At 14:58 GMT on June 21, 2023, the earth will experience the June solstice. This is the point of greatest daylight for those of us who live in the upper hemisphere.
While many people let the summer solstice pass without note, those of us who pay attention to astronomic events know it’s an exciting day. Additionally, people around the world have long celebrated the solstice with a variety of cultural festivals and activities.
In this post, learn about some of the best cultural festivals and summer solstice celebrations all over the northern hemisphere. The dates and details are updated for 2023. You’ll also learn about some unique natural phenomena that only occur at the summer solstice.
This post was originally published in June 2018 and was updated most recently in June 2023.
What is a Solstice?
The solstice occurs on the day that the sun reaches its highest point, also called its “northerly excursion” during the June solstice in the northern hemisphere, in the sky at noon, local time. In the northern hemisphere, the June solstice is the “longest day” of the year, with the most daylight hours.
Solstices occur because of the axial tilt of the earth, which also creates different seasons in the different hemispheres.
When is the Summer Solstice in June 2023?
This year, the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere will occur at 14:58 GMT on June 21, 2023; this is about six hours later than it occurred in 2022.
Where to Celebrate the Summer Solstice
Summer solstice celebrations take place throughout the northern hemisphere on or near June 21st. Here, we’ve selected some of the most unique and interesting cultural celebrations of the solstice. On this list, you’ll find music festivals, traditional experiences, and even a bit of nudity!
Fairbanks, Alaska, USA – Midnight Sun Baseball Game & Festival
Fairbanks, Alaska is only 140 miles south of the Arctic Circle, so they know how to celebrate the solstice right. Fairmanks’ summer solstice celebration is all about celebrating the ‘midnight sun!’
At the Midnight Sun Festival each year, you can visit a twelve-hour street fair and watch live music from over 30 acts. The Festival takes place on the Saturday closest to the solstice, so June 24th this year.
Additionally, on the solstice itself, you can watch a midnight sun baseball game, with the first pitch at 10:00 pm. The game goes right through midnight and proves that it truly doesn’t set in Fairbanks at the solstice!
Seattle, Washington, USA – Fremont Fair
Many other U.S. cities may not experience the same dramatic increase in daylight that Fairbanks does, but still celebrate the summer solstice. Seattle is one of those cities, with a massive festival in the Fremont neighborhood. This year, the Fremont Summer Solstice Art Fair will take place from June 17-18, 2023.
The festival includes a craft market, live music at small venues, and food and drinks served at festival gardens throughout the neighborhood. The Fremont solstice fair also includes a parade, and attendees can also enjoy stationary floats throughout the neighborhood as temporary public arts.
Learn more about the parade and more on the official Fremont Fair site.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival
Ottawa, in Canada’s Ontario province, has one of the most interesting cultural festivals in the country. If you’re interested in learning about First Nations culture and heritage, the Ottawa Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival is the place to experience the solstice. This event focuses on summer solstice traditions from the First Nations people.
This celebration is full of food, drinks, family activities, and a traditional powwow. As the picture above shows, it’s a visually stimulating cultural celebration that will get your heart pumping in rhythm with the traditional drums!
After two years of cancellations due to the COVID-19, the festival returns with its in-person celebrations this year. It will be hosted in the Mādahòkì Farm (traditional and un-ceded territories of the Algonquin peoples) from June 21-25, 2023.
Learn more on the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival website.
Stockholm, Sweden – Midsommar Festivals
The summer solstice in Sweden – also called Midsommar – is celebrated throughout the country. In the Swedish capital of Stockholm, this year’s celebration will take place on Friday, June 23rd. While there isn’t a huge, organized festival, most Swedes head toward the countryside or a favorite island in the Stockholm Archipelago. There they decorate Maypoles and take part in traditional dancing.
One of the most visit-friendly options takes place at Lägret in Vaxholm, a small set of islands that is a 37-minute drive, or take the popular ferry route to visit Vaxholm for the day. Here you’ll experience summer solstice traditions for the Swedes first-hand.
Learn more about festivities in the Stockholm area on the Visit Stockholm website.
Helsinki, Finland – Juhannus Festival
Like its Scandinavian neighbor, Finland also celebrates the summer solstice, called Juhannus. Traditionally, Juhannus was a privileged time to celebrate weddings and the Finnish used to cast fertility or love spells around this time.
While it is a national holiday, there are no official celebrations. Instead, people gather with friends and family and retreat in their cottages in the countryside. There, they spend the day barbecuing, lighting bonfires, fishing, and boating. Bathing in saunas is another popular way to celebrate.
Learn more about Juhannus and other traditions on the Visit Finland website.
Tirol, Austria – Mountaintop Bonfires
In Austria’s southern region of Tirol, Austrians celebrate with a tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages. For centuries, locals have created massive bonfires atop many of the mountains. They then light them as the sky goes dark on the longest day of the year. These fires turn the mountaintops into beacons and cast a mystical effect across the whole mountainous region.
In 2023, the bonfire lighting will take place on Saturday, June 24th in a number of locations across the Tirolian Alps. If you miss this date, a few other locations have other dates throughout the summer.
Learn more about the solstice bonfires on the Tirol tourism website.
Kuldiga, Latvia – Jāņi Festival
Latvia isn’t one of Europe’s top destinations, but that makes the summer solstice a great excuse to finally plan a trip. Each year, Latvians mark the solstice by celebrating the Jāņi Festival, which dates back to the Middle Ages. This is one of the most interesting ways to experience historic European summer solstice traditions.
This celebration takes place this year on June 23rd and 24th and is celebrated by creating floral wreaths, heading out into nature, lighting bonfires, traditional singing and dancing, drinking beer, and eating Jāņi cheese (a sour cheese made with caraway seeds). It’s a perfect celebration of nature and the changing of seasons, mixed in with some unique cultural experiences.
