Sunset is the time of day when the sky lights up with a thousand dusky pastel shades, creating an ever-changing panorama of shapes and colours in the sky.
Thanks to the muted light and almost hushed atmosphere of many of the world’s top-notch sunset spots, it’s worth settling in – wherever you are – and enjoying nature’s spectacular daily show. While this time of day is often considered to be one of the most romantic, you don’t have to be part of a couple to enjoy the stunning scenes as the sun dips below the horizon – whether that horizon happens to be endless miles of shimmering ocean or a busy urban metropolis. For those that want to revel in one of the region’s most glorious scenes, we’ve picked out five remarkable locations to inspire you.
A Majestic Sight
For travellers uncovering the magical gems of Australia’s Northern Territory, Mount Uluru (known also as Ayers Rock) is surely at the top of the to-do list – especially for sunset seekers. The word Uluru itself translates to “Earth Mother” and is said to be a powerful energy centre, and where dreamtime began. Situated within the UNESCO World Heritage area Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, this 8.6 square kilometre colossal rock formation climbs out of the flat scrubland like an imposing, glowing red wall. A trip to this sacred spot offers a constantly evolving kaleidoscope of colour – particularly at sunset when the sun lights the side of the expansive rock up with a last burst of fiery terracotta red, before it sinks into deep, tawny blues and purples.
If you do visit this iconic site, bear in mind that the entire area is a highly sacred location for the Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia – particularly the Anangu people, whose ancestors were from this area. Climbing the rock is highly discouraged as a mark of respect. The rock is a five-hour drive from Alice Springs, and many visitors choose to base themselves here before setting off on a tour of the National Park.
Down by the River
While Cambodia’s iconic Angkor Wat may represent the nation’s most famous location to savour the setting sun, the country serves up a range of sunset sensations – some of which can be found in more bustling, urban locations. If you find yourself in the country’s capital Phnom Penh, make a beeline straight down to Sisowath Quay – known among tourists and the expat community as Riverside. This city is nestled along the banks of the meeting point of two mighty rivers – the Tonle Sap and the Mekong. Thanks to Cambodia’s colonial history, Riverside exudes a strong French promenade vibe, which comes to life as the sun sinks slowly behind the city. In order to actually see the fiery orb dip below the horizon, you’ll either need to cross the river or embark on one of the sunset cruises that run on a daily basis. If you’re content to bask in the fading light that bathes the quay, there’s plenty to do. Many locals head down to a shrine that faces the Royal Palace to light incense and release tiny birds as prayers. For those that are happy to absorb the lively atmosphere, a plethora of restaurants and bars line the busy thoroughfare – including the Foreign Correspondent Club, which is famous for its selection of sundown cocktails.
Perched atop a rocky coastal outcrop, Bali’s magnificent Tanah Lot Temple is steeped in legend. According to the traditional tale passed down for hundreds of years, the site is guarded by holy sea snakes that once formed the scarves of its founder. This seemingly floating holy gem also just happens to be one of the island’s finest destinations for a spectacular sunset. It is situated approximately 20 kilometres northwest of Kuta, and often features on the must-visit lists of tourists exploring Bali. Offering both splendid panoramic views and rich cultural highlights, there is no mystery as to why. At high tide, the waves crashing against the base of the temple cut it off from the mainland, although at low tide it is possible to cross to the rock base to see where the legendary sea snakes guard the shrine. At sunset, this is undoubtedly one of the most scenic – and romantic – spots on the entire island, and don’t be surprised to see many couples enjoying its exquisite views and tranquil atmosphere.
Views from on High
Lombok – another of Indonesia’s island gems – is surely another of Asia Pacific’s most magnificent places to soak in the panorama of the setting sun. For travellers that aren’t put off by the significant physical exertion this incredible summit involves, Mount Rinjani offers the ideal vantage point to exult in the glowing rays of sundown. This peak of this active volcano boasts an impressive height of 3,726 metres, so those that do embark on the journey to reach the top are rewarded with awe-inspiring views of nearby Bali’s volcanoes, the Gili islands and the natural hot springs inside the crater. If you make it to the top in time for sunset (depending on the route you take, the journey can take a couple of days with overnight camping in between), the unforgettable views will be kissed with the glowing embers of sunlight, making the whole experience that bit more special.
A Sight to Behold
Singapore boasts a plethora of vantage points for residents and visitors alike to lap up stunning views as the city glows golden during the magical sunset hour. Helix Bridge – the striking structure that connects the Marina Bay Sands with the Esplanade, just to the west of the Singapore flyer – is perhaps one of the most superb. The bridge offers a fine vantage point to gaze across the bustling hubbub of the urban landscape, while enjoying a quiet moment of contemplation as the sun slips out of view. There’s a choice of viewing platforms for visitors to choose from, and at sunset the bridge becomes something of a mecca for keen photographers that want to snap a few shots of the city’s sensational skyline. The bridge is an inspiring sight in itself. Its tubular meshed design was inspired by the twisting, helical shape of human DNA, and when darkness descends it is illuminated by thousands of LED lights. This makes it well worth sticking around for a little while after sunset so you can enjoy the atmosphere as the lights flicker on.
- Thanks to the less exposed lighting conditions, sunset happens to be one of the best times of day to take photographs – so don’t forget your camera! If you’re taking photographs on your phone, consider experimenting with filters to see the array of different colours and effects the sun’s final rays of the day can inspire.
- If you’ve travelled somewhere especially to take in the sunset views, then by all means spend half an hour gazing at the burning orb of the sun as it tracks down into the ocean’s horizon. However, don’t forget to turn around! The scenery behind you will be bathed in the glowing golden embers of daylight’s final moments. If you have travelled to a high vantage point, then the views facing away from the sun are even more likely to take your breath away.
- Don’t forget the second sunset. This dramatic display of shapes and colours across the sky takes place in the first half an hour or so after the sun has said its goodbyes for the night. The light and the atmosphere are fantastic at this time of day, so don’t pack up and head home for the night just because you can no longer see the sun in the sky.
- Even if you’ve had a little rain throughout the day, don’t let this put you off heading outside to seek out wonderful sunset views. Any leftover raincloud hovering in the sky will create even more dramatic views and incredible shapes than a clear sky – this is especially great news for keen photographers.
- We all love cramming in as many photography opportunities as possible when we’re on holiday, but don’t forget to live in the moment. After all, you have come to see the sights – so don’t just view them from the other side of your camera lens. Roll out a blanket, unpack your sunset picnic and enjoy one of nature’s finest spectacles – for free.