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Photo: VinceHuang

When you fill out your Matador community profile, we want to know: What’s your ideal place to watch the sun rise and set? Bob Riel introduces 8 ideas to get you started.
Mt. Sinai, Egypt

To catch the sunrise on Mt. Sinai, travelers first climb a rocky trail from 2:30 to 5am, alongside Bedouin tribesmen and their camels. Then they sit and wait for the dawn’s rays to pierce the darkness and illuminate a jagged, lunar-like landscape.

The sensation of being on Mt. Sinai as the sun appears in the morning sky is impossible to forget. Even if you’re not religious, you can envision Moses having a divine experience here.

After trekking back downhill, stop at St. Catherine’s Monastery to see a direct descendant of the Bible’s burning bush.

Ganges River, Varanasi, India

Varanasi is believed to be one of the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, with a past that stretches back 3,000 years.

Trudge its narrow, dirty streets in the predawn hours before emerging atop one of the ghats that line the sacred Ganges River to the sight of a vibrant sunrise and Hindu pilgrims bathing and praying at the water’s edge.

Alternatively, take in the scene from a rowboat that ferries visitors up and down the river.

Jimbaran Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Many Balinese beaches see lovely sunsets, but Jimbaran is unique because of the dozens of seafood shacks that line the sands and only open for dinner.

Each restaurant has chests of ice filled with freshly caught fish, from snapper and grouper to prawns and crabs. Once diners make a selection, the fish are cleaned, grilled, and served at a seaside table.

As you eat, you can sink your toes into the sand, listen to the waves, and watch as the sun sinks into the Indian Ocean. Afterwards, relax with a drink as the beach glows with the light of hundreds of candles, lit by the restaurants.

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Serengeti National Park in Tanzania works too, as the wildebeest visit both during their annual migration from July to October. Regardless of the country, the scenery is fabulous and you can combine sunset viewing with a safari experience.

Imagine spending late afternoon on a game drive, watching elephants, giraffes, gazelles, lions, and wildebeest, and then topping off the day with a deep orange sunset.

Phnom Bakheng temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Phnom Bakheng is a Buddhist temple built in the late 9th century on a hillside outside what is now Siem Reap. Visitors to the Angkor Archaeological Park are enticed to the temple ruins for its sunset views.

The top of Bakheng is accessible via a steep staircase, and from there you can look down on the sacred site of Angkor Wat and out across the forested expanse of northern Cambodia as the sun sets in a splash of color.

Oia, Santorini, Greece

Every day, in late afternoon, travelers make their way to the western edge of the Greek island of Santorini.

There, in the small town of Oia, amidst whitewashed homes perched on the edge of a caldera, they stand along the road and sit with legs dangling from walls, waiting for the sun to disappear beneath the waves of the Aegean Sea.

The intense light of the Aegean produces a particularly dramatic sunset. So dramatic, in fact, that the tourist crowd invariably breaks out in applause.

Cape Town, South Africa

Often hailed as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Cape Town sits at the southwestern edge of Africa, backed by the flat-topped 3,500ft peak of Table Mountain.

For an extraordinary sunset experience, book a ride with one of the local boat companies that offer late-afternoon cruises. You’ll ply the waters near the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, gaze back at the majestic Table, and perhaps sip a glass of wine as the sun dips below the horizon.

Haleakala Volcano, Maui, Hawaii

On the island of Maui, you can drive from sea level up to 10,000 feet in about two hours and end your journey near the peak of Haleakala. More than a million people make this journey annually, many of them in the predawn hours so they can watch the sun rise over Haleakala National Park.

Once it does, you can hike into Haleakala Crater. Or, hop a van up to the peak and mountain bike back down.

Community Connection

Where’s your ideal spot for watching the sun do its thing? Share it with your fellow travelers by creating your very own Matador profile.

When in Western Europe, make sure to check out the region’s 5 Best “From-a-Van” Sunsets.

And of course there’s plenty to do between sunrise and sunset. To take advantage of the day to its fullest, visit one of America’s 8 Sunniest Cities.

About The Author

Bob Riel

Bob Riel is a freelance writer based in Arizona and author of the travel memoir, "Two Laps Around the World." Learn more by following him on Twitter.

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  • JoAnna

    Great post ~ and I love the pics that accompany it! I definitely agree with the sunrises and sunsets in Kenya. They are gorgeous! And while all I’ve ever seen is fog on top of the volcano in Maui, I’ve heard the sunrise is stunning!

    I would also add that, in general, sunrises and sunsets over desert settings are, for some reason, some of the most beautiful in the world.

  • Hal

    Great picks, Bob. I have to admit I haven’t been to any of them, despite having visited Maui and Siem Reap. Now I’ve just gotta go back!

  • joshywashington

    one of my sweetest memories is riding through Siem Reap in the pre dawn dark on squeaky old bicycles with Bridget. We watch the sunrise, with thousands of other tourists, inside Angkor. We all just sat and waited for the sky to bloom, with noweher to go and nothing to do but there and that.
    It was beautiful.

  • Michelle


    My pick is Solar de União in Salvador. Live jazz, acaraje, and a sunset all right on the ocean…perfect.

  • Ross Williams

    My Pick: Hyangil-am Hermitage in Yeosu Korea.. Built in the 7th century, Koreans love to few the first sunrise of the new year here, but it is great in any season

  • Traveling Photographer, Amanda

    Zion, Bryce, Snow Canyon, or Arches in Utah …………

    Manuel Antonio national park in Costa Rica …..

    Maui and Oahu Hawaii ……

    A bunch of coastal spots surrounding the San Francisco bay area.

    ^ Those have been some of my favorites ( so far ) and I’m referring mostly to sunset situations since I prefer to still be sleeping as sunrise.

  • Dave and Deb

    You have great taste. We have been to 4 of the places you have mentioned and agree, they are beautiful for sunsets. I have to say another place in Egypt is the White Desert for sunrise. If you get the chance to go, check it out.

  • Topher

    Damascus, Syria is actually the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, but Varanasi is also very old.

  • chris

    The capetown pick is spot on – Clifton beach or Kogelbaai. A Zimbabwean sunset over Vic Falls is pretty unreal as well.

    I would love to do the Sinai one. Nice list man.

  • Hakan

    Good list but you missed the Mount Nemrut, Adiyaman, Turkey.

  • JillianT

    Great post! Definitely collected some gorgeous pictures!! Just wanted to throw it out there for anyone looking to travel to the Galapagos Islands that I have found Galapagos Inc by Wildlife Vacations ( to be a very helpful source for booking travel to the region.

  • Feras

    Well I really think its a great post, but i was surprised you didn’t mention Wadi Rum in Jordan in your list. They also call it Moon Valley. Both sun rise and set there is amazing. The clear sky and the nature of the valley with all the rocky mountains makes it a wonderful experience. Especially because of the rose pink color of the rocks during the day, and the bright blue color that covers everything there when the moon is up… I hope you can check it out and add it to your list.

  • Alyssa

    I would love to watch from any and all of these.

    My best sunset was in Tunisia in the Sahara. Seeing the sun descend below the curves of the dunes–truly unreal.

    • XiaoXing

      Me too.!! ♥

  • http://msn yoaintneedtoknow

    wtf well gd luck getting to tunisia

    • Hal Amen

      What does that mean?

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