On any given day, a skyward gaze can be rewarded with a spectacular show, whether you’re catching a colorful sunset while sitting in traffic or basking in the glow of a harvest moon. But some places on our planet are especially prone to celestial displays, offering front-row seats to incredible spectacles of natural light. Here are ten out-of-this-world experiences you can have with National Geographic Expeditions.
Bigger Than Big Sky
Forget Montana—there’s no “big sky” quite like the one hovering above Mongolia’s Gobi. Far from any light pollution, this vast swath of blue is the ultimate canvas for astral artwork. During a stay in a traditional ger camp at Three Camel Lodge, you’re regularly treated to panoramic views of Mother Nature’s creations, and as a National Geographic guest you’re exclusively invited to stargaze through a Galileo telescope.
All the Stars
When it comes to constellations, do the patterns of the north light up your life, or are you more dazzled by the stars of the south? On a voyage to the Galápagos, you don’t have to choose—our ship’s position at and around the equator offers the perfect vantage point for taking in the best of both hemispheres. Head up to the top deck on a clear night, and you’ll find naturalists equipped with laser pointers, ready to lead impromptu stargazing sessions.
The Original Google Maps
Before the days of GPS, shimmering stars created the most reliable maps for a journey into the wilderness. Bedouins once used celestial bodies to find their way across desert sands, and you’ll get a lesson in this natural form of navigation during our stay in Wadi Rum. Sit down to a traditional feast in the heart of the desert, then join a Bedouin guide on a stargazing walk amid the surrounding dunes.
Under Neon Lights
One of nature’s most dazzling displays is the aurora borealis, and there is perhaps no more epic place to view this otherworldly light show than from a dogsled as it races across Arctic snowscapes. Drive your own team of huskies through Lapland’s pristine wilderness during prime northern lights viewing season, and settle into cabins perfectly placed for taking in their kaleidoscopic swirls.
African Sunsets Forever
When the sun settles into the Okavango Delta on a clear night, it paints a brilliant backdrop of coral and crimson—a scene stunning enough to eclipse any wildlife spectacle in your field of vision. During a safari across southern Africa, pick a perch at your stilted camp above a hippo-filled lagoon and take in the sun as it makes its evening descent. Stick around for the star-studded encore, when the sky lights up with a million sparkles.
Rock Around the Clock
In the weeks surrounding the summer solstice, Alaska is lit up around the clock, making it the perfect destination for travelers who don’t require much shut-eye. Stay up and play at Winterlake Lodge, where white-water rafting, glacier trekking, and alpine hiking can extend well into the evening. And don’t worry if you can’t make it here during solstice season. As the daylight hours decrease, your chances of spying the northern lights go up.
Light Pollution Solution
Set out from Vegas, trading in its neon lights for something even more brilliant: a star-studded desert sky. In Flagstaff, go behind the scenes at the celebrated Lowell Observatory to learn about research conducted by National Geographic-funded astronomers. Continue to Sequoia National Park, where low light pollution and high altitudes make for some of the best stargazing in the U.S. Here, an astronomy expert will help us spot far-off planets and twinkling constellations.
The Aurora Australis
Though not as well known as their cousins to the north, the southern lights are no less spectacular when it comes to visual effects. The aurora australis keep a lower profile simply due to a dearth of viewing platforms on terra firma. One place you can spy these neon beauties is from South Georgia island. Hop aboard the National Geographic Explorer in March and you may catch a glimpse of this spellbinding phenomenon.
Red Red Rocks
As dawn breaks on Uluru, the massive monolith takes on its characteristic red glow, emanating luminous hues that can tint passing clouds orange. Settle into Longitude 131°, a lodge designed to steep guests in the magic of the monolith. Glass-walled suites reveal the rock's radiance around the clock, and the experience centers around sunrise and sunset excursions to its base.
Use natural light to your Instagram feed’s advantage on sunrise and sunset photo shoots in India with a National Geographic photographer. Set in the early morning to capture colorful cities like Jaipur and Jodhpur as they wake from slumber, and frame camels against the dunes of the Thar Desert during the golden hour. Cap off your trip with two opportunities to shoot the Taj Mahal, visiting at both dawn and dusk.