No matter where you travel to there’s one piece of advice I’d give you — get out to explore in the mornings. Not at 10am, but at first light. The earlier the better!
I know you night owls are yelling at me saying, “No way am I getting up at sunrise!” But I promise — it will be so worth it.
So what makes mornings such a wonderful time to explore when you’re traveling?
You avoid the midday crowds
Many places will fill up from about 10am to 4 or 5pm. This is often when cruise ships have pulled into port, loaded people on buses, then arrive at said site or destination. It’s when a lot of tours simply happen so it’s a busy time.
I saw this on the Greek Island of Santorini. And the Italian hill town of Orvieto (about an hour from Rome). There will be loads of people to share the cobblestone streets with, the beautiful cathedral with and the charming shops with. You don’t want this.
Get your ass out of bed at 7am and go for a walk. If a site is open at 8am, check it out then. Enjoy the quiet, tourist-free streets. Yes, some shops will not be open yet. But usually the food markets are. Grab some of the freshest produce or bread of the day. And enjoy the tranquility.
You get to be with the locals
The locals will be beginning their days. They’ll be scurrying off to work, catching a bus or train or simply walking to the office. Shop keepers will be readying their stores for customers. The coffee bars will be busy as the locals grab their coffee at the bar, drink it down then hurry off to work.
This is a special time. For me, it’s why I travel — to be with the local folks and see them live their daily lives.
I remember being up just a bit after sunrise in Venice. It was mid-June, so Venice was packed during the day. But this particular morning, as I went out to run, was quiet. I saw the Venetians, briefcases in hands, hurrying toward the vaporetto so they could get to work on time. Deliveries were being made to the markets and shops. I heard conversations between the locals as they went about their daily lives.
There was nary a tourist in sight. It was heaven.
And often, because there aren’t other tourists and travelers about, you actually can have conversations with the locals. Yes, I realize there might be a language barrier, but there’s always a way to communicate with gestures and facial expressions. Smiles and laughter are the same — in any language!
To me, this is the absolute best reason to be out early.
You get to see the light changing on the landscape or cityscape
As a photographer, the beginning of the day — sunrise — and the end of the day — sunset — are the best times to photograph as the light is gorgeous.
But even if you aren’t a photographer, there’s something pretty magical about watching that changing light on the vineyards of Burgundy or the Swiss Alps or the Roman Colosseum or Big Ben.
And what better time than when the world is just waking up. It’s peaceful as you sit and watch the shadows turn to warm light and notice as the stars disappear, the sky going from a deep blue to a lighter shade of blue. Don’t miss this magical hour. And don’t forget your camera.
You get to experience magic
I think the above 3 reasons lead to this time being magical. Some of my most treasured travel memories come from mornings.
Running along the dirt path above the Aegean Sea in Bozburun, Turkey, watching the sun warm the mountains surrounding the turquoise waters.
Wandering through the streets of Paris as markets opened, the smell of freshly baked bread filling my nostrils.
Running through the streets of Oia, Santorini with the street dogs by my side nipping at each other in fun.
Driving along the southwestern coast of Ireland with all its charming harbor towns.
Marveling at the history and architecture of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain with just a handful of other visitors.
Magical times. Cherished memories.
There’s nothing quite like it.
So get your ass out of bed and enjoy just one morning while you’re traveling in Europe — or anywhere else.
I guarantee that you won’t regret it.
And I’m willing to bet that it will be one of your most beloved travel memories…