- 1 What is a sunset ?
- 2 The benefits of sunset
- 3 The top 5 sunsets over the ocean
- 3.1 The California Coast: A seagull at sunset
- 3.2 Costa Rica, Playa Palo Seco: un coucher de soleil dans une ambiance de fin du monde
- 3.3 Martinique, Diamant Beach: a sunset straight off a postcard
- 3.4 Madagascar, Ifaty Beach: the return of the fishermen’s pirogues at sunset
- 3.5 Cap Vert, île de Maio: un coucher de soleil en 50 nuances de gris
- 4 The best five spots to see a sunset
- 5 The top 5 sunsets by a lake
- 6 The top 5 Mountain Sunsets
- 7 Find more articles on “It’s in the Air”
What is a sunset ?
What a pleasure to see a spectacular sunset. The spectacle is so stunning that we almost forget to ask ourselves, « why ». Why does the blue sky of the day turn to red as here in the Etosha National Park in Namibia, and orange or yellow as evening comes ?
« I love the evenings, passionless and fair; I love the evens,
Whether old manor fronts their ray with golden refulgence leaven,
In numerous leafage bosomed close;
Whether the mist in reefs of fire extends its reaches sheer,
Or a hundred sunbeams splinter in an azure atmosphere
On cloudy archipelagos ».
(Sunset by Victor Hugo 1802-1885)
Not to break the poetry of the moment, but knowing is also enjoyable. Everyone knows that sunset occurs when the sun bows out for the night and then disappears behind the western horizon. In reality, the sun does not set; the Earth’s rotation simply gives us this impression. The same is true for sunrise when the sun appears above the eastern horizon. The colors of the sky change at sunset: yellow, pink, red, and even dark blue tending to purple. The distance that light travels in the atmosphere causes such variations. The longer the journey for light to reach the Earth means that the shorter wavelengths (on the blue and violet side) of the spectrum are increasingly scattered, leaving the red, orange or yellow wavelengths to reach us or reflect on the clouds. During the day, when the sun is vertical, the path through the atmosphere is short and the sky blue because the short wavelengths are little scattered. Everything results from the path of light in the atmosphere !
« Atmosphere ! Atmosphere ! Do I have an atmosphere face ? »
(French actress Arletty in the film Hotel du Nord)
The colors seen at sunset are a combination of circumstances. The distance light travels in the atmosphere, weather conditions (humidity in the air and clouds), and pollution are all obstacles that influence the colors of the sky at sunset. The twilight glow is pure when the cloudless sky gives us an orange sunset. A change in color to pink or yellowish gray means an increase in dust or humidity on the air. As for the clouds, they take on more contrasting hues the lower they are in the sky.
The benefits of sunset
Have you ever stopped whatever you were doing to admire the spectacle offered by a sunset? Far from being trivial, this daily outdoor show is good for our eyes, hearts, and minds. Like a meditation session, it is said that this ephemeral spectacle soothes the conscience and gives us a brief feeling of fulfillment after a tiresome day. Admiring a sunset also means, above all, taking the time to do so, a rare sacrifice in a hyperactive society.
« One day, you said to me, I saw the sunset forty-four times !
And a little later, you added.
You know… we love the sunset, when we are so sad… »
(The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
In the city, in the country, in summer or in winter, in the United States, in Africa or in France, with a clear or cloudy sky, some sunsets reveal many wonders and transport us into a world apart. When the light fights with the night before the latter wins, shadows and light pass-through fascinating colors. Why are sunsets so captivating? The writer André Aciman (author of the best-seller Call Me By Your Name) answers this question by saying that a sunset is an enchantment because it brings us a feeling of fullness similar to the feeling of love !
« We fall in love with sunsets and beaches, with tennis, with works of art, with places like Tuscany and the Rockies and the south of France, and, of course, with other people — not just because of who or what they are, but because they promise to realign us with our better selves, with the people we’ve always known we were but neglected to become, the people we crave to be before our time runs out. »
As you can see, the vertigo we feel in front of a sunset is not just specific to the vast sky colored by a fading sun. It also seems existential: time stops, and we become one with the world. What if you took the time to contemplate a sunset and to enjoy its benefits ?
The top 5 sunsets over the ocean
People slowly gather on the beach as if drawn by a mysterious force, their conversations mingling with the sound of the waves and the cries of the seagulls. All eyes are on the sun as it slowly descends into the ocean. This magical solar spectacle, entirely free of charge, is played out every evening, but is different every day. Here is our selection of the five best places to watch the sunset over the ocean.
The California Coast: A seagull at sunset
Costa Rica, Playa Palo Seco: un coucher de soleil dans une ambiance de fin du monde
Martinique, Diamant Beach: a sunset straight off a postcard
The Beach of Diamant is one of the most famous in Martinique. Nearly 2 miles long, with rock of the same name just in front of it and the coconut trees leaning over the sand, it has everything for a postcard. Surrounded by the Larcher and Clochette hills, lined with shady undergrowth, Diamant Beach is simply magnificent: golden sand, tables under the shade of coconut trees, and a view of Diamant rock! At sunset, when an orange light bathes the shore with the Diamond rock in the background, the site’s beauty overwhelms.
