Finding stars is one of South Africa’s secret little pleasures, especially in remote areas where the sky is free of pollution and there’s no peripheral “noise” to distract you from what’s twinkling in the sky. Cold and dry winter evenings are particularly awesome when it comes to discovering the brilliance of South Africa’s inky heavens, where the Milky Way swathes the sky in a stunning, celestial treat.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
This remote location in the desolate Karroo most often tops the list as South Africa’s premier stargazing destination, as well as one of the coldest, so wear two pairs of socks and prepare for temperatures that can dip below freezing. However, your frozen toes will soon become insignificant as a nocturnal rainbow of stars reveals itself to you. The tiny town of Sutherland is home to the largest telescope in the southern hemisphere and boast cloudless nights through 80% of the year where a flat landscape allows unobstructed views of a surreal and magical night sky.
Uncover the vastness of space in the inky Waterberg where supernovas and black holes will absorb your attention. With the surrounding bushland setting the scene, resident astronomer Dr. Philip Calcott projects his telescope view onto a screen to provide fascinating night sky safaris that reveal all the wonders of the southern skies. Using an advanced modern telescope and an astronomical video camera, his tours give a spectacular view of any planets that are visible on that particular night, as well as star constellations, neighboring galaxies, and the Milky Way.
The Cederberg in the Western Cape is a popular tourist destination and is well loved for its pristine natural beauty and scenic landscape. The region is also worth a visit on a Saturday night when the Cederberg Astronomical Observatory opens its doors to the public for a few hours. After an informative slide show, guests are free to make use of the observatory’s three powerful telescopes that bring the distant stars into clear, sharp focus while the pollution-free mountain air adds to the astounding clarity. There are also powered polar-aligned mounts for portable telescopes as well as a few homemade Newtonian telescopes available to use. The observatory is open every Saturday, with the exception of those that fall on a full moon, when the sky is too bright to properly reveal the stars. However, a trip to the observatory is not always necessary, as on clear nights, thousands of stars are visible to the naked eye.
Pafuri River Camp, Kruger National Park
Pafuri River Camp is located in the far northern reaches of the Kruger National Park, bordering on Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The quiet, still region is ideal for observing the hidden jewels of the night sky with no light pollution or anything else besides the occasional sound of wildlife to distract you. Some of the sky objects and constellations that are easily visible with the naked eye include the Southern Cross, the Coalsack Nebula—a dark cloud of dust 500 light years away—and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two of our neighboring galaxies some 180,000 light years away. Bookings for a night sky safari can be made through Pafuri River Camp.
Maropeng, Cradle of Humankind
Maropeng is the official visitor center of the Cradle of Humankind UNESCO World Heritage Site, and although located less than two hours from the bright lights of Johannesburg, it is still considered a great stargazing location. The center holds regular stargazing sessions presented by Vincent Nettmann, Maropeng’s resident astronomer, who helps visitors make that magical connection between themselves and the amazing universe we live in. Visual pleasure is enhanced by using large-aperture computerized telescopes programmed to automatically track celestial objects. Ideal for amateur and professional stargazers alike, the informative evenings give a simple yet comprehensive overview of the southern African night sky.
Kglalagadi Transfrontier Park
A rare treat for any avid stargazer has to be the Kglalagadi Transfrontier Park, one of the darkest and least polluted places in southern Africa. It is said that admiring the night skies in this neck of the woods could make you feel like you’ve never seen the stars properly before, where pollution of any kind, be it light, natural atmospheric, or man-made, is almost non-existent. At !Xhaus Lodge, within the park, the nearest artificial light is 50 kilometers (31 miles) away and guests can leisurely view the stars through a telescope on a special observation deck. Here the Milky Way can be seen at its best, and on moonless nights, provides enough light for guests to see where they are walking. Visitors can also learn some traditional Bushmen skylore from the resident San tribe, who believe the sky is a spiritual realm and the stars are human and animal kindred spirits.
Although there’s not much to observe here during the day, the little Karroo town of Carnarvon is home to the next big thing in star gazing, called the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, which is still under construction. This mega-science project comprises an array of telescopes spanning 10 countries and two continents, Africa and Australia. Combined they will be the largest telescope of any kind to ever spy into the universe, and they are backed up by a host of super-fast computers to deal with the incoming data. While the facility has yet to open its doors to visitors, the expansive and infinitely clear sky in Carnarvon is bound to leave you star struck.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
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