10 Summer Solstice Destinations to Put You in Touch with Mother Nature main image
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10 Summer Solstice Destinations to Put You in Touch with Mother Nature

1. Stonehenge

1. Stonehenge

Stonehenge was built so that on the summer solstice, the sun will rise above a rough-hewn rock outside of the circle, known as the Heel Stone. This is part of what makes Stonehenge such an endearing mystery—beyond questions of the ancient engineering required to build it, its astronomical precision is remarkable for the era. It's also a great place to party, with a 4-day Summer Solstice Festival offering camping, food, beer, cider, and music in a shindig that culminates with sunrise on the solstice itself.

(image via Flickr)

2. Reykjavik, Iceland

2. Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland, is in a sweet spot. It's in the "land of the midnight sun," which means that it gets unusually long and short days in summer and winter. It's also large enough and inviting enough that it's a fun, safe place to experience the phenomenon. As you might expect, the "longest day of the year" means something pretty significant here. The sun sets after midnight and rises again at 3 in the morning. The Secret Solstice music festival actually takes place before the proper solstice, but it's an event with big names like Radiohead anchoring it. If you don't make it out to the festival, you can at least enjoy Reykjavik's legendary nightlife...during daylight.

(image via Flickr)

3. Anchorage, Alaska

3. Anchorage, Alaska

Of course, you don't have to leave the U.S. to get a taste of the midnight sun. During the summer solstice, Anchorage gets 22 hours of functional daylight. They spend more or less all of that time partying. The Solstice Festival takes place downtown. This year includes the traditional "Hero Games" that feature local first responders and military units in athletic competitions like stretcher-carrying races. There's also a roller derby, a kids' play zone, a skate jam, a "Taste of Anchorage" food zone, and more. During the extra-long summer days near the solstice, the city usually also has concerts, parades, a fishing derby, a marathon, and more.

(image via Flickr)

4. Bar Harbor, Maine

4. Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor is the first place in the United States to see the sun's rise over the East Coast on the solstice. Cadillac Mountain, on Mt. Desert Island, rises up 1,528 feet over sea level, with a fantastic view in all directions to watch the golden light start pouring over the country. This year also marks the 100th birthday of nearby Acadia National Park.

(image via Flickr)

5. Machu Picchu

5. Machu Picchu

Since Machu Picchu is in the Southern Hemisphere, this is actually their Winter Solstice. June 21st (or thereabouts) is the shortest day of the year here, but this is still definitely the day to come. It's that day that the sun shines directly through the central window of the Temple of Inti and onto a large ceremonial stone. You probably won't get to tramp around inside the temple, but that's okay because you still get to party for the solstice. Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun, lasts for nine days and features old Incan costumes and rituals, historical recreations, and a ton of food and music.

(image via Flickr)

6. Kraków, Poland

6. Kraków, Poland

If you want to go full pagan, try Wianki. Local pagan custom involves sending handmade wreaths floating down the Wisla River. The event is a symbol of national pride, having lasted through a nation-wide adoption of Christianity, the Austrian annexation, and two World Wars. Though it's now largely associated with St. John, the traditions are decidedly earthier, with bonfires and more. There's also a more modern music festival that occurs in conjunction with the festivities, along with fireworks.

(image via Flickr)

7. Ottawa, Canada

7. Ottawa, Canada

Since 1996, June 21st has been "National Aboriginal Day" in Canada, and as such, Ottawa holds the Summer Solstice Aboriginal Festival in the days leading up to the solstice. The festival includes art and music from the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples of the region. You'll find a great deal of the usual fair celebrations—the live entertainment, a "family fun zone," and even a zip line. But you'll also find native culture woven into the observances, like an Inuit face-painting booth. Artists for 2016 include DJ Shub, formerly of infamous Canadian underground rap group A Tribe Called Red, as well as ArtCirq, presenting a Cirq-style performance of an Inuit legend, and Twin Flames, a rock band influenced by Inuit and Metis culture.

(image via Flickr)

8. Porto, Portugal

8. Porto, Portugal

Porto has one of the most famously beautiful bookstores in the world. It also has one of the biggest Saint John Festivals in Europe. Car rallies, dancing in the street, food, drinks, fireworks, and more light up the streets and the banks of the Douro River. Of course, like Wianki, the pagan rituals of the holiday remain. The festival takes place a couple of days after the solstice, but the party is big enough you probably won't mind.

(image via Flickr)

9. New York City

9. New York City

Manhattan is famously built on a grid system, and four times a year, the sun lines up with that grid perfectly letting you watch the sun set right over the street. This phenomenon was first popularized by celebrity astrophysicist and Hayden Planetarium director Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who also coined the term "Manhattanhenge." The occurrence can be viewed in May and July each year. If you're in town on the actual solstice, you can celebrate International Yoga Day. In New York, that entails lots of mats unrolling in the middle of Times Square.

(image via Flickr)

10. Lahaina Noon, Hawai'i

10. Lahaina Noon, Hawai'i

Lahaina Noon, like Manhattanhenge, doesn't fall right on the solstice. It happens in late May and mid-July and differs depending on where you are in Hawai'i. But if you're interested enough in the sun and the earth to travel to see the solstice, you'll want to see this. Hawai'i sits far enough South that it has a "subsolar point"—sometimes the sun is directly overhead, shining at a perfect 90° angle. While other tropical locales experience it, Hawai'i is the only part of the U.S. that is far enough south for the phenomenon to occur, which creates a bizarre and strangely beautiful effect on the surroundings. Any object that stands straight up casts no shadow. Trees, lamp posts, anything that stands straight up and down suddenly looks like it was badly Photoshopped into reality.

(image via Flickr)