Madagascar, Ifaty Beach: the return of the fishermen’s pirogues at sunset
Cap Vert, île de Maio: un coucher de soleil en 50 nuances de gris
The island of Maio in the Cape Verde archipelago was named after the date of its discovery, May 1, 1460. It’s small and still unknown to tourists. It is almost flat with vast, long white sandy beaches… The highest point Monte Penoso rises 1,430 feet above sea level. On this « postcard » island, you can contemplate the sea, walk along the beaches, and rediscover the pleasure of swimming in crystal clear water… until the bizarre sunset. It is as if all the colors had suddenly vanished, the canvas leaving only shades of gray. We witness a sunset in 50 shades of gray !
The best five spots to see a sunset
There is nothing better to end your day by admiring a sunset in the heart of Mother Nature. Here is our world tour of the most beautiful spots to see the sun caress the Earth !
Sunset in the American West
Madagascar, coucher de soleil sur l’allée des Baobabs
Cuba, sunset in the Ciénaga de Zapata reserve and its pink flamingos
Ile de Pâques, coucher de soleil sur les Moaï de l’Ahu Vai Uri
Ahu Vai Uri on Easter Island offers a breathtaking view: a line of five Moai turning their backs on the immensity of the ocean. These enigmatic stone giants remain a mystery that intrigues archaeologists, ethnologists, and visitors. As twilight approaches, as the sun descends, only a few horses observe the insolent birds taunting these giants by chirping on their heads… One thing is unquestionable, at nightfall the five Moai of Ahu Vai Uri become sublime at sunset, the rays gently caress these stones before descending into the immense ocean. Breathtaking.
Quebec, sunset on the Saint Lawrence River
The majestic Saint Lawrence River, runs 2,087 miles. It begins at Lake Ontario. From the banks of the St. Lawrence one can admire the second most beautiful sunset in the world (after Hawaii), according to National Geographic. In la Belle Province, you must take the time to watch the sun disappear into the St. Lawrence River because the river gives a different view every night !
The top 5 sunsets by a lake
Sunset is a privileged moment of the day when the sky reveals all the beauty of the landscapes, particularly on the banks of a lake. The pink and red-orange reflections on the surface of the water offer a unique display every evening. So, treat yourself to a picnic by the lake and wait for the magic of dusk to happen….
USA, Lake Michigan: sunset on the Muskegon Pier Lighthouse
Located in the northeastern United States, Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. With a surface area of 22,393.92 square miles, it is the only one of the Great Lakes situated entirely within the United States. Chicago and Milwaukee are on its shores, as well as beautiful parks along the lake with fine sandy beaches and dunes like those at Muskegon State Park. Lake Michigan is so vast that it feels like a sea or rather like an ocean because it contains dangerous currents. From its shores, the eye is lost beyond the horizon. By counting the number of lighthouses along the coast (52 according to the « Lighthouse friends ») you will quickly understand that it looks more like an inland sea than a lake! After hiking one of the many trails in Muskegon State Park, you’ve earned your sunset on the lake with the Muskegon Pier Lighthouse in the background.
Costa Rica, coucher de soleil sur le lac Arenal
Lying west of the Arenal volcano, Lake Arenal is the largest lake in Costa Rica at 33 sq. mi. Water sports enthusiasts love this artificial lake for kayaking, canoeing, or paddling. Lake Arenal also attracts windsurfers and kite surfers to its western end because of strong winds reaching an average of 45 mph. If you are not attracted to water sports, there are plenty of other activities. The area surrounding the lake is home to a great diversity of fauna (wild coatis and many birds) and flora. It is a paradise for nature lovers. It is not surprising that Lake Arenal has become one of the main tourist destinations in Costa Rica! From the terrace of the Arenal Observatory Lodge, we can watch the beautiful sunset over Arenal Lake as the sky is flooded with the colors of fire that spread on the flank of the Arenal volcano and the treetops in the forest. A moment of pure magic…
Lake Léman: a French-Swiss sunset
Lake Geneva, or Lake Léman, is the largest alpine lake in Western Europe. It lies 1,220 feet above sea level. It is a deep lake and shared between France and Switzerland. A natural inland sea of 224 sq. mi., bordered by the peaks of Chablais and Valais to the South and the Jura chain to the north. Around Lake Geneva, there is no shortage of places to watch the sunset in summer and winter, whether on the French side (Yvoire, Mont Salève, or Thonon-Les-Bains) or the Swiss side (the vineyards of Lavaux, Nyons, or Lausanne.)
