Utah is the location of the world’s first
official Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park, an honour bestowed on the
Natural Bridges National Monument in 2007. It is also home to Amangiri, not
merely one of the most beautifully designed hotels in the Amanresorts
portfolio, but one with a resident astronomy guide and a 10in Dobsonian
telescope. Throughout the summer there are Monday-night lectures on local
“celestial happenings” and guided tours of the night sky over the 600-acre
desert estate, which remains unsullied by light-spill owing to its remote
setting close to the borders with Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.
Indeed, over the border in Arizona at the
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, 30 miles from Phoenix in the
Sonoran Desert, all 22 suites are equipped with powerful telescopes. A map of
the night sky is also left on your bed at turndown. Richard Allen, a local
astronomer, is on hand to give complementary tutored stargazing sessions in the
grounds on Friday evenings (private sessions on your balcony are available for
a free). Nocturnal excursions into the desert, with a telescope and
night-vision goggles – the better to observe wildlife – are also available.
map of the night sky
There are star-spangled night skies in
Wyoming too, notably above Spring Creek Ranch on the edge of the Teton
mountains, neat Jackson Hole valley. The 1,000-acre ranch is a ski destination
in winter, and there is a range of summer activities, from horse-riding,
climbing and wildlife safaris to complimentary outdoor stargazing sessions (on
Mondays and Thursdays) with Kurt Johnson, a trained biologist, knowledgeable
amateur astronomer and photographer of constellations. The rings of Saturn,
moons of Jupiter and icecaps of Mars are among the natural phenomena that
guests have observed through the ranch telescope.
are star-spangled night skies in Wyoming too, notably above Spring Creek Ranch
on the edge of the Teton mountains, neat Jackson Hole valley
On the other side of the country, in
Virginia, Primland is a 12,000-acre estate near the town of Meadows of Dan in
the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was founded by Didier Primat, the heir to the
Schlumberger oil-services fortune, and, until his death in 2008, a fixture on
the Forbes list of billionaires. He developed it as a private golf, hunting and
fishing resort and spa. A tower was built in 2009, along with the main lodge,
topped by a state-of-the-art 32ft domed observatory, which houses a powerful
Celestron CGE Pro 1400. Every night there is a “tour of the universe” lasting
up to two hours, presented by one of the resort’s astronomy staff, and a guided
“star walk” through the grounds, giving an opportunity to observe the sky
through a 14in portable Celestron.
For guests who would rather spend time in
their rooms – and given the standards of luxury you would be forgiven for
wanting to – images from the observatory telescope can be viewed in all 26
rooms and suites in the main lodge, thanks to the resort’s closed-circuit TV.
Alternatively, you can stay in one of 11 rustic mountain cabins or three pretty
timber cottages on the fairway.
Suites at Amangiri from $1,212; www.amanresorts.com. Doubles at Spring
Creek Ranch from $170; www.springcreekranch.com;
Doubles at Primland from $279; www.primland.com.
Suites at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North from $524; www.fourseasons.com
heated canvas tents of Adventur-Camp in the Atacama Deser