12 best places to sleep under the stars
12 best places to sleep under the stars
So many incredible travel documentaries, like David Attenborough’s Seven Worlds, One Planet, show the natural world in its best light. After a year of being confined to our home offices and houses, more travelers are focusing their trips to the natural world and being outdoors as much as possible. With that in mind, sleeping under the starlit sky has become even more popular than it once was. Many hotels, camps and lodges across the world are now offering stargazing experiences – with some of the best ones being in remote destinations with little to no light pollution, like the Laikipia Plateau in Kenya or the Atacama Desert in Chile. We have put together 12 best places to sleep under the stars, offering unique architectural designs, fantastic hospitality and of course, a sky full of glistening stars.
Time + Tide Fly Camping, Zambia
One of the most thrilling experiences you can have in Zambia, if not all of Africa, is ‘fly camping’. This is a term used in the safari industry which means sleeping under the stars with the bare minimum. Basic sleeping materials and bathroom facilities are provided but, the use of modern-day connections like phones and WiFI are nowhere to be seen during your night stargazing in Zambia. This fly camping experience is with the Time+Tide portfolio, who set up camp on sandy dry riverbeds. A team of professional safari guides, rangers and chefs will accommodate you for the evening, providing the ultimate safety, food and overall experience. Of course, a fully-stocked bar will be set up in the middle of the wilderness so you can still enjoy your local Zambian beer or your G&T in comfort.
Image credit: Time and Tide
Levin Iglut, Finland
Can there be anything better than watching the bright lights of the northern sky dance above you, from the comfort of a luxury glass dome? In Finland, Levin Iglut offers exactly that. Each glass-roofed dome has an unobstructed view and, with little to no light pollution, it allows more reliable sights of the lights. There are 3 suite igloos, 9 prime superior igloos, and 15 superior igloos. They vary in size, facilities and cost. As well as the glass domes, the hotel offers a Northern Lights House which is home to two suites, a bathroom, sauna and a private living area. This is perfect for a group of friends or a larger family. All of the accommodation types have access to the Restaurant Utsu, which is a unique culinary experience as the menu and dishes created vary based on the seasonal ingredients and cooking methods.
Image credit: Levin Iglut
The Highlands Camp, Tanzania
Located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania is this stunning and unique property called The Highlands Camp. As part of the Asilia portfolio, The Highlands is made up of eight Perspex-domes which all offer views of the dense forests of the Ngorongoro Highlands and, with absolutely no light pollution in this remote wilderness, the stars are brighter than you can ever imagine. Each dome is designed with a Scandinavian style décor, with fluffy rugs, modern fireplaces and spacious yet minimalistic bathrooms. The Highlands Camp has two main dome tents which are the dining and lounge areas. After a delicious three-course meal, you can enjoy the comforts of the bar, surrounded by cozy blankets and a sky full of stars.
Image credit: Asilia Africa
Tierra Atacama, Chile
If you’re looking for the best places on Earth to stargaze, the Atacama Desert in Chile in certainly up there with the best. Located in the northern desert of Chile sits one of the country’s most luxurious properties, Tierra Atacama. While this award-winning lodge offers authentic experiences, a warm atmosphere and some of the most beautiful architectural designs in the country, it is also home to some of the most breath-taking stargazing and astronomy sightings in all the world. Tierra Atacama have a very impressive telescope and local guides who are very knowledgeable when it comes to astronomy, so in the evening, after your delicious dinner and a drink at the luxury bar, head out and learn about the starlit sky.
Image credit: Tierra Hotels
Loisaba Starbeds, Kenya
Loisaba Starbeds is one of the most iconic sleepout experiences in all of Kenya. Located in the Laikpia Plateau in central Kenya, this lodge always stands out, as it went above and beyond and created an innovative way to stargaze from the comfort of a comfortable bed. The lodge is very small and intimate, with only four rooms and a cozy main area. Each room has a private veranda which is raised up, offering expansive views across the Laikipia Plateau. In the evening, you will get into your hand-crafted four-poster bed, ready to go to sleep. However, the most exciting part is that a Maasai who works at the lodge will then come and wheel your bed out onto the veranda, so it really is out in the open. While you have a mosquito net covering the bed, you will still be able to stare at the bright African stars and fall asleep under a blanket of glistening lights.
