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Some of my favorite moments while traveling have been watching sunrises in the most beautiful locations in the world. Experiencing these sunrises means waking up way earlier than I typically want to and then struggling to get myself out of bed. However, when you have such beautiful things to look forward to, it motivates you. So, here's to some magical sunrises that had me up at three in the morning but that I would do all over again, given the chance.

Tikal, Guatemala

Deep in the rainforests of Guatemala, you'll find Tikal, an ancient Mayan city and UNESCO World Heritage site. If you travel to Tikal on your trip, plan to stay the night to experience the sunrise. Many people visit on day trips, primarily because there is little around other than the national park, and travelers often try to fit as much in on a trip as possible. The only accommodations are at the actual location itself. There are two to three lodges in the national park and a camping area. Be warned, these lodges are rugged. Electricity and hot water are limited, and ceiling fans cool the rooms.

We hired the Archeological Focus Tikal Sunrise and Wildlife Spotting Tour via Viator. Pickup time is 3:55 am at $100 each and includes breakfast, snacks, and an incredibly knowledgeable and fun tour guide.

Our guide met us at our accommodation around four in the morning with coffee and breakfast. Together, we trekked into the dark forest with the sound of howler monkeys above us in the trees. (Be prepared; it's an eerie sound, especially in the pitch-black darkness.) I held the flashlight to watch at my feet for stumps or creatures, and he led us to one of the temples. After climbing up the multiple sets of stairs to the top, we sat as we watched the sunrise from the horizon over the trees. It was quiet as onlookers sat in awe and meditation.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

In Siem Reap, Cambodia, you'll find one of the peak bucket list locations for avid world travelers. The Angkor Wat temple is said to be the largest religious monument in the world, sharing both Hindu and Buddhist backgrounds. 

There are many hotels and accommodations in the town surrounding the temple. You can book sunrise tours fairly easily that are not incredibly expensive. There will likely be an early morning pickup included in your tour package. 

We hired Angkor Wat Sunrise Experience via the Airbnb website. The morning of, we waited in the dark outside the gate of our accommodation for the little bus to pick us up around 4:30 am. The tour had multiple stops that day, including Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, a local lunch spot, Ta Prohm Temple (best known from the Tomb Raider film), and Banteay Kdei Temple. It concluded around 2:00 in the afternoon.

Chobe National Park, Botswana

When I traveled to Botswana, it was August. It was a great time to see wildlife; I assumed I had packed warm enough clothes. But be advised, although August days get close to 80 degrees, the early mornings and nights can be in the 40s—pack layers.

On an early morning Safari pickup, usually from your accommodation in an open-air jeep, there is nowhere to hide from the cold morning air. Thankfully, most safari Jeeps supply heavy blankets on each seat. 

Seeing nature awaken as the sun itself began to rise was an experience I shouldn't soon forget. The colors of early dawn as the background for the great balboa trees, the lion herds, and the elephants at the river took the safari to levels I didn't expect. We stayed at the Chobe Safari Lodge, which made it very easy to book excursions and plan out our safari trips for us, including Jeep and boat safaris both morning and evening.

Cappadocia, Türkiye

If you venture out to Cappadocia, Türkiye (which you should), the trip isn't complete without a famous hot air balloon ride. The area is known for this, as it gives you incredible views of the valleys and fairy chimneys. 

After researching a few different companies (there are a lot), we decided to hire Cappadocia Balloon Travel via Viator. Depending on the season and the demand at the time, you can average between $200-$300 per person for a balloon ride. Pickups from your accommodation will be around 4:30 am. Usually, the balloon takes off around sunrise for a 45-minute trip above the fairy chimneys as you watch the sunrise and see the glow of the fire from the balloon around you. It's magical.


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