Exploring the vast universe through unaided eyes may seem intimidating but there has been an increased interest among tourists to explore the surreal experience of stargazing! The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is all set to launch a stargazing project near Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad by November 2022. This project will be installed in a secluded area of the Ajanta View Point that will allow visitors to stargaze. It also provides a 270 degree view of the age-old Ajanta Caves. Whether you’re using charts, telescopes or the naked eye, the best way to explore the constellation is to stare into the great depths of space and enjoy the mystery. As the Fall season is considered to be the perfect time, here are some of the places that offer the best stargazing experience in India for the space enthusiasts.
Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
A stargazing paradise, this beautiful place is hugely popular among tourists for its scenic beauty, monasteries, serene lakes and panoramic views of the Himalayas. It is located at an altitude of 13,450 feet above sea level. With snow-capped mountains, long-winded stretches of roads and crystal clear views of the night sky, Spiti is one of the coldest places in the country. It is bordered by the great Himalayan mountain range on all sides and receives only 250 days of sunshine in a year.
Best Time to Visit: October to May
Nearest Airport: Kullu
Nubra Valley, Ladakh
Strategically located near the Siachen Glacier, it offers the most spectacular views of the glittering skies. The Milky Way can also be seen from this valley. Pollution free and full of tranquility, surrounded by high mountain ranges and flowing rivers, Nubra Valley is situated on the banks of the Shyok River. This place is extremely popular among tourists for the largest and the oldest Buddhist monastery called Diskit Gompa, Bactrian camel safari and starry skies. Also known as the Orchard of Ladakh, the gorgeous valley is famous for its delicious orange berries, apricots and apples.
Best time to visit: September to June
Nearest Airport: Leh
Neil Island, Andaman and Nicobar
Neil Island boasts of white sand beaches, coral reefs, tropical forests and shimmering skies surrounded by the Bay of Bengal. This picturesque island is a popular spot for its pristine beaches like Sitapur, Natural, Ram Nagar etc. and is one of the best biodiversity habitats in the country. It is a tiny island with peaceful vibes, brightly lit up skies, clean beaches and calm seawater, which make it an ideal place for stargazing.
Best time to visit: January to April
Nearest Airport: Port Blair
Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
One of the best spots for astrophotography and visual astronomy, the Rann of Kutch offers a magical view of Ghost Lights (Chir Bhatti). These atmospheric lights change colours from red, yellow and blue, and are a mystery as they seem to appear out of nowhere in the wet grasslands of Banni. It is also the largest salt marsh in the world.
Best time to visit: October to February
Nearest airport: Rajkot
Nearest Railway Station: Bhuj
A stunning hill station that is popular for its coffee plantations, Coorg is the perfect pick for stargazers, honeymooners and romantic getaways. This place boasts of exotic landscapes, breathtakingly beautiful rainforests and lush greenery surrounded by hills. A romantic night out in the jungle is a great way to observe the twinkling stars.
Best time to visit: October to March
Nearest airport: Mangaluru
1) Choosing the spot/location from where you can stargaze is critical. A high-altitude place for open landscapes is always ideal, away from the city and free of light pollution that can be a hindrance for a seamless experience.
2) Timing also matters as moonlight can act as a spoilsport for star gazers. Many astronomers as well as stargazers prefer to examine the sky when the moon is not visible, or the moonlight is minimum. The sky should be dark to explore the wonderful stars, galaxies, planets and more. Hence, the new moon is considered as the best time.
3) Keep a tab on the Weather Forecast before planning for the day to avoid cloudy or rainy nights. A clear night sky is key for an uninterrupted viewing experience
4) No harm in brushing up your knowledge, read a lot about the beautiful world of space to make yourself more familiar with it. While on the day, take cues through interesting apps such as Google Sky for understanding more of what you are watching
5) Lastly, enjoy the whole experience when it’s happening and learn from it, not just try to tick off everything from your list
Inputs by travel entrepreneur, Gaurav Kushwaha