by: José Berrocoso //
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.
Most of us can appreciate the beauty of the night sky, but there are a growing number of ‘darkness seekers’ looking for next level, celestial experiences. They hunt for places where the sky is the darkest and most clear. The desert is an ideal environment for this kind of viewing, but the mountains and oceans also lend themselves to unobstructed stargazing. With so much light pollution in cities, it’s no wonder that people are heading out into remote lands to bask in the light of the heavenly bodies.
Stellar Parks, Sarlight Reserves, Sky Routes and Sky Decks are allowing amateur astronomers the chance to see the sky properly, as few can; a beautiful black void pierced by millions of brilliant heavenly bodies.
We have pulled together our top five stargazing hotspots around the world. Plan your next getaway!
SPOT SATURN, JUPITER AND MARS FROM VIETNAM
Where: Six Senses Con Dao, 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 the 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.
THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Where: Deplar Farm, Iceland
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 and a gym. 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.
DISCOVER THE GLORIOUS GALAXY AT THE ANAMBAS ISLANDS
Where: Bawah Reserve, 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 explore the 6 islands, 13 beaches and 3 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.
SPOT THE MILKY WAY FROM ZIMBABWE
Where: Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe
An ideal place to take in the African night sky is Singita Pamushana, which re-opened in July 2018 following a significant design transformation, with bold new interiors which bring guests even closer to the wild. With nature as a key design informant, the new cliff-top fire pit and suspended bar with 270-degree views of the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve offer the experience of being totally immersed in nature and provide the perfect location for alfresco dining, sundowners and fireside stargazing. According to Sally Tsiliyiannis, lead architect from GAPP Architects, ‘the new suspended bar deck hangs dramatically over the outermost promontory of the hilltop. Grounded by a backdrop of boulders the deck extends forward to float in the air above the dam.’
Two new two-bedroom suites have also been added to the lodge, offering 8 suites in total and an exclusive-use 5-bedroom villa. Each suite has a private pool overlooking the Malilangwe Dam and surrounding bush. While telescopes are provided to spot the game along the lake shore below and to stargaze, guests can also enjoy walking safaris, community visits, rock art site visits, fishing and sundowner cruises on the dam below the lodge. Early morning and afternoon game drives are also included, as are spot-lit night drives and guided bush walks.
SLEEP UNDER THE STARS ON YOUR VERY OWN PRIVATE ISLAND
Where: 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.