As stars arced past Teide’s summit, the guide adjusted the telescope a final time, focusing on the pale smudge of the Andromeda galaxy. The nearest major galaxy to our own, it’s still 2.5 million light years away, the most distant object that can be seen with the naked eye.
It’s easy to imagine Tenerife’s ancient inhabitants on a night as clear as this one, watching the faraway galaxy against a velvet-dark sky. Thousands of years later, the view retains its power. I looked a final time, then moved aside as another stargazer took my place at the telescope. He drew in a quick breath when Andromeda came into sudden focus: “My god!” he said.
Canada: See constellations reel over the Canadian Rockies at the 442-room Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper National Park, the world’s second-largest Dark Sky Preserve. At the hotel’s on-site planetarium, astronomy experts lead virtual tours of constellations and train the Canadian Rockies’ most powerful telescope on the night sky. Watch for flickering tongues of purple, green, and blue light, too, as the aurora borealis makes flash appearances above Jasper from August to April. Virtuoso travelers receive a welcome gift, breakfast daily, and a $100 hotel credit.
Namibia: Even in full sunlight, the Namib Desert resembles something from another planet, with its Martian-red plains grazed by spiral-horned kudu. At night, it’s the dark skies that dazzle in NamibRand Nature Reserve. An International Dark Sky Reserve renowned for stargazing, the wildlife sanctuary is also among the largest private nature preserves in Africa. Ker & Downey’s private, customizable, eight-day fly-in Namibia safari includes two nights in the nature reserve at the recently renovated andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, where an on-site observatory and resident astronomer help guests make the most of the starry abundance overhead. Departures: Any day through 2021.
Ireland: Coastal hills on the Iveragh Peninsula along the Wild Atlantic Way frame twinkling night skies in the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve, the first such reserve in Ireland. Locals have long kept an eye on the heavens here: Some 6,000 years ago, the peninsula’s Neolithic people aligned their stone monuments to celestial events. Now, moon-less nights reveal hosts of galaxies, nebulas, and shooting stars. At the gateway to the peninsula, the 72-room Sheen Falls Lodge offers falconry, outings on horseback, and salmon fishing on a private stretch of river within the 300-acre estate. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily, a bottle of wine, and an excursion in the hotel’s 1936 Buick.