This post was contributed by our Couples Travel Experts, Mack & Laura.
The night sky is magical. It captivates us, transports us, and makes us feel as though we are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves; it always has and it always will.
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Laura and I believe that spending a night beneath the stars is always worth missing out on a few hours sleep. Never do we feel more connected to each other, and everything around us, than when we surrender ourselves to the night sky.
Listed below are some of our fondest memories, from our favourite nights spent stargazing.
Trial Bay, Australia
Trial Bay may be an unassuming little beach on Australia’s East Coast, but it will always hold a special piece of my heart. It was the first place I ever laid eyes on the Milky Way.
It had been a lazy afternoon spent riding waves, capped off with a few sundowners and firelight dancing upon the sand. There was not another soul around except those we were with.
I stepped away from the firelight for a moment and, heaving a contented sigh, let my eyes drift skywards. Before me was the most beautiful night’s sky I had ever seen. Innumerable stars coated the sky and there, splashed across the middle was my first, perfect, Milky Way.
It is unlikely that this tiny town on Canada’s west coast would be known to many for stargazing. This rugged, and windswept corner of Vancouver Island consists of dense forest, mountains, islands, rocky shores, wide sandy beaches, and notoriously rough seas. It is a popular destination for storm watchers.
People who visit this place are treated to some of the wettest and windiest weather that Canada has to offer, along with some of the nation’s most intense natural beauty.
If you can handle weather that changes from blue skies and sunshine to wind, rain, and fog within the span of an hour, you will fall in love with this place, just like we did.
Camping here with friends one spring weekend, we were treated to one of the most dramatically unveiled night skies we’ve ever seen. The sky and sea had been obscured by a thick, milky fog.
One that was so dense we had taken to wandering through it spellbound. As we walked, the fog lifted and behind it revealed a brilliantly lit night sky. It was a perfect reminder that both fair skies and storms will pass and that the best views are always the ones before you.
While sailing from Flores to Lombok in Indonesia, we passed by the island of Sumbawa. The landscape in this part of Indonesia is dramatic. Volcanic ridges and sheer slopes ran high above while we rode the waves below. There are no large cities on Sumbawa – only a few small villages that dot the landscape with little artificial light.
Come nightfall the sky took on a character of its own. Stars stretched continuously from one side of the horizon to the other and in the warm night air, we lay for hours on the deck watching shooting stars flicker across the sky. With the stars and moon mirrored on the ocean’s surface, we could have been floating within the night sky rather than beneath it.
There is unbelievable stargazing throughout all of Africa. The sky is wide, the nights are dark, and the air is clear.
We were treated to starry skies in each place we visited. One, however, stands out for me above all the rest: Kawehi. A small community in central Botswana where we had a once in a lifetime experience with the night sky.
Imagine a warm shower, open to the night. Acacia trees and bushland surrounding you and the calls of elephant, hippo, hyena and all other creatures audible just beyond the fire glow.
A new moon, a dark sky and stars shining brightly out of the blackness. And there, dominating the night, was the Milky Way. Stars and galaxies swirled above us in a sea of floating light. We felt no weight and no worry. Only refreshed by the running water and immersed in the beauty that surrounded us.
Whitsunday Islands, Australia
If you have ever spent time in Australia then you know why we have given it two spots on our list. If you haven’t, add it to yours because, in our opinion, it has some of the best stargazing in the world.
The Whitsundays rest just off Queensland’s East Coast. The gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, these islands boast hidden coves, quiet hikes and some of the finest beaches in the world.
There are beautiful beachfront resorts where visitors can stay – or if you are fond of the ocean – it is the perfect place to charter a sailing yacht for an extra memorable holiday. (We have used Cumberland Charter Yachts twice now and have been very happy with both the vessels and the support provided.)
While touring the islands we were treated to some unbelievable star displays. We lay in our bunk, night after night mesmerized as the stars moved across the sky, watching through the open hatch above us. These nights spent stargazing are among the fondest memories we have.
We spent three weeks trekking in the Annapurna region of Nepal and during that time we learned a few things about the night sky.
The first is that Nepal has incredible stargazing. With no large villages high in the mountains, the sky is beautifully unaffected by light pollution. We were so captivated by the stars that, perhaps for the first time ever, getting up to pee in the night was a source of excitement, not dread.
The second thing we learned was that the lunar cycle plays a huge role in the quality of a star display. We have always been aware of the cycle of the moon while living on the road, however, we had never planned our trips or our stargazing around it.
This became apparent in Nepal when we reached the grand finale of our hike, hoping for amazing star displays. Instead, the full moon was the brightest we had ever seen, blocking many of the stars from view.
In the end, this was both a blessing and a curse and while we didn’t get to see the stars we had hoped for, the moon shining brightly in the mountains turned out to be every bit as beautiful.
When it comes to stargazing, timing and location may be everything, but we believe that when it comes to life, trading expectation for appreciation is the most important thing.
Atacama Desert, Chile
The Atacama Desert is widely regarded as one of the best places in the world to view the night sky. Among the highest and driest deserts in the world, it is far from cityscapes and light pollution. High above sea level and devoid of moisture, the air here is thin, clear and cold. Perfectly suited for stargazing.
Our first night in the Atacama is one of our most treasured memories. It was the first time that Laura had seen the Southern Cross since leaving Australia more than two years before. I can clearly remember her saying that never in her life had she seen so many stars.
Watching the night sky move by in the Atacama Desert is an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. It is hard to describe what it is like to watch uncountable stars and galaxies spin overhead while remote, high altitude desert stretches for miles all around.
You are entirely immersed in the universe’s beautiful complexity and yet so insignificant to the scale of the earth and the cosmos above. It is a humbling feeling, but a wonderful one. A feeling we feel most strongly wherever the stars shine brightest.
The most important thing about stargazing, in our opinion, is the way we perceive the sky we see. Yes, some of our favourite nights spent under the stars were moments which we had intended. The majority of them, however, were nights when we happened to look up, wherever we were in the world and were stunned by the universe around us.
Stargazing doesn’t need to be an expedition. It doesn’t need to be an exercise in research and execution. What it does need to do is strike a chord, deep down inside and make us feel something that we know is beyond our power to describe.
On the far side of the world, in your own backyard, by yourself or with your closest cohorts; wherever you are and whoever you’re with, take a moment and just look up. You may find something which will stay with you forever.