Good Day Sunshine
Sunsets are spectacular—bold, blazing, and showy—but the sunrise, enveloping us in the promise of a new day, evokes hope and wonder. It’s a magical time as predawn fades, when everything that was in the shadows becomes luminous in a thin, gentle veil of light, and the night dew glistens in the serenity of the moment.
Traveling the globe, I try to witness at least one sunrise in the locale where I’m staying (admittedly, jet lag has something to do with this), whether it’s perched on a mountain top or on a hotel veranda watching the sun cast new light on an awakening city.
TAJ MAHAL, AGRA, INDIA
This destination focuses on one of the new seven wonders of the world. If sunrise at the Taj Mahal isn’t on your bucket list, it should be. Set along the south bank of the Yamuna river in Agra, the striking beauty of the Taj Mahal early in the morning is marvelous. At sunrise, the Taj begins to glow in soft grays and pinks, then gradually transitions into a reddish, glowing color. At noon, the monument appears ivory-white, its true color.
CADILLAC MOUNTAIN, ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE
More than 5,000 miles away from Hawaii, another U.S. National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine, lays claim to breathtaking sunrises. Overlooking the wild and rocky Maine coast dotted with tiny islands, Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain heralds in daybreak for thousands of visitors each year. Plan to arrive at the summit about a half- hour early to allow an appreciation of the colors of the predawn sky.
SHETLAND ISLES, SCOTLAND
Fancy a quiet trip away from the hordes to a uniquely Scottish setting? The Shetland Islands—a subarctic archipelago of Scotland that lies northeast of Great Britain—offer the solitude of remote beaches along with a pristine clarity of light reflected off the water. This, along with the mix of clouds, rain, and sunshine, can create mesmerizing optical effects from the sun, including dramatic sunbeams. Sunrise “action” is best viewed in the spring or autumn. Due to the Shetland’s northern location, summer sunrise can occur as early as 3:38 in the morning.
HALEAKALÁ SUMMIT, MAUI, HAWAII
One of the great sunrise destinations in the U.S. is Haleakalá National Park on Maui, Hawaii. Aptly, Haleakalá is a Hawaiian name that means “house of the sun.” Travelers from around the world make an early morning pilgrimage to the summit to watch the sun rise above the clouds at more than 10,000 feet above sea level. You can schedule a sunrise tour or drive up the mountain to the summit parking lot yourself. Visitors in personal or rental vehicles need to make sunrise viewing reservations ahead of time online at Recreation.gov.
ULURU-KATA TJUTA NATIONAL PARK, AUSTRALIA
Celebrating the dawn of a new day at Ayers Rock, which glows a deep orange and rises above the expanse of the outback with an endless horizon, creates an unforgettable life memory. A sacred site for Australia’s Aboriginals, the dramatic, monolithic rock bathed in early morning light is both majestic and captivating, with the rock changing colors before your eyes as the sun rises in the sky.
ANGKOR WAT TEMPLE, SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
This iconic, sprawling temple complex surrounded by a wide moat is one of the largest religious monuments ever constructed. Built on a grand scale with incredible detail, the temple is situated facing west, so the sun rises right behind the ruins. Waking up early and getting out there at sunrise will also allow you more time to explore the temple before the heat sets in. You can schedule a guided sunrise tour, get there yourself via tuk-tuk, bicycle, or motorbike, or schedule a sunrise balloon flight.
Most Texans don’t have to leave home to see a jaw-dropping sunrise. While the spectacular, multi-hued sunsets get all the glory, sunrises in the Lone Star State aren’t too shabby, either. In fact, they are often as stunning as the sunsets. Just about any locale in Texas is a good place to spend a moment admiring the sunrise in the peaceful morning hours before the daily hustle and bustle begins. Some of the best sunrises, however, are witnessed in the west Texas plains which stretch on for miles with nearly unobstructed views. That’s where the sunrise, in all its glory, competes with nothing else while putting on a vibrant display of colors, from bold oranges, yellows, and reds to pastel blues, pinks, and lavenders.