The world’s most beautiful sunset destinations for 2023
Sunsets can create breathtaking views with vibrant colors, including shades of orange, pink, purple, and gold. And, while on vacation, the combination of the natural beauty of your surroundings and the changing colors of the sky can be truly mesmerizing. But where in the world offers the most beautiful sunset viewings?
By compiling a list of the most famous sunset hotspots, we have analyzed them based on their social media popularity, pollution levels, and total number of recommendations.
The world’s best sunset destinations
1. Uluru, Australia
Sunset Score: 9.13 out of 10
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is a huge sandstone formation in the center of Australia. Uluru scored top marks for its sunset scenes with a score of 9.13 out of 10. Uluru lies in the heart of the Northern Territory’s arid “Red Centre” and its nearest town is Alice Springs. The rock is sacred to indigenous Australians and is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago.
Ayers Rock scored high for its seven recommendations across the web, as well as its high number of “sunset” Instagram mentions (19,284 posts) and “sunrise” mentions (10,276 hashtags), totaling almost 30,000 posts highlighting its natural beauty. Light pollution in Uluru is also low, at 0.973 μcd/m2, making it a beautiful stargazing spot.
Sunset Score: 9.07 out of 10
The stunning islands of the Maldives took the second spot for the best sunset skies in the world, scoring 9.07 out of 10 in the ranking. There’s nowhere that describes “paradise” quite like the Maldives. From its white sand beaches, dreamy on-the-water bungalows, and turquoise waters, it's fitting that holidaymakers can also enjoy some of the most heavenly sunsets in the world.
The Maldives is an archipelago of 192 islands, floating over 90,000 km2, and there is just one resort on each island, meaning there is little light pollution (0.219 μcd/m2). Travelers can enjoy stargazing all year round, but it is best in the dry season between November and April when the sky is at its clearest.
3. Haleakalā, Hawaii
Sunset Score: 8.86 out of 10
Haleakalā, also known as the East Maui Volcano, joined in third place, scoring 8.86 out of 10. The massive active shield volcano forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian island of Maui, and the tallest peak of Haleakalā stands at 10,023 feet.
Sunset at the summit of Haleakalā has become increasingly popular in recent years. Yet, there were more “sunrise” posts on Instagram (36,495 mentions) than at sunset (13,646 posts). Stargazing at Haleakalā is a great option for nighttime visits, and travelers are advised to avoid traffic and wait out the congestion by taking in the nighttime views. Light pollution around the Haleakalā is low (4.38 μcd/m2) due to its high elevation, and the atmosphere is often clearer, allowing for ideal viewing conditions.
4. Santorini, Greece
Sunset Score: 8.56 out of 10
The beautiful Greek island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea scored 8.56 out of 10, placing fourth on the list. The head-turning seascapes of Santorini are among the most recognizable in the world, with its multicolored cliffs, teal waters, and whitewashed buildings. While perusing any Santorini images online, you will likely come across its famed sunset.
Santorini was the most recommended destination for sunsets, with 16 articles presenting its beauty. It also recorded amongst the highest number of Instagram posts for sunsets (160,377 mentions) totaling 163,966 posts when combined with sunrises. Light pollution in Santorini is higher than any other destination in our top five (228 μcd/m2). Furthermore, stargazing can sometimes be difficult in the summer, as the sun is usually the protagonist on this island, and humidity can make sunset images difficult to capture.
5. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Sunset Score: 8.54 out of 10
Angkor Wat, a temple complex in Cambodia's northern province of Siem Reap, scored 8.54 out of 10, placing fifth in the running for the best sunset spots in the world. The Guinness World Records considers the site the largest religious structure in the world. As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it offers tourists a unique opportunity to experience Hindu and Buddhist cultures.
The surrounding natural beauty of Angkor Wat has made it a popular spot for travelers, as well as the artistry reflected in its architecture and sculptures. Visiting Angkor Wat at sunrise is the most popular choice for visitors (26,561 tagged posts) as the sun rises directly behind the temple, creating the most spectacular view to photograph. By visiting at sunrise, you can also beat the heat, which is often uncomfortable in the middle of the day.
The demand for destinations can change every year, and we identified a change in our results in this year’s research when compared to our 2021 index. With Uluru, Australia taking over Santorini as the top sunset destination, and the Maldives ahead of last year’s Bali, it's clear that tourists are traveling to new countries to experience the new picturesque sunsets across the world.
The most recommended sunset destination - Santorini, Greece
Number of articles/blogs recommended by: Santorini, Greece - 16
Santorini, Greece, had the highest number of mentions for its sunsets, with 16 recommendations out of 17 different blogs and articles. The sunsets in Santorini are among the most famous in the world, attracting millions of tourists yearly. Sunsets on the island are part of its enduring myth and are why the Cycladic isle of golden skies and white-painted villas is repeatedly voted Europe’s most popular sunset destination.
The most Instagrammed sunset destination - Bali
Combined "sunset" and "sunrise" Instagram posts: Bali, Indonesia - 211,966
Bali recorded 184,848 tagged posts for “sunset” and 27,118 posts for “sunrise”, totaling 211,966 Instagram mentions. Bali’s colorful skies and stunning beaches create sublime sunsets that are nothing less than Insta-worthy.
The least light-polluted sunset destinations - Galápagos Islands
Lowest light pollution (μcd/m2): Galápagos, Ecuador - 0.0004 μcd/m2
The Galápagos Islands in Ecuador recorded the lowest light pollution out of 118 sunset destinations, making it the perfect stargazing spot. The islands are far from big cities and light pollution, so stars really shine. As a result, the islands have also become a hotspot for astronomy conferences.
As the islands are on the equator, the region showcases constellations from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, so travelers can enjoy the best of both worlds. There are many hotels and cruise lines in the Galápagos offering spectacular stargazing experiences.
Using Instagram, the name of the destination followed by “sunset” and “sunrise” was searched to find the total number of posts. E.g. #santorinisunset. This data is correct as of 26/06/2023. These were added together to obtain the total number of posts.
The Light Pollution Map was used to collect the artificial light pollution in every destination. The destinations recording below 0 μcd/m2 were removed from the ranking for the destinations with the lowest light pollution to avoid inaccuracies. This data is accurate as of 26/06/2023.
The scores for each of the factors above were normalized against each other to create a ranking out of 10 for each sunset destination.