The skies above Aotearoa are a sight for sore eyes

The Milky Way rises above Lombardy Cottage in Central Otago.
LIZ CARLSON

The Milky Way rises above Lombardy Cottage in Central Otago.

There's no shortage of spectacular views and scenery in New Zealand.

Everywhere you turn there's an impressive mountain, a thrilling river or an ancient forest. While the rest of the world has turned to mass rapid development, in many ways New Zealand has remained an Eden of sorts, with plenty of clean air and peace and quiet.

But in one arena it shines above all others and is often overlooked: New Zealand's pure night skies.

The stars reflect on Blue Lake near Rotorua on a still winter's night.
LIZ CARLSON

The stars reflect on Blue Lake near Rotorua on a still winter's night.

New Zealand is incredibly lucky to have very little light pollution, which means you can see the stars much more clearly than in other parts of the world.

Next time you plan a trip, especially out in the wilderness, consider staying up and stargazing. Even near cities, you don't have to travel far to escape the lights.

I often enjoy stargazing near lakes, especially on still nights when you can see the stars reflecting in the water.

The magnificent Milky Way, along with the Magellanic Clouds, near Franz Josef Glacier.
LIZ CARLSON

The magnificent Milky Way, along with the Magellanic Clouds, near Franz Josef Glacier.

Many already know about the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in Canterbury on the South Island, the biggest dark sky reserve in the world.

Tekapo has become famous for it's night sky tours and a visit to the University of Canterbury's Mount John Observatory on a night tour lets you view the heavens through powerful telescopes and learn more about the stars. Throughout the Mackenzie Basin there is little to no light pollution thanks to this reserve, so it's one of the best places in the world to look up at night.

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The Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, shimmering over Lake Ruataniwha near Twizel.
LIZ CARLSON

The Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, shimmering over Lake Ruataniwha near Twizel.

If you're really lucky and spend enough time gazing up at the stars you will likely start to notice the horizon glowing pink. This is the beginning of the Southern Lights.

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Once it gets stronger, you'll see beams of soft green light moving and dancing across the sky. At first the aurora often looks like city lights glowing in the distance.

The further south you are, the better chance you have to see them, though they can shine far up the North Island.

One of the PurePods, glass-roofed cabins on Banks Peninsula, perfect for a stargazing getaway.
LIZ CARLSON

One of the PurePods, glass-roofed cabins on Banks Peninsula, perfect for a stargazing getaway.

The hardest time to see the stars on a clear night is when there is a full moon, which acts like bright spotlight, drowning out the stars.

Use apps such as MoonCalendar to track the phases of the moon to know when there is a New Moon, the best time for stargazing. There are plenty of great interactive astronomy apps for beginners that can help you learn to identify planets and stars, such as Star Chart and Stellarium.

If you're interested in Astrophotography, PhotoPills is an essential app to help plan your photos around the time and location of the Milky Way rising across the sky.

 - Stuff

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