Starstruck: Our top 3 destinations to discover the Milky Way

Astronomy is something that truly grips our imaginations here at BIRD; to think of a place beyond ourselves and our earth, to have a glimpse into the unreachable is a primal urge. With this Saturday celebrating the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 moon landing, we wanted to share with you our top three destinations for marvelling at the glorious night’s sky.

Portugal

Located on a 780-hectare estate in a wild corner of Portugal’s unspoilt Alentejo region, Sầo Lourenco do Barrocal offers guests unrivalled access to the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve, the first site in the world to receive the ‘Starlight Tourism Destination’ in 2011. Due to a very low rate of light pollution in this region, you’ll get the chance to admire some of the darkest and clearest skies on the planet, where stars, meteors, planets and the milky way illuminate the sky. From the hotel’s Alqueva Lake observatory, off-site expert astronomers, telescopes and an observation platform will aid the spotting of shooting stars and constellations. On the lake itself, private boat trips will heighten the experience, as the water reflects the night’s sky above. Sầo Lourenco do Barrocal is a sanctuary of supreme natural beauty where guests can experience the essence of an astronomical dream.

Photo Credit: Nelson Garrido

Kenya

For those dreaming of experiencing the impressive vastness of the African sky, Arijiju is a beautiful, private home set in 97,000 acres of Kenyan highlands where true wild luxury awaits. Lying among the Sikey Valley’s untouched beauty in the Borana conservatory, Arijiju is a sumptuous retreat for stargazing adventures; having the luxury of proximity to the Equator, Kenya is one of the very few places in the world that showcases both the northern and southern constellations in one night’s sky – now surely that’s got to be one for the bucket list?! When dusk begins to fall, sink into the comfort of sunbeds by the pool or hanging chairs on the terrace; as you gaze upwards and contemplate the expanse of the galaxy beyond let the sounds of the African wildlife provide an exciting backing track to your evening.

Galapagos

Jumping across to the South American continent, hop on board the Santa Cruz II expedition ship which offers 5-7 day itineraries around the fabled Northern, Eastern and Western Galapagos islands. Operated by Ecuador’s foremost travel company Metropolitan touring, SCII offers guests an epic exploration of the archipelago in contemporary style. After a day filled of hiking, paddle boarding or snorkelling in search of The Big 15, don’t forget to embrace the exquisite astronomy viewing that awaits you in the evenings. Located 620 miles off the west coast of Ecuador, the northern and southern constellations can be seen simultaneously and in dazzling purity. Using specialized Stellarium software, a briefing prior to the stargazing activity takes place in a dimly lit room, so to ensure that the night’s sky is seen in the upmost clarity. On the upper deck of the cruise, guides use laser beams to point out and educate guests on the celestial objects across the vast sky or, for those looking for a solitary moment to observe the night’s sky, soak in the onboard hot tub – now that’s what we call stargazing in style!

Credit: Jack Anstey

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