Astro tourism is set to be a major travel trend in 2024  Experts are also predicting that 2024 will offer the best Northern Lights viewing in over two decades. 

However, with light pollution affecting 80% of the globe—and increasing by about 10% each year—selecting the right spot to gaze at the skies is more important than ever.

The experts at Fred. Olsen has analysed hundreds of data points on locations, weather conditions, and TripAdvisor reviews to pinpoint the best stargazing and Northern Lights destinations in the world which are all accessible by sea. Expert insight is also provided by Neill Sanders, Astronomer and Go Stargazing Founder.

Top five coastal destinations for stargazing

Rhodes, Greece

Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese Islands, tops our list of stellar stargazing spots. What sets Rhodes apart are its exceptionally low light pollution levels and an average cloud cover of just 20%, making it a prime location for observing the night sky. It’s also home to a popular Astronomy Cafe.

Hvar, Croatia

Despite being the sunniest spot in Croatia—with 2,724 sunny hours each year— Hvar also enjoys remarkably low light levels at night, creating perfect conditions for stargazing. Hvar proudly hosts southern Europe’s first International Dark Sky Community.

The charming harbour town of Jelsa, the second-largest on the island, has earned a spot among more than 195 places worldwide designated as prime stargazing spots by the International Dark Sky Association. Over two years, Jelsa transformed itself into a stargazing haven. In collaboration with the Croatian Astronomical Union, the town upgraded 82% of its public lighting to be environmentally friendly, as well as hosting educational talks and events to raise awareness about light pollution.

Today, Jelsa is a sanctuary of darkness at night. This transformation not only benefits the environment and wildlife but also offers residents and visitors a front-row seat to the dazzling Milky Way.

Korčula, Croatia

Next on the list is Korčula. This gem on the Dalmatian coast is celebrated not only for its beauty but also for its excellent stargazing conditions, thanks to very low light pollution and elevation.

Between viewing sessions, make the most of the rest that the island has to offer. Unlike its more frequented neighbours, Korčula remains a fairly peaceful escape, preserving its rustic charm and natural beauty.

Kusadasi, Turkiye

While perhaps better known as a popular beach resort town, Kuşadası is also an exceptional spot for stargazing, thanks to its low light pollution, high elevation, and relatively low humidity. The town’s sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters make it perfect for daytime swimming and sunbathing—but once night falls, they transform into prime spots for observing the glittering stars above.

Agadir, Morocco

Agadir, located southwest of Marrakesh on the southern Atlantic coast of Morocco, offers a unique stargazing experience. Despite its urban setting contributing to higher light levels, Agadir boasts very low cloud cover and the highest surface pressure among our top-ranking destinations, ensuring exceptionally clear night skies.

Top five coastal destinations for Northern Lights

This year, experts anticipate some of the most stunning Northern Lights displays in two decades. The forthcoming “solar maximum,” the peak of the sun’s 11-year cycle, is set to illuminate the skies with auroras more vivid than we’ve seen in recent years.

Of course, certain conditions enhance the visibility of the Northern Lights. The best vantage points boast high elevation, low cloud cover, high air pressure, and low humidity, and are usually closer to Earth’s magnetic poles. The optimal viewing period spans from November to February, during the darkest skies and longest nights, with peak activity around 11 pm to midnight.

“In the UK, the Northern Lights can occasionally appear as a faint glow low towards the Northern horizon; their colour and detail are only visible in camera photos unless there are exceptional circumstances,” Neill explains.

“The further north you travel, the higher they appear in the sky, and at locations such as Iceland and Northern Norway, the lights appear right above you. From here, you can witness their true majesty; the colours become visible to the naked eye and their magnificent structure is revealed in a “corona” above your head.”

Based on this criteria, it’s no surprise that the top five destinations for viewing the Northern Lights, identified through our research, are all in Norway.

  • Molde, Norway
  • BodØ, NORWAY
  • Narvik, Norway
  • Alta, Norway
  • Kristiansund, Norway

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