We've become so used to living with light pollution that most of us don't even realise that we never see the night sky as it should be seen. So indulge in a rare pleasure and take a break where you can have fun by day and be wowed by nature at night - seeing the stars without the usual glare of modern city nightlife spoiling the view.
The world's first International Dark Sky Park is Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah. According to the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, the park has a "Bortle class 2 sky" which basically means that it has one of the world's darkest skies with the twinkliest stars. By night you can see the Milky Way, and stellar celebs like the Hale Bopp comet have been viewed shooting through the sky. Find out more through the summer months with the 'Dark Rangers' a team trained in astronomy. By day, you can explore the park and its amazing trip of natural bridges given Hopi names, Sipapu, Kachina and Owachomo, in honour of the Native Americans who once lived in the area.
You don't have to go overseas to experience the majesty of a night time sky shimmering with stars. Right here in Britain you can see the sky light up in Exmoor National Park, which was designated an International Dark Sky Reserve last year, the first in Europe. Get up on the moors and be prepared to be amazed. In most urban areas, fewer than 500 stars may be visible, but on a cloudless night on Exmoor, you may see around 3,000. Shooting stars whizz across the inky-dark sky and you can even see the Milky Way, In the daytime you can potter around Porlock and visit the harbour or take an open-top bus trip to Lynton and Lynmouth where a Victorian water-powered lift connects the two towns. Great beaches, with some wonderful dog-friendly ones too.
The largest Dark Sky Reserve in the world, at over 1.1 million hectares is Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. Visit in October for Dark Sky Month as there are a host of fantastic starry activities to enjoy from dining in the dark, star-lit wagon rides and guided lantern walks to checking out astronomy presentations and telescope viewings. By day you can see go sightseeing through breathtaking Malign Valley, spotting wildlife or take a trip to the Athabasca glacier and walk on 400-year-old blue-white ice at the Columbia Icefields. The best way to get there is by train, to make the most of the amazing views. Hop on the Rocky Mountaineer or the VIA Rail train to Jasper, in the heart of the Rockies.
Africa has a Dark Sky Reserve of its own, Namibia's NamibRand Nature Reserve. It's been designated a 'Gold-Tier' reserve thanks to its minimal light pollution or artificial light. The nearest neighbouring community to the park is some 60 miles away, so when you visit, you can really see the stars blaze in the African sky. The Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust has been set up in the reserve to educate locals and visitors about the earth and the sky. You can take an astronomy course there and book accommodation from ultra-luxe lodges to roughing-it camping. Dark skies are great for indigenous wildlife as nocturnal animals need darkness for survival, even plants need unaltered darkness to thrive, so you can really get back to nature, as it was meant to be under dark skies.
Just a quick hop from the UK over to the Channel Islands takes you to tiny Sark, which is the world's first Dark Sky Island. Sark has no public street lighting, no paved roads or cars, so although around 600 people live there, and it's a hugely popular tourist destination, it simply does not suffer from the same light pollution problems that most other destinations do. When you visit you can see the Milky Way overhead, meteors sizzling across the sky and countless constellations. By day, you can take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the island, explore Sark's many caves and a must-do is the trip across La Coupée with its scary 100m drop which connects Greater and Little Sark.