There are places in the world that are known as spiritual or sacred. When visiting these sacred sites, some may feel a connection with the divine, others might simply appreciate the history and some might admire the architecture.  When you visit, maybe you’ll find religion, you may feel an energy or connection.

By traveling, you’re able to experience these interpretations first-hand. You might find beauty, connectedness, knowledge, or inner peace when visiting these highly spiritual places in our world.

No matter where you travel, you’ll discover that humans have long constructed their own ways of interpreting this amazingly beautiful world of ours. Each culture has created their own way of paying homage. Some spiritual places have no shrine, but instead an energy.

Whether or not we accept those beliefs of a culture, I find it fascinating and enlightening to learn about the different cultures on our planet, their beliefs, and faith. The presence of faith elevates these spiritual places, making them more than mere stone or tree.

30 of the Most Spiritual and Sacred Places in the World

Sacred Sites of Asia

Amarnath Shrine in Jammu and Kashmir, India

Amarnath Shrine in Jammu and Kashmir, India

The Amarnath is one of the holiest and ancient shrines of lord Shiva in India. It is located at an altitude of 3,888 m about 141 km from Srinagar. Lord Shiva is enshrined in the form of an ice-lingam in this cave. This ice stalagmite lingam is formed naturally, which is believed to wax and wane with the moon.

The ice stalagmites form at its best during the months of July and August and thus the Amarnath pilgrimage occurs during those few months only. The pilgrimage begins at Chandanwari and reaches Amarnath Cave after 43 km of a trek with night halts at Seshnag Lake and Panchatarni camp. The trekking path is one of the most beautiful ones in India.

Legend has it that Lord Shiva had divulged the immortal secret of the universe to his consort Goddess Parvati at Amarnath. On his way, he lets go of all his companions one by one – he leaves his ride Nandi, the Bull at Pahalgam. At Chandanwari, he lets go of the crescent adorning his hair, the snakes at Seshnag, the five elements at Panchatarni and finally his son Ganesha at Mahagunas Top to finally reach the secluded Amarnath cave.

Amaranth pilgrimage is one of the most sacred pilgrimages of the Hindus. It is a place where communities unite together. Contributed by Amrita & Agniswar from www.taleof2backpackers.com 

Baba Harbhajan Singh Shrine, India

Baba Harbhajan Singh Shrine, India

One of the greatest spiritual places in the world is the shrine of Baba Harbhajan Singh in East Sikkim, India. The shrine is located in the district of East Sikkim where pilgrims come from all corners of the world to seek his blessings.

Harbhajan Singh used to operate in the military hundreds of years ago and he was dedicated to his profession and work. He was the head of the military forces operating in the area. He used to beat people when they were found not to be working in their working hours and kept a vigil on everyone in the premises.

He died at a young age and his body was not found after is death. Every year the government plans a memorandum in his memory in the city premises. People also come from all around the world to seek his blessings and enjoy the spiritual jaunt. Contributed by Somnath Roy of www.travelcrusade.org

Badrinath Temple, Uttarakhand, India

Badrinath Temple, Uttarakhand, India

Badrinath Temple in Uttarakhand is located at 10,000 feet between the folds of Garhwal hills, along the banks of river Alaknanda. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is also known as Badrinarayan temple or Vishal Badri.

The temple is believed to have Buddhist origin and later in the 8th century was converted to Hindu temple by Priest Adi Shankara. But according to the Hindu Legends, Lord Vishnu sat here in the midst of Himalayas for meditation, being completely unaware of the harsh weather conditions.

His consort Goddess Lakshmi couldn’t stop herself seeing this and she protected him from the cold by forming Badri tree. The Badrinath town used to be rich in Badri trees till 1979 which bear Jujube or Indian Dates. Seeing the devotedness, Lord Vishnu got pleased and named this place as Badrika Ashram.

About Badrinath Temple

The Badrinath temple architecture and convention of bright colors completely leaves one transfixed. The temple stands proudly on the plinth; between the two mountains Nar and Narayan, overlooking River Alaknanda. Just outside and below the temple, there is a Tapt Kund (hot water sulphur spring).

Inside the temple, the main shrine houses 1 meter tall Black stoned image of Badri Vishal, housed in a gold canopy under the Badri tree. While circumambulation around the main shrine; one too can find certain more idols of Goddess Lakshmi, Garuda, Lord Hanuman etc. Further, there are two more ponds in the temple known as Narad Kund and Surya Kund.

The temple can be reached via bus, cab or personal car. It lies 538 Kilometres from Delhi.

