Although Venus is a terrestrial planet similar to Earth, its atmospheric circulation is much different and poorly characterized1. Winds at the cloud top have been measured predominantly on the dayside. Prominent poleward drifts have been observed with dayside cloud tracking and interpreted to be caused by thermal tides and a Hadley circulation2,3,4; however, the lack of nightside measurements over broad latitudes has prevented the unambiguous characterization of these components. Here we obtain cloud-tracked winds at all local times using thermal infrared images taken by the Venus orbiter Akatsuki, which is sensitive to an altitude of about 65 kilometres5. Prominent equatorward flows are found on the nightside, resulting in null meridional velocities when these are zonally averaged. The velocity structure of the thermal tides was determined without the influence of the Hadley circulation. The semidiurnal tide was found to have an amplitude large enough to contribute to the maintenance of the atmospheric superrotation. The weakness of the mean meridional flow at the cloud top implies that the poleward branch of the Hadley circulation exists above the cloud top and that the equatorward branch exists in the clouds. Our results should shed light on atmospheric superrotation in other celestial bodies.