Spend a dreamy night stargazing on a Spanish island

Spend a dreamy night stargazing on a Spanish island

by Amanda Palumbo
Stripes Europe

The summer I turned eight, like most children, I went to camp. While other kids went to summer camp, church camp or various sports ball camps, I went to astronomy camp. I didn't just go to astronomy camp, I applied and received a full-ride scholarship. On the first day of school, when we all bragged about our summers, I gave every bully any fodder needed when I donned my astronomy camp t-shirt and regaled them with tales of constellations, black holes and supernovas. Ever since then I've been a traveler with my eye to the night sky and Europe is home to one of the dreamiest stargazing locations in the world.

When you think of Spain's Canary Islands, you think of all-inclusive relaxing beach resorts. However, if you take a break from the fun in the sun, you can get a view you won't find anywhere else. Head to Tenerife, an island with Spain’s highest point, the volcano Mount Teide. There are 88 constellations in Earth's night sky. Since Mount Teide is so far from the pollution of urban areas, you can see 83 of the 88. You will feel closer to the heavens and notice the sky is not black, but all different shades of blue, green and brown. The stars will be so bright some will even look purple.

To see those stars, I would suggest a guided tour. There are several different packages, ranging from 40 euros, which includes stargazing with astronomers and looking through high powered telescopes. Others run up to 800 euros including limo rides and gourmet dinners under the stars. Many of the tours offer English guides, are family-friendly and have discounts for students and children.

If you need further proof of Tenerife's stargazing bragging rights, look no further than the Teide Observatory, the world's largest observatory. They offer day tours where you can observe the sun through two massive scopes, seeing live-in-action sunspots and solar flares.

Mt. Teide on Tenerife Island | Photo by shaunwilkinson

Tenerife also has some of the best hiking in all of Europe and views almost as good as what you can see at night. You can climb the various peaks and see the sky touch the ocean. Not to mention you can go back home and tell your friends you hiked on a volcano. No big deal. Just a volcano.

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands (thanks to the volcano) so it has lots of hotels, resorts and two airports. If you're staying at the neighboring islands of Gran Canaria and La Gomera, you can get to Tenerife easily by ferry.

Going to the Canary Islands and skipping the beach would be a travesty. But, if you have time to schedule a day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the beach, I don't think you'll be disappointed. I'll even let you borrow my astronomy camp shirt. Yes, I still have it. No, I cannot fit into it anymore.

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