See Petra at the Perfect Moment

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    Alone in Petra at sunrise
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    This is typically Petra's most crowded spot
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    Locals live in the caves inside Petra
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    Sunrise brings out the colors in the sandstone

A lot of travelers aim to be in a particular spot for the sunset. If you ask me, sunrise is better. You get equally great photographs (thanks to that “Golden Hour” lighting that occurs twice daily—shortly after sunrise and shortly before sunset) but your pictures aren’t spoiled by hordes of tourists.

Sunrise is also the best time to watch the locals doing their thing—waking up in the rickshaws they slept in; heeding the mosque’s morning call to prayer; practicing their tai chi on the waterfront; setting up their stalls at the fish market; dropping their children off at school. At sunrise I’ve managed to be alone with the fishermen and feluccas on the banks of the Nile, as well as with saffron-robed monks amid the ruins of Angkor Wat.

My favorite sunrise ever, though, was in Jordan, at the ancient rock-hewn city of Petra, one of the new seven wonders of the world. The site officially opens at 6:00 a.m., but Tim and I found the gate wide open at 5:30 a.m. and walked right in. For one priceless hour—till the first tourists caught up with us—we were the only people there and felt like archaeologists who had discovered a lost world. The light at sunrise so intensified the colors in the sandstone that it quickly became clear how Petra got its nickname “The Rose City.”

By 11 a.m. the site was swarming with day trippers from cruise ships. But I’ll always have the memory—and photos—of my own private Petra.

As it turns out, I’m not the only person who thinks Petra is home to one of the world’s best sunrises. I’d love to know: Where in the world is your favorite? And, so you can savor a sunrise on your next trip, here’s a handy-dandy tool for sussing out the exact time of sunrise wherever you are in the world.

5 comments

  1. Jon Paul

    What a great tip and just the right time! My husband and I are off to Jordan/Israel in a few weeks – and we’ll be staying directly across from the Petra entrance – so we’ll see if we can sneak in at 5:30am and let you know! My own most memorable sunrise was over Angkor Wat – the complete blackness and inability to see anything around then punctured by the first rays of light above the temple was just magical.

  2. dhammer53Flyertalk

    If you stay overnight in Petra ‘town’, the entrance fee is much reduced, vs daytrippers. Petra is a spectacular place to visit.

  3. Clare N

    Another case of the “early bird gets the worm” – I stayed at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore to experience their famous pool which stretches over three tall towers. In the afternoon post check in, the pool was mobbed with people. But I noticed a sign which said the pool opened at 6 am. So the next morning I arrived at 6am sharp and discovered I was the only guest there! It was magical to watch the sunrise over Singapore in the serene peace and quiet of having the entire pool to myself.

  4. Sice

    My two favorites have been Hana Hawaii and Arches NP.

    Hana was a stunning sunrise, coming up in the clouds over the ocean.

    Arches is its own wonderful sandstone adventure, the colors and temperature are amazing at sunrise. And don’t discount these dark places at night, the stars at Arches are amazing and the park is mostly empty.

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