Milky Way at Wollemi National Park where to see the milky way best places

Where can you see the Milky Way? – 10 best places in the world

Viewing our galaxy from Earth is one of the most mesmerizing experiences, but where can you see the Milky Way?

It doesn’t matter if your goal is to photograph the Milky Way or you simply want to enjoy a nice view of our galaxy. To maximize your chances, you have to find the best places to see the Milky Way.

To do so, you should consider two things: the best time to see the Milky Way and the best places where you can see the Milky Way in areas away from light pollution and preferably at high elevations.

Below, you’ll find a list of the best places on Earth to see the Milky Way at night. Also, if you’re wondering: where can I see the Milky Way tonight? Don’t worry, I’ll also provide the top tools and tips to find the best places to see the Milky Way near you.

GET THE CALENDAR WITH THE BEST DATES TO PHOTOGRAPH THE MILKY WAY IN 2021

You'll also receive our PDF guide to photographing the Milky Way!

milky way calendar 2021

These are the top 10 places to see the Milky Way:

1. Arches – The best place to see the Milky Way in the US

Arches National Park is one of the best places to see the Milky Way in the United States.

Located in Utah, this high desert landscape on the Colorado Plateau offers two of the key factors you need to see the Milky Way; it’s away from the main sources of light pollution, and it’s located at a very high elevation (5,000+ ft).

The geological formations at Arches make you feel like you’re on another planet at night, and for many reasons, this is, in my opinion, the best place to photograph the Milky Way in the US.

The best locations to shoot the Milky Way in Arches NP are Delicate Arch, Turret Arch, and Balanced Rock.

Best places to see the Milky Way in the United States

1. Arches National Park, Utah – Dan Zafra

2. Banff – One of the best places to see the Milky Way in Canada

Banff National Park is, without a doubt, one of the best places to see the Milky Way in Canada.

Located in the Canadian Rockies, this huge area, formed by other National Parks like Kootenay and Jasper, offers some of the best places where you can see the Milky Way in North America.

The only source of light pollution to consider is the town of Banff, but this is surrounded by mountains, so as long as you leave town, you can enjoy amazing views of our galaxy.

The best places to photograph the Milky Way in Banff are around the Icefields Parkway, where you can find spots completely away from light pollution at elevations above 6,000 ft.

Best places to shoot the Milky Way in Canada

2. Banff National Park, Alberta – Dan Zafra

3. La Palma – the best place to photograph the Milky Way

La Palma is part of the Spanish Canary Islands, and it’s one of the best places to see and photograph the Milky Way on our planet.

Astronomers from all over the world travel to La Palma for the same reason. The street lights are specially designed to avoid light pollution, and most of the inland peaks are located at an altitude over 5,000 ft.

The best place to photograph the Milky Way in La Palma is the “Roque de los Muchachos”. This is the highest peak on La Palma island where you can see the Milky Way above the clouds at an altitude of almost 8,000 ft. Here you can also find one of the most important observatories in the world: the “Roque de los Muchachos observatory.

Best places to photograph the Milky Way - La Palma

3. Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma – Antonio Solano

4. Dolomites – The best place to see the Milky Way in Europe

This old continent is one of the most light-polluted places on earth, so there aren’t many great places for stargazing or astrophotography. However, there are still places, like the Dolomites, where you can enjoy dark skies and see the Milky Way and the galactic center.

With just a few small villages and some peaks as high as 10,000 ft, the entire Dolomite mountain range is considered the best place to see the Milky Way on the European continent.

The best places to shoot the Milky Way in the Dolomites are around the “Tre Cime di Lavaredo”, “Cinque Torri”, and “Monte Pelmo”.

Best places to see the Milky Way in Europe

4. Dolomites, Italy – Giulio Cobianchi

5. The Sahara desert – One of the best places to view the Milky Way

The desert is one of the best places on Earth where you can see the Milky Way. Most of Earth’s deserts are isolated and sparsely-populated, so you can enjoy the silence and some of the best dark-skies.

