Photograph by Babak Tafreshi, National Geographic Creative
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The total lunar eclipse of December 2011 hangs over the snow-covered Zagros Mountains in Iran.

Photograph by Babak Tafreshi, National Geographic Creative

5 Places to See the 'Super Blue Blood Moon'

Here are the top destinations around the world to witness this rare and dramatic sky event.

On January 31st an incredible lunar trifecta will take place over the Pacific: a simultaneous supermoon, blue moon, and blood moon known as a ‘Super Blue Blood Moon.’ Sound epic? It is. The last time the world experienced one was 1982.

This blue moon—the second instance of a full moon in January—will occur during a supermoon, when the moon hits the closest point in its orbit around Earth. Supermoons appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than your typical moon, but January's will also undergo a total lunar eclipse. Tucked directly behind a stacked sun and Earth, the moon will take on a reddish tinge as it's enveloped in Earth’s shadow. Sarah Noble, a Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters poetically explained via NASA ScienceCasts: “We’re seeing all the Earths’ sunrises and sunsets reflected from the surface of the moon.” [Read Rare 'Super Blue Blood Moon' Coming—First in 35 Years].

To witness it, positioning is key. Weather permitting, the western United States will get a glimpse of the eclipse as the moon is setting around dawn. But Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and much of the Middle East and eastern Asia are perfectly poised to take in all of the event during darkness when the moon is most visible and higher in the sky. Thinking of a last-minute trip? Here are five dream locations to watch the Super Blue Blood Moon unfold:

Hawaii

Groggy tourists to Hawaii regularly wake as early as two in the morning for otherworldly sunrises atop 10,000-foot Haleakala’s summit crater. Steeped in celestial mythology, it’s said to be the spot from which Polynesian demigod Maui lassoed and slowed the sun to prolong the days. Imagine the incredible twofer of a self-guided sunrise tour on the morning of January 31st. With the totality occurring between 2:51 and 4:08 a.m. local time, and sunrise just before 7 a.m., it’s a top-of-the world stage set for two incredible acts.

Lunar Eclipse 101

Alaska

Though average temperatures in Anchorage this time of year hover in the teens, the dark winter night here is also prime viewing for northern lights. Bundle up for the moon show between 3:50 and 5:10 a.m. in this cozy city along the Cook Inlet, then head to one of its more than 150 coffee shops for a predawn warm up (National Geographic Travel’s recently named Anchorage one of the Best Small Cities in the United States).

Vietnam

The limestone pillars and emerald green waters of Halong Bay promise an ethereal backdrop for a huge, red moon. Ply the watery passageways between the Gulf of Tonkin’s 1,600 islets on traditional wooden Chinese junk. Choose an overnight or sunset cruise on the 31st—the eclipse starts at 7:50 p.m.

Japan

Gnarly ice that forms in the Sea of Okhotsk just off the UNESCO-protected Shiretoko peninsula on the eastern side of Hokkaido, already draws visitors this time of year for an annual Drift Ice Festival. Head to the event’s ice dome bar for some warming sake, then watch the supermoon, pre-eclipse, cast striking shadows on the sea. A warm outdoor onsen is as good a place as any for the eclipse, which starts here around 9:50 p.m.

New Zealand

Up for camping? Then try an overnight within Tongariro National Park’s volcanic landscape. The remote, wind-swept park promises cinematic scenery—it served as backdrop for large parts of Lord of the Rings films, and star stratovolcano, Mount Ngauruhoe, played Mount Doom. We can’t say if the Super Blue Blood Moon will look anything like the films’ Eye of Sauron, but wouldn’t you like to find out?

Science and travel journalist Meghan Miner Murray is based in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Follow her on Twitter.