Where to Celebrate Summer Solstice

Where to Celebrate Summer Solstice

by Cecilia Dos Santos
Where to Celebrate Summer Solstice

The summer solstice, that ephemeral moment when the sun seems to stand still, marking the Northern Hemisphere’s longest day, is not just an astronomical event. It’s a global celebration of life, light, and the season’s fullness. For cultural enthusiasts and adventure seekers, the solstice presents a unique opportunity to blend history with spectacle in some of the world’s most captivating destinations. Whether you’re drawn to ancient customs or modern-day festivities, read on for a rich exploration of where to make the most of this celestial occasion.

What is the Summer Solstice?

flower field

Every year, between June 20th and June 22nd, the summer solstice occurs. Officially, it is heralding the onset of the summer season in the North. Astronomically, it’s the day when the Earth’s axial tilt is leaning most towards the sun. This means that it is gracing many regions with extended hours of daylight, a phenomenon adulated by cultures through the ages.

Defining the Summer Solstice

This day is distinctive not only for its record hours of sunshine. It is also known and celebrated for the spiritual significance and customs it has inspired. Celebrations differ around the world but are often unified in their recognition of the sun’s life-giving properties and the fecundity they promote.

Cultural Outlook

The significance of the solstice carries profound cultural meaning, as it does astronomical. From the Stone Age and the first circles of Stonehenge to the more recent gatherings at the Santa Barbara coastline, the solstice has been a time to honor the sun. Often reflected in ritualistic practices and communal rejoicing.

Why Celebrate the Summer Solstice?

summer solstice during sunset

Astronomical Phenomenon

The tilt of the Earth’s axis toward the sun during summer not only provides longer days but also marks the direction of the summer solstice sunrise (or sunset, in the Southern Hemisphere). The predictable event has been the subject of much architectural and astronomical planning, as seen in the alignment of various ancient sites.

Cultural Traditions Round the Globe

People around the world take part in varied festivities that usually involve fire, music, and dance. Celebrations, rooted in both ancient and modern practices, honor themes of renewal, abundance, and community. From the Baltic States to the Southern Cone, the day is filled with unique local customs and events.

Best Places to Celebrate Summer Solstice


When planning your summer solstice adventure, certain destinations offer standout experiences, blending rich history with vibrant contemporary celebration.

Stonehenge, England

Ancient Ceremony Meets Modern Revelry

Stonehenge, a prehistoric stone circle, is one of the most famous places to experience the solstice sunrise. For decades, people have gathered here to witness the sun’s alignment with the Heel Stone. The atmosphere is a blend of solemnity and festivity, as you’ll find modern druids sharing the space with revelers. The occasion marks the backdrop for the annual Stonehenge Summer Solstice Festival, featuring music, arts, and enriching historical talks.

Are you into historical sites? Check out our top 10 historical travel destinations here!

Visiting Tips: Ensure to secure a Special Access ticket in advance, as entry is often limited. Dress warmly, expect large crowds, and prepare to be respectful of the historic site.

Reykjavik, Iceland

The Midnight Sun in the City of Fire and Ice

Iceland, the land of the midnight sun, offers an ethereal experience for solstice observers. This Nordic oasis, bordered by geysers and glaciers, engages in the Secret Solstice music festival. It hosts world-class acts in a unique 72-hour celebration bathed in continuous sunshine. For a more intimate expression of the solstice, local communities host smaller gatherings and traditional dance events like the Reykjavik Midsummer Music festival, inviting all to partake in the festivities.

Visiting Tips: Book accommodations and festival tickets early, and don’t forget your sunscreen — there’s no darkness to hide from Iceland’s perennial sun.

Santa Barbara, California

A Beach Party with a Story

Santa Barbara’s annual Summer Solstice Parade is a kaleidoscopic extravaganza with elaborate floats, colorful costumes, and a medley of music echoing along the Pacific coastline. The event is a mix of Mexican, Spanish, and Chumash heritage, reflecting the multicultural vibrancy of the region. Crowds later convene on the beach for bonfires, drum circles, and a sense of community fitting for the sun’s celebration.

Check out our guide to a road trip on the Californian coastline here!

Visiting Tips: Arrive early for prime parade and beach spots. Engage with locals to understand the historical context of the event.

