Epic Places to Watch the Sky

With 2020 drifting into the distance behind us and another year ahead, we’re all in need of a deep breath of fresh air. Whether you’re hankering after a glimpse of the Northern Lights, dreaming of sunsets in a far-flung, palm-fringed paradise or spotting stars a little closer to home, watching the sky is an invaluable way of reconnecting with planet earth. Take some time to sit back and admire the sun, stars, and the drifting clouds, think of better days and feel grateful for nature in all its glory. 

Lapland, Finland. Image credit: Alexandrite on iStock

Snowy scenes

Swirling flurries, powdered-sugar hills and the dream of colourful lights dancing in the sky – that’s what one expects from a Scandinavian winter. Whether you’re looking to explore the geysir-fuelled thermal wonders of Iceland, cast your mind to Christmas in Finnish Lapland or combine the hip delights of Swedish cities with an adventure into its gorgeous green spaces, you’ll find a sky or two to admire on your way. 

Iceland – Midgardur by Centerhotels

Located at the end of Reykjavik’s busiest shopping street, Midgardur by Centerhotels boasts a buzzing restaurant serving Nordic cuisine and an open-air hot tub for sitting back with a cocktail to watch the sky. Whatever time of year you choose to visit, Iceland’s skies are magical. Home to the Aurora Borealis in winter and the never-setting Midnight Sun in summer, you’ll surely find something to fall in love with. 

Finland – Holiday Village Gulo Gulo

In the midst of Lapland’s largest wildlife park, Holiday Village Gulo Gulo is the ultimate in Finnish hospitality, with unforgettable accommodations in the most stunning, snow-kissed setting. Apartments are cosy and welcoming, with log burning stoves and saunas for warming up after adventures in the surrounding wilderness. To up the ante, opt to spend a night or two in a glass igloo, where you can watch the Northern Lights dance across the sky whilst tucked up under a fluffy duvet. 

Sweden – Torekov Hotel

Sink into a Japanese soaking tub or the 38-degree hydro-jet pool and drink the fresh Swedish air. You’ll find this tranquil spot in Sweden’s Skåne County, on the outskirts of a traditional fishing village where both the serene sea and the idyllic landscapes will amaze. This is the perfect getaway for outdoorsmen, with scenic hiking trails, swimming and sky-gazing aplenty. 

Mayrhofen, Austria. Image credit: Karl Eichinger / EyeEm on gettyimages.

Mountain landscapes

Europe’s mountainous landscapes are coveted worldwide by skiers, hikers, climbers and cyclists, no matter the season. Whether you’re barrelling down snow-covered slopes in winter or summiting emerald mountain passes in summer, the skies here are guaranteed to inspire. If you’re a mountain-buff looking for a good view, look no further, because between Switzerland’s imposing Matterhorn, France’s massif Mont Blanc and Austria’s towering Grossglockner, you’ll certainly be spoilt for choice. 

France – Courcheneige

The stunning Courcheneige hotel in France’s world-famous Courchevel 1850 boasts both breathtaking views and a boutique atmosphere, with the unforgettable decor to top it all off. The mellow lounge area is apres-ski perfection, combining cosy pub vibes with all the patterned accents of an upscale safari lodge. This ski-in, ski-out locale is right on the slopes, and you can even admire alpine skies late into the night from a spacious Jacuzzi that’ll surely keep you toasty. 

Switzerland – Chandolin Boutique Hotel

120 kilometres north-east as the crow flies, across the mountain passes of the French-Swiss border, you’ll find a charming boutique lodge where panoramic views are the name of the game. Premium and Deluxe rooms boast floor-to-ceiling windows with balconies for taking in the alpine skies. Take the opportunity to watch the sunrise each morning before an early-morning ski, or admire the sun slinking back over the mountains before you indulge in a night out apres-skiing to your heart’s content. 

