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Travel news Top 11 destinations to stargaze in India

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Top 11 destinations to stargaze in India

Staring at the inky blackness of the vast sky with numerous stars staring right back at you is an experience hard to come by in today’s overpopulated, polluted, noisy, neon-lit world. Transfer yourself from the blinking lights of the city to admire nature at its nocturnal best on your next vacation. Get a chance to view beautiful constellations visible in the Indian night skies including Cygnus, Orion, Cancer, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Aries, Lyra and Pegasus at these 11 stargazing destinations listed here.

Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso Lake

Where: Ladakh

Ornamented with gorgeous lakes and dramatic landscapes, Ladakh boasts of stupas and monasteries by day and a bejewelled sky at night! Ladakh is the perfect high altitude, zero pollution, far from the madding crowd, mountainous setting for your stargazing experience. Choose between Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso or go to both places, since they are about 275 kilometres apart by road.

How to get there

A direct flight from New Delhi to Leh takes around 1.5 hours. Once you reach Leh, rent a car that will take you to Nubra Valley in about 5 hours.

Neil Island or Shaheed Dweep

Where: Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Nights in Neil Island are blue and speckled with millions of shiny stars that you hope to capture in your star-chasing travels. This secluded island is 40 kilometres from Port Blair. It is quiet, with beautiful beaches, lush forests, and unending skies. Stargazers from around the world come here to experience the magic.

How to get there

Fly into Port Blair and then get on to a private or government ferry that will take you to Neil Island in around 1.5 hours. Also, you can take a government-owned Pawan Hans helicopter that flies between the island and Port Blair.

Lonar Crater

Where: Maharashtra

A dramatic setting for your stargazing escapades, Lonar Crater in Maharashtra is essentially a meteor-hit site. The lake is surrounded by forest and is one of the favourite spots of nature enthusiasts, scientists, astronomers and trekkers. With its resume checking all the spots – quiet, secluded and unpolluted – Lonar Crater is a great pick for your first stargazing experience.

How to get there

Take a flight to Aurangabad and cover the road distance of nearly 160 kilometres to Lonar Lake in a cab or car.

Rann of Kutch

Where: Gujarat

The huge salt desert of the Rann of Kutch is one of the best stargazing spots in the country. Popular with astronomers and astro-photographers, this dramatic landscape is as serene as it is beautiful. Naked eye star spotting is easy here, given the vast expanse of this geographical phenomenon.

How to get there

Fly into Bhuj, the nearest airport to the desert, and then hire a cab or a rent a car to cover the 80-kilometre distance.

Matheran

Where: Maharashtra

A quaint hill station near Mumbai, Matheran is known as much for its well-preserved colonial architecture as it is for its no-vehicle policy. Visitors have the option of using a narrow gauge railway to get to this eco-sensitive region. Matheran’s untainted skies offer crystal clear views to stargazers, especially from some of its viewpoints such as the Echo Point.

How to get there

Fly into Mumbai or Pune and then hop on to a train or a car. If you choose to drive, you will have to cover some distance by foot to get to Matheran.

Katao

Where: Sikkim

Katao in Yumthang Valley sits pretty at an altitude of around 15,000 feet. Not on the regular tourist’s itinerary, Katao is exclusive because of its location and extreme weather conditions. So much the better for stargazers – fewer people translate into lower noise levels and lesser pollution. Perfect!

How to get there

Fly into Bagdogra, the closest airport, take a cab or a bus to Lachung and from there to Katao. The road journey should take about 8 hours.

Spiti Valley

Where: Himachal Pradesh

Spiti Valley is an untouched high-altitude, cold mountain desert that remains covered by a blanket of snow for the better part of the year. During the summer months, Kibber Village in the valley stands out for its stargazing options.

How to get there

Fly to Bhuntar airport in Kullu or the next closest Chandigarh airport. Getting to Spiti by road will take around 6 hours from Bhuntar airport and about 13 hours from Chandigarh airport.

Sonmarg

Where: Jammu and Kashmir

Sonmarg, set in the snowy Himalayas, is a camping site in a pretty meadow. Though popular with tourists, the place has no permanent settlement which, along with its high altitude, is the reason it finds itself on our list.

How to get there

Fly into Srinagar after which you can take a taxi to get to Sonmarg, about 70 kilometres by road.

Coorg

Where: Karnataka

Nestled in the Western Ghats, Coorg is known for its aromatic coffee plantations, intriguing wildlife and emerald hills. Enhance your stargazing experience by zeroing in on a homestay in one of the smaller villages in its interiors, away from larger towns such as Madikeri.

How to get there

Fly into Mangalore, which is about 150 kilometres from Coorg. Get a cab or a bus to cover the rest of the distance.

Jaisalmer

Where: Rajasthan

The desert sky at night is what unforgettable stargazing is made of. Spend the night on the dunes in an overnight desert safari for a quintessential sand and the stars experience. Hotels in Jaisalmer can arrange for overnight safari camps that give you a chance to spend a night under the desert sky, at a little distance from the city. Once you are done with the meal and entertainment package they typically provide, use the rest of the night to discover pretty constellations in the sky.

How to get there

Fly to Jodhpur airport, around 300 kilometres by road from Jaisalmer. Hire a cab from there.

Taregna

Where: Bihar

Taregna has a history of stargazing. Known as the location of Aryabhatta’s astronomical observatory in the 6th century, Taregna, (which roughly translates to ‘counting stars’), exploded into the stargazing universe again at the time of the 2009 solar eclipse when it was declared as one of the top places in India to watch the phenomena. You will love this lesser-known, small-town stargazing destination that is accessible and promises a star-studded sky.

How to get there

Fly into Patna airport. Taregna, 30 kilometres from the capital city, is an hour’s drive by road.

Tips for a memorable stargazing experience

Sometimes, getting the best view of the stars is as simple as heading towards the dark skies and looking up. However, more often than not, it involves a fair share of planning and a dash of good luck. Keeping these key factors in mind will make sure you have the best chances for your starry night.

  1. Choose a spot with minimal or no light pollution
  2. Plan your trip during the new moon to minimise the chances of the moonlight playing a spoilsport
  3. Travel to a high altitude spot or a desert landscape for open space
  4. Keep tabs on the weather to ensure that you don’t pick a night with cloudy skies.

Equipment to bring for stargazing

Stargazers, here is your equipment checklist:

  1. A red flashlight works wonders for night vision while looking at the sky
  2. A paper star chart if you are old fashioned, or a sky map app on your smartphone
  3. A refractor telescope, a perfect buy for beginners, or a more advanced Dobsonian telescope
  4. A power tank, for all your rechargeable battery needs
  5. A cosy sleeping bag, backpack with essential munchies, and a tent

Tips to stargaze without equipment

You don’t have to go out shopping for equipment to enjoy the night sky – you can also do the same with a little bit of know-how. Here is how:

  1. Get familiar with the night sky using a map so that you know what you are looking at.
  2. Choose the right spot, away from light pollution and high up enough to give you unobstructed views.
  3. Be patient and let your eyes adjust to the night sky. It is important that you don’t interrupt this period of adjustment by looking at your smartphone or switching on a torchlight.

There are no formal tours that offer stargazing in India as the centrepiece, but a number of establishments such as Soulitude in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, The Pugmark Resort near Ranthambore National Park and Astroport in Sariska are located in ideal stargazing spots and offer guests astronomy outings, basic telescopic equipment and even workshops. So, get creative, figure out the logistics and book your flights, hotels or rent a car with Skyscanner to your stargazing destination now. You can do this on our mobile app too.

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