Whether you’re up early by accident or by design, it’s easy to appreciate a good sunrise. Nothing quite beats that early morning symphony of color, especially if you’re in the right place for the show. Here are some spots on Earth where you can witness a truly unforgettable display.
Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland
This ancient extinct volcano looms perpetually over Edinburgh, offering a bracing challenge to any hiker willing to brave its heights. For early risers, however, it harbors rich rewards. If you’re up to it, hike the trail with a headlamp or flashlight to arrive at the top just before daybreak. Then, just beyond the Royal Mile, the sun will announce itself with a grand display that dominates the rich and rolling landscape around you. Once you’re ready, you can walk to nearby Loudons for a relaxed and satisfying brunch.
Stewart Island, New Zealand
As one of the southernmost points in the world, Stewart Island is an incredible place to stargaze and catch the aurora australis, or southern lights. If you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of sleep, though, get up early after your night of stargazing for another colorful show. The indigenous Maori didn’t call this land Rakiura, or “Land of the Glowing Sky,” for nothing. The sunrise transforms the entire sky into a smoldering, bombastic display of light and color. For a front-row seat, consider staying at Kaka Retreat at the mouth of Halfmoon Bay.
Acadia National Park, Maine
There's much debate over where the sun first rises on the continental U.S. and while numerous spots along the Eastern seaboard claim the honor, one of the best is Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. You'll have quite the trek to reach the top — with a summit at 1,530 feet, it's the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard — but once there you'll be treated to spectacular views over rolling, foliage-covered trees and sparkling bodies of water. You might feel as though you're on top of the world, with a private show all to yourself. The best part is once the sun is up, there's plenty more fun awaiting you in the surrounding park and nearby town of Bar Harbor.
The Okavango Delta, Botswana
Unspoiled and unrivaled in terms of sunrise-scoping, Botswana’s pristine Okavango Delta becomes otherworldly in the first light of sun. The snaking waterways turn the color of champagne and the lily-laced lagoons become a labyrinth of mirrored pools within the sweeping savannah. For a glimpse of this feat of nature, consider an exclusive “Footsteps Across the Delta” walking tour.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Though Ha Long Bay has become a well-frequented tourist destination, its limestone pinnacles still awe visitors – especially at dawn. The glow of the sun envelops the pillars and dances across the turquoise waters, creating an image that will sear itself into your brain. For the best chance to witness this natural wonder, look into an overnight or two-night cruise with Vega Travel. You might even be able to rent a kayak and row out to view the sunrise solo.
Pago Bay, Guam
There's a reason Guam's slogan is "Where the American Day begins." As the easternmost piece of American soil, this island territory greets the day before the rest of the continental U.S. So where do you go for a killer sunrise view? You have plenty of options, but one favorite is Pago Bay. Set on the territory's eastern coast where the Pago River empties into the Pacific Ocean, this wide bay offers plenty of prime spots for sunrise viewing.
Morro do Cambirela, Palhoça, Brazil
Pretty much anywhere in Florianópolis, Brazil is a great sunrise-watching spot, but nothing can top the nearby Morro do Cambirela – literally. It’s the highest spot in the region, and a magnificent location for watching the sun caress the tranquil waters of the bay below. You’ll have to be up for an adventure, however, if you want to make it to the summit by sunrise. That’s because you’ll have to start hiking from the bottom just before midnight. Be prepared to see snakes and spiders, and to climb barely-visible ladders in the dead of night. When you’re exhausted and ready for lunch afterwards, visit Praia da Pinheira and chow down on seafood at Cozinha da Mamma.
Pidurangala Rock, Sri Lanka
The view from Pidurangala Rock is magnificent at any time of day. Scores of trees and underbrush stretch out in all directions, making you feel as if you’re truly on top of the world. At sunrise, however, it’s a different story. As the sun ascends, the mist beneath you parts to reveal the perpetual jungle just beneath your feet. The 30-40 minute hike to the summit is absolutely worth it. Plus, if you stay at Sigiriya Rock Hide, then you’ll have breakfast waiting for you when you get back.