Honestly – what could possibly be more romantic than a night under the great tapestry of the night sky? If a telescope was your favourite childhood toy and your idea of paradise is a night outside looking up at the stars, we have nine great places that will delight your inner astronomer, from the valleys of Chile to the plains of Africa
Desert Delights – Astral experiences in the Atacama
Chile is known as an astronomer’s playground. Its Atacama desert, the driest in the world, has such cloudless skies it has been chosen by many major astronomical research institutions as the perfect base for giant space-pointing telescopes.
But a thousand kilometres to the South, the Elqui Valley is a similarly alluring destination, and with an average of 300 sunny days per year, it’s little wonder. The region receives many starry-eyed visitors each year, and if the tales are to be believed, not all of them are of this Earth. Stories of UFOs abound, and the claims of special ‘healing energy’ in the area have also served to attract many adherents of new-age therapies such as reiki, meditation, yoga and massages – all of which should make for an incredible detox program should you be so inclined.
Whether the stories of otherworldly visitors are true we’ll leave for you to decide, but what’s not in question are the amazing celestial views on offer. And there’s no better place to witness them from than the Elqui Domos Hotel. Here you’ll be quartered in a space-age geodesic dome. The living area and bathroom and located downstairs, with the bed on an upper level. The magic comes at night: when you’re ready to go to bed, the entire roof zips away, opening up an unobstructed view straight from your bed into the infinite sky. Who knows what you might see?
Crossing over from South to North America now, and we’re on to a completely different desert- but one with still-spectacular cosmic views – the Amangiri Resort. It’s located roughly at the centre of the ‘Grand Circle’, a concentration of celebrated National Parks including Zion and Bryce, as well as attractions like the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley – some of America’s best-loved sites.
This establishment offers the utmost in minimalist luxury design – imagine a desert hideaway designed by Steve Jobs – but at $2,000 a night, you might need a CEO’s salary to afford a stay here. If that puts it out of reach, it’s still worth taking a look at the hotel, if only for dream material.
Accommodation: If you fancy seeing the same constellations but for a nicer price, check out the High Desert Lodge, a lovely, if less luxurious option for about £107 per night
Living in a glass house – Starlight Room in the Dolomites, Italy
The ski town of Cortina d’Ampezzo is already known for its shining lights, both those of the fires traditionally lit on its slopes on feast days as well as the members of the Illuminati who have been frequenting the resort for the last century. However, as of last winter, there is a new way to appreciate the stars. Here in the Ampezzano Dolomites, the Starlight Room is now open for business.
Little more than a heated glass cabin sitting on the top of a mountain, this tiny box, fixed on a pair of skis at 2000 metres is the perfect setting from which to witness the amazing natural drama of the alpine wilderness. As the day ends, you’ll observe the famous Enrosadira, or Alpenglow – the fiery red reflection of the sun’s last rays hitting the rugged peaks. And at night, with no external lights to impede your view, you’ll peer out of your glass box into a void awash with thousands of stars.
As for meals, there’s no need to worry (this is Italy after all.) The nearby Rifugio Col Gallina cottage provides traditional dishes, homemade desserts, and breakfast. In the winter, a snowmobile is there to pick you up and transport you to the cottage for dinner, or if you prefer you can make your own way over with snowshoes or on a fat-bike. The Starlight Room costs 300 euros per night, including dinner and breakfast (Rifugio Col Gallina, phone: +39 0436 2939 or +39 339 442 5105).
An overnight stay at the Kagga Kamma Resort in South Africa’s Cederberg Mountains is guaranteed to be a night to remember!
Here, set between sandstone cliffs is the so-called ‘Star Suite’. From your bed, you’ll have an expansive view of the night sky – unobstructed by walls, ceiling or roof. View the Milky Way, listen to the calls of nature, and when nature calls, just walk a few steps into the brush. And although you’re outside, this is by no means a simple campsite.
There are both outdoor shower and bath facilities and a natural rock pool, allowing you to relax while gazing up at the cosmos. The bed itself is queen-sized and cosy, and with no outside stresses (or Wi-Fi) clutter your thoughts, you’re guaranteed a deep, restful sleep under the twinkling stars.
