In Colombia, you can experience the unique and rare emotion of stargazing. The whole country offers the conditions to make astronomical tourism throughout the year, from the Andes to the Caribbean Sea.
Before telling you which are the best stargazing spots in Colombia, based on tourism facilities and beauty, I will promptly mention some topics of special attention.
The Light Pollution Menace
Sadly, almost a third of humanity cannot see the Milky Way when they look at the sky at night.
There are many sources of light on Earth that emit light particles into the atmosphere, causing the skies to become hazy.
Today there is more awareness of this phenomenon, and more people are mobilizing to promote the use of cleaner light installations.
Effects of excessive light
According to the NGO Globe at Night, the light-dark cycle, when interrupted, affects ecological dynamics, and is a serious threat to nocturnal wildlife in particular.
Light pollution can also lead to sleep disorders and other health problems. In addition, health effects are not only due to over-illumination or excessive exposure to light over time.These are also produced by inadequate spectral composition of light (e.g., excessive blue light from cellphones).
With regard to energy waste, over-illumination can be a waste of energy, especially at night. Therefore, it generates increases in costs and carbon footprint.
What to do?
Nevertheless, the NGO Globe at Night explains that light pollution can easily be reduced by doing simple things like:
- protecting the lights properly so that the light does not go up,
- only using light when and where it is needed,
- use only the amount needed,
- install low energy bulbs, and
- choose bulbs with spectral power distributions appropriate to the task at hand.
Astrotourism is also a way to protect the night sky from increasing light pollution. It works through the recognition and protection of areas that still have low or no light pollution.
Astrotourism or Stargazing
Let’s start with some basic tips.
Basic Tips for an Amazing Stargazing Night
Before going out for stargazing consider the following points:
Try to find the most accurate information about wind speed, wind pressure, cloud forecast, and temperature. Atmospheric pressure is also something important to check. The higher the pressure, the clearer the conditions.
Dust or moisture ruin the fun of the stargazes since they make the skies hazy. Try to find the best season, which in Colombia, means avoiding the rainy season. But also, going to the driest regions and the higher places.
The later you go out, the better sight. I found an interesting paper in Science Magazine you can read later. It talks about a light pollution tracking tool ideated by a physicist. With this tool you can check whether the night sky is getting brighter. It is called the Radiance Light Trends Website.
4. High Spot
It can be a mountain or a building. This will help avoid light pollution effects.
5. The Moon
The Gibbous or crescent phase of the moon is best for stargazing. A brilliant moon will overshadow the stars and planets.
6. Prepare for the night
- Dress appropriately for the weather
- Let your eyes relax and enter into dark adaptation
- Avoid devices with white light, astronomers recommend using devices with the red light option.
- Bug spray, needless to explain, but worth recalling, especially in Colombia, where it is always summery.
Best Stargazing Spots in Colombia
Any place without light pollution is a good place to see the stars. Colombia has many places that offer beautiful starred and cleaned skies, far from the contamination of the cities. However, not all the places offer the appropiate tourism facilities.
Here I will list the best stargazing spots in Colombia, based on tourism facilities and beauty.
The most recommended destination for astrotourism is the Tatacoa Desert in Huila. This is the only destination in Colombia with a Starlight Certificate, nominated in 2019.
Besides its intrinsic desertic beauty, it makes you feel like observing the stars from mars, or the moon. The ochre and grayish tones of its landscapes contrast with the clear sky.
The desert has very low light contamination, and it has three different astronomic observatories, with telescopes, which are open to the public offering educational activities and nocturnal expeditions.
The epicenter of astronomical tourism in this region is the municipality of Villavieja, in Huila, where the Tatacoa Astronomical Observatory is located. In this place, visitors can participate in talks about astronomy and see the stars through the astronomical telescope.
Additionally, in the month of August you can witness the ‘Rain of the Perseids’, a beautiful stellar spectacle in which you can see up to 200 stars per hour.
Where to stay: Yararaka Hotel Boutique
Villa de Leyva
Also a good place for astrotourism is this beautiful town in Boyacá. Every year Villa de Leyva is the meeting point for the amateur astronomers. They gather for their annual meeting, the Astronomy Festival, which is the most important amateur event in Latin America.
Villa de Leyva features a high elevation and a dry environment, which also facilitates the observation.
It also has a very good infrastructure to receive tourists.
Where to stay: La Posada de San Antonio Hotel
This town is located in Santander. It is also a destination with very good infrastructure and also it offers ideal conditions to watch the sky, because of its dry environment.
Where to stay: Casa del Presidente.
Cabo de la Vela
La Guajira is a magical place in Colombia. It is another desertic area, but placed in the Caribbean region. Cabo de la Vela, in the northern territory of Guajira, also offers a very good infrastructure for tourism, and also clean and dark skies.
Here you will hear the sea waves and learn more about the mysteries of the universe from the Wayúu community.
In Cabo de la Vela, the desert landscape merges with the sea, and the night skies are filled with shooting stars and constellations, thanks to the absence of artificial lighting from nearby towns.
In addition, if you love nature, take a visit to the Flamingo Sanctuary or a tour of the Taroa Dunes are good extras.
Where to stay: Ranchería Utta.
Lagos de Menegua
The Lagos de Menegua Bioreserve is one of the few privileged places that still have black skies. Its privileged location allows simultaneous observation of the northern and southern hemispheres.
The reserve has a calendar of astronomical events with free registration. It also offers this activity exclusively for companies and specific groups.
Between the months of December and March, the probability of 100% clear skies increases, making the best time to visit.
Where to stay: Lagos de Menegua.
Cocuy National Natural Park, Boyacá
After 9 pm, on a very clear night at 4,444 meters above sea level, on the shores of La Laguna Grande in the Sierra in El Cocuy Natural Park (Colombia), the Milky Way rises behind the mountain. The cold can get to your bones, but the view is wonderful.
Rodrigo Bernal Diaz
This national natural park, located in the center-east of the country, on the border between the departments of Boyacá and Arauca, is another of Colombia’s tourist sites where people can experience an unforgettable night looking at the stars. Of course, if you don’t mind to camp.
In fact, the U’wa Indians of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy created the Astronomical Observatory on the ancestral Camino de Mal Paso. In this place tourists can marvel at the spectacular clear nights and see the stars, and, at the same time, interact with the U’wa community.
Where to stay: Camping zone.
Suesca and Tominé near to Bogotá
Near to Bogotá are the town of Suesca and the Tominé reservoir. All this region has a very good tourism infrastructure and also, they have altitude, with more than 2500 meter above sea level.
Altitude is fundamental because there are fewer atmosphere layers above you, so you are nearer to the sky.
Where to stay: Glamping* Niddo.
If you want to know more about the most incredible natural destinations in Colombia, plan your trip with us!
*Find more information about Glamping in Colombia in the post The 32 Most Beautiful Glampings in Colombia You Should Know, at Pelecanus website.
About the author
Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.