by Nick Trend, The Telegraph, April 3, 2019
The Milky Way over the desert, Norwegian Lights in Tromso and a planet-themed cruise to New York - there are all sorts of ways to build a holiday around star-gazing…
1. Solar eclipse in Chile
The total solar eclipse which takes place on July 2 will be visible across parts of South America including the Coquimbo and Atacama regions of Chile. The city of La Serena is the destination for escorted tour specialist Wendy Wu, which has a dedicated itinerary departing from Santiago. Astronomy expert Dr Stuart Clark will be on hand to lecture before and during the eclipse, which takes place around 4pm local time.
Chile Eclipse from £3,790 for six nights, including flights, transfers and most meals. Departs June 28 2019. Wendy Wu Tours (wendywutours.co.uk).
2. Constellations in the Canaries
Warm sunshine is what most people are hoping for when travelling to the Canary Islands, but Tenerife’s mountainous interior also makes it an ideal destination for stargazers. The mountains of the 19,000-acre Cañadas del Teide National Park rise to more than 12,100ft above sea level, and this altitude – combined with lack of light pollution – results in very clear night skies. The Parador de Las Cañadas del Teide, the only hotel in the park, provides telescopes.
Parador de Las Cañadas del Teide from £1,106 for seven nights B&B, including flights and car hire. Available March to October. Cachet Travel (cachet-travel.co.uk).
3. Planet-themed cruise
Queen Mary 2’s space-themed voyage from Southampton to New York departs during World Space Week at the end of September and is accompanied by astronomer Dr Dan Wilkins and astronaut Prof Ulrich Walter, who will present specially curated shows in the ship’s on-board planetarium. Much of the vessel’s accommodation is sold out, but top-price suites are still available for keen stargazers with deep pockets.
World Space Week cruise from £7,479 for eight nights’ full-board, staying in a Queens Grill penthouse. Includes return flight and transfer. Departs Sept 26 2019. Cunard (cunard.com).
4. Norwegian Lights
Notoriously elusive, the Northern Lights are never a guaranteed sighting – but Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten offers a second week-long voyage for free if they don’t appear on the first occasion. A special Astronomy Voyage sails the length of Norway’s coast, from Bergen to Kirkenes, with a lecture series by leading British astronomers, a talk about the night sky from the ship’s deck and a visit to the Northern Lights Planetarium in Tromso.
Astronomy Voyage from £1,727 for 11 nights, full-board. Excludes flights and transfers. September to March. Hurtigruten (hurtigruten.co.uk).
5. Milky Way Over Namibia
South-west Africa’s vast desert regions are among the world’s best places to admire the night sky – if you get the timing right. During the spring and autumn months, the Milky Way’s constellations and star clusters can be seen especially clearly. Wildlife specialist Naturetrek leads a new astronomy expedition from Windhoek, travelling through Namibia’s national parks, with departures timed to coincide with the new moon when the skies are at their darkest.
Namibia Night and Day from £5,995 for 13 nights including all meals, flights and transfers. Departs Sept 10 2020. Naturetrek (naturetrek.co.uk).
6. Alpine summit
Matterhorn // Photo by Petivut Kunadoonyakit/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
The Kulmhotel Gornergrat is, at 10,170ft, the highest hotel in the Swiss Alps – but you can get there easily by train on the Gornergrat railway from Zermatt and the spot is ideal for astronomy. The three-star hotel has views of the Matterhorn and an in-house observatory. A Star Week runs from Oct 7 to 12 2019, with observatory tours and a stargazing walk in the company of expert astronomer Timm-Emmanuel Riesen.
Double room with Monte Rosa view from £260 per night B&B. Kulmhotel Gornergrat (gornergrat-kulm.ch).
7. Iceland’s dark skies
Star-gazing in the remote Icelandic wilderness isn’t just for the die-hards. Two hours south-east of Reykjavik, the four-star Hotel Ranga offers luxurious accommodation and a state-of-the-art observatory with a roll-off roof and two powerful telescopes. Staff provide a Northern Lights wake-up call and guests can contemplate the constellations from the upstairs balcony or from outdoor hot tubs.
Fly-drive short break at Hotel Ranga from £1,075 B&B for four nights, including flights and car hire. September to April. Regent Holidays (regent-holidays.co.uk).
8. Highland fling
When it comes to spectacular stargazing opportunities, you don’t have to travel beyond British shores (as long as the sky stays clear). The Torridon Resort is a tranquil, 18-room hotel and activities centre in rural Wester Ross, overlooking a sea loch in 58 acres of parkland in one of the darkest parts of Scotland. In combination with an overnight stay, you can arrange an after-dark excursion to the surrounding Highlands for a guided viewing of the constellations with local astronomy expert Stephen Mackintosh.
Torridon Stargazing Experience from £500 for two, with dinner. Rooms from £165 per night B&B. Available from October to March. The Torridon (thetorridon.com).
9. Christmas eclipse in Oman
On Boxing Day this year, a partial solar eclipse will take place over Oman. The itinerary offered by adventure operator Explore schedules the viewing from a remote desert camp on the Wahiba Sands, with an expert astronomer on hand to answer questions. Further highlights of the holiday include a boat trip in a traditional dhow on the Gulf of Oman, a city tour of Muscat and a drive through the Hajar Mountains to Nizwa’s 17th-century fort.
Arabian Sands Eclipse from £2,795 for seven nights B&B, including flights and transfers. Departs Dec 21 2019. Explore (explore.co.uk).
10. Meteors in the desert
Shooting stars are, in fact, very tiny pieces of comet debris which heat up and burn as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. In large numbers, they create a mesmerising show as they streak across the sky – and Jordan, with its clear desert skies, is one of the best places to see them. This summer, the Earth passes through the path of the intriguingly named Comet Swift-Tuttle, with a shower predicted to peak on Aug 12. As part of one of its Jordan itineraries, adventure specialist On The Go Tours has scheduled a stay at Wadi Rum to coincide with this astonishing natural spectacle.
Perseids Meteor Shower from £1,101 for seven nights B&B, including two dinners and transfers. Excludes flights. Departs Aug 8 2019. On The Go Tours (onthegotours.com).