By Briana Seftel
Do you consider yourself a would-be astronomer or stargazer? Whether it’s the sun, moon or stars that pique your interest, you’re not alone. For centuries, cultures all over the world have been fascinated by what they saw above, and built observatories to study the heavens.
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Pack your best astronomer’s guide and explore these eight observatories that will leave you starry eyed.
Griffith Observatory • Los Angeles, California
High above the sprawl, the Griffith Observatory has become an essential stop on the L.A. circuit along with Hollywood Boulevard and Venice Beach. Completed in 1935, the Art Deco observatory has been featured in numerous films and TV series, including the Oscar nominated “La La Land.”
Mauna Kea Observatory • Big Island, Hawaii
Night or day, a trip to the summit of Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii is sure to amaze. Located 14,000 feet above sea level, the summit houses the world's largest astronomical observatory perfect for stargazing. While the 13 telescopes atop Mauna Kea are closed to the public, it’s still a unforgettable experience to watch the sunset over the landscape.
Tip: Travelers looking to reach the top are advised to stop beforehand at the Visitor Information Station (VIS) at 9,200 ft.
Royal Observatory Greenwich • London, England
Ever wondered where Greenwich Time (GMT) originated? Here, at this observatory in England’s capital! Situated on top of Greenwich Hill overlooking the River Thames, this observatory has played an important role in the history of astronomy. Visitors can visit the free museum on site, stand on the Greenwich Meridian Line, and catch a show at London's only planetarium.
National Observatory • Athens, Greece
After you’ve toured the Acropolis and strolled through the Plaka district, head to the Athens Observatory, built in 1842. Located atop the Hill of the Nymphs in the central district of Thiseio, the observatory was the first research center in the country and is open to the public. Explore on your own or tour the beautiful facility at night with a knowledgeable guide.
Jantar Mantar • Jaipur, India
Built in 1734 by the Maharajah Jai Singh II in the pink city of Jaipur, Jantar Mantar is an astronomer's delight. The observatory is a collection of 19 astronomical instruments including the world’s largest sundial, made entirely of stone. Visitors can walk freely among these architectural wonders in the calming setting in the midst of one of India’s most exciting cities.
El Caracol • Chichen Itza, Mexico
No trip to the Yucatan is complete without a visit to the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, but did you know there is also an observatory? Known as El Caracol, the observatory is believed to have been where the Mayans observed the heavens high above the jungle landscape.
Cerro Mamalluca Observatory • Elqui Valley, Chile
Located in northern Chile’s Elqui Valley region, one of the best places in the world for stargazing, Cerro Mamalluca Observatory is aimed at getting everyone from beginners to would-be astronomers to see the stars as researchers do. Peer through optical telescopes to see nebulae and clusters in an array of fascinating colors.
Tip: Visitors can take two-hour guided evening tours departing nightly from Vicuña’s main square.
Royal Observatory • Edinburgh, Scotland
Scotland’s capital is home to not one but two observatories: City Observatory on Calton Hill and the newer Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill. The latter, built in 1896, is the current home and is a model of Victorian-era astronomy. Head to the visitor center which allows the general public to use the Victorian telescope dome facilities or weekly astronomy evenings that lets visitors see the stars through the copper domes.