DEATH VALLEY, Calif. – May The Fourth – (April 2023, on Earth) –Lights, Camera, Vacation! While set-jetting may be one of the biggest trends this year, movie fans have been vacationing at The Oasis at Death Valley for decades on a quest to visit location sites “a galaxy far, far, away” from the 1977 movie Star Wars. These visits start inevitable tales of when the movie’s director came to this true American Oasis in 3.4 million square miles of desert, oasis and mountain national park to film and transport people to another galaxy.
In celebration of the epic tale and Hollywood franchise, “Star Wars,” The Oasis at Death Valley hyper-spaced an exclusive map for guests leading them to the filming locations that are easily accessible via car.
Past generations of employees have shared stories with newer generations and certainly know where the movie locations are. These include the breathtakingly and picturesque locations throughout Death Valley National Park including Dante’s View, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Desolations Canyon, Artist’s Drive and Golden Canyon – all just a quick 20-to-40-minute drive from the Resort – the only resort in Death Valley National Park.
Just two hours from Las Vegas through the desert and more than four hours from Los Angeles, the nearest town or pretty much anything is at least an hour’s drive at a high-speed limit and no traffic lights.
And if you want to explore the universe, this is the place – it’s one of the only gold-tier designated International Dark Sky Parks in the United States where stargazers can see the Milky Way with the naked eye.
While Death Valley may seem like another universe to vacationers, those in the know have also found an “oasis-like planet” that is the luxurious AAA Four-Diamond The Inn at Death Valley and the family-friendly The Ranch at Death Valley both part of the recent $150 million renaissance at the Oasis at Death Valley. Death Valley is usually sunny (there is almost no rain). There are few bugs. It’s also beautiful and the Oasis boasts massive swimming pools, gardens, golf, tennis, horseback riding, numerous restaurants, a date palm grove, a general store, post office and ample lush lawns to run and play or do just nothing but take in the stunning scenery during the day and stars at night. There is a resort, a hotel, private casitas, and 80 new cottages.
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Once a month from May through October, Holiday River Expeditions shares the mystery and romance of the Dark Sky with star-struck guests who are participating in one of this veteran travel company’s 2018 Stargazing adventures.
“It’s easy to get excited about this special trip series. Seeing how it has deepened our guests’ understanding and our guides’ awareness of the night sky is reason enough to offer these trips. The inexplicable boundlessness you feel staring up at the stars is just a bonus,” said Lauren Wood, Holiday Trip Director.
“Salt Lake City’s Clark Planetarium has been our partner in this popular program for three years. Their expert staff will join us for each stargazing trip to help bring the sky to ‘ground level’ and explore some of humanity’s most timeless questions. And to further our commitment to the natural world, Holiday is now a partner in the International Dark Sky Association, the premier organization fighting for dark skies around the globe,” Wood explained.
Tom Beckett, board chair of Clark Planetarium and part-time guide for Holiday River Expeditions adds, “Each night on these bike and river trips we will attempt to find and identify stars, constellations, planets, galaxies, nebulas, clusters and satellites. More importantly, we’ll use those objects to talk about the structure of our galaxy, the origin and future of the universe, and our place in the cosmos.”
“Much of Earth is losing its dark night skies to light pollution and many Americans never have a chance to see the Milky Way,” shares Beckett. “However, the rivers we run, and the trails we bike are all remote and far from cities. They have some of the darkest night skies on the planet.”
Departures ranging from three to eight days are filled with Holiday River’s signature activities: whitewater rafting, hiking and mountain biking. A participation fee covers stargazing interpretation and equipment, guide fees, meals and more. The 2018 Stargazing Trips are:
May 12-15, 2018 4-day White Rim Trailand Oct 3-5, 2018 3-day White Rim Trail— Guests on these adventures will have access to binoculars and a telescope at night to view the heavens. This legendary mountain biking trip leads through Canyonlands National Park in Moab, UT, recently certified as a “Dark Sky Park” by the International Dark Sky Association. Bikers summit 1,000 feet above the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers. The per person three-day rate is $795; $900 for four days.
June 9-13, 2018 5-day Yampa River– In the heart of Dinosaur National Monument the Yampa River runs wild and free, unregulated by dams. Spring runoff in May and June offer exciting rapids by day and piercingly dark sky canopies by night. The focus is on whitewater rafting with exploratory side hikes to rock art, waterfalls and ancient sacred sites. The per person (minimum age 8) rate is $1,075.
July 9-13, 2018 5-day Cataract Canyon — Cataract Canyon, carved by the Colorado River, cuts through the heart of Canyonlands National Park. Days are spent luxuriating in the sunshine, exploring side canyons and facing some of the biggest whitewater rapids the river has to offer. Nights open up to whole new worlds as guests explore the Milky Way, see the Andromeda Galaxy, watch satellites and meteors, and learn constellations. The per person (minimum age 8) rate is $1,150.
