World’s top 12 hotels for stargazing
These have light-year-distant views into the cosmos.
1. Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, Hawaii, United States
After sunset guests head to the roof of this award-winning Maui hotel for the Tour of the Stars.
The tour explains the planets, nebulas and other heavenly objects with the help of the hotel’s director of astronomy, a pair of binoculars and telescope.
If you’re looking for sparks closer to the ground, the Romance Tour for two comes with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries.
Rates: Rooms start at US$332.
Stargazing packages: Tour of the Stars, US$25 per guest; Romance Tour of the Stars, US$40 per guest.
Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, 200 Nohea Kai Dr., Lahaina, Hawaii, USA; +1 808 661 1234; www.maui.hyatt.com
2. Elqui Domos, Chile
Surrounded by peaks of the Andes, the arid Elqui Valley is the perfect setting for vineyards and also one of the best places for stargazing south of the equator.
Elqui Domos rooms include bi-level domes with terraces, a telescope poised at the window on the lower level and a retractable roof above the bed upstairs.
A star-lit, two-hour guided horseback ride through the valley includes a tutorial on reading the skies, while a more in-depth astronomy tour includes a visit to the on-site observatory.
Rates: Rooms start at US$120.
Stargazing packages: Astronomic tour, US$70 per person; nighttime horseback ride, US$52 per person.
Elqui Domos, Camino Publico Pisco Elqui a Horcon, kilometer 3.5, Pisco Elqui, Chile; +569 7709 2879; www.elquidomos.cl
3. 3100 Kulmhotel Gornergrat, Switzerland
Sitting 3,100 meters above sea level, 3100 Kulmhotel Gornergrat overlooks the snow-dusted, rocky peaks of the Swiss Alps, including the fang-like Matterhorn.
All the hotel’s simple, airy rooms are named for one of the peaks in the area -- some have views onto their namesakes.
Although skiing is the most popular area activity, the Kulmhotel is a favorite with amateur astronomers. At the top of two stone towers, observatories are equipped with everything a studious astronomer might need, but which, with a little guidance, even newbies can use.
The Starlight Dinner package includes a buffet dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.
Rates: Rooms start at CHF140 (US$150) per person.
Stargazing packages: Starlight dinner, CHF90 (US$96) per person.
3100 Kulmhotel Gornergrat, 3920 Zermatt; +41 27 966 64 00; www.gornergrat-kulm.ch
4. Kirroughtree House Hotel, Scotland
A converted 16th-century family mansion, this luxurious country hotel sits in Galloway Forest Park beneath some of the darkest night skies in Europe.
The hotel’s décor echoes the rich history of the house, with dark wood paneling, four-poster beds and fireplaces throughout rooms and suites.
The hotel offers several sky-watching packages, including Weekend Stargazers Breaks, which include two nights’ accommodations with dinner at the hotel’s award-winning restaurant, an in-depth talk with astronomer Steve Owens and a trip deep into the park, with complimentary cocoa.
Rates: Rooms £99 (US$144).
Stargazing packages: Weekend Stargazers Break from £199 (US$319) per person; Meteor Break from £130 (US$208) per person.
Kirroughtree House Hotel, Newton Stewart, Dumfries and Galloway, DG8 6AN; +44 (0) 1671 402 141; www.kirroughtreehouse.co.uk
5. Sanctuary Baines’ Camp, Botswana
This intimate camp has five secluded suites overlooking the Boro River on the edge of the Moremi Game Reserve.
The Okavango Delta is home to hippo, zebra and leopard, which you can observe from a jeep, canoe or even a helicopter.
A day of walking with elephants and watching lions on a game drive can be followed by an open-air bubble bath for two.
Once the sun goes down guests can count their stars, literally, from a four-poster "sky bed" wheeled onto a private deck.
Rates: Start at US$675 per person (includes meals, drinks and safaris)
Sanctuary Baines Camp, Boro River, Botswana; +27 (0) 11 438 4650; www.sanctuaryretreats.com
6. Gran Hotel Bahía del Duque Resort & Spa, Canary Islands
The Gran Hotel Resort rules the southern beaches of Tenerife, with five pools (including one saltwater), 40 villas, 300 rooms and 10 restaurants.
A mixture of 19th-century colonial styles -- brick-toned walls, rounded arches, thatched roofs -- make the resort cozy.
The Gran Hotel even found room to build its own observatory. Some 300 kilometers off the coast of Africa, the island offers clear views after dark.
