Top 10 best places in the world to watch the sunrise & sunset
I am one of those people who is drawn to the surreal setting of sunrise and sunset, which both highlight the natural beauty of the planet we all share. Whether it’s the warm red colors, the dancing shadows, or the soft light, each one has something that makes people across the world wanna do things, from taking photos with loved ones to a pure moment of self-reflection. Some places are so famous for their sunrises and sunsets that they inspire entire journeys and attract record numbers of tourists. Here‘s my selection of the 10 best spots on our planet to watch the sunrise and sunset (or at least the places that impressed me the most during all my years of traveling around the globe).
Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) are Australia’s most recognizable natural landmarks. Witnessing a sunset and sunrise over these massive sandstone formations is an awe-inspiring experience and a ‘must do’ on every visitor’s list. The apparent color changes result from the effects of the earth’s atmosphere on the sun’s incoming rays. The ash, dust particles, and water vapor present in the earth’s atmosphere act as a filter that can remove the bluer light from the incoming rays of the sun, allowing the redder light through at different times of the day. Reflections from the rock and clouds in the sky enhance the vivid colors.
9. THE MALDIVES
Perhaps the globe’s ultimate luxury destination, the Maldives has become a synonym for paradise whether it is for honeymooners, sun worshipers, scuba divers, or celebrities. Located on the equator towards the south of India, the Maldives are the visible coral tips of an oceanic volcanic mountain range whose outer edge at some points plunges to depths of over 3 km (10,000 ft). The stunningly beautiful islands are blessed with some of the most spectacular beaches in the world, crystal clear blue lagoons, incredible underwater wildlife, unrivaled luxury resorts that take up their own private islands and are built over water, and the planet’s most breathtaking, tropical sunrises & sunsets.
8. ANGKOR WAT, CAMBODIA
Cambodia’s landscapes are surprisingly diverse, with tropical beaches, remote jungles, rice paddies, and sugar palm plantations. But most people come here because it is the gateway to magnificent ancient temple ruins, such as iconic Angkor Wat, elegant Angkor Thom, and the ubiquitous Ta Phrom. Vast, beautiful, and beguiling, these temple complexes contain magic that makes them stand out from the crowd. Watching the sunrise by the pond that gives you reflections of the triple towers of Angkor War, with beautiful oranges and reds peeking out behind the temple complex, is an iconic travel experience that you will cherish for life (although you’ll have to share it with many other tourists).
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A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon National Park is one of the USA’s most popular tourist destinations (so be prepared to share it with the crowds). Unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms carved by the Colorado River decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide and a mile (1.6km) deep. The Grand Canyon’s phenomenal beauty is emphasized at sunrise and sunset, when the explosive color palette of the canyon changes as dazzling light dances across giant rock cliffs, shadows envelop entire gorges, and canyon walls blaze orange, rust, and red. While Hopi Point is unquestionably a desirable viewpoint for sunset, Yaki and Pima Points offer equally spectacular sunset views and are less congested.
6. MACHU PICCHU, PERU
Without any doubt, Peru’s greatest attraction is the mist-shrouded Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, which was only discovered in 1911 and is believed to have been used by the Incas as a secret ceremonial city. No matter how many times you have seen a photograph of the iconic Inca ruins, nothing prepares you for the sense of awe that this magical place elicits in its Andes mountain setting, clinging as it does to rock and jungle. And there’s no better way to start your day at this iconic site near the Intipunku sun gate, the endpoint of the world-famous Inca trail: the sun rises over the surrounding mountain peaks as its first rays of soft light hit and illuminates the world-famous ruins.
There’s no denying that Cape Town – my favorite city in the world – enjoys some of the most stunning sunsets in the world. As warm summer weather descends on the city, tourists and locals flock to the Atlantic shores for sipping on their favorite drink while watching the sun slowly dipping below the glistening ocean. There are many places in the city to have a cocktail while soaking in those perfects sunsets, but a standout is the Bloubergstrand shoreline, with its picture-perfect views of the Table Mountain silhouette across Table Bay, Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned), the endless ocean and the occasional passing dolphin or whale.
4. SANTORINI, GREECE
Arguably Greece’s most beautiful island, Santorini is a mix of towering black cliffs, inky waters, and whitewashed villages. Santorini inspires every visitor because of its spectacular landscapes with blue domes and white-washed houses and churches perched on volcanic cliffs, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful shimmering Aegean waters. Built up on top of Santorini’s rust-red cliffs, the romantic village of Oia is the best vantage point from which to watch the sunset in the Mediterranean Sea. This breathtaking, bucket-list-type experience attracts huge crowds of visitors that gather each evening in Oia (you can head to the nearby village of Imerovigli for even more spectacular sunsets enjoyed in almost complete solitude).
3. HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK, HAWAII, USA
Haleakala is a massive shield volcano that forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. As the volcano stretches out towards the skies, the lush bamboo forests and thundering waterfalls at its base give way to a desolate volcanic landscape, where you can hike above the clouds across an otherworldly desert (is this the planet Mars?) with incredible vistas towards the Pacific Ocean. One of Hawaii’s most memorable experiences is seeing the Haleakala sunrise or sunset from 10,000 feet (3 km) above sea level, dramatically coloring the start or end of the day. Perhaps just as spectacular as Haleakala’s world-famous sunrises and sunsets are the bright, starry skies revealed at night.
One of the most scarcely populated countries in the world, Namibia is a top destination for those who enjoy unrivaled natural scenery and wildlife viewing. Nowhere is this more evident than in the spectacular Namib-Naukluft National Park, home to otherworldly looking landscapes with black tree skeletons and red-colored dunes, which rank among the world’s highest. Dune 45 is the most popular dune to climb at sunrise because it’s easily accessible from the entrance road, and although you won’t be alone, it’s well worth it because the spectacle of hundreds of waves of dunes slowly brightening and changing colors in the desert’s soft morning light will make you want to gasp for air.
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Indonesia’s most iconic mountain, Mount Bromo, stands tall at 2,329 meters (7,641 ft) and is still one of the world’s most active volcanos. The mountain is easily recognized as the entire top has been blown off and the crater inside constantly belches white sulfurous smoke. It sits majestically inside the massive Tengger caldera (a volcanic crater with a diameter of approximately 6 mi or 10 km) and is surrounded by a vast mass of fine volcanic sand. The overall effect is unsettlingly unearthly, and this breathtaking, ethereal landscape has been swooned by many travelers, who mostly hike up nearby Mount Penanjakan in time to catch the sunrise over Mount Bromo. It takes about 1-2 hours to hike to the first vantage point (although you can also get there with a jeep excursion).