A dark sky reserve in the Portuguese countryside
Imagine a location where, as soon as night falls, an absolutely clear sky reveals constellations visible to the naked eye. A place where you can experience this magical sensation in the open air. From Lisbon, venture into the protected lands of Alentejo, the largest region of Portugal. After a two-hour journey, the immense artificial lake of Alqueva appears. In the heart of nature, far away from the major urban centres, your stargazing dream becomes a reality. Alqueva was the first site in the world to obtain “Starlight Tourism Destination” classification from UNESCO. Its low latitude, minimal light pollution and clear sky offers perfect conditions for observing the stars.
Admire the celestial beauty from a superb rural property which is at one with its environment. Located on the banks of Lake Alqueva, Monte Falperras combines the simplicity of stone with the simplicity of white. In this charming sanctuary, an instructor will introduce you to the basics of stargazing. Equipped with telescopes, he will teach you how to recognise the constellations, identify the stars and even detect certain objects in the deep sky with the naked eye.
The wide-open spaces around Alqueva also invite you to experience the spirit of southern Portugal. Monsaraz is a must-visit village, with its medieval setting and its schist streets sheltered by old walls. At its highest point, a gourmet restaurant offers you a full gamut of flavours. Amidst the rustic stones of the Xarez restaurant, gazpacho with ham, cod with spinach, and roast lobster with migas (stale bread made into a panade and seasoned with garlic and coriander) are brought out. A festival of discoveries.
Quench your thirst for knowledge at the Dark Sky observatory, in the village of Cumeada. Its technological cutting-edge equipment will transport you through the nebulae and the far-off galaxies. Quite simply enthralling.
Monte das Falperras
+351 966 420 695
Dark Sky Alqueva
Rua da Nossa Sra. da Conceição, Cumeada,
Reguengos de Monsaraz, Évora
Rua de Santiago 33
+351 266 557 052
Deciphering the sky in South-West France
Why not scrutinise the heavens in the French countryside? Less than two hours north of Toulouse, in the vicinity of a village in the Gers region, the Ferme des étoiles will answer all your questions about astronomy. In the middle of undulating countryside, often compared to Tuscany, a large, tastefully restored Gascon house organises star-related activities. Famous for its very dark nights, the site nestles in a lush landscape which stretches as far as the Pyrenees. In large wooded grounds, you take possession of your unusual accommodation surrounded by nature: an “astrobulle”, a small dwelling in the shape of a transparent bubble, equipped to accommodate your family. Your stay begins by deciphering a map of the sky. When evening comes, you share a dinner of local specialities with other lovers of wide-open spaces around a long table d'hôtes set out in the garden.
In the mild starry night, conviviality gives way to silence when it is time to observe the sky and its mysteries. Enthusiastic instructors will help you to adjust a powerful 620 mm telescope and other exceptional observation instruments, like the largest pair of binoculars in the world! Assisted by these expert eyes, you will become familiar with the galaxies, the nebulae and the planets. You can admire the uneven crater-filled surface of the moon. You will also understand the concepts of distance and time better. During this intense experience, you will feel very small faced with this spectacle of striking immensity.
La Ferme des Étoiles
+33 (0)5 62 06 09 76
The spectacular Milky Way from an observatory in Chile
Chile has the clearest skies in the entire southern hemisphere. Take advantage of the very low light pollution in the north of the country to enjoy a cosmic adventure. From Santiago, head to Pisco del Elqui.
You will arrive at Refugio Misterios del Elqui, a tropical haven of peace hidden amidst the mountains. When night falls, lift your eyes and admire the show. The Milky Way sparkles like diamonds. The excitement will give you goose bumps, and that is only a little foretaste of what is to come.
On the following day, make your way to Andacollo, one hour's journey away. At the top of Mount Churqui, 1,300 m above sea level, stands a clean-lined, futuristic building. You have arrived at the Collowara observatory. This astronomical observation centre welcomes astronomy enthusiasts of all ages. From its three panoramic terraces, you can admire the desert landscape stretching out into infinity. Far away, the domes of the great scientific observatories of Tololo and Gemini point upwards. The long-awaited observation of space begins in the evening darkness. Specialised guides will show you the sky in all its vastness through three ultramodern telescopes. As you look on in amazement the Southern Cross and other further off constellations pop up before your eyes. Your spirit takes flight towards this wonderful universe. The showstopper appears underneath the central dome, where a video show will take you on a sensational journey right up close to the stars.
Refugio Misterios del Elqui
+56 51 245 11 26
+56 9 7645 2970
In the heart of nature in an American Park
The United States is an astro-tourists' paradise and has more than 20 sites listed by the International Dark-Sky Association. One of the best places for observing the stars is located 435 km west of New York City. You are on your way to Cherry Springs State Park, in the heart of Pennsylvania. On your arrival in the town of Coudersport, 20 km away from the park, check into the Westgate Inn, a luxurious pied-à-terre alongside the Allegheny River. Wooden furniture and roaring fires give this out of the way place a warm atmosphere.
Very popular with astronomy enthusiasts, Cherry Springs State Park is set on a plateau at an altitude of 700 m. In this starry-skies reserve, you will experience strong emotions. This evening, a new moon is expected and, with it, the promise of an almost mystical spectacle. You are asked to register to access the astronomy observation field; luckily you have remembered to reserve a night time session before coming. When the sky darkens, you won't believe your eyes, the Milky Way shines so brightly, it projects your shadow onto the ground. A spectacular meteorite show bursts through the immensity of space. On the following day, you will replay these wonderful images as you traverse the pathways of the Susquehannock forest which covers the park.
Coudersport PA 16915
Cherry Springs State Park
4639 Cherry Springs Rd
Coudersport PA 16915
Safari and astronomy in Kenya
Gazing at the sky of two hemispheres, boreal and austral, in the same place appears impossible. And yet, there is an astronomic observation spot in Kenya where this star-gazing fantasy can become a reality. To do this, you have to leave Nairobi, head to the north of the country, and cross the beautiful Rift Valley. On a bank of Lake Baringo, at an altitude of one thousand metres, the comfortable Tumbili Cliff Lodge will accommodate you in one of its cottages perched on a rocky hill, above the water. The result of a meeting between the astro-photographer Olivier Sauzereau and the wildlife photographer Tony Crocetta, your lodge is also home to the Nyota (“star” in Swahili) observatory.
During your stay in this unique location, you can explore untamed nature during ornithological hikes and boat safaris. Between trips, in the hotter times of day, you can enjoy cooling down in the pool.
When evening falls, get ready for a fascinating experience under the African stars with an astronomy course led by the specialist Olivier Sauzereau who will share his experience of photographing celestial phenomena. Almost on the line of the Equator, the Nyota observatory is ideally located for satisfying your passion for astronomy. Here, every night is dedicated to exploring the equatorial sky. The magic happens. The entire canopy of heaven passes above your head. With your eyes glued to a 355 mm diameter telescope, you gaze at the stars of the northern hemisphere, as well as a multitude of stars, nebulae and galaxies in the southern skies. Before dawn, Venus and Jupiter will appear in the zodiacal light, a sight that is unique in the world.
Tumbili Cliff Lodge
+254 720 880 260
+33(0)2 51 53 91 25