Astro-tourism and astrophotography are fast becoming popular in Sabah’s tourism industry. With a view like this, it’s not difficult to see why constellation buffs are flocking to various parts of the region to enjoy and capture the ethereal night sky!
Borneo’s northernmost tip, called Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, is one of the best places for stargazing. Its remote location some 200km away from Kota Kinabalu has helped to preserve the area from light pollution.
Stake out a spot on an undeveloped stretch of sand and watch the Perseid and Geminid meteor showers, which usually occur during August and December respectively. You’ll see that the stars really come out to play when night falls in Sabah!
The uniquely-shaped volcanic island of Aogashima can be easily likened to a Jurassic Park-like fortress! This crater town’s existence is not known to many, and it is home to only less than 200 inhabitants. If you look closely, you can notice a second smaller crater within the larger one!
Unquestionably, the night sky is nothing short of spectacular! Surrounded by the deep dark ocean and with minimal light pollution, this spot in Japan offers you the best views of the Milky Way. Get ready to be enchanted!
Ranu Kumbolo Lake, Indonesia
Indonesia is home to dozens of stargazing hotspots like Mount Bromo and Lombok. However, a favourite camping spot among the locals that is currently gaining popularity would be the Ranu Kumbolo Lake in East Java. You will be guaranteed top-notch views of the Milky Way here due to the lack of light pollution and noise.
The night sky transforms into a glittering spectacle to behold – look closer and you’ll see the water reflect the shimmery orchestra of stars. Conclude your overnight stargazing session by watching the sunrise and soaking in the golden hues at dawn.
Mount Pulag, Philippines
Be rewarded with a visual feast when you make it to the top of Mount Pulag, located in Luzon, the Philippines! It is a famous stargazing spot for spectacular views of the Milky Way. Don’t worry about not having the stamina to climb this mountain – Mount Pulag is manageable for the inexperienced, albeit with a little challenge. The hike can be done in 11 hours return, spread over two days and one night.
This is arguably the best spot for stargazing due to its obscurity and distance from the glare of the city lights!
Doi Chiang Dao, Thailand
Doi Chiang Dao very aptly translates to “City of Stars” – how cool is that? It is located in the Chiang Mai province and is the third highest peak in all of Thailand. The enthralling limestone massif is also one of the best birdwatching zones in Southeast Asia!
As you reach the summit, the horizon would seem to stretch for an eternity, offering you unblocked views of the vast, shimmery sky at night. Fall into a deep slumber as you gaze at the sea of stars, and awaken to melodious birdsong at daybreak. This spot is truly set to rejuvenate and enliven your senses!
Do keep in mind that a permit is required to camp at Chiang Dao.
Ngapali Beach, Myanmar
Do not expect the Ngapali Beach to be your typical bombastic seaside party destination! This lesser-known beach in the Rakhine state of Myanmar still very much maintains its local charm and relaxed fishing village vibe. Although there is an increasing number of hotel establishments around the area, its 15km of coast can ascertain the perfect, private stargazing spot for you!
Take a slow evening stroll along the palm tree-fringed white sandy beaches and wade in the clear waters of the Bay of Bengal. As night falls, lay out your favourite mandala-designed beach mat and start spotting the Cassiopeia and the Orion amidst the soothing sound of the waves!
Ladakh is well-known for its remote mountains and crystalline lakes. Known as one of the least populated regions in India, Ladakh’s isolation and vastly untouched natural landscapes allow the sky to take centre stage. There is even a line from a well-known Ladakhi poem that says, “Our Milky Way is dancing”, highlighting the significance of the constellations from centuries ago.
At a high altitude of about 3,050m above sea level, Nubra Valley is a star fanatic’s ultimate dream! Watch the sky change its hues into a deep Prussian blue studded with millions of stars, all against the rugged background of nearby mountains. Alternatively, go camping at the Pangong Tso Lake in Leh and gaze at black fields of twinkling lights when night falls!
Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Mongolia
Mongolia did not earn its nickname “Land of the Eternal Blue Sky” for no reason! The country enjoys more than 250 days of sunshine and clear blue skies throughout the year, guaranteeing you fascinating views of the starry night sky. It may not be a popular tourist destination, but Mongolia definitely is a country where you can still experience a widely untouched way of life.
The Gorkhi Terelj national park boasts magnificent scenery and offers the perfect landscape for hiking and rock climbing. Several tourists campsites are available too for you to enjoy the outdoors and bask under the celestial night sky.
Phnom Kulen, Cambodia
Venture beyond Siem Reap to Cambodia’s most sacred mountain Phnom Kulen. Situated 25km northeast of Angkor Wat, Phnom Kulen is home to a giant reclining Buddha, an impressive waterfall and the River of a Thousand Lingas.
Hike through the national park in the day, and camp out in the ancient ruins at night for a breathtaking view of the constellations. The first sparkle appears, and before you know it, you are in for a galactic feast of star trails! Due to the religious significance of the place, it is advisable to wear clothing covering the shoulders and knees.