Rates: Rooms start at €328 (US$425).
Stargazing packages: Contact hotel for observatory pricing.
Gran Hotel Bahía del Duque Resort & Spa, Avenida de Bruselas S/N, Costa Adeje; +34 922 74 69 00; www.bahia-duque.com
7. Ayers Rock Resort -- Sails in the Desert Hotel, Australia
Set in the heart of the Australian Outback, this opulent hotel provides a stark contrast to the copper-red earth surroundings.
The popular Sounds of Silence open-air barbecue includes three courses of Australian and Aboriginal fare, such as barramundi and crocodile paired with local wines and followed by a tour of the southern desert sky.
The resort's Astro Tour uses iPads, telescopes and binoculars to let guests marvel at the Southern Cross and re-learn the basics of cosmology, such as how a star is born and why it emits light.
Rates: Rooms start at US$400.
Stargazing packages: Voyages Outback Sky Journeys, US$38 per person; Sounds of Silence dinner, US$169 per person.
Ayers Rock Resort - Sails in the Desert Hotel, Ayers Rock Resort, Yulara, Northern Territory 0872; +61 2 8296 8010; www.ayersrockresort.com.au
8. Kasbah Hotel, Morocco
At the edge of the Draa valley, the Kasbah's architecture mimics the ancient forts of the region, save a couple of details. Two round observatory domes and several telescopes peak out from the fortress walls.
Far from city lights, with the Sahara on the horizon, the stage is set for a black, glittering sky so crowded with stars that individual constellations are hard to single out.
Each night after dinner, an expert helps guest find their way around the viewing equipment and cosmos.
Rates: AED540 (US$63) per person including breakfast and dinner.
Stargazing packages: Guided visit to the SaharaSky observatory, AED 200 (US$23).
Kasbah Hotel, B.P. 28, 45900 Zagora; +212 667 351943; www.saharasky.com
9. Hotel Kakslauttanen, Finland
Above the Arctic Circle, the Kakslauttanen Hotel is an amusement park for anyone who loves winter.
Guests can hunt the Aurora Borealis by reindeer, go ice fishing and come out beet-red from a Finish sauna.
The hotel has several types of accommodations from cabins to snow bungalows. Twenty glass igloos afford the most spectacular, panoramic views, though little privacy.
The thermal glass igloos keep rooms at a comfortable temperature and prevent frosting. It’s like sleeping under the stars without the frozen nose.
Rates: Glass igloos start at €177 (US$230) per person, including breakfast and evening sauna.
Hotel Kakslauttanen, 99830 Saariselkä, Lapland, Finland; +358 1666 7100; www.kakslauttanen.fi
10. Sossusvlei Lodge, Namibia
This award-winning resort prides itself on giving back to the community and environment, whether by recycling, producing solar power or raising funds for local charities.
Even the individual, adobe-style units in shades of sand and peach complement the yellow grasses and sun-burnt mountains of the desert.
At night, guests can immerse themselves in the Milky Way with telescope and stargazing help from the staff.
Rates: Start at N$1992 (US$230), including breakfast and dinner.
Stargazing packages: Introduction to stargazing, N$180 (US$21).
Sossusvlei Lodge, D826, Maltahöhe District; +27 21 930 4564; www.sossusvleilodge.com
11. Soneva Kiri, Thailand
Care to have a waiter deliver your treetop meal via trapeze? At this tranquil spot on Koh Kood Island, you can.
The resort, which offers scuba diving, wine tasting, cooking classes and jungle trekking, has its own observatory.
Rates: Villas start at US$1,460, including breakfast for two.
Stargazing packages: Varying prices for packages that include a visit to the So Celestial observatory. Contact hotel for details.
Soneva Kiri, 110 Moo 4, Koh Kood Sub-District, Koh Kood District, Trat; +66 (0) 3961 9800; www.soneva.com
12. Hotel Rangá, Iceland
The Milky Way is always spectacular, but at this hotel you might get it along with a neon ribbon of northern lights.
There's never a guarantee the show will appear, but Hotel Rangá is one of the best bets for a spectacular night.
With outdoor Jacuzzis and a restaurant that serves local "treats" like smoked puffin and reindeer carpaccio, there are diversions.
Rates: Rooms start at €194 (US$252).
Hotel Rangá, Sudurlandsvegur, 851 Hella; +354 487 5700; www.hotelranga.is