There’s something spiritually uplifting in watching the sun come up in the morning. Even the most cynical feel a superstitious touch as the flaming sun begins to peer over the horizon, banishing darkness and illuminating the landscape. Everyone should watch the sunrise at least once in their lifetime and why not try it out while enjoying a memorable vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the world?
Top Ten Best Places to Watch the Sunrise on Vacation
All of the following destinations offer a unique sight or geographical feature unmatched anywhere in the world. As such, they’re well worth exploring, not only at dawn, but later on in the day too! Allow plenty of time to absorb and appreciate each place rather than simply rushing to get there for the sunrise, watching for a few moments, taking a few selfies then rushing off to the next leg of your trip!
Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii
Hawaii is well-known as being a beach island paradise, with beautiful, crystal clear water, lush green foliage and, excitingly, volcanoes! Where better to watch the sunrise than standing on the highest peak of a dormant volcano? Make all your arrangements the day before, and ensure that you have enough fuel if you are using a hire car as not many petrol stations are open in the middle of the night! Many people come to see the sunrise and you will not be alone as you drive to the best viewing spot. Haleakala means ‘House of the Sun’ and it is easy to see why, when you look out over a panorama of clouds and the endless ocean which seem to merge seamlessly as the sun rises and turns them both a fiery orange with touches of softer pink.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat in the Siem Reap region of Cambodia is a majestic and awe-inspiring sight at any time of day, but has an additional frisson at both sunrise and sunset. Sunrise is best as the sun rises behind the elegant towers of the ancient temple and allows for amazing photo opportunities that will require no artificial enhancement! Most of the temples open at about 5am and can be viewed at sunrise. You can even enjoy the sunrise from the vantage point offered by a static balloon ride. The balloon has to be tethered due to restrictions in flying over the temple area, but that all works out for the best as you have an amazing view of the temple complex as the sun rises. Your tour will begin in full dark that gradually lightens as grey dawn seeps around you. Then, glorious pink streaks appear on the small morning clouds and the sky begins to show blue against the fading stars and moon.
The Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States of America
The Grand Canyon is a testament to the power of water over time; the Colorado River having eaten its way through rock and sediment to form this massive fissure that reaches depths of over a mile in places. The sight of the sunrise at the Grand Canyon is made all the more impressive by being offset against the layers and crags that are such a recognisable feature of the area. There are no purpose-built viewing platforms from which to view the sunrise as the Grand Canyon offers a multitude of natural sites from which the sun can be seen as it ascends. The best view, if you can find a suitable spot, is one that includes the depth of the canyon, as well as clear sight of the horizon. These spots allow you to watch the sun rise, and the experience continues as you watch the shadows shorten and vanish in the depths until the light sparkles on the thread of water at the very bottom of the gorge.
Mount Fuji, Japan
Mount Fuji is a well-known mountain, being almost perfectly symmetrical and having a permanent, delightfully picturesque snow cap. Japanese tourist authorities offer two-day tours sightseeing and trying out the cuisine on the first day, then setting off in the middle of the night to be sure of having arrived at the mountain in good time for the dawn. It is the sight of the mountain that makes the view so wonderful, so the tour operators head for the nearby observation platforms some distance from the peak. Other tours will take you up the mountain for an unobstructed view of the countryside as the sunlight washes over the sleeping landscape.
The perfect and unique combination of a beach, sightseeing and activity-laden holiday, a visit to Tulum is a fabulous treat! The Maya ruins stand on the shore, looking out over the ocean as if awaiting an invasion. The setting is stunningly beautiful and the area is a mere 80 miles away from the jet-set playground that is Cancun. The play of the surf as the tide ebbs and flows, and the dark forbidding rocks with which the temples are built make an unusual and exotic backdrop against which to watch the sun rise, as it did centuries ago when the building when clean and new.
Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
A journey to Mt Kilimanjaro is not one for the faint-hearted, as the tallest mountain in Africa stands proudly at 5895 metres above sea level. Children under the age of ten are not permitted to climb higher than 3000 metres for health and safety reasons, so if you are travelling with younger children be prepared to enjoy the view from half-way up, rather than from the peak! The climb is easy enough from a technical point of view, but it is highly recommended only for those in good health and in a reasonable state of fitness. Unfortunately, many people suffer from altitude sickness during the climb. Altitude sickness can strike, like sea-sickness, people of any age, race, colour or sex, no matter their level of fitness or weight, so it is impossible to predict who will be affected by it. If you succeed in climbing to the top, under cover of darkness and growing successively chillier with every few hundred metres gained, you will be rewarded with an unparalleled view out over the vastness of Africa!
Gianicolo Hill, Rome, Italy
Rome is incredibly densely packed with artistic masterpieces, superb architecture and vibrant and lively people. It can be difficult, standing in the midst of the turmoil and cacophony that comprises any street corner in the city to gain a clear idea of the layout and formation of the city. Head to Gianicolo Hill for an excellent and all-encompassing view of the bell towers, turrets and buildings of Rome. Sunrise is a tranquil time, when even the statues seem to be waiting patiently for the first touch of the sun on their cold marble faces. The Italian populace consists largely of night owls and the vast majority of the tourists do the same, so you are sure to see a nearly silent and deserted Rome as you travel through the city to the hill. Linger a while and watch the last vestiges of the night sky vanish in lieu of the salmon pink and gold of dawn, followed soon by the pale denim blue of full daylight, before heading back home for a well-earned breakfast.
Tres Cruces, Peru
Tres Cruces means ‘three crosses’ and the name refers, somewhat disappointingly to the fact that three major trade routes cross in this part of Montevideo, in Peru. However, the area has a more mystical side and was venerated by the ancient Aztecs for a very unusual optical illusion that occurs each morning at, you guessed it, sunrise! The area is elevated, allowing for excellent views into the distance and because of the great distance or due to a geographical trick of the light, as the sun rises it seems to be surrounded by multiple halos and duplicate suns, all blazing fiery red and orange, tinting the clouds with vibrant colour. The illusion passes as the sun fully arrives over the horizon, leaving watchers breathless and awe-struck.
Mount Sinai is a famously historic site, having ties to the origins of not one, but three religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam, all of which believe that Moses received enlightenment on the mountain, returning to his people with the commandments. Apart from its significant religious importance the mountain is an excellent vantage point from which to see the sun rise. There are two routes to the peak, the longer taking about two and a half hours, while the steeper, more direct route uses the ‘Steps of Penitence’ which requires sturdy thighs and a fair amount of stamina to mount the 3750 steps that were carved out by monks long ago! The longer route is traversable by camel for those unable to make the walk themselves. The view is certainly worth the climb, giving out over smaller hills and mountains and allowing a glimpse of the apparently infinite horizon.
The circle of stones looks astonishingly small from a distance, growing in majesty as you draw closer and take in their true perspective. Dawn has always been a special time for those who still venerate Stonehenge as a place of mystical wonder and spirituality. While the stones are fenced off from the public for most of the year, there are special occasions when worshippers are given permission to enter the site, usually during sunrise. It is a magnificent sight to see the first rays of sunlight touching the ancient stones once more, as the dark night gives way to kinder daylight.
These are ten of the best places to see the sun rising, with its promise of hope for a fresh new day. Sunrise is an almost magical time wherever you are when you watch it, but being in a special location with people you love make it a truly memorable experience.