The night sky: Best places to stargaze in Uruguay

NASA-recognised astrophotographer Fefo Bouvier tells us about the night sky in the southern hemisphere and Uruguay's best stargazing places.
By Karen A Higgs
Last updated on January 29, 2021

If you’re from the northern hemisphere, the brilliance of the Milky Way in the night sky in Uruguay takes your breath away. But where are the best stargazing places near you?

The best spots in Uruguay to observe the Milky Way were surveyed by NASA-recognised photographer Fefo Bouvier for his digital work Mirá las estrellas (“Look at the stars”).

Fefo is a professional photographer and an astronomy populariser, based in Colonia del Sacramento. Three of his images have been chosen as NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (on September 19, 2013, February 20, 2018 and December 16, 2021 if you want to check them out).

One of the most exciting things about being at the beach in Uruguay is the lack of light pollution. Many beachtowns deliberately resist regular street lighting to protect the night skies, as Cabo Polonio for example. However if you think the stars at the beach are amazing, you’ll be in for a surprise.

Bioluminescence and the Milky Way at Cerro de la Buena Vista, Rocha © Fefo Bouvier / Mirá las estrellas

Best stargazing places in Uruguay

Fefo is traveling Uruguay in search of the best locations for his photography and says the best places are in the interior. So far, he has visited and recommends:

  • Cerro de la Buena Vista in the department of Rocha,
  • Sierras de Mahoma in San José,
  • Salto del Penitente park in Lavalleja,
  • Quebrada Laureles in Tacuarembó,
  • Lunarejo valley in Rivera and
  • Hilo de la Vida valley also in Lavalleja.

For this project, Fefo is looking for locations that meet specific criteria. In particular, the predominance of the natural landscape, the ease of access to the site and the safety of spending the night there. In particular, those sites that deserve attention for their cultural, archaeological or heritage value are prioritised. But above all, it must be places away from the city lights. In each of these, the sky quality is appropriate for stargazing (reaching levels equal to or less than 4 on the Bortle scale).

The Milky Way over Salto del Penitente park, Lavalleja © Fefo Bouvier / Mirá las estrellas

Unofficial stargazing spots around Uruguay

Unfortunately some of the best areas for stargazing are on private land in central and north Uruguay. Fefo says that, except for Montevideo, all the country’s departments have good skies outside the cities. However, if you are looking for real dark skies, go to Salto, Tacuarembó or Paysandú.

What can be observed in the night sky in Uruguay?

What a skywatcher coming from the northern hemisphere will want to find as soon as he arrives in the south is probably the Magellanic clouds. These dwarf galaxies are located close to the south celestial pole. They are visible to the unaided eye in the Southern Hemisphere, but they cannot be observed from most northern latitudes. There is also the galactic centre — the brightest part of the Milky Way —, visible to the naked eye as a large luminous band across the sky. The advantage of observing it from the south is that when it is high in the sky, in winter, there are more hours of darkness. Also, the cold makes the atmosphere pristine.

The night sky at Hilo de la Vida valley, Lavalleja © Fefo Bouvier / Mirá las estrellas

When are the best times for stargazing in Uruguay

If you want to see the galactic center at its most visible, Fefo recommends any time between March and October. And, if you want to see a very starry sky, he recommends to go out in summer and look in the direction of Orion.

Stars and matter are most clearly visible just before/after a new moon and two hours after sundown or before sunsire.

Find out more

Follow Fefo Bouvier on Instagram at @FefoBouvier and Mirá las estrellas project at @miraalasestrellas.

Find out what else you can do in Uruguay between March and October here.

Photos: Fefo Bouvier / Mirá las estrellas



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4 Responses

  1. Muchas gracias, disfruté muchísimas las fotos. Me motivó hoy ver en TV Ciudad Espacio de Ciencia donde estuvo invitado Fefo Bouvier. Un placer.

  2. We had the amazing opportunity to spend a night at Valle del Hilo de la Vida and experienced one of the best stargazing in Uruguay with Fefo. We live in Canada so it was a unique experience. Fefo is very knowledgeable and an amazing photographer. He showed us the brilliance of the Milky Way in the sky in Uruguay. We would highly recommend this experience.
    David and Elizabeth from Canada

    1. It was a pleasure to meet you Elizabeth and David. Thank you for your trust and for taking time out of your schedule to get to know the sky in Uruguay, I really enjoyed sharing it with you –Fefo

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