Tlaxcala, Mexico

The Land of the Sun

Tlaxcala, known as the “Land of the Sun,” is home to magnificent solstice celebrations rooted in ancient Aztec and Mayan traditions. The day is marked with rituals and dances that honor the cosmic forces of the sun and earth. The cultural and historical importance of the solstice is keenly felt in Tlaxcala’s festivities, with community feasts, processions, and elaborate fire ceremonies.

In love with Mexico, but not sure where to go? Read our Mexico travel guide!

Visiting Tips: Arrange for a local guide or join a tour to fully appreciate the indigenous customs and their significance.

Stockholm, Sweden

Midsummer Magic in the Capital of Scandinavia

In Sweden, Midsummer’s Eve is celebrated as one of the most important days of the year, second only to Christmas. In Stockholm, the solstice is a time of delight, with festivities that spill onto the city streets. The iconic Midsummer celebrations see locals and tourists alike donning traditional folk costumes, feasting on herring and new potatoes, and participating in the joyous frog dance around the maypole.

First time in Sweden? Read this to find out when else you can visit the city!

Visiting Tips: Engage with the locals to join their celebrations and learn more about their customs. Prepare for a day of joyful, sociable revelry.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Incan Custom at the Clearing in the Cloud Forest

The ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu holds special significance as a location for viewing the solstice. During the Inti Raymi festival, which honors the Incan sun god Inti, visitors can experience traditional rituals and live demonstrations of life as it was in the time of the Incas. For the best experience, consider a guided tour that includes special access to the sunrise on the solstice morning.

Read our blog post about the most spiritual places around the world, and read more about Machu Picchu.

Visiting Tips: Plan well in advance, as access to Machu Picchu is controlled, and availability is limited. Respect the site and its sanctity during your visit.

Glastonbury, England

Alternative Celebrations with a Sprinkling of Mysticism

For those seeking a more esoteric and spiritual connection to the solstice, the town of Glastonbury offers an array of retreats, workshops, and ceremonies. With its historical and mythical ties to Avalon, Glastonbury has become a haven for holistic practices and alternative beliefs. The solstice sees the ancient hill of Glastonbury Tor come alive with modern-day druids, pagans, and spiritual seekers, while the summer solstice market in the town offers a more earthly celebration.

Visiting Tips: Immerse yourself in local customs and folklore by participating in workshops and ceremonies to gain a deeper understanding of the solstice’s mystical allure.

Newgrange, Ireland

Ancient Halls Aligned with the Rising Sun

Newgrange, a Neolithic passage tomb, is one of the most historic sites associated with the solstice. The site is older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. More than that, it is aligned with the winter solstice sunrise, offering a spiritual corridor to the past. Newgrange is open to a few lottery-selected visitors each year on the summer solstice, offering a rare opportunity for direct connection with ancient traditions.

Visiting Tips: Because access is limited, enter the lottery early to secure your place. Even if not selected, the surrounding area and local events are worth experiencing.

Tips for Planning Your Summer Solstice Trip

flower wraith

For such an auspicious occasion, thorough preparation ensures that your experience is both seamless and profound.

Timing is Everything

The best way to enjoy the solstice is to align your travel plans with local celebrations. Be mindful of dates and consider adding a buffer of a day or two to your itinerary to adjust for potential delays or, better yet, to fully immerse yourself in the experience.

Secure Your Space in the Sun

Accommodations, particularly in popular destinations, can fill up quickly. Be sure to book well in advance. Especially for events that may have limited capacity, such as at Stonehenge or Newgrange. Find your hotel now here!

Travel Light, Travel Right

Pack essentials for both the climate and the day’s activities. A visit to Iceland will demand warm clothes, while sun protection is key in California. For the more immersive events, consider the cultural appropriateness of your attire.


The summer solstice is a day of universal significance, and its celebrations offer a unique window into the cultural and historical tapestry of our shared human experiences. Whether you seek to connect with ancient civilizations at Machu Picchu, dance around the maypole in Sweden, or join a drum circle in California, each celebration is an intimate part of a global phenomenon. Mark your calendar, pack your spirit of adventure, and set out to welcome the summer sun in a way that speaks to your heart.

In this interconnected world, where ancient wisdom meets modern revelry, the summer solstice stands as a testament to the enduring power of the sun and the light it brings to our collective consciousness. May your summer solstice adventure be as bright and as full as the day itself, and may you find joy in the melding of cultures and the warmth of the global community. Happy solstice seeking!

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