If you love the title ‘astrophile’, why not plan and visit the best places to stargaze while enjoying your trip?
Stargazing happens to be an interesting pursuit for travellers. Amidst trekking and camping across popular trails in India, I have cultivated a weird habit: chasing night skies. Well, if you have an interest in astrophotography or love capturing star trails, you might already be hunting for the perfect places for stargazing in India.
It’s the same obsession that has made me travel to places and distant valleys just to capture a precious experience of starlit skies. Doesn’t it feel mesmerizing to gaze at the nightscape and watch the planets, galaxies, and the Milky Way?
In this post, I am going to present you with a list of my favourite, as well as most popular stargazing places in India – some of them I went for an adventure, and the rest are a dream for me to come true. So, the next time you carry your astronomy binocular or portable telescope during your trek or camping trip, you won’t miss out on any of these places you chance upon.
1. Hanle, Ladakh
Ladakh already has several reasons to be on your travel bucket list. However, if you are looking for the best stargazing destinations in India, I would recommend Ladakh’s Hanle village that houses the Indian Astronomical Observatory of Ladakh.
Do you know that Hanle is the only dark sky reserve in India?
A dark sky reserve refers to an area where the authorities monitor pollution to ensure a clear view of the night sky. Hanle’s 1,073 square Km area have been reserved for the dark sky. The area remains under several restrictions, and the people residing in the periphery are not entitled to use any powerful light.
Hanle generally has dry and cold weather. This further facilitates activities like astrophotography, stargazing through your telescope, or capturing star trails and comets. So, astrophile like me cherish the pitch-black darkness to stare at the planets, the Milky way, or even catch a glimpse of shooting stars.
2. Pangong Lake Camping, Ladakh
It would be a sin for me to overlook Pangong Lake Camping in Ladakh, one of the best campsites to stargaze at high altitudes. I was left spellbound, gazing at the mystic landscapes and ornamented night sky with zero pollution. Well, if you feel the mad urge to flee from the crazy crowd and din of your city, choose this campsite in Ladakh for your stargazing experience.
Sitting quietly at an altitude of 4,225 meters, the sky above Pangong Lake is known for changing colours and astonishing views of the galaxies. As I peered into my telescope for seeing planets and galaxies, the starry sky presented me with a panorama of diamonds. Well, I believe every stargazer would find their ultimate paradise of bane at Pangong Lake when the sky remains clear.
Imagine putting on your layers as the temperature dips at night, and enjoy every moment with astrophotography. The planets look like constantly shining objects, and if you are lucky, I bet you can capture a comet or a star trail at this site. For stargazers who love to track planetary movements and lunar positions, this place offers a deep sky to explore!
3. Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
During my mission to visit all the places to see the Milky Way, I stumbled upon the picturesque Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, located at 15,000 feet altitude. The sky remains crystal clear, and the stars shine up with the pitch-black background of the night sky.
Spiti also happens to be the most high-altitude motorable village in India as well as the world. So, if you are not comfortable with strenuous treks, Spiti Valley would be the right destination for you for astrophotography.
I recommend some strategic spots in Spiti where you can capture an unhindered view of the nocturnal sky. These include Kibber, Komik, Dhankar, Losar, and Tabo. The clear sky, high altitude, and no pollution make the Spiti Valley one of the most popular stargazing places in India.
Interestingly, you can complete your stargazing mission at Spiti as a part of your trip to Shimla and Manali.
4. Nubra Valley, Ladakh
My quest for the best places to see Milky Way met its salvation at Nubra Valley in Ladakh. The glittering stars and Milky Way in its nightscape make it a heaven for astrophiles like me.
The valley remains cuddled by majestic Himalayas and the Karakorum range. If you are into trekking, you should know that reaching Turtuk village in this valley also requires you to cross some of the highest passes in India. Nested amidst high-current rivers, cold deserts, and pristine lakes, I was robbed of my senses as I peered into the night sky studded with stars.
Well, the Nubra Valley is also the gateway to the Siachen Glacier, so you would need a permit to visit this place. If you love bitterly cold places, visit Nubra Valley in winter to hear your bones rattle! I would recommend September to November for an amazing stargazing experience as you would be able to view the Milky Way clearer.
Make your way right up to Turtuk village, 166 Km away, where you can be fortunate enough to pamper your vision with the crystalline star trails and galaxies.
5. Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
Remember the Geminid Meteor Shower of 2016? Well, some of my friends were at the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat during that time, known to be a large expanse of salt marshes. An ideal destination for astrophotographers and astronomers, this place in Gujarat is still on my bucket list as one of India’s most satisfying stargazing places.
Even if you don’t carry your binoculars or telescope, naked-eye watching happens to be quite popular here. Astrophiles have reported catching a glimpse of 6-magnitude stars here with the naked eye. The clear and pollution-free sky above the Rann of Kutch makes it ideal for watching planets, galaxies, and lunar movements.
