2015 is the United Nations Year of Light. To my mind, that’s a perfect excuse to get away to visit some incredibly illuminating places.
An ancient festival with its roots in The Western Han Dynasty or even earlier, thousands of lighted paper lanterns rise into the night sky to create a magical scene. During the festival, children will try to solve riddles on the lanterns, and to adults, letting go of the lantern into the sky can be symbolic for letting go of problems. The lanterns are almost always red to symbolize good fortune. In Hong Kong, the festival is celebrated as a Chinese equivalent to Valentine’s Day, but the best place for viewing is Zigong in the Sichuan Province, where lantern making has become an art form. In 2015, the festival falls on March 5.
One of the best ways to celebrate the UN Year of Light is to visit the City of Lights. According to NASA, the Las Vegas Strip is reputed to be the brightest spot on earth because of the sheer number and concentration of lights. Along with the billions of bulbs, there’s an estimated 15,000 of neon tubing on the strip alone. Along with glitz and glimmer, visit a museum dedicated to light-the Neon Museum Boneyard, where old neon signs go to retire.
These mysterious lights often appear, somewhat sporadically, above the Chihuahuan desert east of Marfa. Described as basketball-sized, the glowing orbs hover, twinkle, merge, split into two, and dart across the Mitchell Flat. No one really knows what they are, and there are only speculations about their source. Although rare, take a chance and head out to the viewing platform for the best angle.
The Northern lights are an amazing show, and the best place to catch that show is in Abisko. At its Aurora Skystation, you are only 125 mile from the Arctic Circle, but a very long way from anything else. There is lodging and food nearby, so you can stay the night if you plan ahead. Then, take the lift up to the sky station to really absorb the impact of the beauty, not only of the Northern Lights but of the millions of stars not often visible because of competing light. Come between September and March for the best viewing.
While in daylight these little creatures may be creepy, by night they make up for it by displaying amazing luminescence. Both the larvae (the worm) and the gnat glow. They live in moist, sheltered areas like the Waitomo Caverns, where you can descend and float through the caves on a boat or inflatable tube, gazing at ceilings that glow like a starry night. The caves are located about a three-hour drive from Auckland.
No, it’s not a vision inspired by Amsterdam’s famed cannabis cafes, but a museum dedicated to fluorescent art. Electric Ladyland, the first museum of its kind, invites you to descend into tit underground dayglo gallery, complete with surreal images and magical fairytale-like atmosphere. Not only can you view this strange underground world, but you can learn about the history of inflorescence and take in a collection of glowing rocks.
For 10 days each October, Berlin becomes magical. The landmarks and thoroughfares around the city become canvases of light, and images are projected onto buildings form 7 p.m. to midnight. Take a light-seeing tour around the city, available by bus, boat, walking or even Segway. The tours may cost a little bit, but touring the city on foot and ogling the marvelous displays is free.
These places will light up your life! Di you ever even hear of the UN Year of Light before?