Lights out, night out: after-dark adventures around the world


Lights out, night out: after-dark adventures around the world

Nightlife needn't mean bar-propping and club-hopping with our pick of natural phenomena and lavish light-bulb moments…

Kate Weir

BY Kate Weir5 October 2019

When night falls on your holiday, there’s more going on than the antics in the bedroom. We’ve found a world’s-worth of excuses to stay up late with twinkling art installations, neon-flecked shores, skies awash with stars and nighttime spectacles from South America to Swedish Lapland to lure you into the darkness.

Tierra Atacama Hotel, Mr & Mrs Smith


For the best chance of spotting star-spangled skies and the Southern Cross, head for the blacked-out skies of South America’s Atacama desert, for a stay at design-led lodge Tierra Atacama Hotel. During the day you can gaze out at moody Licancabur volcano views from the dive-right-in pool, while waiting for the nighttime blanket to emerge – gradually stitched by an ever-brighter cobweb of stars. Alternatively, check into Santiago stay the Singular and look skywards from the rooftop pool, or toast the moon from Hotel Pulitzer’s Sky Bar in Buenos Aires.


Next, take one giant leap to Australia’s Uluru, where artist Bruce Munro has planted thousands of light-up ‘flowers’ by the sacred red rock, known as the ‘Field of Light‘. Luxury camp Longitude 131° has tricked-out tents, all with Uluru views, and they’ll take guests for a meal, then let them frolic in the light field and Instagram their hearts out (until December, 2020). US art aficionados, check in at Post Ranch Inn to see the installation at nearby Paso Robles. Or for a neon-flecked city break, book into music-inspired hangout Sir Adam and hit the Amsterdam Light Festival (November until January annually) – either on foot, by boat or bike – for rainbow brights, ethereal projections and sparkling social commentary.

Night Sky in Portugal, Mr & Mrs Smith


Get a whole load of twinkles in your eyes: turn your gaze upwards at dark-sky reserves and vast undisturbed plains where nature’s gone nuts with the glitter. At family-run farm estate São Lourenço do Barrocal, in Portugal’s fertile interior, you can see a cosmic ballet in the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve: the world’s first ‘starlight tourism destination’. Trot to the best vantage point on a horseback night ride for a truly stellar experience, or call in an astrologer to learn a thing or two. Wales is also home to two official International Dark-Sky Reserves. Bijou boutique stay Escape in Llandudno is close to Snowdonia, for climbing, canyoning and canoeing before post-sundown pageantry and Powys’ dainty den the Drawing Room lies an hour’s drive north of the sparkliest spots in Brecon Beacons. Finally, if you’re feeling flash, book a Desert Pool Suite or above at Utah’s Amangiri to watch the scrawl of shooting stars across the astral plains as coyotes howl in the mesa below.

Bays and Beaches, Mr & Mrs Smith


Why should the firmament have all the fun? Lower your gaze to marvel at the bioluminescent dazzle of the seas and oceans. Clouds of plankton make the Maldives’ shoreline a flamboyant sight, emitting a blue glow intended to disorientate predators, but more often delighting tourists. Sightings are more common on Vaadhoo, close to just-launched isle of luxury Joali and Soneva Fushi in the Baa Atoll has occasionally been privy to the shiny sea critters. Over in south-east Asia, the coastlines in Cambodia’s Koh Rong islands are glamorous and glowing – check in at Song Saa Private Island to witness the planktons’ underwater rave. Fluoro lights flutter across San Diego’s Mission Bay, too. Book a room at close-to-the-(refr)action beachside stay Tower23.

Northern Lights Sky, Mr & Mrs Smith


Possibly the most famous ambient lighting in the world, the Northern Lights are slippery customers when it comes to glimpsing them streak ethereally through space. But, position yourself correctly and you may be rewarded with flickers of otherworldly green (and pink, white and violet if you’re very lucky). The Arctic Circle is where the magic happens: choose from a mind-boggling treehouse in Swedish Lapland, the cosiest stilted cabins with a picture-wall view in Santa’s Finnish hometown Rovaniemi or a striking architectural anomaly on a rugged Newfoundland isle. Set a dead-of-winter date for your trip, keep your expectations low, your camera close and hope for the perfect solar storm.

Craigs Hotel, Mr & Mrs Smith


More terrestrial than celestial, annual White Night festivals take place all over the world to stem winter blues. In October, from 7pm to 7am, Parisian creatives use the city as their stage for works in all mediums over the Nuit Blanche; former years have seen a Jules Verne takeover at the zoo, fashion shows in City Hall, Metro trains turned into moving jungles and singers, dancers, artists and more entertaining past-their-bedtime punters. Recover at trendsetter Le Roch Hotel. Transport runs throughout the night, too. Tel Aviv’s Laila Lavan (White Night) in May is similarly jubilant, with live music, DJs till dawn, street eats and rooftop parties; you won’t get much sleep, but the Norman is an elegant base for disco naps. Down under, Ballarat’s White Night in September runs until 2am, with lavish projections on the city’s historic buildings, grand-scale puppetry, extravagantly costumed performers, music and partying; snooze off the excess at boutique bolthole the Provincial Ballarat.

Blackout Market, Mr & Mrs Smith


Where daytime temperatures thunder up the thermometer, socialising and shopping are best done after-dark, where griots spin fantastical yarns by firelight, the hungry float on wafts of deliciously scented steam and kitschy souvenirs are scooped up. Bangkok has several night markets, but with vintage stalls and hip street-food peddlers, we like Ratchada Train Market (open Thursday to Sunday, 5pm to midnight). Crash at oh-so chic riverside stay the Siam. Bring your bartering chutzpah to Hong Kong’s Temple Street Market (open all week, 5pm to 11pm), to bag jade jewellery, boho bags and delicate teaware. Pause for fresh seafood, to have your fortune told and hear a Canton aria before bed at minimalist hideout Tuve. Zanzibar’s Forodhani Gardens are heavily weighted with food offerings: try mango-and-tamarind soup urojo, lobster claws, fried cassava and coconut bread washed down with sugar-cane juice, before waddling back to Zanzibar White Sand resort. And, for fire-eaters, acrobats, myth-makers and the unexpected, Marrakech’s Djemaa-el-Fna definitely delivers. Stay at Conran-styled crashpad L’Hôtel to be close by, but still enjoy calm surrounds.

For more adventure-filled nights, explore our boutique hotels around the world.