The top 10 sunniest and darkest places on Earth

September 5, 2023 | Environment
Daylight: explore the sunniest and darkest villages and towns on the planet | Photo: Hardy/Creative Commons

Imagine a world without contrast, a monochrome tapestry of sameness. It's almost as unimaginable as a world without sunshine - or shadow.

But our beautiful blue planet, a mesmerizing masterpiece of natural artistry, thrives on contrast, and nowhere is this more evident than in the kingdoms of light and darkness.

Whether you dream under a sun that never sets or wake up to a morning that never fully breaks, Earth offers a spectrum of environments that pull at the very strings of our human experiences.

Below, you'll find yourself stepping into places where the sun is more reliable than a Swiss watch and venturing into territories where darkness paints the sky for much of the year.

From the scorching deserts of Arizona to the icy expanses of Iceland, from the luminous skies of Africa to the cloud-draped hills of the Faroe Islands, we journey through Earth's sunniest and darkest corners.

These villages, towns, and remote places feature the longest and shortest sunlight and daylight time.

So come along - grab your sunglasses or flashlight, as the case may be - and let's explore our global home's wonderful, contrasting mosaic.

Whether you're an aficionado of perpetual daylight or a connoisseur of eternal dusk, there's a place on this Earth calling you.

Prepare to be enlightened - and perhaps a bit shadowed - by the most fascinating destinations where the sun either perpetually smiles down or coyly hides away.

Monument Valley: a place of light and shadow | Photo: Busto/Creative Commons

The Top 10 Brightest Spots on Earth

Imagine a place where the sun seems to be in a perennial love affair with the sky, a locale where sunglasses are not just a fashion statement but an essential tool for everyday life.

These places exist. Let's get embraced by the world's sunniest places.

1. Yuma, Arizona, USA

Welcome to Yuma, Arizona, the sunniest place on Earth. This sun-drenched city basks in the glory of approximately 4,015 hours of sunshine each year. If you're a solar enthusiast, Yuma is your utopia.

2. Marsa Alam, Egypt

Marsa Alam: the Red Sea paradise enjoys 3,958 hours of sunshine annually | Photo: Creative Commons

Scaling up the list is Marsa Alam, Egypt, with an impressive 3,958 hours of sunshine annually. This Red Sea gem is both a diver's paradise and a sun worshipper's heaven.

3. Dakhla Oasis, Egypt

With a poetic name like Dakhla Oasis, you'd expect something special, and this Egyptian haven doesn't disappoint. It clocks in at 3,943 sunshine hours per year, making it a radiant spectacle amidst the sands.

4. Calama, Chile

Welcome to South America's sunny marvel, Calama in Chile, where the sun graces the sky for about 3,926 hours each year. Here, the Atacama Desert meets a sky ablaze with light.

5. Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Arizona makes the list again with its capital, Phoenix. About 3,871 hours of sunlight per year make it an ideal place for those who enjoy a constant vitamin D boost.

6. Keetmanshoop, Namibia

Introducing West Africa's sunlit jewel, Keetmanshoop, in Namibia, with an annual sunshine duration of 3,870 hours. This city serves you sunshine on a radiant platter.

7. Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Las Vegas: the desert city gets about 3,825 hours of sunlight per year | Photo: McBey/Creative Commons

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but the sun certainly doesn't shy away. This desert city gets about 3,825 hours of sunlight annually, shining brightly over the Strip and beyond.

8. Tucson, Arizona, USA

Another feather in Arizona's sunny cap, Tucson relishes approximately 3,806 hours of sunshine per year. The sun seems to have a standing reservation here.

9. El Paso, Texas, USA

Texan pride shines brightly in El Paso, which boasts about 3,762 hours of sunshine annually. From the Franklin Mountains to its historic missions, El Paso is sun-kissed in true Texan style.

10. Khartoum, Sudan

With approximately 3,845 hours of sunlight annually, Khartoum in Sudan is not just a political epicenter but also a sunny haven. However, this sunshine comes with a scorching temperature, often exceeding 107 °F (42 °C).

The Top 10 Darkest Corners in the World

As enlightening as the sunniest places can be, there are spots on Earth where sunlight is a rare commodity.

Let's take a walk through the darkest corners of the globe.

1. Totoró, Colombia

At the bottom of our sunlight scale, we find Totoró in Colombia. With a mere 637 hours of sunlight annually, this place gives new meaning to the term "overcast."

2. Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

Tórshavn: the capital city of the Faroe Islands only enjoys 840 hours a year | Photo: Wisselink/Creative Commons

From the green, misty hills of Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands, sunlight makes a modest guest appearance for about 840 hours a year. The ocean vistas might be endless, but the sunshine is decidedly limited.

3. Chongqing, China

Nestled in the heart of China, Chongqing registers only 954 hours of annual sunlight. In a city renowned for its spicy cuisine, the sun is somewhat less sizzling.

4. Dikson, Russia

Steering our gaze toward the Arctic, Dikson in Russia experiences about 1,164 hours of sunlight each year. It's a place where the sun is as sparse as the icy landscapes.

5. Malabo, Equatorial Guinea

You'd think Equatorial Guinea would be bathing in sunlight, but Malabo defies the stereotype with only 1,176 hours of annual sunlight. It's a rainforest-wrapped enigma.

6. Buenaventura, Colombia

Back in Colombia, Buenaventura graces us with approximately 1,178 hours of sunshine each year. The sun might be a bit elusive here, but the vibrant local culture compensates with its own kind of light.

7. Lima, Peru

Lima: the capital of Peru only sees about 1,230 hours of sunlight per year | Photo: Delso/Creative Commons

A surprising entry, perhaps, is that Lima, Peru, sees only about 1,230 hours of sunlight per year. In this coastal capital, the sun is as rare as a quiet moment in its bustling markets.

8. Ushuaia, Argentina

Known as the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina, experiences about 1,281 hours of annual sunlight. Even at the ends of the Earth, the sun is a reluctant visitor.

9. Reykjavik, Iceland

The land of glaciers and geysers, Reykjavik, Iceland, counts about 1,326 hours of sunlight each year. Here, the Northern Lights often steal the solar show.

10. Bogotá, Colombia

Rounding off our list is Colombia's capital, Bogotá, with an annual sunlight count of 1,328 hours. In this high-altitude city, the sun seems to prefer playing hide-and-seek among the Andean peaks.