The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the day when the sun reaches its highest point, and the official start of summer. Clearly, that’s cause for celebration.
And while you may have a local event you can attend (Just about the entire city of Santa Barbara comes out for the Solstice Parade and arts festival June 22–24, while in Seattle, WA, the Fremont neighborhood invites you to “come celebrate the longest day of the year through profound street theater, public spectacle, and a kaleidoscope of joyous human expression.), many prefer to observe the arrival of summer in a more worldly setting. Like in one of these nine solstice hotspots around the world, perhaps.
Stonehenge is the ultimate place to be during the summer solstice. It’s estimated that 20,000 people will travel to Somerset, England to watch the sun rise directly above the heel stone (the large rock outside of the formation), and move into perfect alignment. Come for the history, come for the mythology, or simply come for the beauty of the ascending sun against these mysterious Neolithic structures.
Gone are the days when you might find lords and slaves celebrating together as they once did on the occasion of the summer solstice; during ancient Greek times, the day brought unity and revelry among all the social classes. Head to Kronia today, and you can ring in the solstice with another tradition: A climb to the top of Mt. Olympus.
The lines that form daily to enter the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, otherwise known as the Florence Cathedral (or, more colloquially, as “The Duomo”), may get even longer on the summer solstice. You’ll want to make a reservation to witness the phenomenon caused by one of the world’s oldest recorded astronomical tools, as documented by the Opera di Santa Maria’s archives, and the world’s highest (and one of the most accurate) at 90 meters tall: Mathematician Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli’s gnomom (the part of a sundial that casts a shadow). On the solstice, the sun’s rays penetrate Brunelleschi’s dome, illuminating the gnomom, which overlaps with the similarly shaped marble on the floor of the Chapel of Cross. If you miss it on June 21, you can see it again on June 27 and 28.
Paris has celebrated the summer solstice for the last 36 years with a massive international music festival—the Fête de la Musique. Up and down the Seine, in train stations, in Paris’ main squares and parks, including the Jardin des Tuileries, the Petit Palais, the Louvre, and in every arrondissement, live music breaks out—amateurs and professionals alike. This year, the celebration may be even more raucous, as France plays its round two World Cup match against Peru at 5pm in Russia, and any establishment with a TV in Paris is going to be packed with fans.
The pre-Columbian city of Chichén Itzá and its centerpiece, the Pyramid of Kukulkan, are worth seeing at any time of the year. But, to best appreciate the Mayan ingenuity, come for the summer solstice. At sunset, the light is cast in such a way that it appears as if a snake is slithering down the structure. This whole process takes about five hours and is thought to be a tribute to the “Feathered Serpent,” a Mayan snake deity.
Iceland is a hot travel destination for 2018, especially with the recent opening of the new luxury hotel, Blue Lagoon in Grindavík. Head into the capital city of Reykjavik—the northernmost capital in all of the world, for 72 straight hours of sunlight sandwiching the solstice. You can celebrate all night (and day and night again) in the numerous downtown bars that won’t close, or take part in the Secret Solstice festival, a music festival featuring a wide variety of acts from June 21–24.
The Pyramids of Giza
The spectacle of the pyramids becomes even more astounding on the summer solstice. Be there (and be camera-shooting-ready) to witness the sun sliding into the horizon, perfectly aligned between the two largest pyramids.
St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg will be bathed in sunlight for 19 hours on the solstice—more time for you to enjoy the White Nights Festival. This international music and arts festival in St. Petersburg’s Palace Square includes a series of classical ballet, opera, and music events. The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney have made appearances in recent years.
If you can’t make it to Stonehenge, descend upon Manhattan. Manhattanhenge, as it’s become known, is a phenomenon in which the sun lines up perfectly with the city’ street grid. As the sun sets, it illuminates Manhattan and its buildings in a warm glow unseen at any other time of the year. The full sun can be seen on July 12 at 8:20pm. But, that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t have something special planned for the day of the solstice. Head for the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue between 42nd and 47th Streets for the annual yoga fest, Solstice in Times Square, an entire day of free yoga classes to celebrate the zen of the solstice.