Dream Design
The Reading Room

Chasing the sunrise

Words by Estella Shardlow
7 min read

Those people who are the first to catch the early hours of the morning say it changes their life. It boosts mood, reduces depression, and can even help us sleep better at night. Taking cues from nature as our actual clock is something we rarely do – find the time to rise with the sun and start your day in this transformative way.

Stories for... The Heart
There is a moment in every dawn when light floats, there is the possibility of magic.

Those who routinely wake up early to witness this 'magic' of sunrise swear by the wellbeing benefits. A growing body of scientific research and a burgeoning number of high-profile figures, such as the Obamas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston, are there to back it up. Stepping outside our habits and taking a cue from nature presents the perfect opportunity to kick-start an early-rising routine.

La dolce vita at dawn

The Amalfi Coast is still shrouded in darkness as the first notes pierce the air. The score swells as the sun rises – a unique synthesis of music and landscape that makes the dawn concert one of the most lauded events at Ravello Music Festival each summer. By the time the orchestra reaches their crescendo, the Villa Rufolo clifftop stage is revealed in all its glory.

The crowd sits in spellbound silence. Inside their minds, however, it’s a different story: the rousing music instigates a rush of happiness, simultaneously putting any stress at bay. Music has been shown to heighten the production of ‘happy hormones’ oxytocin and dopamine, and these mood-boosting melodies seem only intensified in an enthralling al fresco setting.

With the concert commencing at 5am, night owls can join locals revelling round-the-clock in the town square beforehand. Alternatively, Caruso, A Belmond Hotel, Amalfi Coast offers an early wake-up call, with hot coffee and freshly baked pastries served as sustenance for the show. But of course, after the orchestra has taken their bow, a full breakfast awaits back on the hotel’s sunbathed terrace.

Waterborne awakening

Tempting as it is to snooze under crisp white cotton sheets at Hawaii’s oceanfront resort Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, there are myriad reasons for forcing yourself out of bed to join the Sunrise Canoe Paddle. Of course, it’s a feast for the eyes; daybreak paints the sky around the volcanic peak of Mauna Kea watery shades of violet, orange and pink. Then there are the sleep-filled nights. Rising with the sun aligns the body to the natural circadian rhythm, resulting in longer, better sleep.

Another reason to hop aboard is for an immersion into native Hawaiian culture, in which outrigger canoes have been a mainstay for some millennia. As sunrays begin to sparkle over the ocean’s surface, traditional indigenous chants and storytelling join the sound of gently lapping waves.

Sun salutations

Waking up both mind and body with an energising flow practice is appealing anywhere in the world – but it takes on a deeper resonance in Uttarakhand, the birthplace of yoga. Nestled in the Indian state’s hardwood forests, Six Senses Vana ushers in each new day with a 7am sun salutation.

Following resident yogi Manoj through a sequence of postures, distractions are tuned out and intentions are set. The muscles flex after the past night’s slumber and the senses slowly tune into the lush natural surroundings. Yogis step off the mat primed to make the most of the day’s plans – whether it’s a Tibetan medicine consultation, meandering along the resort’s walking trails or unwinding with Ayurvedic treatments in the spa.

A rising challenge

There are few more impressive ways to start the day than summiting an active volcano before sunrise. Mount Batur rewards active early-risers with mesmerising, mist-swathed vistas over north-western Bali, soaring some 1,717 metres above sea level.

The hike sets out from Capella Ubud, Bali by starlight, accompanied by a local guide, with physically fit climbers making the ascent in around two hours. Sunrise reveals the dramatic volcanic valleys below, pitted with calderas – cauldron-like hollows formed when magma chambers empty. The distant silhouette of the island’s tallest peak, Mount Agung, rises in the distance.

No wonder legends swirl around this place in Balinese folklore, which holds that Mount Batur was formed from the body of a buried giant. There’s time to savour the site’s spiritual ambience while tucking into a well-deserved breakfast at the summit. There’s something deeply moving about the sense of achievement that follows reaching the roof of the world.

These early morning moments are about more than waking up to smell the fresh air. They welcome in a new dawn that stretches the imagination, that brings deeper cultural connections and reveals sights you’ve never seen before – all before breakfast.