“Twinkle twinkle little STA(r), how we wonder what… you… are.” All together now! “Up above [Ant: one second, just popping over to Google]… the world… so high; like a diamond in the sky. Twinkle twinkle…”
That’s right, folks. From a very early age, we’re instilled with a beautiful sense of allure towards inky night skies, generously speckled with stars.
Did you know, more than half of Mongolians live in felt-lined tents, called gers. But can you name them all? | Photo by laihiu
But with street lights creeping across the lands and staining the darkness with an eerie orange glow, are there any accessible places left on earth where you can still kip under a thick night blanket? You can bet your bottom twinkle there are, and ode to your year of travel, I’m about to share with you some of my darkest secrets.
The World’s Most Amazing Places to Sleep
Hold up! Don’t forget, before you settle in for the night we want to hear what you think in the comment thread below. Don’t just stand on the sidelines, get involved and share your opinion!
Imagine settling down for the night — after an ouzo-fuelled evening of dancing under the moonlight — on the warm deck of a sailing yacht, anchored a few miles off the colourful Greek coastline, where your ‘bedroom’ floor is carpeted with stars reflecting off the warm Mediterranean Sea. If that hasn’t set you up for the following night sky experiences, I recommend Horlicks.
Fraser Island, Australia
Fraser Island, off Australia’s east coast, is almost completely devoid of light pollution. With just a handful of buildings and a whole heap of sand, this is the ideal place to drift off. Looking for a refreshing wake-up call? Listen out for the Dingo Alarm Clock; before taking a dip in the Champagne Pools (natural rock pools, filled with foamy sea water!)
San Ignacio, Belize
Imagine peering through the a curtain of lush green canopy, into a sky lit up by a hundred thousand stars. It’s possible at San Ignacio, set on the west bank of the Macal River, just 30 minutes from the Belize/Guatemala border and surrounded by some of the region’s most interesting Maya ruins, including the revered Cahal Pech.
Wave your t-shirt in the air if you love sleeping under the stars! | Photo by Nikko Russano
With a bit of luck, the constellations will provide a mere sideshow to your journey north in 2012, as the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) steal the headlines for some unforgettable evenings. Need a snug spot? Check out the glass igloos of Hotel Kakslauttanen in northern Finland! Heading south instead? Grab a date with Aurora Australis, its southern sister.
Sinai Peninsula, Egypt
Keep your eye on FCO advice for Egypt’s Sinai Peninsular; but if it’s good to go, it’s good to go! Tighten up your bootlaces shortly after midnight, for a pilgrimage up Mount Sinai (where Sir Moses received the Ten Commandments from Our Father Who Art in Heaven). Take a perch, slam down a prayer and ark your vision towards those heavenly night skies. Sleep? Save it for the donkeys, you’ve got a glorious sunrise to soak up.
Sossusvlei Desert, Namibia
You may not have heard of Namibia’s Sossusvlei Desert, but you’ve almost certainly seen its iconic orange dunes on a Windows desktop! Parts of the dunes are over a billion years old, and make the perfect stage for peering skywards and pondering life’s questions. Fancy peering upwards via a crack in the door? You can count on the Sesriem Canyon to perfectly frame your experience.
The Sossusvlei Desert homes some of the world's oldest dunes! | Photo by Namibnat
Slip outside of India‘s Golden City, Jaislamer and you’ll be crunching the famous sands of the Thar Desert. For a spine-tingling view of the bright night skies, get aboard a camel train and hot hoof it into the heart of the Thar for a night of camping beneath the stars. And you thought India was all about the chaos? Pah!
If you want the purest views of the sky at night, you’ll need to get up high; where the air is thin and the lights are dim. Where am I thinking? Mount Everest Base Camp (EBC) is a breathtaking spot, and surprisingly accessible outside of winter. Accessible via Tibet or Nepal; make the ascent by foot or by road, and get to see the world’s most magnificent mountain take a shower of stars.
The Gobi, Mongolia
Not only is Mongolia one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries on the planet; it’s also home to the starlight gobbling Gobi desert. Gallop around the Gobi on horseback, before retreating to the hearty warmth of a nomadic ger and a peek out to some of the deepest, most-fulfilling night skies you are ever likely to see.
The Outback, Australia
Australia’s formidable Outback might be more famous for the deep red expanses of its landscapes; but spare a moment for the legend-heavy night skies that quietly cloak the empty hollows of the country’s Red Centre. Pick a spot beside Uluru or Wolf Creek, and see stars so bright, they appear like 3D bullets.
The White Continent is famously devoid of urban sprawl, which paves the way for the Starlight Express to roll across the continent with incredible results. Look out for the opportunity to ‘Sleep under the Stars’; this is where fortune favours the brave with a face-full of diamond lights.
Atacama Desert, Chile
It’s safe to assume, that should you stumble across four Very Large Telescope (VLT) units in a remote area of the driest desert in the world, that you’ve wound up in the Atacama Desert; one of the world’s best places for stargazing. Pitch up in the desert, or retreat to the small town of San Pedro de Atacama for easy access to the nightly spectacle.
V for Very. L for Large. T for…? Answers on a postcard/comment thread!| Photo by European Southern Observatory
Yasawa Islands, Fiji
Envelop yourself in a hammock on Fiji‘s Yasawa Islands, for a dream audience with the legendary night skies of the South Pacific. Wrap yourself up in the warm air rising off the pleasant sands, and grab a slow drink to seal the moment.
Mount Cook, New Zealand
Mountains around the world, rise up! Mount Cook, on New Zealand’s South Island, is leading the charge on sleeping with the stars. Head into the Aoraki Mount Cook Village to grab your bunk, then slope out to the high-tech observatory for a goggle at the galaxy.