Sunrise at Angkor Wat

What time do you wake up on vacation?

On a recent trip to Cambodia, my day started at 4:30 am. No, it was not a mistake. And yes, I set the alarm.

What could possibly lure someone out of bed that ungodly early hour in the morning you ask?

Well, how about this?

I wanted to experience sunrise at Angkor Wat. Β And so I did by hot air balloon. And it was lovely and amazing.

The colors in the scenery went from gray and orange

To pink and green

To glittery

To gold and magenta

In case you’re thinking that I was crazy, let me assure you I was certainly cranky and uncomfortable (and cold!) in the open air tuk tuk as the driver whipped through the streets in sheer pitch black morning. But I’d heard that sunrise was beautiful and that hitting the temples right afterwards was a great way to enjoy them without the crowds. It seems that most people lug themselves out there for to watch those first rays of sun and then head back to their hotels for breakfast.

I’m glad I lingered.

Not only were the temples gorgeous in their early morning light, but I had them nearly all to myself.

So, is sunrise at Angkor Wat worth it?

Let me say this, I would do it again every morning of my life…

Travel Tip: Ask your hotel to help you reserve a sunrise balloon excursion. If you’re not a morning person, don’t worry! You can enjoy the view all day long and even during sunset. The cost will be about $15-$20 US.

Are you a fan of sunrises on vacation, or do you tend to sleep in? Have you ever gotten up in the wee hours of the morning to enjoy something on a trip? Was it worth it? Share your story here…

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23 thoughts on “Sunrise at Angkor Wat

  1. Wow, those photos are amazing!! I never heard of such a way to view the temples (or anything else for that matter, as a tourist) but it seems to be 100% worth it. how lucky you were to have had such a great experience!!

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Sonia,
      Thanks! We found this balloon company through our tourist guide book and decided to go for it. The price was right (about $15) but we were a little worried it would be a cheesy experience. Turns out it was great! I always try to get different perspectives on a place by hiking a mountain or visiting a tower overlooking the city. It’s fun to see different angles!

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Mukuba,
      Thanks! It was a little hard (and I’m even a morning person) but I’m so glad I did it. Maybe you can sign up for the sunset balloon ride instead!

  2. I adore sunrises on vacation – a favorite memory no matter where I am (one of my Italy trips, the jetlag worked in our favor and we were up in time to catch a sun rising over the Arno in Florence, it was magical as there was not a soul stirring, and only 2 hours later, it became, well, Florence, tourist-crowded and all :)).

    I also do the sunrise thing a lot whenever I’m visiting home πŸ™‚

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Jude,
      I’m sure that was a lovely sight, and a unique experience in Florence, so packed with tourists. I’m sure the color of the sun on those Italian buildings was gorgeous! While maybe not at 4:00 am, I do love early morning walks in big cities too before they get bustling.

  3. I have once woken up at 3 am for aurora viewing in Alaska, and I must say, I never did regret it! It was a once in a lifetime experience, even though I know Auroras come and go.
    I wish I knew that hitting the temples afterward is best! I went to my hotel and slept till noon!
    Ashley

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Ashley,
      I’d say Aurora viewing is definitely worth it too! Though I was uncomfortable in that extreme early morning cold, I’d never miss that chance again!

  4. Great adventure Mary! I am certainly a morning person myself and most of the times I cannot wait to get up and discover. Early morning to me is the best time of the day for sure, so I totally understand your feelings when floating above Angkor Wat.

    We experienced a same kind of morning glory in Luxor, Egypt. We went up the mountain to watch the sun rise above the Nile. We watched the Nile, the valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut temple. These experiences stay alive for a life time!

    Cambodia is for sure on my list of places to visit!

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Emiel,
      When I was in Egypt, I was on a similar tour, and I actually flaked out on that day with the Valley of the Kings because I just couldn’t wake up! It was years ago, and I always regret not doing it! Glad you still remember it so vividly! I hope I’ve learned my lesson…

  5. Stunning! These pix are certainly worth the sleep deprivation. I’m afraid I don’t function very well without sleep in my regular environment, a new one would encourage too much crankiness. My husband does love to capture sunrises, though. He got up every morning on our vacation in Puerto Rico to photograph the sun rising over the sea.

  6. I love my sleep but if I have to get up early for something like this, I will. I did that in Dibru(Assam-North East India). Sitting in a boat, watching the birds and sunrise made up for the early start.

  7. Gorgeous photos! πŸ™‚

    We also love taking in a sunrise or two during our travels. Sure, we rarely want to get out of bed in the 4 o’clock hour – especially if it’s chilly outside! – but soon enough, it’s all worth it when we see the sun coming over the horizon.

    Our latest sunrise was on the Wild Coast in South Africa. We were sitting on top of a sand dune, and letting the sun’s rays warm us up on a very chilly morning. It was absolutely perfect. πŸ™‚

  8. I definitely agree that sunrise at Angkor Wat is totally worth it. When I was there, I stayed on the ground to watch the sun come up and the sky was a wonderful pink and the reflecting pond was lily pad free at the time… pictures really don’t capture the whole experience, but someday I want to get around to posting them. It was one of my favorite travel moments and it’s indeed wonderful to roam around Angkor Wat before the rush gets there.

  9. Angkor Wat sunrise by hot air balloon! LOVE IT!! Definitely gotta do that someday. I once woke up (without meaning to) at the exact moment the sun was rising over the Dead Sea when I was in Turkey (city: Trabzon) and I was able to watch it right out of my hotel window. It was a perfect moment πŸ™‚

    -BB.

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