Back to Italy now, and it’s off to the Cabriolet Suite of the L’Albereta Relais & Chateau. Not far from Milan, this beautiful old property is packed with hidden surprises, not least the convertible roof which opens at the push of a button. The house itself is well-hidden too, surrounded by the lush green vineyards and hills of Franciacorta.
By day, you can dive into the Chateau’s extensive water-based spa treatments, which include five different types of hydromassage as well as Phyto-mud and hydro jet therapies. Once you’re through with that you’re sure to be ready for a good night’s sleep. Hit that button, and drift off into dreamland…
If you’re looking for stars, you’re looking for solitude, and if you need to get away from the lights of the big city, this is a good bet. Much of Oman’s land is no-mans-land, which makes it ideal for amateur astronomers. From the capital city Muscat, it’s a pleasant 2.5-hour drive to the Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel.
Set on a lonely plateau in the Hajar mountains, the luxurious, eco-friendly property, with its stone-based architecture, blends in perfectly with its rocky surroundings. At 2000 metres, the climate here is much cooler and drier than on the scorching coast below. You’ll spend most of your time outside, either in the open-air restaurant or on one of the complex’s numerous terraces and balconies. And from your high-altitude vantage point, you won’t even need a telescope to enjoy the gigantic expanse of stars overhead. If you’re looking for an adventure, the nearby cliffs provide a challenge for climbers, but if you’d rather just relax, bring a book down to the pool and enjoy the alpine views.
What happens when you let conceptual artists loose in the hotel business? To answer this question you need look no further than the Swiss brothers Frank and Patrik Riklin. The pair caused a sensation in 2008 with their “NullStern (zero-star) Hotel, a former nuclear bunker turned hotel room set in the canton of St. Gallen. Amenities included a barren, windowless room, a hot water bottle in the evening, and a cup of coffee in the morning. The motto: “NullStern – the only star is you”. Not a luxury dwelling, perhaps, but the price was right – just 25 Swiss francs a night.
That hotel, despite its acclaim, would not fit in with this article’s theme, but the follow-up project is another story. No bunker this time – this time instead they’ve set an open-air bedroom out in the middle of the Swiss countryside. And the brothers are planning 13 more “rooms” just like it, one for each of the country’s tourist regions.
However, success comes at a price: Due to high demand, a night under the Swiss skies will set you back 250 Swiss francs. What’s more, the booking season is short, with only the summer months from June through August available to visitors. The most expensive 0-star hotel in the world? Perhaps, but in spite of its name, with the heavens stretching out to infinity above you, stars are one thing you won’t lack here.
From here you’ll have a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains. And what could be cosier than a night under the stars while you’re all cuddled up in bed? How to get there: From Innsbruck Airport, hire a car via Bolzano and Meran to Naturno. By train via Bolzano and Meran to Naturno.
Are you looking for a slightly more conventional hotel or one that’s even more far out than these ones? Try KAYAK Heat Maps where you can use filters to find the right hotel for you. Simply click on ‘Map View’ in the upper left-hand corner of the hotel results page and filter by your interests.
Rocks and Treetops – Pfronten, Germany
Cosy may be fine in Austria, but that kind of thing won’t fly in Germany. In Pfronten, in the country’s south, you can stay at the “Waldseilgarten Höllschlucht”, where your accommodation comes in one of three possibilities: the most comfortable is a plank balanced between trees. For more intrepid holidaymakers, there’s option 2, a platform suspended from a giant tree branch, which is only accessible by climbing or descending with a rope.
And if you’re looking for something even more rugged, you can strap yourself to a port-a-ledge jutting out from a sheer rock face, just like the climbers in Yosemite. As you look up to the heavens you’re sure to be filled with hope and wonder – just don’t look down.
Note: These rates are based on search queries made on KAYAK.co.uk on March 29th, 2017. The prices are quoted in GBP. Flight prices are based on results for a return economy flight search. Hotel prices are for double occupancy and include taxes and fees. Prices are subject to change, may vary, or no longer be available.