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This Summer’s Greatest After Dark Experiences

It’s undeniable — astrotourism is a top trend for 2019. This summer’s total solar eclipse is already drawing mass media attention and crowds. In fact, many tours and hotels in Chile and Argentina have been sold out for months, with limited availability remaining. Can’t make the trek to destinations in the path of totality? No problem. Bespoke travel company Audley Travel has compiled their list of the other top after dark experiences available for travelers — equally unforgettable, but with far fewer crowds. Travelers can go dark and…

Explore the live archaeological site of the Côa Valley

In the early 1990s, the Portuguese government began building a dam that would have ended up flooding a good part of the Côa Valley. When workers discovered pre-historic rock carvings all over the valley, they stopped construction. The area has now been declared a UNESCO site. Join Audley Travel on a unique evening tour to explore the ancient rock art up close while learning about the fascinating connections that archaeologists have discovered between different pieces.

Take a nighttime kayak tour in Ireland

There’s no better way to explore Ireland’s Kenmare Bay than at night. Surrounded by the mountains of Killarney, the bay offers killer views of the Beara Peninsula. Skilled guides lead an after dark expedition, during which sparks will literally fly. These are caused by bioluminescent plankton that illuminate when disturbed. Using only these sparks and the moonlight, participants glide alongside seals (Kenmare is home to a large seal colony) and experience an increased feeling of sensory awareness.

Go on a night walk through the wilds of Madagascar

Much of Madagascar’s wildlife is nocturnal, so a night expedition is the best way to spot the rarest of creatures. Audley Travel can arrange for a guided night walk in the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, in either the Misintjo Conservancy or the VOIMMA Conservancy. You’ll spot a plethora of nocturnal animals, often by listening closely or noticing the sharp glow of their eyes in the dark. Keep an eye out for Goodman’s mouse lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur, leaf-tailed geckos, tree frogs, and chameleons.

Brave the bats in Borneo

Mulu National park is home to one of the largest limestone cave systems in the world, with entry only permitted when accompanied by a vetted guide. The Audley Travel experience begins with a jungle walk or riverboat float to access the cave entrances. You’ll then go on a guided trek along a system of raised walkways up and over hundreds of steps to follow the topography of the cave floor. Once inside, your eyes will adjust and you’ll see hordes of bats that thickly line the entire cave ceiling.

Spend some one-on-one time with the Mona Lisa

Seeing the Leonard da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is on every bucket list. But trying to even catch a glimpse of the famous painting past the crowds can prove near impossible. Audley Travel’s after-hours experience lets you experience the Louvre when the museum is closed, and the crowds have gone. A private guide with an extensive art history background will guide you through the museum, affording the rare opportunity to see these illustrious works up close.

Experience Dark Sky Glamping

Night sky enthusiasts consider Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico to be one of the best places in America to stargaze. Today, amidst this ancient landscape, visitors can experience the same dark sky that the Chacoans observed a thousand years ago. The protection of dark night skies is a priority at Chaco. This is not only for the enjoyment of star-gazing visitors, but for the natural environment as well. Nocturnal wildlife relies on darkness, and the natural rhythms of humans and plants depend on an unaltered night sky. By designating over 99 percent of the park as a “natural darkness zone,” in which no permanent outdoor lighting exists, Chaco ensures the preservation of these nocturnal ecosystems. Heritage Inspirations offers guided day trips and overnight equinox glamping trips to Chaco Canyon.