Reasons to Travel Now
Barrelaged cocktails in Singapore; untamed Borneo; astro-tourism; how to survive the world's longest flight; and more.
No, we don’t mean a ticket on Elon Musk’s SpaceX, “astro-tourism” is all about appreciating the solar system on solid ground. As light pollution spreads across Asia and blinds our night skies, travelers have been drawn to the region’s darkest pockets to get a glimpse of the most dazzling celestial shows.
GREAT BARRIER ISLAND NEW ZEALAND
Also known as Aotea, this completely off-grid island a 30-minute flight from Auckland last year was crowned a DarkSky Sanctuary: remote land with exceptional quality of starry nights certified by the International Dark-Sky Association. Good Heavens (goodheavens.co.nz; group tours from NZ$90, private tours for 1–4 people from NZ$600) offer stargazing tours of Aotea's clear skies with use of their nighttime binoculars and 8-inch Newtonian telescope. Guests have spotted Saturn's rings, the moons of Jupiter and unique views of the Milky Way.
YAEYAMA ISLANDS JAPAN
In April, Okinawa's Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park, which covers the most southern islands in the Yaeyama archipelago, was declared a Dark-Sky Park, only the second in Asia after South Korea's Yeongyang Firefly Eco Park. Coral Foundation (coralfoundation-hoshizora.com; from ¥4,000 per person; tours begin in March 2019) offers tours on Iriomote Island that includes being bathed in moonlight in the subtropical forest and visits to the habitats of the luminescent Yaeyama fireflies, who can only exist in the darkest regions of the island.
MOUNT BROMO INDONESIA
Many trek this East Java volcano for the golden views of sunrise, but nighttime also offers some sparkling sights. While the stars aren't visible to the naked eye here, DSLR photography can capture the lit-up sky in ethereal ways. Mount Bromo Tour Guide (mtbromotourguide.com; twoday tour from Rp2,500,000; tours begin April 2019) offers two- and three-day photography tours that include locales where you can shoot the Milky Way against the mountain silhouettes or capture time-lapse footage of passing meteors.
While Iceland is known for the chartreuse Northern Lights, the less-hyped but equally stunning Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis, can be seen across Tasmania, including Mount Wellington, Eaglehawk Neck and South Arm Peninsula. Keep track of the skies on aurora-service.net, which monitors solar activity, solar winds and Earth's magnetic field, and sends out alerts on optimal viewing times and locations. Usually forming a rippled green or magenta curtain, you'll need a DSLR to capture this natural light show.
The Milky Way over Medlands Beach, Great Barrier Island.