Celebrate Spring's Arrival at These Top 10 Places Where the Sun Aligns
The travel experts at Cheapflights.ca, the online leader in finding and publishing travel deals, are celebrating tomorrow's official arrival of spring. Yes, spring! The season that brings warming temperatures, longer daylight hours, and nature's beautiful rebirth - all thanks to the annual arc of the sun. Along with the first day of spring, March 20th also witnesses the vernal or spring equinox in the northern hemisphere (and the fall/autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere) when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal. To kick off spring and to celebrate the power of the sun, the team has compiled their list of Top 10 Places Where the Sun Aligns featuring sites across the globe where you can witness the fiery sun's magical effects.
Below are four in the Americas that pay homage to the sun, lighting up in mystical and magical ways when our own personal star is in just the right spot:
• Chichen Itza, Mexico - Not far from the popular sun-seeker hot spots of the Yucatan Peninsula lie the ruins of the great Mayan city of Chichen Itza. Dominating the ancient site is the Temple of Kukulkan - known to locals as El Castillo - a large step pyramid dedicated to the feathered serpent god, Kukulkan. During the equinox, the 24 metre-high pyramid comes to life as the setting sun creates a shadow on the northern stairway that gives the effect of Kukulkan slithering down the temple.
• Hovenweep National Monument, Utah-Colorado, United States - Lying between present-day Utah and Colorado, Hovenweep National Monument is known for its collection of 12-13th century Puebloan (Anasazi) ruins. The structure that is of most interest this time of year is the Hovenweep Castle - a giant solar calendar. Built slightly later than the other structures on the site, the Castle is aligned in just the right way that during solstice and equinox light streams in through small openings in the walls at sunset hitting specific points above the interior doorways indicating the time of year.
• Machu Picchu, Peru - Built in the 15th century at the height of the Inca Empire, Machu Picchu was only inhabited for 100 years before the Spanish Conquest wiped out the local population - though no one knows for certain how this happened. The site was largely forgotten to the outside world, until the early 20th century when historian Hiram Bingham announced its discovery to the world. Many elements of Machu Picchu were dedicated to the Inca sun god (Inti) - their most important deity. The Intihuatana ("hitching post of the sun") is one of many ritual stones found throughout South America. The Intihuatana is believed to have been used as an astronomic clock and calendar by the Incas. At midday on Nov. 11 and Jan. 30 the sun sits above the stone casting no shadow at all, on the winter solstice the stone points directly at the sun and casts a long shadow on its southern side, then on the summer solstice a much shorter shadow is cast on its northern side.
• Easter Island, Chile - More than 880 statues (Moai) are found on isolated Easter Island, 3,700 kilometres from the coast of Chile. Ranging in size from a few feet tall to more than 30 feet and weighing up to 150 tons, the iconic Easter Island Heads were carved by the native Rapa Nui people from hard volcanic rock sometime after they first landed on the island in 300 AD. Thought to honour the islanders' god Make Make or important chiefs, the majority of the Moai are found around the beaches and face inland. However, the seven Moai at Ahu Akivi are a little different. Built around 1460 AD, each measuring 14 feet tall and weighing 12 tons, they face the point where the sun sets during the equinox.
Rounding out our list are various destinations around the globe where the sun aligns beautifully: Abu Simbel, Egypt; Stonehenge, England; Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, India; Brodgar, Scotland; Angkor Wat, Cambodia; and Leek, England. To read the bright details on these and Cheapflights.ca's Top 10 Places Where the Sun Aligns, visit www.cheapflights.ca/travel/top-10-places-sun-aligns.