I would recommend you to visit this stargazing destination in Gujarat between November and February. Under the salty swaps, you have several fascinating things to look out for. How about capturing the ghost lights, which continue to allure photographers?
You can also visit the Rann of Kutch during the Rann Utsav, which is one of the popular festivals here. The night camps attract people from different countries across the world.
6. Sandakphu, West Bengal
My first encounter with a shooting star happened during my Sandakphu trek. This explains why my first trek continues to be so special to me. While staying at Dhotrey and Tonglu, I was lucky to capture the beautiful night sky.
My friend Ritban got busy with his camera, taking star trails and exploring the Milky way in awe. He took some of the spectacular views of the constellations dominating the nightscape at Gorkhey. Soumya, my co-author and founder of NatureDiary, also shot some amazing photos of the Sleeping Buddha surrounded by sparkling stars at Sandakphu like the above one.
Later, while descending on the other side of the mountain after completing our Sandakphu Trek, we hiked all the way into the Gorkhey Valley in the evening. Set amidst the thick pine forest, the quaint valley was perfect for astrophotography.
So, if you continue to chase stars and look out for the finest places for stargazing, I would recommend you the trek to Sandakphu and the down trek up to Srikhola via Gorkhey. During our trek, we were lucky to capture a glimpse of the mighty Everest peak, along with Kanchenjunga, Three Sisters, Lhotse, and several other peaks.
The Sandakphu Trek is an easy-to-moderate trek route, perfect for beginners. So, if you fancy watching starlit skies during your trek, you can start here. Apart from stars and the nightscape, you have some of the tallest mountain peaks visible from Sandakphu and Phalut.
7. Kheerganga, Himachal Pradesh
For trekkers and hikers who love stargazing, Kheerganga happens to be a moderately easy trek in Himachal Pradesh. So, if you are looking for a place to see stars without taking too much stress on your knees, I would recommend Kheerganga Trek to you.
If you are yet to buy your astronomy binocular or telescope for stargazing, get one before leaving for this beautiful trek. Among the places to stargaze that I have listed in this article, Kheerganga stands out with its beautiful sceneries and night sky surrounded by the Himalayas.
Reaching Kheerganga is relatively easy. Firstly, you need to take an AC Bus (Volvo) from Chandigarh or New Delhi to reach Kasol. This would be an overnight journey, with the nearest airport being Kullu Manali Airport.
From Kasol, you will find buses or cabs, and it would take you 40 minutes to reach Barshaini bus stand, 17 Km away, from where the trek starts. There are three trek routes at Kheerganga. In their recent trip, my colleagues Soumya and Koyeli took the Kalga village route and shot a magical glimpse of the Milky Way that you can see in the above picture.
8. Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Have you considered hunting for a great place to stargaze amidst the expanses of a desert? Well, I would recommend you Jaisalmer, a beautiful destination in Rajasthan.
Over the decades, people interested in astrophotography and stargazing have enriched themselves with the magical galaxies in the desert. While Rajasthan is better known for the Thar Desert and its safaris, you also have cultural programs, heritage tours, and camping as popular activities in the city.
When you are out in the desert camping with your friends, you can cherish your vision with the nightscape glittering with planetary lights.
Plan your trip to Jaisalmer between October and March to capture the best views of the night sky. While twilights beyond the golden sand dunes would bring you the opportunity to capture the solar charm, the enthralling night sky awaits you just after dusk.
9. Kashmir Great Lakes, Jammu & Kashmir
The night sky can be spectacular, like bliss. It was during my Kashmir Great Lakes Trek that I feasted my eyes on the pitch-black sky with the shining stars at the campsites.
As I mentioned in our guide to Kashmir Great Lakes trek, we pitched our first camp at Shitkari in Sonmarg before taking the uphill trek to Nichnai, Vishnasar Lake, Gadsar Campsite, Satsar Lakes, and Gangabal Lake. All along this long mountainous trek route, the evenings presented us with spectacular views of the milky way.
If you are into astrophotography, you should get your telescope, astronomy binoculars, and camera out just after sundown. In Kashmir, we had daylight up to 8:15 in the evening. Just before taking our dinner and helping ourselves into the comfort of the sleeping bags, we spent an hour staring at the nightscape, hunting for comets or meteors!
As I take you through this list of top places for stargazing, I can clearly recall spending the chilly evenings in the quaint valleys. Well, the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek takes you through high altitudes above 13,000 feet. You need to cross three mountain passes as well. The clarity of the mountain air and the pollution-free environment makes it a great place to stargaze during your treks.
10. Sonmarg, Kashmir
My affinity with Kashmir started at Sonmarg, where we pitched our tents during my Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. Well, it wasn’t until that very evening that I came to know that Sonmarg is a popular place for stargazing among trekkers like us!
Sonmarg holds its importance in the books of history as well. It is the gateway to the high-altitude mountain passes of Nichnai, Gadsar, and Jaz. Besides, connects the city to the Silk Road, another high-altitude mountain pass connecting China and Kashmir.
