The immensity of the universe is beautiful and humbling – the stars reminders of billions of lives spent, in astronomer Carl Sagan’s words, “on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.” This makes it all the more sad that experiencing the breathtaking brilliance of a starry night sky is no longer a given when you step outside. Even on the clearest of nights, artificial light from cities obscures the natural darkness, making nighttime skies look a lot less majestic than they should. Today, as few as 500 stars are visible from many urban areas.
Across the country, however, there are still vast swathes of wilderness that offer unveiled views of the incredible universe. Whether it’s the Milky Way or a meteor shower you want to see, at these ten destinations, you’re sure to be awestruck as you gaze up at the jaw-droppingly beautiful skies above.
Here’s a list of 10 places across the country to spend an evening looking up into the universe we belong to. These trip-worthy dark-sky havens offer stellar celestial views that you are sure to remember for a long, long time!
1. Turtuk Village in Nubra Valley, Jammu and Kashmir
Surrounded by starkly beautiful slopes, boulder fields and harsh arid mountains, Turtuk Village in Nubra valley is one of the best places for stargazing in India. Located on the banks of the Shyok river, Turtuk is also famous for its unique Balti culture.
2. Neil Island in Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Located 40 km northeast of Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Neil Island is famous for its gorgeous beaches, underwater wonders, tranquil vibe and secluded location. It is surreal to see the waterline transform into a shimmering sea of stars, mirroring the starlit velvet sky above.
3. Rann of Kutch in Gujarat
Spending a night in the harsh yet breathtaking Rann of Kutch is nothing less than an adventure. For stargazers, this unique setting with its unending stretches of white earth, clear skies and a blanket of stars is an unforgettable experience.
4. Mandarmani in West Bengal
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Mandarmani is a little-known seaside village in West Bengal. It derives its name from profusion of small red crabs (that look like the red flower, mandar) that have made the village’s pristine beaches their home. The clear night sky that one can witness at this pretty place is apt for spotting stars.
5. Tarkarli in Maharashtra
A quiet seaside village in Maharashtra, Tarkarli is about 475 km from Mumbai. Known for its warm white sands, swaying palms and tranquil blue waters, the place is also ideal for stargazing trips as the sky is pollution-free, making it an ideal place to observe constellations.
6. Mt Katao in Yumthang Valley, Sikkim
One of the Sikkim’s best-kept travel secrets, Katao in the Yumthang Valley is an epitome of serenity. With its lofty snow clad peaks, emerald slopes and quaint villages dotted with multi-hued prayer flags, this traveller’s paradise is a great option for people who wish to go on a stargazing trip.
7. Coorg, Karnataka
Tucked away in the middle of rainforests that blend organically with the rugged landscape, Coorg’s clear night skies, illuminated every night with an onslaught of twinkling stars, are a delight for any budding astronomer. It’s little wonder why Coorg is a popular destination with diehard romantics who stargaze hand in hand.
8. Kibber Village in Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Spiti Valley, with its crystal clear views of the night sky, has long been a favourite spot for stargazers. The Kibber village in the Spiti Valley, known as the highest motorable village in the world, is one of the region’s best spots to witness the infinite beauty and the ineffable vastness of the cosmos that we share with the stars.
9. Yercaud in Tamil Nadu
With clear skies and a location far away from the lights of the main city, one can see the magic of the shimmering stars at Yercaud. Nestled amidst the verdant forests of the Shevaroy mountains, this picteresque little hamlet is also a gem of a hill station.
10. Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir
Fulfill your stargazing dreams with unparalleled views of the night sky at the enchantingly beautiful Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh. At this highland lake, the starry night sky outlines the natural starkness of the landscape making it a stunning display that almost makes you want to grab a star and put it in your pocket.
For a more scientific exploration of the stars, visit the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) at the Hanle village near Leh in Ladakh. One of the world’s highest sites for optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes, the observatory has two active telescopes – the 2.01 meter optical-infrared Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) and a High Altitude Gamma Ray Telescope (HAGAR).
To help you plan your first stargaze night-out, here are a few simple tips
- Watch the moon: Get familiar with the Lunar Calendar. New moon is the absolute best time to stargaze.
- Weather: Early spring and mid winter is the best time for clear skies with minimal clouds and slow wind speed.
- Equipment: Carry light weight astro-telescope or DSLR camera with wide-angle zoom lens (Optional).
- Mobile App: Download Google Skymap App to locate stars, constellations, planets and pole star.
- Travel accessories: Carry camp tents, torch and food for the night.
- Research: Do your research on movements of stars, planets, comets and moon.