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.” But as our population grows, so too does light pollution, clouding the atmosphere and all that lies beyond it. Today, as few as 500 stars are visible from many urban areas.
But happily that's just not the case for these locales, where as many as 15,000 individual pinpricks of light can be seen with the naked eye. The catch? They're not exactly convenient—but that's kind of the point.
Attention astrologers and contemplators of the universe: these are the planet's best spots for stargazing.
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Tenerife on the Canary Islands
With its high altitude, proximity to the Equator, and distance from tropical storms, the remote Canary Islands off mainland Morocco enjoy some of the clearest, darkest skies. What’s more, Tenerife, the largest island, passed a law that controls flight paths in order to protect its stargazing conditions. It’s also the host of the semi-annual Starmus Festival, a celebration of science, music and the arts. Festival attendees, which have included Neil Armstrong and Stephen Hawking, enjoy lectures, screenings and space-themed parties. Until the next gathering, visitors can tour the Teide Observatory (open April through December) or take a cable car to the top of volcanic Mount Teide for dinnertime stargazing.