The Autumn Equinox is fast approaching, and it’s time to get ready. Touted as the first day of fall, the Autumn Equinox is one of the only two moments a year when the sun crosses the celestial equator. This year it arrives on September 22nd, and people are ready to welcome it (and autumn) with open arms. But that’s nothing new.
Throughout history, ancient civilizations celebrated both equinoxes with ceremonies and celebrations. And although these civilizations are long gone, you can still behold the wonders of their societies in the ancient ruins they left behind. Besides being jaw-droppingly impressive, many of these structures were specifically designed to honor an equinox. Here are a few ancient runs around the world that are best if you visit them during an equinox.
The Temple of Kukulcan – Mexico
Also known as El Castillo, this enormous step-pyramid on Mexico‘s Yucatán Peninsula was constructed between the 8th and 12th centuries. The Mayan people created the pyramid as a temple in tribute to the feathered serpent god Kukulkan. While the pyramid is impressive all year round, it’s particularly remarkable during an equinox. At that time, the sun hits a particular spot on the pyramid, which creates a series of strange triangular shadows. These shadows transform into the image of a feathered serpent slowly making its way down the steps of the pyramid. It’s an eerie and unforgettable experience for any traveler.
Mnajdra – Malta
Easily one of the most ancient religious sites on Earth, Mnajdra was built around the fourth millennium BCE. Scientists believe that ancient people in Malta used this amazing site primarily as a calendrical location to help them determine the dates of the year and celebrate the changing seasons. During the equinox, light moves through the main doorway at such an angle that it seems to illuminate the major axis. It adds a hushed, holy feeling to a place that is inconceivably ancient, and is not to be missed.
Chaco Canyon – New Mexico
This fascinating location in New Mexico is a goldmine of incredible sights during the equinox. Built by ancient Pueblo peoples, the site interacts with the equinox in a variety of manners: tracking the progression of the sun, as well as lighting up different corners of the Fajada Butte. Perhaps the most remarkable part is the famous “sun dagger” petroglyph. These ancient rock carvings are illuminated by the equinox sun in a detailed and precise fashion, giving lucky onlookers the distinct impression that they are witnessing intricately carved whorls being brought to life by the power of the autumn sun.
Stonehenge – England
What list would be complete without the famous Stonehenge monument? An intriguing and mysterious structure all the year round, Stonehenge is of particular interest to historians during the Autumn Equinox. Why? The site appears to have been built on axes that carefully line up with the progression of an equinox. Different parts of Stonehenge are lit by the sun depending on the season, and whether it’s an equinox or a solstice. Of course, the reason behind this structure remains a hotly-debated mystery, only adding to its appeal. Travelers from all across the globe can head to England and attend tours during the Summer and Autumn Equinoxes to get a first-hand look at these historical majesties. Witnessing the Autumn Equinox at Stonehenge should definitely be added to your bucket list.
You may have missed your chance to catch the Autumn Equinox at one of these sites, but you CAN start planning a trip for the Spring Equinox! Start researching fares via the widget below.