Catch a shooting star at these awe-inspiring desert retreats

The &Beyond Sossusvlei Private Desert Reserve in Namibia is a designer lodge with its own observatory and a resident astronomer
The &Beyond Sossusvlei Private Desert Reserve in Namibia is a designer lodge with its own observatory and a resident astronomer   -  Copyright  &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge
By Jenny Southan

For those in search of the ultimate celestial escape, venturing out into the blank canvas of an endless sandy desert guarantees the most amazing starlight shows at night. Sitting around a campfire, after the heat of the day subsides, you can take in the awesome silence of the night, with its moon and hundreds of shooting stars. Plus, if you choose your accommodation wisely, you don’t have to rough it…

1. Amanjena, Morocco: high-end luxury close to Marrakech

Reopened in October, the ultra-high-end Amanjena hotel in Morocco has introduced a new “Into the Wilderness” experience in the Agafay desert that gives guests staying three nights or more the chance to take a sunset camel ride followed by a Berber-style dinner in a secret location under the light of the stars. The hotel itself is positioned just outside of Marrakech and has 40 self-contained villas in a private oasis. In spring the moon-like surface of the Agafay desert is dotted with wildflowers and is far more accessible to tourists than the Sahara. It can get dusty, of course, so remember to pack a head scarf.

Photo by Tomáš Malík from Pexels
People having bonfire in a desert at nightPhoto by Tomáš Malík from Pexels

2. &Beyond Sossusvlei Private Desert Reserve, Namibia: Become an amateur astronomer

The &Beyond Sossusvlei Private Desert Reserve in Namibia is a designer lodge with its own observatory and a resident astronomer who can point out constellations and planets to guests. Not only this but its 11 suites have panoramic glass windows and skylights above the bed for star-spotting before sleep. Swarovski binoculars are provided. Not far away is the NamibRand Nature Reserve – Africa’s first and only International Dark Sky Reserve.

Photo by NamibRand Nature Reserve
&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert LodgePhoto by NamibRand Nature Reserve

3. Alto Atacama, Chile: cocktails and constellations

The Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa in the small town of San Pedro in Chile is almost unparalleled for its stargazing opportunities. There are various observatories and astrotourism tours available, but the advantage of staying at this hotel is that it has its own open-air observatory (the only one in the region) on-site. Once the sun has set, guests can relax with a pisco cocktail and experience the majestic Milky Way from their own private terrace.

Jorge Saenz/AP
the moon shines over radio antennas at the operations support facility of one of the worlds largest astronomy projects, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)Jorge Saenz/AP

4. Longitude 131, Australia: Connect with aboriginal history in the outback

At Longitude 131, guests can meditate on the raw beauty of the Australian outback from the comfortable surroundings of this stylish wilderness camp, which has views across to the sacred sandstone monolith of Uluru (Ayers Rock). Located in the hot, red Central desert, there are 16 tented pavilions allowing people to immerse themselves in the natural surroundings and gaze up at phenomenal night skies from outdoor double beds on private terraces.

SAEED KHAN/AFP or licensors
Stars trails are seen over Uluru, also known as Ayers rock, after a permanent ban on climbing the monolith at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National ParkSAEED KHAN/AFP or licensors

5. Bubble Luxotel Wadi Rum, Jordan: film stars and planetary encounters

The futuristic Bubble Luxotel Wadi Rum hotel in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert features a cluster of transparent dome tents looking right up at the heavens. Guests have access to portable telescopes and there are expert astronomers on hand to help identify extra-terrestrial bodies. The glampsite is about four hours’ drive from Amman, the capital, and is situated in a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has starred in movies such as The Martian and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

THOMAS COEX/AFP or licensors
A Jordanian Bedouin rides a camel as the sun sets in the southern Jordanian desert of Wadi RumTHOMAS COEX/AFP or licensors

Celestial phenomena don't just occur at night – it is also worth travelling to experience a total solar eclipse. This year, the best places to be will be Chile and Argentina on December 14. Next year, on December 4, there will be a total solar eclipse over Antarctica, followed by one on April 20, over Western Australia, in 2023. Just remember not to look directly at the sun – even with sunglasses.

Jenny Southan is editor and founder of travel trend forecasting agency Globetrender