The villages in Sonmarg are a haven for campers and adventurers. The night sky presents astrophotographers with millions of shimmering stars to capture. Whether you are crossing Sonmarg on your way to Leh or enjoying your summer trip to Kashmir, plan a night stay at Sonmarg.
Apart from its rolling meadows, pine forests, and snow-covered peaks, Sonmarg happens to be a great place for stargazing in India. So, don’t forget to take a long-distance binocular, astrophotography camera and telescope the next time you are at Sonmarg.
Although you have several other villages in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, which are better known for stargazing, Sonmarg will refine your sight with unforgettable sight skies.
11. Yumthung Valley, Sikkim
Well, previously, I used to recommend Yumthung Valley in Sikkim to travellers who love swaying their senses amidst the blissful views of the mountains. However, now I have a different reason to recommend this place in Sikkim altogether- the magical night sky.
While cultivating my interest in stargazing, I have spent silent evenings at Yumthung Valley with my astronomy binocular. You can even carry your telescope to Yumthung Valley, one of the best places to stargaze in Sikkim, as well as India.
Well, the place allures travellers with its colourful prayer flags and little huts along the mountain slopes. After the darkness creeps into the valley, the valley turns itself into a paradise for astrophotographers. Currently, Yumthung Valley is a great place to see the Milky Way, planets, galaxies, and comets in the deep sky.
Well, I have trekked several Himalayan trails all these years. This has brought me the fortune to interact with some of the most avid astrophotographers. Considering my interactions with them, I would recommend Yumthung Valley in Sikkim as one of the most favourable places to see stars in India.
12. Neil Island, Andaman
Neil island in the Bay of Bengal is a popular tourist attraction in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and also one of the best places to see stars in India, as the nightscape remains clear almost all around the year. It is ideal for astrophotographers and sky-gazing enthusiasts looking into the deep sky at night.
At Neil Island, you can engage yourself in underwater amusements like scuba diving during the day, absorbing the tranquil vibes of the place. As the evening sets in, prepare yourself with your astronomy binocular, telescope and long-exposure camera to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way galaxy.
Feast your eyes on the splendid views of the starry night sky meeting the azure water somewhere on the horizon. The quaint environment on this island happens to be the ideal haven for space enthusiasts.
13. Yusmarg, Kashmir
If you consider yourself to be an opportunistic astrophotographer, consider spending a night at Yusmarg. This is a village located in Western Kashmir’s Badgam district. It takes 45 minutes to reach Yusmarg from Kashmir.
In the daytime, trekkers and hikers love cherishing the lush green meadows along with the rolling alpine forests. Interestingly, nature lovers would appreciate distinguishing every shade of green, including lime, apple, mint, and emerald, in the wooded forests.
While the snow-capped peaks of the mighty mountains determine the horizon, you can sit in the raw knolls full of sheep and horses and stare at the sky at night. Catch a glimpse of the picturesque cottages, resembling Europe’s alpine valleys. As the babbling stream makes its way, breaking the silence, watch the night sky teeming with stars and planets.
Professional astrophotographers have reported catching shooting stars while stroking across the magical sky. The sparkling spectacles become more pronounced as the night grows darker.
Astrophiles with a keen interest in solar and lunar positions at different times of the year often come to Yusmarg in Kashmir. If you are ready to explore one of the best locations to stargaze amidst the alpine meadows, add Yusmarg to your bucket list.
14. Coorg, Karnataka
Honeymooners! Watch out!
Amidst the captivating bliss of the coffee plantations, emerald hills, and absorbing wildlife in this hill station by the Western Ghats, you have a beautiful nightscape. How about spending quality time with your loved one on the balcony of a resort while both of you peer at the Milky Way Galaxy?
Coorg is known for its romantic sceneries and hills. However, if you happen to be an astrophile like me, you should have other plans to visit Coorg as well! For a better experience, find accommodation in a homestay in the interiors.
If you are a honeymooner or nature lover, the night sky of Coorg will captivate you with its bliss. Amidst the mystifying cloudy landscape with hills, spice plantations, and teak forests, the night sky looks bewitching. No doubt, Coorg happens to be one of the most ideal places for stargazing in south India.
If you have been looking for the best stargazing places in India, I hope this list will be helpful to you. Whether it comes to capturing star trails or gazing hours into the Milky Way, I love to lull myself to sleep on silent, starlit valleys amidst the dreamy nightscapes during my treks.
Now that I have helped you with my list of stargazing places, you can try your hands at astrophotography. Read our stargazing guide, get some powerful camera lenses, an astronomy binocular, and a telescope and start off your mission as an astrophile.
For me, I started my journey as a travel enthusiast and have picked up travel-oriented hobbies like stargazing, hiking, trekking, and fishing. However, I would acknowledge that peering into the deep sky late into the night enthrals me as much as the trek routes spark my adrenaline!