There are many great deserts to see the Milky Way, but not many are as spectacular as the Sahara Desert. This massive desert is underpopulated and away from big epicenters of light pollution, and it’s widely known as one of the best places on Earth to see the Milky Way.

You can see the Milky Way in many different areas, but one of the best and most accessible is the Tunisian Sahara Desert.

Where to see the Milky Way in the Sahara

5. Tunisian Sahara Desert – Marco Carotenuto

6. Mount Bromo – The best place to photograph the Milky Way in Asia

Humidity and light pollution are star-killers in many areas of Asia, but the continent also has great places to see the Milky Way at night.

Indonesia has some of the most remote (and yet accessible) places to see our galaxy, and it’s considered the best place to see the Milky Way in Asia.

An incredible place where you can photograph the Milky Way in Asia is Mount Bromo on Java island. This location features an area of active volcanoes at 7,500+ ft where you can see an otherworldly view of the Milky Way over volcanoes sending explosions of ash and smoke in the background.

Best places to see the Milky Way in Asia

6. Mount Bromo, Java Island – Fabio Antenore

7. Namibia – The best place to see the Milky Way in Africa

Talking again about deserts, Namibia offers the oldest desert on our planet and some of the clearest skies that you can find away from light pollution, making it the best place to see the Milky Way in Africa.

It’s becoming a more accessible and popular destination for astrophotography in recent years, not only for the dark skies but also for the long Milky Way season that you can enjoy at this latitude.

One of the top places to see the Milky Way here is the Namib desert, where you can photograph the Milky Way along with giant sand dunes, natural arches, and centennial dead trees.

Best places to see the Milky Way in Africa

7. Namib Desert – Stefan Liebermann

8. Atacama Desert – The best place to see the Milky Way in America

The Atacama Desert is not only the best place to see the Milky Way in America, in the entire Southern Hemisphere.

The conditions in this desert are very special. It’s the driest nonpolar desert in the world with an average of 330 clear nights per year. This also makes life almost non-existent, which means skies free of light pollution. On top of that, it’s located on a high plateau at almost 8,000 ft.

All this creates an astronomer’s paradise with numerous scientific observatories like “ALMA”, “SPACE”, or “Cerro Tololo”.

As you can see, the Chilean Atacama desert is the best place to see the Milky Way in the Southern Hemisphere for good reason.

Best place to see the Milky Way galaxy Atacama desert

8. Atacama desert – Melanie Fritz

9. Wollemi – The BEST place to see the Milky Way in Australia

Australia is another one of the best places to see the Milky Way in the Southern Hemisphere with large extensions of underpopulated land.

The Australian outback is popular for its night skies, however, it’s not as accessible as other areas in the country.

One of the best places to see the Milky Way in Australia is Wollemi National Park, the wildest area in New South Wales. This park is in the Australian blue mountains, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Wollemi is known for clear skies and minimal light pollution, making it one of the favorite spots to photograph the Milky Way for Australian photographers.

Best places to see the Milky Way in Australia

9. Wollemi National Park, Australia – Jose Luis Cantabrana

10. Tasman Glacier – The best place to see the Milky Way in New Zealand

Traveling further south, the islands of New Zealand have some of the best places to see the Milky Way in Oceania.

The South Island of New Zealand, in particular, is an area with a very low population density and features fjords, mountains, and scenery that make it perfect for seeing the Milky Way at night.

One of the best places to photograph the Milky Way in New Zealand is the Tasman Glacier; the largest glacier in New Zealand that flows from the Southern Alps.

This area is pretty accessible and, even though the glacier is retreating, the good news is that it’s still possible to enjoy super dark night skies at a high altitude in this fascinating place.

Best places to see the Milky Way Southern Hemisphere

10. Tasman Glacier, New Zealand – Elena Pakhalyuk

Where can you see the Milky Way galaxy?

Speaking of local areas to see our galaxy, you might be wondering… Where can I see the Milky Way near me?