Image credit: Elewana Collection
Anantara Jungle Bubbles, Thailand
Located in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand, why not spend the night in a luxury bubble tent underneath the stars? And while you’re there, be surrounded by Asian elephants as they wander below the grasses of your dome. Each luxury bubble dome has its own well-appointed ensuite bathroom, a living space and air conditioning to keep you call in the Thai temperatures. During your time at the Anantara Resort, you can observe, interact and be immersed with the elephants and their natural environment. The resort is partnered with an elephant welfare charity that is pioneering in its kind and location, so know that your stay helps the welfare and protection of these gentle giants. The starlit sky in Chiang Rai is not to be overlooked. Unlike Bangkok, there is much less light pollution so the stars of the southern hemisphere can almost always be enjoyed from the comfort of the Jungle Bubble.
Image credit: Anantara Resort
Areias do Seixo, Portugal
Located in Santa Cruz, western Portugal, and less than an hour from Lisbon, Areias do Seixo is a place to pause and savour every moment. Feel the sensation of time stand still, surrounded by sea, dunes and pine tree forests. This spa hotel has a variety of forest-inspired rooms with exquisite interior décor and a romantic and inviting ambiance. There are 15 stunning rooms in total. There is one luxury tented room (named ‘shelter’) which features ‘barefoot luxury’ and allows you to disconnect from the outside world. Higher-end room categories (love rooms, gold rooms, tree rooms and land rooms) are located in the main building and feature slightly different styles, but all centre around rustic and sophisticated interiors. For example, the tree rooms have been influenced by African inspirations and ethnic and recycled elements. Log fireplaces, rainfall showers, wooden terraces and sumptuous jacuzzi bathtubs feature in most of the rooms – offering the height of luxury and romance.
Image credit: Areias do Seixo
Elephants Eye Camp, Zimbabwe
Elephant’s Eye is an intimate camp located on its own private concession, about an hours drive from Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. Hwange is one of the country’s most popular and visited national parks and famous for its elephant population. In fact, its population of over 45,000 elephants make it one of the densest elephant population in Africa so naming the camp Elephant’s Eye makes sense in every way. The camp has its own sleep-out deck which is called The Eye. In the evening, the guests are escorted further out from camp to stay on a luxury sleep out overlooking the waterhole. Although there is a mosquito net and a raised platform, it is open to the wilderness so the sounds of the bush will be heightened. Fall asleep to the sparkles of the Milky Way, and enjoy one of the most romantic and exciting nights in Zimbabwe.
Image credit: Hideaways Africa
Hotel Aire de Bardenas, Spain
Located in northern Spain, nestled in the beautiful area of Navarra is an architectural gem – Hotel Aire de Bardenas. With the River Ebro, Navarra Riveria and the Bardenas Reales National Reserve all close-by, this hotel has access to beautiful nature in every direction. The hotel has a variety of room types, including luxury suites and bubble domes to sleep under the stars. With desert landscapes and expansive space surrounding Aire de Bardenas, there are plenty of experiences to enjoy such as wine tastings, olive oil tours and of course, getting out and exploring the area on foot.
Image credit: Hotel Aire de Bardenas
Lion Sands, South Africa
Located in the private reserve of Sabi Sands in South Africa, the Lion Sands treehouses are simply some of the most awe-inspiring sleep-out experiences in the continent, if not the world! Perched up high up on a wooden platform, a night in a luxury treehouse gives you a perspective on the bush. Before you are escorted to the treehouse by a private guide, your treehouse will be prepared with fresh bedding, candles and lanterns lit everywhere and of course, a bottle of wine or bubbly to start the experience. The treehouse has 5-star comforts as well your very own starlit sky.
Image credit: More Family Collection
Puku Ridge, Zambia
Puku Ridge is part of the Chiawa Safaris collection and is certainly one of our favorites in the South Luangwa National Park. The camp is made up of 8 luxury tents, each designed with contemporary features and well-appointed bathrooms, while maintaining the natural beauty and feel of the bush. Each room has air conditioning, and a multi-level veranda with a private plunge pool. The suites also have a star bed platform for nights under the glistening African sky. Free-standing baths, a stunning main area, and award-winning cuisine tops off the experience at Puku Ridge.
Image credit: Scott Ramsay, Chiawa
Wadi Rum, Jordan
Wadi Rum is a vast desert landscape with narrow gorges, dramatic cliffs, and majestic sandstone arches, looking as if it should be on another planet. It was the setting for the most scenes in the epic film ‘Lawrence of the Arabia’. Inhabited by various cultures since prehistoric times, some who’ve left their mark in rock paintings, today visitors can experience the Bedouin way of life by staying in one of the most luxurious desert camps, sleeping beneath the same brilliant starry night’s skies, but with many upscale perks.
