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Dark skies: Call it a night

Calling all stargazers ­— this is the year to protect our skies and join in the celestial celebrations

Dark skies: Call it a night
Image: Alamy

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Dark sky at night, traveller’s delight? Well, it certainly looks like that will be the case this year. As urban sprawl and light pollution increase, we’re becoming increasingly aware of how precious our skies are — so a growing number of Dark Sky Reserves are reclaiming the skies and showing us the stars. Alongside this, the first European Dark Sky Places Conference took place in 2017 with aims to promote rural development, tourism and tackle light pollution. Whether you’re new to astro-tourism or a roving telescope-touting traveller, there’s plenty to discover. From March, Dark Skies Tenerife is launching new private tours where you’ll be whisked off into the El Teide National Park with an experienced astronomer, binoculars and even a hamper of tapas to nibble on while you gaze at the famed skies. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, try these cosmic calendar events.

The cosmic calendar

Book ahead 
Many US states host ‘star parties’ throughout the year. From the Grand Canyon to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the events gather speakers, food trucks and activities around the telescopes. 

Go now 
Cancel all remaining February plans and head to the UK’s National Parks Dark Skies Festival. From 9-25 February, celebrate the nation’s bejewelled skies in Northumberland, North York Moors, South Downs and Yorkshire Dales national parks. Think night-time zip-wiring paired with educational sessions. 

How to do it 
Stargaze in style in Northumberland at any time of year. Check into luxury lodges in the Kielder Water & Forest Park — the largest protected night sky in Europe and the fourth-largest in the world — where you’ll have private stargazing pods and outdoor hot tubs galore.

Aoraki Mackenzie, New Zealand
Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales
Central Idaho, USA
Exmoor National Park, England
Kerry, Ireland
Mont-Mégantic, Québec, Canada
Moore’s Reserve, South Downs, England
NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia
Pic du Midi, France
Rhön, Germany
Snowdonia National Park, Wales
Westhavelland, Germany

Published in the March 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)