As we’ve seen throughout this article, the further from light pollution, the better to see the Milky Way. However, for different reasons, sometimes we can’t travel far, and that’s when you need to look into the best accessible places to see the Milly Way near you, away from light pollution.

There are two ways to assess the light pollution of a particular location:

Light Pollution map

The most popular and widely-used map to check where you can see the Milky Way is a light pollution map.

Using a light pollution map, you can quickly see the night sky’s brightness at a particular location and check whether seeing the Milky Way is visible or not.

Light Pollution map to see the Milky Way

Where to see the Milky Way – Light Pollution map

All light pollution maps are very straightforward; you can see in different colors the light pollution level:

  • Black/blue: Best places to see the Milky way
  • Green: You can see the Milky Way, but this it’s fainter and lacks detail
  • Yellow/orange: The Milky Way is weak and barely visible
  • Red: The Milky Way is totally invisible

You can use different light pollution maps. This is my favorite since it also shows the altitude, another key factor in determining where you can see the Milky Way.

The Bortle scale

This system uses a nine-level scale to evaluate the night sky visibility of a certain place. Using this, you can check the Bortle level (known as “class”) in your location to give you an idea of which astronomical objects you can see.

The Bortle scale goes from Class 1 (excellent dark-sky site) to Class 9 (inner-city sky). Below you can see The Milky Way visibility according to the Bortle Class level:

  • Class 1 – Class 4: You can see an impressive Milky Way.
  • Class 5 – Class 6: The Milky Way becomes weaker.
  • Class 7 – Class 9: The Milky Way is nearly or totally invisible.

You can check the Bortle class level at your location on the website Clearoutside.

Places to see the Milky Way Bortle class

Botle Class level – Clear Outside

Other tips to find where you can see the Milky Way

From my experience, I’d also like to add a couple of tips to find the best locations to see and photograph the Milky Way:

  • Don’t underestimate the elevation. Even in places that might seem affected by light pollution, when you’re at a high elevation, your night sky visibility can be great since you’ll be above the lower areas of the atmosphere that contain the most light pollution. A good example is a village in a  mountain valley.
  • Check the direction of the Milky Way. Even if the spot looks dark on the light pollution map, if the Milky Way is moving in a direction where there’s a heavily-polluted area, the visibility will be highly affected. A good example is the light pollution from Las Vegas affecting the night-sky visibility in some areas of Death Valley; a remote area more than 40 miles away.

You can check the direction of the Milky Way in different areas on Earth in our article about the best time to see the Milky Way.

How to find where to see the Milky Way

Check the elevation and the direction of the Milky Way

Conclusion

Where you can see the Milky Way depends on one key factor: light pollution. The further you move from heavy-polluted areas, the greater chances of success you’ll have to see our galaxy. Altitude plays another important role in Milky Way visibility, and the higher you can go, the further you can be from low clouds and light pollution.

As we’ve seen in this article with the best places to see the Milky Way, there are many great places around the world to see our galaxy; from mountains and high plateaus to deserts and unpopulated areas where seeing and shooting the Milky Way is still possible.

If your goal in finding the best places to see the Milky Way near you is to take images of our galaxy, I highly recommend taking a look at my Milky Way photography guide and our Milky Way calendars where you’ll see, at a glance, the best days to see it in your location.

GET THE CALENDAR WITH THE BEST DATES TO PHOTOGRAPH THE MILKY WAY IN 2021

You'll also receive our PDF guide to photographing the Milky Way!

milky way calendar 2021

Happy Captures and clear skies!

P.S. You can check more incredible places to see the Milky Way on the map provided by the International Dark-Sky Association

Share with your friends










Submit

COFOUNDER & PHOTO TOUR LEADER

Dan is a professional nature and landscape photographer, photography educator, and co-founder of Capture the Atlas. His base camp is in Philadelphia, USA, but he spends long periods of time exploring and photographing new locations around the world.

Apart from shooting the Milky Way, the Northern Lights, and any landscape that can stir powerful emotions, he enjoys leading photo tours to some of the most remote places on Earth.

You can find more about Dan here.

Don't miss out...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.