Amman, Jerash, Petra, Dead Sea, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv11 NightsFrom $4,623 PPJordan and Israel are home to some of the world’s most legendary sites – you’ll get to explore the some of the most iconic on private guided tours. Just a few of the experiences you’ll enjoy in this country include exploring some of the world’s most well-preserved Roman ruins on a day trip from Amman, discovering the ancient ‘Lost City’ of Petra, and floating rejuvenating in the salty Dead Sea. After crossing the border to Israel, you’ll dine with a local family and follow in the steps of Jesus himself in the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, concluding in Tel Aviv.
Victoria Falls, Lower Zambezi National Park, South Luangwa National Park10 NightsFrom $12,662 PPThis itinerary features the gems of Zambia’s safari parks. After a few days enjoying the iconic Victoria Falls at Tongabezi Lodge, you will fly across to the Lower Zambezi National Park to spend 5 nights on a luxury safari. With the mighty Zambezi River the main attraction to the park, you can enjoy a variety of safari activities here including day and night game drives, walking safaris, canoe and boat safaris, and tiger fishing. After the Lower Zambezi, you’ll head to the South Luangwa to spend a few days in Puku Ridge – the sister camp of Chiawa.
Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya, Khao Sok, Khao Lak11 NightsFrom $4,667 PPThis action-packed itinerary is for those who wish to enjoy the best of Thailand’s great outdoors, without compromising on comfort or service. Across 12 enthralling days you’ll discover current and former Thai capitals Bangkok and Ayutthaya, and dive deep into the jungles of Kanchanaburi and Khao Sok National Park. Along the way take Bangkok’s alluring ‘khlongs’, the floating markets of Amphawa, the Bridge over the River Kwai, and the infamous Death Railway. You’ll also come face to face with a wide range of tropical wildlife and birdlife, and take in truly magnificent rural and jungle scenery. The tour finishes with three nights at a luxury beach resort in Khao Lak, with a final day out to the underwater wonderland of the Similan Marine Park.
Santiago, Torres Del Paine, Atacama Desert13 NightsFrom $7,111 PPThis 13 night journey through Chile will allow you to really explore the country and get out into nature to see its spectacular landscapes. You will start your trip in the cosmopolitan city of Santiago, you will have a city tour and head out to the close destinations of Valparaiso and the vineyards of the Colchagua Valley. You then fly south to spend 4 nights in the Torres Del Paine National Park, one of the most beautiful areas of Patagonia. Then you will head north to the Atacama Desert, a total contrast to Torres Del Paine. You will be in the desert for 4 nights with a wide range of activities on offer. See the desert by walking, on horseback or by bicycle accompanied by expert guides.
Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park, Fanjove Private Island9 NightsFrom $11,125 PPThe southern parks in Tanzania offer a completely different experience to the north. As destinations off the beaten track, they certainly offer a quieter and more secluded experience, without compromising on the game viewing. This itinerary includes a safari in the Selous Game Reserve, which offers a broader range of safari activities like game drives, bush walks, fishing, and boat safaris. Here you can enjoy watching elephant from the water, listening to hippos from your safari tent, and tracing wild dog in the safari jeeps. You will then fly across to Ruaha National Park where you will have three nights. This park is famed for its buffalo herds, leopards, and lesser kudu, among other species. To end this adventurous itinerary, you will fly across to Fanjove Island, to spend 3 nights on an idyllic private island. Spend the last few days eating under the stars, walking barefoot on the white sand banks, and exploring the azure waters and tropical fish. The combination of all three destinations will offer the most special, secluded, and unforgettable Tanzania trip.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Samburu National Reserve, Masai Mara10 NightsFrom $10,033 PPThis itinerary is a combination of driving and flying, combining both the popular parks with the less-visited wonders. Up first is the Ol Pejeta Conservancy which is famous for the protected northern white rhinos – the last two in the world! This is not only an exceptional sighting, but a key part of history and science. After two nights here, you will head to Samburu National Park which is a semi arid landscape offering unique wildlife species and great elephant sightings. Finally, you will fly to the Mara North Conservancy to the north of the Masai Mara – a safari gem that you will fall in love with.
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