to Calgary, which is quite the opposite. While Montreal also ranked on the list, Calgary came in at number five for the most light-polluted cities in the world.
5 Trysil, Norway Is One Of The Best Spots To View The Milky Way
Norway is known for its views of the Northern Lights, but it's also home to some of the clearest skies in the region. Even if you've seen the aurora borealis, you've never quite seen a display like this, set high above a mountainous landscape and snow-covered evergreen trees.
4 Easter Island Is Mysterious, But Also A Stargazer's Dream, Offering Professional Tours
Easter Island has been shrouded in mystery from the get-go, so it's no surprise that it also has a rich history in astronomy. Early tribes relied on the stars to direct them, and the island offers a tour for visitors so they, too, can look up at the same sky that Polynesians did so many years ago.
3 No Stars: Buenos Aires, Argentina
As far as metropolitan areas go, Buenos Aires is a popular tourist spot, but not when it comes to nighttime star viewing. It landed midway on the list, not being the most polluted or the least, and had 3.5x more light pollution than any other heavily-populated area in the world back in 2018.
2 Nova Scotia Has Been Designated By The International Starlight Foundation
Canada has its own beautiful stargazing spots, and Nova Scotia is the best spot in the country to gaze up at the nighttime sky. Its shores have been certified by the International Starlight Foundation and, similar to Easter Island, has a rich astronomical history.
1 The Natural Bridges Monument Is A Designated Dark Sky Area
The Natural Bridges Monument is an awesome place to visit during the day or at night, but something special happens when the sun goes down. This designated dark-sky area is home to roughly 15,000 stars that light up the sky to create a stunning picture. If you're lucky, the Milky Way may even grace your sight.