Mt Fuji, Japan
While beautiful from a distance, climbing Japan’s most famous mountain is a challenging adventure that offers spectacular dawn views from the top. The official climbing season runs between July and August, and while temperatures hit the 40s in Tokyo, they can fall below freezing on the ascent, so be adequately prepared. Lots of climbers start in the afternoon and spend a few hours sleeping in a mountain hut before tackling the final summit stage in the wee hours. It’s a well trod path, and at times you may be held up in a human traffic jam, but arriving in time to see a majestic sun rising above the clouds makes it worth every effort.
Inle Lake, Burma
The calm and stillness of a rising sun over Lake Inle offers plenty of opportunity for reflection. The second largest lake in the country, it is found in the Nyaung Shwe township and is home to thousands of villagers living in stilt homes dotted around the lake. Best visited between September and October, the effort of catching a sunrise requires only the discipline of an early start. Wander out on your balcony or down to the shore and witness the morning sun lighting up the mountains and shimmering off the water. Local fishermen gliding over the lake provide plenty of subjects for some beautiful photography.
Mount Batur, Bali
A sunrise trek of one to two hours up the active volcano of Mount Batur is a relatively easy clamber that leads you to sweeping pre-dawn views. The towering Mt Agung nearby and expansive crater fill the landscape, and the far-reaching vista makes the early start well worthwhile. Guided tours from Ubud can be arranged and many offer a breakfast of tea and eggs cooked in the steam fissures scattered around the summit. Once the sun is well and truly up, circle the rim of the volcano’s crater and spot the most recent lava flows.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
A powerful destination at any time of day, sunrise over Angkor Wat provides the added impact of a brilliant dawn sky behind its impressive silhouette. Most travellers head to the west gate for sunrise where the lights of tuk-tuks transporting people twinkle on the water. Standing in the pre-dawn darkness with hundreds of others may seem like a leaked secret but the initial sight of the giant rising orb leaves you breathless, despite the crowds. Dedicate plenty of time to explore the area (several days if you can spare it) as the sacred grounds offer much to discover.
Taj Mahal, India
The glowing Taj Mahal offset by a rosy dawn sky is one of the most magnificent sights in the world, sweetening the experience of the intense tourist city of Agra. Steeped in history and legend, the Taj Mahal is on every traveller’s must-see list and is certainly deserving of its place. All is forgotten the moment you’re standing in front of its white brilliance. Commissioned by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his third wife, the building took 16 years to construct and is considered one of the eight wonders of the world. If you’re keen to spot it from all angles, take a local ferry across the river and catch the sun on its descent as its golden rays warm every angle and curve of its marble exterior.
Brave the early start and be rewarded with some of those breathtaking moments in travel.