These astronomical events are so awe-inspiring the term ‘umbraphiles’ has actually been coined to refer to those who travel to the ends of the earth in search of them.
And this year Mother Nature has an incredible show in store for us, with the annular solar eclipse hitting the calendar on 20 May, and the total solar eclipse taking place on 14 November. Explore has two trips lined up this year to spot this peculiar and captivating phenomena.
Annular Solar Eclipse
Don your dark glasses for the annular eclipse on 20 May, when the moon passes in front of the sun, partially obscuring its light. The place to be for this one is Western US, or more specifically the big sky state of Utah. Explore the hiking paths of Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, whose thousands of whimsical turrets are steeped in myth and legend.
With such little light pollution, the night sky above these national parks is awash with stars as darkness descends, with Venus making a surprise appearance if you're lucky. Take a Navajo guided tour of Monument Valley - the setting of myriad films from Thelma & Louise to Forrest Gump - among the crimson bluffs and turrets. These red-rock masterpieces are instantly recognisable, and it's here in the afternoon before your guided stargazing you'll capture some of the best views of the eclipse.
Our 14-day USA Annual Eclipse tour takes guests from LA to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, the Arizona Desert, the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff, several of Utah's national parks, and Monument Valley to view the eclipse, all in the company of expert astronomer Andy Green, before ending in Las Vegas, from £2,602 including flights.
Total Solar Eclipse
The second of this year’s astronomic events, the 2012 total solar eclipse is set to be more spectacular than usual as its path literally skims landfall - so you see more of it. Eclipse chasers will follow its passage of totality, shifting from northeastern Australia out over the South Pacific Ocean. But why bother? Well, even the most worldly of travellers will tell you that witnessing daylight plunged into eerie darkness, as the moon blocks the sun, is one of the most memorable travel moments of their lives.
Your best bet is to head Down Under in time for the phenomenon to hit northern Queensland as the clock strikes 6.38am. The eclipse will be visible from the town of Innisfail to the south, right the way up to the Cedar Bay National Park, with Port Douglas enjoying pole position. And while you're on the other side of the world, you might as well take advantage of Oz's stellar sights, from the urban jungle of Sydney and the wild trails of the Blue Mountains to its viticulture and Great Barrier Reef.
Our 13-day Australian Eclipse tour takes guests from Sydney to Cairns, via the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley, and the Great Barrier Reef, before witnessing the eclipse on Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas. From £4,377 including flights and expert astronomer.