Aug 4-7, 2018 4-day Lodore Canyon — This Whitewater river trip through Lodore Canyon peeks behind the scenes in Dinosaur National Monument, currently recognized by the National Park Service as a “Sanctuary of Natural Darkness.” This trip connects to ghosts of river runners and canyon dwellers of the past, with escapes into deep-red cliffs and exhilarating whitewater rapids. During the day guests float on the Green River through Whirlpool Canyon and at night peer into the Whirlpool Galaxy. The per person (minimum age 8) rate is $980.
Sept 9-16, 2018 8-day Extended Hiking & Rafting in Cataract Canyon– This extended 8-day float begins on the Green River as it meanders into the confluence with the Colorado River and then through the mighty whitewater rapids of Cataract Canyon in the soul of Canyonlands National Park. Hiking enthusiasts can anticipate hiking into the Maze District and the fanciful Dollhouse, enjoying the depths of Dark Canyon as well as the unforgettable rapid “cataracts” of Cataract Canyon. The per person (minimum age 12) rate is $1,595.
New this year is a partnership between Holiday River Expeditions and Road Scholar, the world’s largest and most innovative creator of experiential learning opportunities. In 2018, Road Scholar is offering three multi-generational Stargazing trips with Holiday. The 9- and 10-day trip dates are June 9-17, July 7-16 and August 4-Aug 13.
Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City (www.clarkplanetarium.org) is one of the world’s leading centers for space and science education. Clark Planetarium’s mission is to create and present stimulating educational programs that effectively share astronomy and space exploration information with Salt Lake County residents, Utah students, educators and families, and visitors from around the country and the world.
Holiday River Expeditions (http://www.bikeraft.com/) began in 1966, when Dee Holladay and his wife Sue took the plunge to become river outfitters.. Each of its guides is professionally trained in first aid and river safety, and with 50+ years of experience, the company provides guests the opportunity to explore the nation’s wild lands safely and securely. Holiday River Expeditions has a commitment to protect the environment through education and conservation, and uses oar-powered and paddle rafts exclusively.
BUENOS AIRES — The Argentina and Chile tour operator specializing in authentic experiences for independent travelers, Say Hueque, offers a tour through San Pedro de Atacama, said to be the best place in the world to view the uncompromised brilliance of the night sky.
Called Atacama (Chile) and Uyuni (Bolivia), this six-day/five-night program is from $710 per person double. Guests will discover San Pedro de Atacama, a small town located in the world’s driest desert (think little adobe houses and cozy restaurants) enroute to exploring one of Chile’s most spectacular landscapes. The Atacama Desert is one of the only places in the world where there is near-perfect visibility of the night sky. Here guests will explore Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) with caves and hills configured of salt. They will also visit geysers in the Andes and salt flats in Bolivia.
The Atacama Desert receives no more than a millimeter of rain annually; its remote location and the high altitude combined with few clouds makes the sky viewing (day and night) spectacular. There is also virtually no radio interference which makes it optimal for observatories. The Atacama Desert currently hosts six celestial observatories including Alma Observatory which is the largest of its kind on Earth.
There are three trips visitors can choose from, depending on the desired length of time. The shortest trip is six days and the longest is 16 days. Each tour takes a different route through Atacama and Uyuni but each takes time in the desert to enjoy the sky.
Included in the six-day journey are transfers, three nights in San Pedro de Atacama, a three-day 4WD Adventure to Uyuni with lodging in shared huts, Moon Valley tour, Geysers tour, daily breakfasts and some meals, a bilingual guide (English / Spanish) during the excursions in San Pedro de Atacama and the services of a Spanish-speaking driver on portions of the itinerary (http://sayhueque.com/argentina_tours/atacama_uyuni/atacama.php)
“We are a group of Argentine travel professionals who are passionate about our country,” Say Hueque owner Rafael Mayer explains. “We have hiked in Patagonia, felt the mist of Iguassu Falls on our smiling faces, walked along glaciers and cruised the deep blue lakes of South America. We have visited hundreds of hotels, sampled hundreds of restaurants and discovered the best wineries around, so we know exactly where to get a delicious steak, a sublime Malbec and a comfy bed along the way.”
Established in 1999, the Buenes Aires-based company creates customized tours for independent travelers throughout Argentina’s and Chile´s national parks and cities. Popular destinations and experiences include Buenos Aires, Iguassu Falls, Perito Moreno Glacier, hiking in Patagonia, wine tasting in Mendoza, horseback riding at traditional estancias and glacier cruises.
Say Hueque adopted its name from the last tribal chief that surrendered to the Europeans in their conquest of the American lands, in 1885. The Great Cacique Say Hueque was the leader of a powerful tribe that occupied the region of central Patagonia. Their cultural influence is still very strong at some locations close to the Andes Range.
Popular destinations offered by the company include Patagonia, Iguacu Falls, Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Atacama Desert, Uyuni Salt Flats and the Salta region as well as many other lesser known but equally captivating marvels. Say Hueque has been recommended by the world’s most popular travel guides such as Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, Footprints, and Time Out year after year. The company has partnerships with and membership in Sustainable Travel International (STI), Responsible Travel, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), ASTA and LATA.