Clear, pollution-free skies has resulted in New Zealand beating Australia in an ultimate travel bucket list comprised by an influential news website.

The star-filled sky above Mackenzie Basin, which was last month named the world's newest dark sky reserve, has been ranked fifth on a list of 27 sights to remind sight-seers "how incredible Earth is".

Authors behind the CNN International travel guide say: "These amazing spectacles may not change your life, but they should change your vacation plans."

While watching the sun rise at 9th-century Buddhist monument Borobudur in Java, Indonesia, topped the US broadcaster's list, the South Canterbury skies beat the ancient sights of Venice, Mexican jungle pyramids, American electrical storms, and Australia's top entry - Sydney Harbour - at number 12.


The compilers wrote about Mackenzie Basin: "Picking out Orion's Belt and The Big Dipper is even more impressive if there are a million other stars distracting you from the task. A 1600-square-mile area in New Zealand's South Island comprising Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin has just been designated the world's fourth International Dark Sky Reserve, making it "one of the best stargazing sites on Earth", according to International Dark-Sky Association's executive director Bob Parks.

The inclusion of a Kiwi sight higher than our cross-Tasman friends rankled Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper, which wrote: "And while the absence of our famous Barrier Reef or the 12 Apostles might come as a shock to nature lovers, the inclusion of a New Zealand attraction is sure to put a few Aussie noses out of joint, especially when it outranks us."