Best Places to Watch the Sunset
There's some kind of magic that happens when the sun drifts down. The world — it seems — glows with bright light and brilliant color, but just for an instant before the darkness sets in. And even though the sun setting is a commonplace event — considering it happens every day — it remains one of the finest natural wonders. The nine sunset spots on this list are diverse in their locale, from mountaintops to oceansides and everywhere in between. So come take a virtual ride off into the sunset with us. Same sun: nine different settings.
[In Pictures: Best Places to Watch the Sunset]
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Bright, neon pink hues tend to striate the blue sky as the sun descends behind this 12th-century temple in Angkor, Cambodia. This ancient "wat" or temple was erected in the classical Khmer style to pay homage to the Hindu god Vishnu, but later it became a Buddhist temple. The carefully groomed grounds and lanky palm trees seem to glorify the ethereal temple, which is also a World Heritage site. For a good place to see, find a spot at the nearby Phnom Bakheng temple. It might be a little congested with tourists, but the temple provides a clear vantage point to watch the psychedelic sunset.
Grand Canyon, Ariz.
The Grand Canyon's cloud-skimming elevation makes it an interesting place to catch the sunset. The setting sun's rays illuminate parts of the canyon in bright oranges and yellows, while other parts fall into deep blue shadows. The contrasting effect is quite arresting. The Hopi and Maricopa points on the South Rim are two of the most popular places to view the stunning light show, though the Yaki and Yavapai points are just as beautiful — and less crowded.
On a clear night, when the sun sets in Sydney, a rainbow of colors infuses the sky. The brilliant shades reflect off the city's harbor and glass skyscrapers, creating a kaleidoscopic display. When the sun finally does disappear below the horizon line — leaving the sky a royal blue hue — the city lights flicker and cast their glow on the placid harbor. Find a place on the Sydney Harbour Bridge to watch the light show or claim a spot on solid ground so you can see the sun sink behind the bridge. Take a quick ferry ride from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay for an awesome vantage point.
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When the sun begins its daily descent on Oia, Santorini, you'll find tourists and locals alike scrambling to find a cliffside perch to "ooh" and "ahh." The sky's kaleidoscope of pinks, oranges and blues extend over the Aegean Sea, while simultaneously casting a gorgeous orange tint over the island's whitewashed and blue-topped buildings. It's enough to make even the most jaded traveler sigh with amazement. And incidentally, Santorini's heart-stopping sunsets are one of the reasons it rates so high on our list of the Best Honeymoon Destinations.
Mallory Square, Key West, Fla.
Nearly every night, Mallory Square fills with tourists hoping to catch sight of one of Key West's legendary sunsets. This waterfront plaza is the perfect place to watch the day melt into night, but it's popular too. So if you want to enjoy an unhindered view, try to stake out a spot a few hours before nightfall. That way, you'll also enjoy perusing the arts and craft stalls and noshing on food truck fare at the nightly Sunset Celebration on the Mallory Square dock. When it comes time to for the sun's nightly plunge, you'll be gifted with a dazzling display of pastel colors streaking the sky. And if you pay close attention, you might just catch the fleeting "green flash" that occurs as the sun drops below the Gulf of Mexico.
Sahara Desert, Africa
Except for the occasional camel, all you'll see stretching across the Sahara Desert for miles and miles is rippling sand. The Sahara covers more than 3.5 million square miles of Africa — nearly 10 percent of the continent — but a great place to watch the sunset is at "the door of the desert" in Ouarzazate, Morocco. And if you've been out all day in this harsh climate, the sunset is a welcome change to the monotonous view. On a cloudless day, it looks like a slowly descending burning ball that casts its orange light throughout the barren landscape until gradually fading into blue.
Located along the Italian border of Switzerland you'll find Zermatt, a picturesque village perched at the base of the remarkable Matterhorn mountain peak. When it comes time for the sun to go down, the sight of multicolored ribbons slashing the sky and illuminating the Matterhorn is nothing short of enchanting. You can catch this daily display at the foot of the mountain, but for a closer view, the Monte Rosa Hut is a good place to go, which is accessible via the Rotenboden station on the Gornergrat Bahn railway.
The best place to view a Venetian sunset is inside one of the romantic gondolas on the wide Grand Canal. That way, your view of the fleeting but glorious light display won't be blocked by the city's Venetian Gothic architecture. With the sun spilling multi-colored light on the clouds, water and surrounding buildings, you'll fall under Venice's spell — if you haven't already. There is something truly enchanting about a gondolier rowing the canal's quiet waters while the sun slowly disappears from sight. And even though you probably won't want to ride a gondola in the cold of winter, the sunsets in January and February are spectacular. Accademia Bridge is a sweet spot to watch the sun descend over the Grand Canal.
Serengeti National Park
You won't have to worry about tourists crowding your view of a Serengeti sunset. After all, northern Tanzania's Serengeti National Park has more than 5,700 square miles to share. And in this part of the world, silhouettes of elephants and giraffes will most likely accompany your panorama of the smoldering sunset. Book a safari and watch as day shifts into night: The sky, a canvas of orange and red, will make your heart soar.
[In Pictures: Best Places to Watch the Sunset]