The Rise of Astrotourism: Night Fever

This article originally appeared on Denison Yachting.

Who needs the sun when a cloak of darkness can give way to unforgettable adventures? The rise of astrotourism – activities that orbit around observing the cosmos – hints at the type of ventures that awaits under the dim glow of starlight. It typically requires a more daring spirit to strike out in search of merriment in the dark. But the reward? Endless opportunities to create once-in-a-lifetime memories. FRANK spotlights five destinations that have more to offer at night.

01: Live out your Aurora fantasies in Norway

It’s not the obvious option to go whale-watching or skiing when the light is low, but deep inside the Arctic Circle, chasing pods of whales under the Northern Lights is when things get truly epic, says Rob Murray-John, director of operations at luxury travel operator Black Tomato: “It’s somewhat hallucinatory watching orcas breach the blackness of the sea under dancing Auroras.” A marine biologist and photographer can be present to elevate the experience, but if you want your evening to take on a more grueling pace, then skinning up a snowy hill to ski down to the water with a wetsuit on is where it’s at. “Skiing at night can be exhausting, but it’s way more magical.”

A whale at night— a beautiful sight that attracts astrotourism to Norway

02: Dive through sunken relics in the South Pacific

Sure, maybe you’re a master diver, but have you done it at night in a submersible? “For a lot of people, it is a scary experience to dive into the underwater darkness, but soon after, the thrill of night diving takes over,” says Pelorus founder Jimmy Carroll, adding that the difference between day and night diving is so vast that there’s truly no comparing them. In the depths of the South Pacific around the Solomon Islands exists the opportunity to not only commune with marine life with nothing, but to poke around boat and aircraft wrecks from WWII. “Exploring the wrecks gifts an eerie feeling while heightening the senses,” Carroll explains. “Being cast back in time creates a highly somber energy.”

Divers in a submersible, exploring a sunken ship

03: Horsing around in Barbados

Horse racing has been part of Barbadian culture since the 1840s; in fact, the Garrison Savannah, located just outside Bridgetown, is home to one of the oldest racetracks in the Americas and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In December 2020, Barbados became the first and only country in the Caribbean to stage races at night on an illuminated track. Now, many of the island’s prestigious events (within three different seasons of horseracing) can take place at sunset, meaning you can devote more of your day to rum tastings. Hippophiles may already know that Barbados breeds some of the most impressive thoroughbreds in the world, making these some of the most competitive and widely followed races/.

A sunset horse race

4: Follow the stars in Maui

A Hawaiian vacation typically involves conquering house-size waves or sunning by the beach. But a new initiative by the Haleakalā Conservancy, the philanthropic partner to Haleakalā National Park, aims to show what Maui is like when day gives way to night. Given the clear skies over Maui, Haleakalā has been summited by Polynesian navigators for centuries. Follow in their footsteps alongside astronomy interpreters during moonlit hikes and night sky festivals timed to cosmic events, such as a meteor shower. Looking to the sky may sound like an escape, but “this program is meant to dive deeper into the Maui experience,” says executive director Olena Alec. “It takes advantage of this rarefied environment where a whole new world of wonderment and learning takes place.”

A view of Maui at sunset

5: Shine on in Puerto Rico

Known for its bright bioluminescent displays, Fajardo Bay in Laguna Grande isn’t an unknown tourism destination. But with the help of experts at Embark Beyond, an unforgettable night out in this natural phenomenon will stand apart. “While most people just kayak through, we organize everything from snorkeling into the bay to photography classes to improve your night shooting skills,” says founder Jack Ezon. For an educational twist on this sail, request for a naturalist to lead the way and provide in-depth explanations regarding the microscopic single-cell organisms that give this place its otherworldly glow

Two women kayaking, surrounded by bioluminescent displays— a unique astrotourism experience

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