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The World’s Best Stargazing

Article by Amiee White Beazley 08.22.2017

Five of our favorite spots for astrotourism, and what to know before you go.

Astrotourism beckons travelers to explore the vastness of the skies from an earthly vantage point. Pair that quest with settings as breathtaking as these five spots, and you’re in a true vacation mindset.

1. TENERIFE, CANARY ISLANDS

Blessed with good weather and a “sky law” to protect the area from light pollution, the Canary Islands, situated off southwestern Morocco, are one of the world’s hottest destinations for astrotourism. Teide National Park in Tenerife, the archipelago’s largest island, is home to an area known as a Starlight Tourist Destination — a global certification designating excellence in stargazing conditions — where visitors can observe constellations with the naked eye. For a closer glimpse, the Institute of Astrophysics operates the Teide Observatory, ideally located for studying the sun.

At The Ritz-Carlton, Abama, alfresco Celestial Michelin Picnics pair stargazing with selections from the resort’s M.B. restaurant, led by astronomer Javier Chirivella Costa.

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2. MUSCAT, OMAN

From indulgent camping experiences in the Bedouin tradition to planetariums, Oman offers several options for satisfying stargazing curiosity. PDO Planetarium — the nation’s first — draws thousands of visitors each year and organizes monthly viewing parties with astronomer Marwan Shwaiki. Beyond Muscat is an area called Jebel Shams, known as the Grand Canyon of the Middle East. Situated 3,000 meters above sea level, it is beloved by astronomers for its elevation and dark skies. Here the Oman Astronomical Society hosts stargazing parties and an annual three-day event for families that includes lectures and time in the planetarium.

Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, can organize an unforgettable night of “glamping” below Oman’s star-filled skies. Check with your concierge for details.

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3. RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIFORNIA

Whether camping at nearby Joshua Tree National Park or gazing from the surrounding desert hills, visitors can be awed by the heavens courtesy of some of the darkest nights Southern California has to offer. “Looking out into the cosmos, I am always floored by the magnitude,” says Frank Sheckler, the recreation ambassador at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage. Sheckler hosts the resort’s Saturday Stargazing sessions, which uncover constellations and nearby planets, including Jupiter’s bands and four of its moons.

The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage hosts complimentary Saturday Stargazing sessions every weekend, weather permitting.

4. MAUI, HAWAII

“Stars were our directional signs, traffic lights and signals,” says Clifford Naeole, cultural adviser at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, of Polynesian celestial navigation. Star-based navigation helped bring the first settlers across the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands, and that history, plus Hawaii’s legendary beauty, makes stargazing here a unique experience. A nighttime walk up Mount Haleakala, Maui’s dormant volcano, reveals shooting stars and the glittering glory of the Milky Way. Armed with comfortable clothes and a star map to help identify the heavens above (available at park headquarters), visitors are in for an unforgettable night.

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua hosts a complimentary stargazing class, including a history of Polynesian star navigation, led by celestial navigator Kala Baybayan on Thursday nights.

5. SONORAN DESERT, ARIZONA

With open spaces and telescope-ready mountains, the Sonoran Desert is one of the top U.S. stargazing destinations. One reason: The Kitt Peak National Observatory, which boasts the largest collection of optical and radio telescopes in the world. Nearby, in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains, the desert atmosphere at Dove Mountain provides the perfect setting for Benjamin Loker of Arizona Star Tours to engage guests during his Saturday events. “We might be looking at a star cluster 8,000 light-years away,” Loker says. “When the light left this star cluster, the pyramids had not been built! That’s the kind of perspective people take away.”

The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain offers a Saturday night Stargazing Experience, presented weekly from 7 to 9 p.m. at no charge to resort guests.

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Plan Your Stay in These Destinations


  • Abama

    Location Tenerife, Spain

    Experience A beachside retreat where sea, land and resort blend seamlessly.

    • Overlooks the brilliantly blue Atlantic
    • 13 restaurants and bars to experience
    • A 72-par, Dave Thomas golf course
  • Muscat, Al Bustan Palace

    Location Muscat, Oman

    Experience A luxury resort overlooking the Sea of Oman.

    • Panoramic sea or mountain views
    • Five outdoor swimming pools
    • The “Coffee Man,” the resort’s cultural host
  • Rancho Mirage

    Location Rancho Mirage, California

    Experience A desert oasis perched on a 650-foot bluff with mountain vistas.

    Discover The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, a scenic luxury hotel in Palm Springs, CA, located on a 650-foot bluff overlooking a desert valley.

  • Kapalua

    Location Maui, Hawaii

    Experience A resort rich in cultural traditions and a warm Aloha spirit.

    • Unique ocean activities for everyone
    • Three distinctive beachside cabana offerings
    • Snorkeling & underwater photography
  • Dove Mountain

    Location Marana, Arizona

    Experience A luxury wellness resort that heals through eco-holistic remedies.

    • World-class hiking and mountain biking
    • Spa therapies honed by ancient remedies
    • #1 Spa in Arizona by readers of Condé Nast