Learn more about the Jāņi Festival and how to celebrate on the Latvia Travel website.
Kernavė, Lithuania – Joninės Festival
Lithuania has long celebrated the shortest night of the year. First, their ancestors, the Balts, would celebrate Rasos by offering sacrifices to the pagan gods. With the advent of Christianity, the festivity shifted to celebrate Saint John the Baptist and was renamed Joninės.
While Lithuanians celebrate Joninės all around the country, the biggest events concentrate on Kernavė. Locals have recovered some of their pagan traditions and celebrate Joninės with big bonfires, fortunetelling rituals, dancing, garlands, and charms.
Joninės Festival takes place on June 24th, 2023.
Unique Natural Sights You Can Only See on the Solstice
In addition to the cultural celebrations noted above, you might want to celebrate the solstice by admiring the natural phenomena that occur on the summer solstice. Below you’ll find four interesting natural sights that only occur on the solstice. While some of these involve human construction, all take advantage of the earth’s rotation and placement of the sun in the sky.
Longyearbyen, Norway – The Midnight Sun
How far north can you go? In Longyearbyen, Norway, the answer is ‘not much further.’ One of the northernmost cities in the world, Longyearbyen is the largest city in Svalbard, deep in the heart of the Arctic ocean.
If you’re looking for the true Midnight Sun, there’s nowhere more obvious to find it. The sun rises on April 19th and doesn’t set fully again until August 23rd! On the summer solstice, the sun literally doesn’t go down in Longyearbyen circling the small city well above the horizon.
Orkney, Scotland, UK – Standing Stones of Stenness
The Standing Stones of Stenness date back to the Neolithic period when they were erected by the people who lived in Orkney, the far north of Scotland. The stone henge, possibly the oldest in Britain, has survived through the centuries and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On the summer solstice, the stones align with the rising and setting sun. While there are no major festivals or celebrations at the site anymore, it’s likely the case that for millennia, early inhabitants came to mark the changing of seasons at these stones.
Stonehenge, England, UK – Perfect Alignment
In southwest England, Stonehenge is perhaps the world’s most famous stone circle. How the massive bluestones which make up the circle came to this part of England is still a mystery – as well as how they were arranged in such elaborate formation.
Aligned for the summer solstice, Stonehenge is actually closed for normal admission on the solstice itself. Instead, you can show up to see the stones for free. In 2023, there are no restrictions in place for public health. However, you still want to plan ahead if you want to attend. Once there, you’ll enjoy the company of others who come to respectfully watch the sunrise above the heel stone and through one of the remaining stone arches.
Learn more and plan your visit to Stonehenge on the English Heritage site.
Cairo, Egypt – Sunset Between the Pyramids
Destinations near the equator are often overlooked at the summer solstice – after all, the change in sunlight between seasons is less noticeable at these locations.
In Giza, near Cairo, there is one special natural phenomenon that occurs on the solstice though. As the sun sets on the summer solstice in Egypt, you can observe the sun setting between two of the famous pyramids in Giza.
Bonus! Visit Giza at the vernal (spring) equinox in March. You can see that the Sphinx faces due east, looking directly at the rising sun on the equinox.
Experience the Winter Solstice Instead!
Not interested in celebrating the summer solstice, or you live in the southern hemisphere? You may want to experience one of these winter solstice celebrations instead.
Hobart, Tasmania – Nude Swim
Down in Hobart, Tasmania, the Tassies celebrate the winter solstice in a very unique way. Each year, over 1,000 Tasmanians strip to their skin and run into the Derwent River for a quick dip!
The event marks the end of the Dark Mofo Festival, an art and music festival that takes place in June each year. Luckily, the festival is back for 2023, so you’ll enjoy tons of events besides seeing the brave souls who take a swim in the 53ºF (12ºC) water.
For 2023, the Dark Mofo Festival is scheduled from June 7th to 22nd, and the nude swim will be at 6-8 am on that last day.
Cusco, Peru – Inti Raymi Festival
Peru is famously known for its Inca ruins like Macchu Pichu. However, there’s a lot more of Inca culture to experience on your trip. If you visit over the winter solstice in Peru, you can observe the Inti Raymi Festival on June 24th this year.
The Inti Raymi festival celebrates the Inca god Inti (Quechua for “sun”). It marks the beginning of the return of the sun to Cusco, Peru. In the time of the Inca Empire, as many as 25,000 people would attend the festival. Today, you can watch reenactments of the festival and one of the largest Inca celebrations in the world.
5 Ideas to Celebrate Summer Solstice At Home
Not able to travel this summer? Don’t worry! Here are a few ideas to help you celebrate the summer solstice no matter where you are.
- Have a Garden Bonfire. Steal ideas from the Finnish or Latvians and built a bonfire in your garden. You can invite a few friends or your family and eat around the fire while listening to music.
- Go Camping. The summer solstice is a perfect time to go outside and get in touch with nature. Find a nice camping site near home or go to a national park if you’re feeling adventurous and enjoy a night in the woods.
- Practice Sun Salutations. It’s undeniable that the summer solstice has an air of mysticism. Sun salutations are a perfect alternative to bring out your spiritual side on the longest day of the year.
- Embrace the Earth with some Gardening. This may be one of the “long-term” celebrations for your summer solstice. Plant a tiny seed and experience the magic of watching it grow and flourish.
- Bring out your Creativity. Find a nice spot under the sun and paint Mandalas, write poems, or make art using flowers or things found in nature.
Will you be celebrating the summer solstice this year? How so? Let me know in the comments, and I wish you a long, bright day to mark the new season.