Canada, le lac Ontario
USA, Lake Erie: copper-colored sunset over the megalopolis of Cleveland
If skyscrapers and sunset sometimes go poorly together, they can also complement each other. Full marks to the city of Cleveland, located on the south shore of Lake Erie! It is the southernmost, shallowest, and smallest by volume of the Great Lakes. Its average depth is only 62 feet over an area of 9,940 mi². Lake Erie remains unpredictable and often calm, but it can quickly become furious when a strong wind picks up. At the end of the day, as the sun declines and the storm rumbles on, the last rays of the sun come to nestle among the skyscrapers of downtown Cleveland. We witness the most wonderful of Nature’s shows in an end-of-the-world atmosphere.
« Behind the cloud, the sun is still shining. » (Abraham Lincoln)
The top 5 Mountain Sunsets
Whether you’re an early riser or more of a groundhog, the mountain sun can be admired both at sunrise and sunset. At the end of a beautiful day of hiking on the summits, take time to watch the sun illuminate the mountains. Our five mountain spots are golden colors, pink tones, or orange palettes.
Les Estables: sunset in the heart of France
Located on the high plateaus of the Massif Central in France, at the foot of Mount Mézenc, the village of Les Estables is perched at 4.430 feet above sea level. It is the highest village in the Auvergne and the highest point in the Haute-Loire. In this corner of France, Mother Nature offers us a natural playground. At this accessible altitude you can have your first mountain experiences accompanied by the north wind called « la Burle ». Discovering the « sucs » (volcanic peaks), the mountains, the high plateaus, strolling in the forests of the Meygal, or relaxing with your feet in the source waters of « la Loire » are just some of the discoveries to be made in this region. Meeting the inhabitants of the mountains, the « padgels » as opposed to the « raïols » (people of the valley) or tasting Fin Gras (seasonal marbled beef meat served from February to June) is also a must! As for the sunset, what can I say ? In Les Estables, the lights at the end of the day are magnificent, but they fade quickly. Night falls suddenly and the air is cold (thanks to the Burle), but the feeling of plenitude is also there. Complete calm reigns on the summits; the moment is peaceful.
Switzerland, Interlaken: sunset on the Jungfrau
The city of Interlaken is in the heart of the Oberland Highlands, Switzerland, between the emerald-colored water of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Many celebrities, such as the writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, spent some time in the region of Interlaken. But its three stars are Eiger (13,015 feet), Mönch (13,484 feet), and Jungfrau (11,362 feet). To visit Interlaken is to take a deep breath on the Alpine summits ! Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2007, the snow-capped Jungfrau Mountains highlight any trip to Switzerland ! The highest cog railway in Europe runs 5.6 miles from Kleine Scheidegg at 6,762 feet to the Jungfraubahn) at 11,332 feet above sea level on the Jungfraujoch. The icy air caresses your face when you get off the train; snow crunches under your feet. The panorama is breathtaking; on one side, the view of the Swiss Mittelland up to the Vosges, and on the other, the Aletsch glacier, bordered by peaks over 13,000 feet above sea level.
France, Mont Blanc: sunset on the ceiling of Europe
The Mont Blanc, meaning « white mountain », is undoubtedly the mythical summit and the highest point in the Alps, rising 15,774 feet above sea level. Mont Blanc lies between France (department of Haute-Savoie), Italy (Aosta Valley), and Switzerland (canton of Valais.) Michel Gabriel Paccard and Jacques Balmat were the first mountaineers to successfully climb this, the highest peak in Western Europe, in 1786. In 1808, Marie Paradis was the first woman to reach the summit. Mont Blanc is a top tourist destination. Every year, 15,000 to 20,000 aspirants and pseudo-mountaineers come from all over the world to try to reach Mont Blanc’s summit. In 2022, French authorities established a decree to protect Mont Blanc by limiting the number of climbers and restraining their incivilities. Far from this overcrowding, one can still enjoy the last rays of sunshine on Mont Blanc bathed in a beautiful pink light.
Montenegro: sunset in the national park of Biograska Gora
The Biogradska Gora National Park is a superb natural jewel in Montenegro between the rivers Tara and Lim. Established in 1878, it is the smallest of five national parks and the oldest nature reserve in Montenegro. One of the park’s unique features is its primary forest, with trees over 131 feet high and over five hundred years old. The park also includes six glacial lakes (nicknamed the “eyes of the mountain” by the locals.) the largest of which is Biogradsko. The park is a destination outside of the traditional tourist circuits. Shepherds mainly visit it in search of fresh meadows for their sheep. The few travelers come to discover the off-the-beaten-track trails and magnificent sunsets. The park also allows us to experience the highest peaks of the Bjelasica Mountains: Crna Glava (7,018 feet), Zelkova Glava (6,945 feet), and Troglava (6,798 feet). This diversity of landscapes, flora, and fauna places Biogradska Gora National Park among the world biosphere reserves registered with UNESCO.
Sunset on Uluru/Ayers Rock, the most famous rock in Australia
« There are rays of happiness in the sunrise and sunset ».
(Jean Gastaldi in The Little Book of Happiness)
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