If you haven’t heard of astrotourism yet, it’s time you did. An exciting new trend, travellers are choosing remote and far flung destinations in order to enjoy the beauty of the galaxy. By visiting ‘black sky’ locations, astrotourists are distributing their money and ecological footprint more evenly across the planet. Ready to see stars? Here’s five of FOUR’s favourite destinations.
1 Deplar Farm, Iceland
Due to limited light-pollution in Iceland, Deplar Farm’s impressive geo-thermally heated outdoor pool is the perfect spot from which guests can stargaze across the clear Icelandic night-sky and at certain times of the year (from October to March), even catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights.
Deplar Farm is one of Eleven Experience’s most unique properties and has been transformed from a working sheep farm into the ultimate Icelandic retreat. The lodge’s extensive wellness area offers visitors a steam room, indoor/outdoor saunas, a gym and the stunning outdoor swimming pool, heated to 38 degrees from thermal springs all year-round, has its own built-in sound system and a swim-up bar. Deplar Farm offers visitors the chance to hunker down, switch off and enjoy the lodge’s luxurious spa facilities and delicious Icelandic food, whilst the more adventurous can venture outside and experience the remote landscapes surrounding the lodge.
Located in the remote Troll Peninsula and surrounded by 3,000 ft peaks, guests staying at Deplar Farm have unrivalled access to over 1,500 square miles of untouched mountain terrain. Back at the lodge, the Nordic inspired interiors are cosy and stylish and Deplar Farm also offers guests a library, entertainment room with a cinema screen, and a full band set up for late night jamming sessions in addition to two helicopter pads.
Prices start from $2,530 (£1,915) per room per night (0208 102 9800 www.elevenexperience.com)
2 São Lourenço do Barrocal, Portugal
Just two hours east of cosmopolitan Lisbon, São Lourenço do Barrocal is a beautiful two-hundred-year-old country estate in rural Alentejo, Portugal. The unique farm hotel is a short distance from the impressive and first of its kind, Alqueva Lake Observatory where guests of Scott Dunn can visit the Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve, the first starlight tourism destination in the world.
The reserve is a protected area with excellent atmospheric conditions and no light pollution, meaning visitors can enjoy stargazing for most of the year. The reserve is home to cutting-edge technology and telescopes for observing the stars and planets, and guests will learn about astronomy and the night sky from the resident experts.
Surrounded by a patchwork of endless wheat fields, olive groves, vineyards and wildflower meadows, Sao Lourenco do Barrocal offers twenty-two rooms and sixteen cottages that perfectly reflect the rustic appeal of the area, each with its own outdoor space offering far reaching views over the fields and quaint farm buildings that surround the property. The estates charming restaurant serves delicious local specialties with dishes typical of the region and the two-thousand-acre estate is also home to a swimming pool, a superb spa and fitness area.
A five-night stay at São Lourenço do Barrocal starts from £1,400 per person. www.scottdunn.com
3 Beana Laponia, Finland
Scott Dunn’s Finnish Northern Lights package begins with a stay at Beana Laponia, a brand-new adult-only boutique hotel in the heart of Finnish Lapland with just 11 rooms. Surrounded by a mesmerizing snowy landscape, Beana Laponia offers a remote wilderness hideaway perfect for an evening of stargazing or Northern Lights spotting from the outdoor hot tub.
Translated directly as ‘Dog Lapland’, it is no surprise that the hotel also offers husky sledging as well an abundance of other outdoor activities such as tobogganing, snowshoeing, reindeer farm visits and reindeer sleigh rides. Guests will end their winter wonderland adventure with a stay at the unique Golden Crown Glass Igloos where the glass roof reveals the most amazing night sky, scattered with stars and, if luck is on your side, the dancing Aurora Borealis.
These remote glass igloos, each with their own double beds and bathrooms, have uninterrupted views of the Finnish wilderness where guests will also be able to watch the incredible morning sunrise right from the sanctuary of their own bed.
Scott Dunn offers a five-night Finnish Lapland itinerary from £2,900 per person. www.scottdunn.com or call 020 8682 5080.
4 Six Senses Con Sao, Vietnam
Six Senses Con Dao – the first five-star resort in Vietnam’s Con Dao Archipelago – offers guests the opportunity to become one with the universe as they gaze out at the stars from the resort’s private Astronomical Observatory, the first and only privately-owned celestial viewing centre in the southernmost region of Vietnam.
Just a short flight from the bustling streets of Saigon lies this tranquil oasis on one of the archipelago’s 16 islands. At the heart of the observatory is a Maksutov-Cassegrain 127mm telescope, allowing curious minds to marvel at Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and open clusters such as Pleiades and the Beehive Cluster.
Visitors can also witness dreamy nebulas and their evolving journeys as stars. The observatory is open twice weekly and up to 30 guests can participate at one time on a complimentary basis at each evening session. From conception to realisation, this imaginative project to build the observatory took a full year of planning and construction.
The grand idea originated from Six Senses’ regular celebrity astronomer, Dr Parag Mahajani – an independent consultant and trainer in the fields of science and technology, and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of London. With 25 years’ experience under his belt, Dr Parag has been visiting all Six Senses resorts for over a decade, and in each location he delights guests with his wealth of knowledge and passion in the field of astronomy.
Rates at Six Senses Con Dao start from $613 (approx. £471) per night in an Ocean View Duplex Pool Villa, inclusive of breakfast. www.sixsenses.com
5 Bwah Reserve, Indonesia
Bawah Reserve is located between Malaysia and Borneo in the Anambas Islands, Indonesia and thanks to its remote location, each night spent at the resort promises a spectacular star show. Guests are invited to join weekly star gazing sessions on the jetty with the resort’s Head of Activities, Didi, who will help identify different constellations and stars.
Guests can also enjoy stargazing from the comfort of their suites, while dining at the signature restaurant, Treetops or using the telescope on the jetty. Guests will see constellations, shooting stars and may even witness a meteor shower, all enhanced by the reflection off the surrounding ocean. With just 35 beautifully designed beach suites and overwater bungalows, the exclusive resort offers a sensational private island experience in an un-discovered and richly diverse part of Indonesia.
Rates at Bawah Reserve start from $1,980 USD per night in a Beach Suite for two people. For more information visit www.bawahisland.com