Whether you’re an early riser or not, nothing beats starting your day with a view of the sunrise. Especially when you’re travelling in destinations with iconic monuments or stunning natural landscapes. From the gleaming white Taj Mahal to otherworldly Cappadocia in Turkey, here’s our pick of the top sunrise spots around the world.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is an impressive sight at any time of day. However if you get there for sunrise, you have an even greater spectacle in store. As this iconic temple faces west, the sun rises dramatically behind its spires and reflects its silhouette in the pools below.
This is the most popular spot in the Angkor complex to catch the sunrise, so you’ll want to get there ahead of the crowds. The gates open at 5am, but we can assure you it’s worth the early start.
Machu Picchu, Peru
After trekking the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, seeing the sunrise over these magnificent ruins is the greatest reward. As the sun hits Huayna Picchu, the mountain behind this ancient citadel, the stone walls are soon bathed in a glorious gold light, making for some amazing photos.
If you don’t fancy trekking, Machu Picchu can also be reached by train from Ollantaytambo. As the most famous archaeological site on the continent, you simply can’t visit Peru without experiencing these Incan ruins for yourself.
If you’re looking for a hot air balloon experience at sunrise, Cappadocia should be top of your list. Located in central Turkey, this otherworldly landscape of conical rocks and honeycombed hills appears straight from a fairy-tale.
Due to the calmer wind conditions of the early morning, hot air balloon rides take off at sunrise. Up to 100 are in the air at any one time, creating a colourful spectacle as they float by at different heights.
Inle Lake, Myanmar
One of Myanmar’s biggest highlights, Inle Lake is a watery world of floating gardens, Buddhist temples and stilt-house villages. Stretching for over 20 kilometres in length and fringed by marshes and mountains, it’s a fantastically scenic and tranquil place to visit.
Spend the night in one of the stilted hotels perched along the water. Then sleepily rise at dawn and sit in the open porch to view a spectacular sunrise.
Taj Mahal, India
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World and India’s best-known monument, the Taj Mahal was the result of 22 years work by 20,000 labourers. Representing the love of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, this marble mausoleum is a sight that simply has to be seen to be appreciated.
Visit at sunrise to watch as the Taj Mahal’s gleaming dome gloriously reveals itself. The biggest crowds tend to arrive later in the morning, so it’s well worth the early wake up.
Cape Town, South Africa
Often hailed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town is overlooked by the magnificent Table Mountain. From its summit, you can enjoy vistas over the whole Cape Peninsula, made all the more breathtaking when timed with the sunrise.
Whilst Table Mountain is most easily accessed via a cable car, if you’re up to the challenge, you could embark on a sunrise hike. The Pipe Track is the easiest route, offering fantastic views over the Atlantic Ocean. Alternatively, you could climb the Lion’s Head Mountain for views of both the city and Table Mountain in the early morning light.
Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia
Covering 12,106 square kilometres, the Uyuni Salt Flats are the largest in the world. This seemingly endless white landscape offers an experience like no other, with just the sky and white ground for as far as the eye can see.
If there’s a little water, the horizon disappears as the surface perfectly reflects the clouds and sky overhead. Visit the Uyuni Salt Flats at sunrise to create some perspective-altering photos of yourself.
The Great Wall, China
One of the world’s biggest attractions, the Great Wall of China stretches for over 20,000 kilometres from the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert. Rumor has it, it can even be seen from space. But what’s definitely true is that it’s a beautiful sight at sunrise.
Jinshanling and Jinakou are two of the best sections of the Great Wall to catch the sunrise. Both offer quintessential shots of the wall snaking across China’s more mountainous and rugged scenery.
Mount Fuji, Japan
It’s tradition in Japan to welcome the first sunrise of the new year from somewhere special. Known as hatsuhinode, this tradition is centered around a Shinto belief that if you stand outside and make a wish during sunrise, the god Toshigami will bless you and your wish will come true in the year to come.
Few locations are more spectacular for the new year sunrise than Mount Fuji. As Japan’s tallest mountain and most famous landmark, you’ll enjoy stunning views whether you decide to climb to the summit or admire it from a distance.
Sahara Desert, Morocco
If you’re looking to get off the beaten track for sunrise, Morocco’s Sahara Desert is the place to go. The Erg Chebbi sand dunes are particularly impressive, featuring wave upon wave of orange dunes at heights of up to 250 metres.
Spend the night at a remote Berber camp under an incredible blanket of stars. Rising early for sunrise, you’ll enjoy spectacular panoramas as patterns of light and shade fall across the landscape.