Sunset at the pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt
Photograph: Nick Brundle Photography / Shutterstock.com

The 11 best places on earth to celebrate summer solstice

It’s the longest day of the year – wring every drop of magic out of it at these ultimate sun-worshipping solstice spots

John Bills
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The summer solstice is here – in the northern hemisphere, anyway. The solstice falls between June 20 and 22 each year, but is traditionally celebrated on June 21. Also known as midsummer, summer solstice marks the time when the Earth is most tilted towards the sun, making it the longest day of the year. And since the sun is responsible for all life on Earth as we know it (no biggie), the solstice celebrations around the northern half of the globe are justified and then some.

There are plenty of ways to celebrate summer solstice: the destinations where June 21 is a big deal embrace pagan rituals, the magic of light, and everything from mountain-top bonfires to candyfloss. Set those clocks (or sundials) and get ready for something marvellous. And to the good people of the southern hemisphere: don’t fret, there are only six months to go until it’s your day in the sun.

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☀️ The best places to celebrate the summer solstice in the UK

The best places to celebrate summer solstice

Reykjavik, Iceland

Like candyfloss? You’ll love the summer solstice in Iceland: the pink stuff is a traditional part of the celebrations, which come shortly after Iceland celebrates its independence day on June 17. But there’s plenty more to midsummer in Iceland than fluffy sugar, as the country (and particularly its capital, Reykjavik) lets its hair down and parties from sunrise to sunset. Thanks to its northern latitude, that is a whopping 21 hours of partying, so you’ll probably need all the sugar you can get.

Stonehenge, England

The otherworldly atmosphere of Stonehenge is at its most potent during the summer solstice, as thousands make the pilgrimage to England’s Salisbury Plain to experience one of the world’s great spiritual happenings. What to expect at Stonehenge on the longest day of the year? Druids, for one, and a mass of humanity watching the sun come up behind the Heel Stone before projecting its power into the heart of the complex. There is nothing quite like it.

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Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage’s Summer Solstice Festival is one of the most magnificent on the planet. Alaska’s biggest city shimmers with 22 hours of sunlight on the longest day of the year, coming alive with various events to make the most of every second. Artists and musicians turn downtown into one big creative party, and a guided historical tour explores the city in (literally) a different light.

Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

Midsummer is a big deal in Sweden. Some have even suggested adopting it as Sweden’s national day. The big celebrations are always on a Friday (in 2023, that’s June 23), as Swedes from all over the country embrace heritage and tradition through games, food, social fun and that all-too-inevitable late-night skinny dip. (Hey, it isn’t every day you can go for a sunlit swim in the Swedish evening.) Cenral Stockholm is relatively quiet on this day as many locals head to the countryside, but midsummer parties take over public spaces around the city – including the traditional-Swedish open-air museum Skansen – and the many islands of the Stockholm Archipelago.

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Giza, Egypt

Summer solstice serves up some seriously stunning images as the sun hangs high over some of the world’s beautiful landmarks. Still, the aesthetics are just half the story regarding the the pyramids of Giza. On this magical night, the sun sets between the two famous pyramids, leading some to believe that the complex was strategically positioned to make the most of the celestial alignment. Visit during the summer solstice and judge for yourself.

Newgrange, Ireland

Sorry, St Patrick: Ireland’s pagan heritage is still going strong. The summer and winter solstices provide ample opportunity to key into that history, with the cairns at Newgrange top of the list. This incredible megalithic stone tomb is among Ireland’s most awe-inspiring sights, and its stones and passages – carved with mysterious spirals – are illuminated at both the summer and winter solstices.

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Greenland

Something about glistening sunshine and monolithic ice caps sets the emotions alight. In fact, pretty much everything about Greenland – the massive island straddling the Atlantic and Arctic oceans – has a bit of wonder and magic to it – but visiting for summer solstice is a real once-in-a-lifetime experience. June 21 is Greenland’s National Day (known locally as Ullortuneq), and is devoted to celebrating the culture and history of this fascinating place.

Ottawa, Canada

Despite being Canada’s capital, Ottawa is a seriously underrated city, especially during the longer days. The Ottawa Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival is a thrilling celebration of the country’s Indigenous culture, showcased through creativity, history, heritage, education and some of the country’s most delicious dishes. The festival runs for five days, with the solstice in the middle. It takes place at Indigenous Experiences’ Mādahòkì Farm, just south of downtown.

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Tirol, Austria

Summer solstice celebrations worldwide are packed with music, food and fun, and you’ll find plenty of that in Austria, but Tirol likes to do things a little differently. How does a bonfire on top of a mountain sound? A little sinister, we’ll admit, but there is something mesmerising about the image of a burning pyre above town. The tradition goes way back, all the way to the Middle Ages, as the south Austrian area pays homage to its spiritual roots. Head to Tiroler Zugspitz Arena for the best experience.

Shetland, Northern Isles

Photographers, get ready. Darkness takes a day off on the Shetland Islands at this time of year, leaving a gorgeous twilight that fills the sky instead. This is the ‘summer dim’, creating a photogenic atmosphere worth every second of waiting. Summer Dim is a stunning period here, with a tremendous amount of history and tradition behind every speck of light.

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Longyearbyen, Norway

To truly experience the summer solstice, you need to head north. We’re not talking about just the north either; we mean north north. In Longyearbyen, the biggest town in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, the sun doesn’t set at all between April and August – so a visit here for the solstice should make those destinations where the sun sets for just a couple of hours seem like amateurs. It’s golden hour all night long here, so let go of your body clock and bathe in the midnight sun. Oh, and watch out for walruses.

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