Best Natural Light Shows

Light, in its innumerable and ever-changing forms, has the power to mesmerize. It can paint the sky in a kaleidoscope of colors, make water shimmer and shine, and set mighty mountains intensely aglow. At our lodges, you can witness some of nature’s most astounding displays of light, from epic sunsets and twinkling constellations to the dazzling aurora borealis.


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Stargazing in the Atacama

Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa

ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE

The Atacama might be the planet’s most perfect stargazing spot—an atmospheric trifecta of dry skies, high altitudes, and low light pollution that reveals a sky studded with a mind-boggling number of stars. Fittingly, there are several observatories here, and a select few are open to the public. Tierra Atacama partners with Ahlarkapin, whose scientists are experts in both traditional astronomy and the legends of Andean cosmology. On a visit to their facilities, peer into a high-powered telescope to see far-off planets, flossy nebulae, and pearly galaxies.

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Sunset Over the Savanna

CHYULU HILLS, KENYA

When evening settles into the Kenyan savanna, travelers take pause from their wildlife watching and shift their eyes skywards for a brilliant safari intermission. The sun, on its daily descent, casts fiery hues of tangerine and scarlet on the horizon, reducing acacia trees and wandering giraffes to striking black silhouettes. When you stay at ol Donyo, you can witness this stunning spectacle on a twilight horse or bike ride, which also affords views of the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro. Back at the lodge, a celestial encore awaits: a twinkling night sky enjoyed from your rooftop star bed.

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The Aurora Borealis

Churchill Wild—Seal River Heritage Lodge

MANITOBA, CANADA

When the sun’s surface experiences a spike in magnetic activity, charged solar particles collide with gas in our atmosphere—and those in the far north get a chance to see the kaleidoscopic swirls of the aurora borealis. This spectacular light show is on full display at Seal River Heritage Lodge, where panoramic windows and an observation tower showcase the aurora’s beguiling dance across the sky. The area experiences auroral activity more than 300 nights a year, giving guests the chance to see the northern lights no matter the season. And while the scene is always different—from an eerie green funnel cloud to a rippling curtain of rainbow streaks—it’s never short of spellbinding.

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Photo credit: Ingrid Kottman

White Nights

KENAI PENINSULA, ALASKA, UNITED STATES

In the weeks leading up to the summer solstice, the light over Tutka Bay Lodge shimmers and shifts, but it never quite disappears. This is Alaska—the land of the midnight sun—where bright days turn into white nights, and long summer evenings are basked in a soft coral glow. Extra hours of daylight are an invitation for guests at Tutka to extend their adventures far past bedtime, taking hikes after midnight or soaking in the hot tub until the wee hours of the morning. But don’t worry if you can’t make it here during the solstice season; in August, Tutka ushers in new light in the form of the dazzling aurora borealis and bioluminescence in the bay.

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Swimming Through Bioluminescence

GREAT BARRIER REEF, AUSTRALIA

One of the most magical phenomena on the planet is marine bioluminescence, when tiny sea organisms emit their own light, setting water aglow from within its depths. When conditions are right, guests of Lizard Island Resort can immerse themselves in this enchanting underwater world, diving in after dark for a new perspective on the reef's creatures. Swim or snorkel through millions of stars, or just wade in the surf, kicking up sparkles as you go. Certified divers can take a night dive below the surface to find the bioluminescent species of the deep.

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The Santorini Sunset

SANTORINI, GREECE

Santorini’s legendary sunset is easily the hottest evening ticket on this gorgeous Greek isle, where a dramatic volcanic ridgeline circles the western horizon like a great natural amphitheater. Perched atop the caldera rim at one of the highest spots on the island, Kapari Natural Resort offers guests front-row seats for the nightly farewell to the Aegean sun. Settle in on the terrace with a glass of retsina just before show time, or join a festive crowd in the nearby town of Oía, where the giant orb's final dip behind the shimmering sea is met with audible gasps and an outburst of applause.

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Alpenglow

SOUTH-CENTRAL ALASKA WILDERNESS, UNITED STATES

Twice a day—once at sunrise and then again at sunset—the high peaks of the Alaska Range can be seen in a different light. For a few moments, when the sun is just below the horizon, the snow-covered slopes are intensely illuminated in deep shades of orange and pink. Enciricled by soaring peaks, Winterlake Lodge is perfectly poised to bask in this alpenglow. To further connect guests with this unique light, the lodge organizes evening photo workshops at higher altitudes, where the sole focus is capturing the mountains at the height of their incandescence.

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Sunrise Over Uluru

THE NORTHERN TERRITORY, AUSTRALIA

As dawn breaks over Uluru, the massive monolith acquires its characteristic red glow, emanating rays that are luminous enough to tint passing overhead clouds in soft shades of orange. To the indigenous Anangu people, the enormous sandstone formation is imbued with spirituality—a sacred essence that feels palpable as the rock’s color intensifies in the early morning light. Longitude 131° is a lodge designed to steep guests in the magic of the monolith, with a special focus on sunrise and sunset excursions to the base of the rock, as well as glass-walled suites that reveal its radiance around the clock.

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Resplendent Rainbows

GOBI, MONGOLIA

The vast skies above the Gobi Desert are the perfect canvas for Mother Nature, and from the gers at Three Camel Lodge, you can take in 360-degree views of her handiwork. Here, you don’t need a weather forecast to know the approaching conditions—you can simply step outside and watch systems sweep across the steppe. Witness a sky electrified by lightening, and see shadows shift with the passing clouds. Sunshine after a rainstorm can bring what is perhaps the desert’s most magical sight: unobstructed views of a rainbow reaching from the sands high into the Earth’s atmosphere.

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Volcanism

LAKE NICARAGUA, NICARAGUA

Journey across Nicaragua and you’re likely to spy several smoldering volcanic cones. Jicaro Island Lodge offers many ways to play amid these peaks, including zip-lining, horseback riding, hiking the forested foothills, and even sandboarding down ashy slopes. But perhaps the most extreme excursion is a night hike to the rim of Masaya Volcano, where you can peer into a glowing lake of swirling, spurting lava. Take in this incredible pyrotechnics display, then descend into an ancient lava tube that snakes beneath the volcano’s slopes.