Photo: Diego Fiore/Shutterstock

Ideal Places to Watch a Sunrise/set

Egypt Greece Kenya Hawaii Cape Town Insider Guides
by Bob Riel Aug 6, 2009
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
Camel riders going up the Sinai Mountain in Egypt

Photo: Zvyagintsev Denis/Shutterstock

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 Ganges river

Photo: Roop_Dey/Shutterstock

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
People on bikes by Karang Beach Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

Photo: muhd fuad abd rahim/Shutterstock

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

Photo: Jane Rix/Shutterstock

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

Photo: Diego Fiore/Shutterstock

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
Widlflowers in Cape Town, South Africa, with a view of Table Mountain

Photo: Ilonde van Hoolwerff/Shutterstock

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.

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