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Nights Under The Stars (Part 2) - USA

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USA

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.

Description: Dark Sky Park

Dark Sky Park

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.

Description: A map of the night sky

A 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.

Description: 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

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

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

 

Description: The heated canvas tents of Adventur-Camp in the Atacama Desert

The heated canvas tents of Adventur-Camp in the Atacama Deser

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