Celebrated across the globe, winter solstice marks the beginning of longer daylight hours, bringing with it the optimism that spring is on the horizon. As the sun rises and sets on December 21st, pay a visit to the northern hemisphere’s most significant winter solstice settings.
Like many ancient sacred sites, the Unesco World Heritage temples of Angkor Wat are thought to have been built with celestial events in mind, with solar alignment between the temple and a nearby mountaintop shrine, making winter solstice here especially significant. During your time here, stay at the palatial hotel Amansara in nearby Siem Reap or at the Belmond La Residence d’Angkor, each of which combines sprawling accommodation and luxurious facilities with verdant green surroundings.
Winter Solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year but one part of the northern hemisphere has fewer hours of daylight than almost anywhere else. In Iceland, there are just over four daylight hours making it one of the most surreal places to experience this celestial event with the longer hours of darkness making the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights even greater. Stay at the art-filled 101 Hotel in Reykjavik for its contemporary interiors and stylish restaurant and bar, or head away from the capital to stay at the converted Deplar Farm where the surrounding landscape is simply breath-taking.
It’s on Malta’s rugged southern coast that the temples of Mnajdra can be found. The three temples within this Unesco World Heritage Site date back thousands of years and are thought to have been built as an astronomical observatory, with the south temple here aligned with the sunrise at winter solstice. During your time on the island stay at the Relais & Chateaux property Xara Palace or in the capital Valleta at the historic Phoenicia Hotel.
People travel from far and wide to experience the winter solstice at Chichen Itza. It’s at this Mayan pyramid El Castillo that an optical illusion is created by the setting sun at this time of the year in which the light falling on the northern staircase resembles a snake’s body meeting the stone snake’s head at the bottom of the steps; the pyramid is dedicated to the serpent god Kukulkan. Use one of the Yucatan’s luxury boutique hotels as your base; we like the mansion hotel and spa Rosas & Xocolate, which is home to a chocolate shop, perfumery and tequila bar, as well as the perfumery Coqui Coqui’s residence and spa in Coba.
One of the most iconic sites for winter solstice is the prehistoric ring of standing stones, Stonehenge. People from across the world arrive here for sunrise to see the rays of early morning light perfectly align with the stones as well as to see the sunset here. Stay nearby at the historic manor hotel, spa and estate Lucknam Park.