Austria – ElisabethHotel Premium Private Retreat 

It’s tough to find a mountain spot cosier than ElisabethHotel, where roaring fires are present everywhere, even in the sleek spa, for warming up after long days on the slopes. Located in the Upper Zillertal Valley, you’ve plenty of choice for breath-taking skies here. In summer, the area is popular with climbers and paragliders – what better way to experience the sky than soaring through it, free as a bird.

Fushifaru Maldives, Lhaviyani Atoll. Image credit: Fushifaru Maldives.

Island idylls 

If you’re more of a sun-seeker than a snow angel, then you’ll certainly want to consider a far-flung getaway to one of these idyllic locales. Whether you opt for the away-from-it-all peace and quiet of the Maldives’ endless atolls or the cultural highlights and culinary hubs of Thailand and Sri Lanka, you’ll undoubtedly be stunned by colourful island sunsets at the end of each warm, tropical day.

Maldives – Fushifaru Maldives

With little but blue sky and sea as far as the horizon spans, a stay at Fushifaru Maldives is an escape from the world. Not only will you be blessed by top-notch service and sandbanks for sitting back in silence, but you can also opt to indulge in private picnics and sundowners under the sunset skies of this spot in the middle of the ocean. If you really want to make your getaway unforgettable, choose to spend a whole night sleeping under the stars on a white-sand beach, with no one but your loved one and the ocean for company. 

Thailand – Keemala Phuket

Set amid a sloping rainforest, with thatched-roof cottages and villas peppering the hillside, Keemala truly is a slice of paradise on Phuket Island. It sits on the quieter, jungled side of Phuket, backed by rainforest on one side with the sparkling Andaman Sea to the west. There are private pool options for complete tranquillity, and their Clay Pool cottages come equipped with outdoor bathtubs for true jungle luxury. 

Sri Lanka – Nos Da Ty Boutique Hotel

Located on the edge of the tranquil Koggala Lagoon and steps from an old Buddhist temple, this boutique hotel ranks high on the list of stunning places to watch the sky. Each evening watch fishermen haul in their catch as the sun sets over the lagoon and enjoy the chatter of locals going about their nightly business. You’ve also beautiful boat trips to surrounding islands and hikes through the jungled surrounds to keep you occupied, as well as plenty of beaches for evening strolls. 

Scottish Highlands, Scotland. Image credit: Sara_winter on iStock. 

Close to home

Many of us forget about the UK’s beauty; the many mountains, slow-flowing rivers and the rolling hills of England’s green and pleasant land, but it shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re hankering after a touch of solitude and a beautiful sky. There are plenty of dark-sky hubs simply made for stargazing, and even if you’re more of a daytime adventurer, the wide open skies of the Scottish Highlands and the views from the top of Welsh peaks certainly won’t go amiss. 

Wales – Royal Victoria Hotel Snowdonia 

With sprawling gardens that include its very own castle ruins and a location at the foot of Mount Snowdon, Royal Victoria Hotel Snowdonia is the perfect pad for those who want to explore the Welsh countryside. The hotel is cradled between two lakes in the town of Llanberis, where sunrises will have you in awe and come nighttime, the sky is plenty dark enough to make out a multitude of cosmic entities. 

Scottish Highlands – Stonefield Castle 

Decked to the nines in royal reds with a restaurant serving up the freshest Scottish seafood, this 17th-century Scottish Castle turned hotel boasts majesty in spades. Add to this an unbeatable location on the banks of Loch Fyne and you’ve all the trappings of an unforgettable Scottish getaway. Opposite this regal bolthole is a tiny island, whose viewpoints give incredible vistas across the loch – you might even spot wild seals and otters while you’re there – and to its west, miles and miles of unspoilt and unfathomable landscapes.  

Lake District – Belsfield Hotel

Though it may be located on the Lake District’s most famous lake, the surroundings of Laura Ashley’s The Belsfield are more than dreamy. Whether you’re a biker, hiker, kayaker or simply a sit-and-watcher, these landscapes are sure to impress. The Lake District’s Grizedale Forest is a certified Dark Sky Site, and on the best night’s you might be lucky enough to see the milky way glittering long into the night.