5 Places to Experience the Summer Solstice

by  Amanda Black | Jun 21, 2013
Stonehenge / MajaPhoto/iStock

The summer solstice holds significance to many cultures, both old and new. For us, it simply marks the beginning of summer. But many religions have worshipped the solstice and even built monuments around it. So, instead of just buckling down for a barbecue and a beer, consider traveling to one of these spots around the world to witness some incredible phenomenons. Each provides visitors with a unique experience on the solstice – whether its illuminating a chapel in red light or the sun hitting a specific spot, you won’t be disappointed.

1. Bryn Celli Ddu, Wales
Translated into English, Bryn Celli Ddu means 'the mound in a dark grove,' and that's pretty accurate when you see it in person. You may not have heard of this lesser known spot in Wales, but it’s actually one of the world’s most well-preserved passage graves. On the summer solstice, the sun hits the stone in front of the cave and shines down into the entrance for 20 minutes.

2. The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
The Pyramids of Giza are spectacles in and of themselves. But, the summer solstice provides even more to look at for eager tourists. When the sun sets on the summer solstice, it falls below the horizon exactly in between the two largest pyramids – a pretty cool sight to see.

3. Stonehenge, England
The summer solstice is one of the few times during the year that crowds are allowed all the way through to the ruins at Stonehenge. Thousands of tourists gather to view the sunset on the 20th and the sunrise on the 21st (many stay from dusk until dawn to witness both). From the center of the circle, observers witness the sun rise above the Heelstone in the northeast. If you'd like, you can also camp out a few miles from the ancient site at the Stonehenge Campsite in order to get there first thing! 

4. Machu Picchu, Peru
Surely, Machu Picchu is a destination to be visited any time of the year, but it's especially exciting to travel there for Peru's winter solstice (which is the northern hemisphere's summer solstice). During the solstice, the sun shines directly through the central window of Temple of Sun (Inti) and onto a large ceremonial stone. If you can’t make it for the actual solstice though, join the festivities during Inti Raymi, a festival just outside of Cusco that celebrates the sun for an entire week.

5. Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland
Located just seven miles from Edinburgh's city center, visitors to this church on the summer solstice will be lucky to witness light hitting the eastern-facing "rose window." The small seemingly hidden chapel window (located at the very top of the building) illuminates the building with red light for an amazing effect.

Have you seen any of these things happen on the solstice? Tell us about it!

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