1. Fuerteventura, Canary IslandsMost Brits pass through the resort towns of the Canary Islands without ever getting a good look at their glistening night skies, but the clear nights in Fuerteventura offer some accessible stargazing experiences. The entire island is a Starlight Reserve, and local company Stars by Night offers excellent guided stargazing sessions with an astronomer, and even short courses in astrophotography. The light pollution of Lanzarote is away to the north, so on a warm summer night you can see the Milky Way shining as brightly as anywhere on the planet.
Stars by Night’s one-and-a-half hour observing session costs €67 per adult/€47 under 12s, which includes a meal and drinks in Pozo Negro, observation with an astronomer in La Atalayita, and transport from accommodation in the Caleta de Fuste area. Private guided astrophotography is €147 for five hours shooting around the island (0034 610 367 063; starsbynight.es).
2. Brecon Beacons, WalesIt’s barren, it’s wild and it’s also often wet, but when the skies do clear the night sky above the Brecon Beacons International Dark Sky Reserve is hard to beat. Stargazer’s Retreat between Trecastle and Crai provides not only a cosy bolt-hole, but a small computerised (and even heated) observatory. Also in the Brecon Beacons, Cwmdu Campsite near Crickhowell hosts the twice-yearly AstroCamp (astrocamp.awesomeastronomy.com), a friendly gathering of stargazers that welcomes newcomers to have a go on a plethora of large telescopes.
A night at Stargazer’s Retreat in the Brecon Beacons costs from £50 per night for two in self-catering accommodation (07787 054089; stargazersretreat.co.uk).
3. Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah, USAbout 2,000ft above a gooseneck in the Colorado River, this promontory is one of the darkest places in the south-west US. An International Dark Sky Park, the observation platforms atop its vertical cliffs are ideal for stargazing, and it also happens to be one of the only places to camp in the area. However, if you want a classic arch-meets-Milky Way photograph, spend the afternoon touring the dramatic “Island in the Sky” in the adjoining Canyonlands National Park – another International Dark Sky Park.
A night at Kayenta Campground in Dead Horse Point State Park costs US$35 (£26) per night, which includes a tent square, picnic table and shelter, a barbecue/firepit, and access to bathrooms and water (001 800 322 3770; reserveamerica.com).
Canyonlands National Park CREDIT: (C)T-A-K-U4. Hotel RangA, Hella, IcelandThere’s much chatter among travellers about the best place to see the Northern Lights, but for Brits, Iceland is the clear winner. Cheap flights to Reykjavik help, but more important is the jet-stream, which makes Iceland about 18F (10C) warmer than the likes of Finland, Sweden and Norway. It’s much easier here to stand in the snow and stare at the twisting magnetic storms above your head without freezing, although it’s still cold enough for the outdoor hot tubs at the log-built Hotel Ranga to tempt. It has an impressive on-site observatory and a daily guided tour of the night sky.
A three-night stargazing break at Hotel Ranga costs from €1,122 for two, which includes breakfast and dinner, and access to the observatory and hot tubs. Flights not included. Departures from September to the end of May (00354 487 5700; hotelranga.is).
5. Atacama Desert, ChileAll good stargazers know that clear skies are best viewed while clutching a good cabernet sauvignon, which may make Chile the ultimate dark sky destination. However, it’s pisco brandy that’s the tipple of choice in the Elqui Valley, a high-altitude area studded with professional telescopes owned by the European Southern Observatory, such as La Silla. It’s also home to smaller boutique observatories that hold regular nightly stargazing sessions. If you’ve never seen the night sky from the southern hemisphere, prepare for an inferiority complex. A total solar eclipse will occur in the Elqui Valley on July 2 2019.
A 10-day Vines & Volcanoes tour costs £2,450 per person, which includes all accommodation, internal flights, tours and transfers, as well as breakfast every day (and even a visit to the stunning ALMA site, home to 66 radio telescopes). Flights not included (0113 262 5329; realworldholidays.co.uk).
6. Pic du Midi Observatory, Haute-Pyrénées, FranceA Cold War-era concrete construction on a ridge 9,438ft up in a mountain in the French Pyrénées, Pic du Midi looks more like a James Bond villain’s den that a world-class observatory. Out on the stargazing terrace are several domes, one painted by French graffiti artists the 65ers to look like an igloo, another to look like Stormtroopers from Star Wars. Its Nuit Au Sommet package includes dinner, guided stargazing and a night in cosy quarters normally used by astronomers. Whichever way you look is the Pyrénées National Park, an International Dark Sky Reserve.
The Pic du Midi’s one-night Nuits Au Sommet package costs from €339 per person, which includes a return cable car journey from La Mongie, dinner, drinks, guided stargazing with telescopes, breakfast and accommodation (0033 05 6256 7000; picdumidi.com).