The Best Places in the World to see a Sunrise
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Sunsets get a lot of attention – on social media, in film, and in our memories and stories about our vacations. But what about the sunrise? It takes a lot more work and discipline to catch a sunrise. Making it far more of a luxury experience – you’re far more likely to have the place all to yourself, and you’ll have the pride of knowing that you made some sacrifices in order to chase a transforming experience. So where are the best places in the world to see a sunrise? Our correspondent Julie Chang Murphy has rounded up the top destinations for the best sunrises on earth.
the unique joys of seeing a sunrise
I have nothing against sunsets. I’ve admired their blazing palettes flushed with reds, golds and pinks with a drink in hand. And cuddling with a special someone. Then again, I also remember jockeying for that specific vantage point among all the other tourists and feeling pressure to capture the vista for Instagram with just the right filter.
A sunrise, on the other hand, feels like a quiet, sacred and personal experience. You have to work for it a little bit — rising and finding your way in the dark. But you will be among the few, savoring that slow and poetic beauty. A new day beckons and perhaps, a luxurious nap as a reward for your efforts later in the afternoon!
the best places in the world to see a sunrise
Here are our 10 favorite spots to view the world’s most spectacular sunrises. If you’re lucky enough to already be traveling to these destinations, don’t forget to set the alarm. If you’re still in the initial stages of dreaming and planning, use this list to inspire your next voyage.
1. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Head to Jackson Lake, a pristine 15-mile long glacial lake at the base of the majestic Teton mountains. As the sun rises, the clouds are illuminated with a pink glow and the peaks are reflected in the glassy water. You might just be inspired to patriotically warble at the top of your lungs, “O beautiful for spacious skies!” Or, you can just quietly breathe in the crisp alpine air. That’s fine too. After the serene sunrise, rent a boat and explore the many islands and inlets on the lake.
2. Kruger National Park, South Africa
It’s home to the big 5: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes and one of the world’s most iconic sunrises. Since it lies close to the equator, the sun appears much larger as there isn’t a horizon serving as a reference point. While many sunrises may elicit feelings of tranquility, this fiery orange spectacle feels intense and exciting. Foreshadowing of an action-filled safari, perhaps?
3. Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island
This is one of the most isolated islands on the planet, which makes the sunrise over Easter Island’s formidable megaliths (known as Moais) that much more mystical and transcendent. The stone faces, 15 in all, carved over hundreds of years ago cast a dramatic shadow as the day breaks over the Pacific Ocean. Afterwards, head to Anakena’s postcard perfect white sand and turquoise water beach for a morning swim. Better yet, just stay there all day.
4. Skogafoss, Iceland
Watching the sun make its debut over a waterfall and producing a rainbow is like watching a screensaver come to life. The waterfall, situated on the Skoga River in the south of Iceland, is one of the country’s largest with a 20ft drop. According to Icelandic legend, the first Viking settlers buried treasure where else, but in a cave behind the waterfall. Stick around to hike around and climb up the stairs to the the top of the waterfall and see if you can glimpse a double rainbow.
5. Halong Bay, Vietnam
Halong Bay is made up of over 1,000 rainforest covered limestone islands and emerald green waters. The most authentic way to experience the awe-inspiring and ethereal sunrise here is aboard an overnight junk boat cruise. As day breaks, you can imagine how the legend of a dragon descending from the heavens, created this ancient landscape.
6. Cape Hillsborough, Australia
For a quintessential Australian sunrise complete with kangaroos and wallabies, head to Cape Hillsborough National Park where the rainforest meets the ocean. At Casuarina Beach, the sun will be showing off- charging the sky into electric hues of orange and purple. Down on the ground, kangaroos will emerge to greet the morning tide and feast on a breakfast of mangrove seed pods and seaweed.
7. Val d’Orcia, Tuscany
This unspoiled pastoral valley of rolling hills, cypress trees and sunflowers is dotted with fortresses and picturesque villages that have inspired a whole school of painting. The mists of the valley create a moody and pensive sunrise before unveiling a golden Renaissance landscape. This region is also known for its Pecorino cheese and wineries so leave room to indulge your taste buds too.
8. Martha’s Vineyard
The stretch of beach on the road between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown is a splendid place to see the sunrise. We did it on the morning of the Great American Eclipse in 2017, and it was the perfect way to greet a new day. Afterward, head into town for pancakes, muffins, and a nap.
9. Haleakalā Crater, Maui
One of the most spectacular sunrises in all of Hawaii is the one on Maui at the Haleakalā volcano crater. It definitely requires commitment to see: at the Four Seasons Maui, you depart the hotel at 2:30A to ensure that you’re there for the show. Afterward, most people ride bikes back down the mountain. And then presumably sleep in the van on the way back to their hotels.
10. The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India is always wondrous, but it is said to be at its absolutely most beautiful at dawn. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, and during the day the grounds can be quite crowded. The good news? Since the opening of the 5-star Oberoi Amervilas in Agra, it’s possible to catch the sunrise over the Taj Mahal from the resort. Some rooms have views from their balconies. So the discipline needed to wake up early is not really all that much, after all.
team sunrise? or team sunset?
We hope you enjoyed all the eye candy. What do you think? Are you Team Sunrise of Team Sunset?
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Crediting her training as a cultural anthropologist at Wellesley College, Julie has immersed herself in various industries in the last 15 years including fashion design, event planning, fitness and even investigating police misconduct. Julie lives in NYC where she loves trying every ramen and dumpling restaurant with her husband and three children. She finds joy in bold prints, biographies of fierce women, kickboxing and spending way too long finding the perfect polish color to express her mood.