Watch this space: Booking.com reveals the most dazzling stargazing stays around the world as space becomes a target destination for travelers
New research from Booking.com, the global leader in connecting travelers with the widest choice of incredible places to stay, has revealed that US travelers are looking to push the limits of where travel will take us in 2019. In fact, they’re looking to push the limits as far as space! A new Booking.com survey found that 40%* of US travelers are excited about the prospect of space travel in the future and 38%* are open to considering the experience for themselves.
Whilst space travel might not be a reality just yet, enthusiasts won’t have to wait long to experience one of the wonders of the cosmos as a total lunar eclipse is taking place on January 21st. For those not lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this mesmerizing spectacle, Booking.com has compiled a list of the locations endorsed most by global travelers for stargazing**, at any time of the year.
Sutherland, South Africa
Home to the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, Sutherland is the perfect spot for observing the night skies. The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), located at the South African Astronomical Observatory - Sutherland Observing Station, records distant stars, galaxies and quasars a billion times too faint to be seen with the unaided eye. It also offers night tours for intrepid astrophysicist hoping to catch a glimpse of the cosmos above.
Where to stay: Situated in the Great Karoo in Sutherland, Skitterland Guesthouse is the perfect place to rest your head after a night of stargazing. The guesthouse boasts a prime location for your visit to the nearby observatory providing electric blankets to warm you back up after your excursion under the stars. During the day, an outdoor pool will keep you entertained while waiting for the sun to set and the stars to come out.
With some of the clearest skies of Catalonia, according to the Mapa de Qualitat del Cel Nocturn of Catalonia, Montsec in Ager is the ideal destination for those wanting to marvel in the beauty of the night sky. It was recently declared a Starlight Tourism Destination by UNESCO and nearby villages have swapped out conventional street lighting for amber-colored LED and sodium lamps to minimize light pollution.
Where to stay: The Parc Astronòmic Montsec is just a short drive from Ager itself and only slightly further from La Caseta del Montsec, making it the perfect vacation home for your next stargazing trip. This detached property is nestled in the mountains, offering breathtaking views when the sun is up too.
Fort Davis, US
Located 5,000 ft above sea level, Fort Davis has a clear height advantage over the rest of Texas when it comes to star spotting. Its unique landscape of wide open spaces and piercing rock formations makes this destination breath-taking day and night. Sitting atop Mount Locke is one of the world's leading centers for astronomical research, teaching, and public education, the McDonald Observatory, a research unit of The University of Texas at Austin. McDonald Observatory regularly hosts Star Parties, allowing travelers to enjoy night sky constellation tours and views of celestial objects through several telescopes.
Where to stay: Full of character and old charm, the Hotel Limpia offers a range of rooms and suites for those looking to visit the observatory, which is only a half hour drive away from Fort Davis. The area is also great for hiking and a popular spot to stay at for people visiting the nearby Fort Davis National Heritage site and Chihuahuan Desert Research Center.
As a designated dark sky location, the Northumberland International Dark Sky park provides a great spot to stargaze. The Stell, an architectural installation located near the village of Falstone is deep within the very heart of the park. What at first looks like a sheep pen is actually a place to sit. Perfect for visitors to pack their blankets, flasks and binoculars and settle in for an evening under the starry skies. The Northumberland sky also provides the opportunity to experience the Aurora Borealis, which would usually involve a trip to Norway, Iceland or the Arctic Circle.
Where to stay: Not far from The Stell, Falstone Farmhouse and Barns features an individually designed, self-catering accommodation in beautiful surroundings. The apartments and barns offer traditional touches such as wooden beams and open fireplaces, with the added perk of grocery deliveries. Perfect to get your hot chocolate ready for your return from your stargazing expedition!
Known as the astronomy capital of Australia, Coonabarabran in Warrambungle Shire is home to Siding Spring, the country’s premier optical and infrared observatory. Just a short drive away in the Warrumbungle Mountains, the observatory has several telescopes, including the world famous 12-foot Anglo-Australian Telescope. Once a year it also hosts the StarFest, an extravaganza of events including lectures and open days over a long weekend in October.
Where to stay: With a verandah just made for stargazing Barkala Farmstay in Coonabarabran offers guests the perfect opportunity to enjoy gazing into the area’s famed night skies, as well as a peaceful stay in rustic accommodation with an outdoor pool and barbecue facilities, surrounded by forests and horse paddocks.
Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
Renowned locally as the quiet home to hippies and fisherman, Cabo Polonio is also known to have the darkest sky and the brightest stars on the Uruguayan coastline. Whilst this quaint village has grown to offer stores, hostels, restaurants, it remains off the conventional electricity grid. Some more upscale dwellings have solar energy powered electricity, but many homes are lit by candlelight at night, often produced at the local shop, meaning light pollution in the area is particularly low and perfect for stargazing!
Where to stay: Despite its rustic location, the Narakan hostel boasts a 24-hour front desk, offering convenience and great amenities, with hot showers and an onsite restaurant. With the property located on the beach, some of the hostel’s shared dorms even offer a sea-view. Star gazers can find themselves listening to the crashing waves in bed after a night spent on the beach admiring the cosmos above.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
Identified as an emerging destinations for 2019***, Wadi Rum, also known as the Valley of the Moon, is drawing in cosmos fans from around the world. Out in the heart of the southern Jordan desert, Wadi Rum offers visitors the stunning contrast of bright, golden dunes in the daytime and a vast array of starlight at night.
Where to stay: Wadi Rum Sky Tours and Camp
Wadi Rum Sky Tours and Camp provides accommodation in the protected and tranquil area of the desert, away from the village and other camps. This peacefulness provides the perfect backdrop for stargazing when all you must do is step outside your Bedouin tents. The camp offers a cozy communal area where guests can enjoy a glass of traditional Bedouin tea or a delicious home-cooked meal.
*Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of adults who have taken a trip in the last 12 months/plan to take a trip in the next 12 months. In total 21,500 respondents were polled (including 1,000 each from Australia, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, China, Brazil, India, US, UK, Russia, Indonesia, Colombia and South Korea; and 500 each from Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Croatia, Taiwan, Mexico, Netherlands, Sweden, Singapore and Israel). Respondents completed an online survey between 10th August to 30th August 2018.
**The list was based on endorsements from International Booking.com users who stayed at these locations. The locations had to receive 100 endorsements in the category "Stargazing" to be considered, and were selected on the basis of share of total endorsements.
*** The data analysts at Booking.com compared year-over-year international bookings (i.e. excluding domestic travelers) between 2016-17 and 2017-18, from September to August. The selection is based on the most appealing destinations with the highest year-on-year increase. To be included, had to be booked at least 10.000 times in the past year.