Temple Timings: 4:00 am to12 noon and 3:00pm -10p.m
Best time to visit: Between May – October. Temple remains closed for 6 months during winters

Contributed by Suruchi Mittal from www.allgudthings.com

Koyasan, Japan

Koyasan, Japan

On paper, the journey to reach Koyasan – as Mount Koya is respectfully known in Japan – seems a bit convoluted. But the travel (most commonly undertaken from Osaka or Kyoto, via train, cable car and bus) is actually a very beautiful journey and well worth it to visit the country’s spiritual center of Shingon Buddhism.

Brought to Japan in 805 by Kobo Dashi, the Shingon Buddhist sect’s headquarters are based on this remote mountaintop, and there are several historical temples here, many of them offering a unique overnight experience to guests, including observation of the monks’ prayers, participation in meditation sessions and a traditional Buddhist vegetarian meal.

A key attraction of Koyasan is Okuno-in, the site of Kobi Dashi’s mausoleum, located within a vast graveyard in the woods, the largest cemetery in Japan with over 200,000 tombstones. During the hours of dusk, lanterns are lit along the pathways through the moss-covered stone memorials and shrines. Even in the daytime, the tall forest canopy filters the sunlight, creating a beautiful interplay of light and shadow.

Travel to Koyasan by train from Osaka to Gokurakubashi, changing at Hashimoto if a direct train is not available. There, take the cable car up the mountain, and finally a ten-minute bus ride from the top station into the town center. Contributor: Kavita Favelle 

Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

Golden Temple or Sri Harimandir Sahib is the holiest pilgrimage site for Sikhs. Nevertheless, the temple opens its doors to the followers of different religions from all over the world. According to statistics, 35% of all visitors of the temple are not Sikhs.

If you love architecture, the interiors of the temple can capture your attention for hours. You can sit inside and savor the detailed and intricate design and the peaceful atmosphere. There is also a museum on the territory of the temple, where you can get an insight about Sikhism. Beyond the fascinating looks and religious importance, you can feel an invisible mechanism that runs the temple 24×7. Starting from cloakroom to langar (meal) that serves up to 50 000 people daily! There are volunteers helping around the clock to run the operations.

Golden temple is the key place to visit in Amritsar city, state Punjab. Amritsar is well connected by train and bus network with other major cities in the north, which makes it convenient for travelers. Since this is a popular site, you will find different accommodation options in the city from hostels to hotels. Dress modestly and cover your head while entering the temple. You can bring your shawl or buy Amritsari famous orange scarf. — Contributed by Natalia Shipkova from Mytriphack.

Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

Jerusalem is one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s holy to the world’s three major religions, and there are significant spiritual sites everywhere you turn. The site that is most meaningful to me is the Garden Tomb.  Believed by many Christians to be the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection from the dead, believers from around the world gather here to celebrate His life and resurrection.

The Garden Tomb is set in a peaceful garden just outside the walls of the Old City, where the Muslim call to prayer can be heard while Christians worship. >

I’ve visited the site on five different occasions, and it’s always one of the most moving parts of my time in Jerusalem, as I am surrounded by believers from all over the world. It is not uncommon to hear familiar hymns sung in several languages, uniting Christians in belief and song.

Whether or not this is the true site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection is insignificant. What is important is that it is a place where people from around the world come to this place to worship the God who is no longer in this -or any- tomb.

The Garden Tomb is open to visitors every day except Sunday from 8am to 7pm. Join a free guided tour or visit alone for a time of quiet contemplation. When I visited with a group, we had a special ceremony in the garden where we sang and took communion together. — Contributed by Brittany Kulick from  www.thesweetwanderlust.com

Great Pyramids of Gizah, Egypt

Great Pyramids of Gizah

The Great Pyramids of Gizah are a true wonder of the world and should be high on every traveler’s bucket list. I was lucky to visit the pyramids in early 2018 and I can confirm that they are as great as people expect them to be. The pyramids were built almost 5000 years ago and served as tombs for the pharaohs at this time, and nowadays it’s still hard to understand how people were actually able to build a site like this so many thousands of years ago.

The pyramids are located directly in Cairo and the best way to reach the area is by Uber – make sure to get dropped of directly at the entrance and not before, where the touts will try to sell you expensive transport.

The entrance fee to the pyramids was surprisingly low (about 2€) and it’s possible to explore the site either by foot or by camel. If you want to visit the inside of the pyramids, you need to get an extra ticket already at the entrance. While the area directly around the pyramids and especially in front of the famous Sphinx can be quite crowded, I recommend walking a little bit further away into the desert for an amazing view of all six of the pyramids.

The best time to visit is probably in the afternoon when the sun is slowly setting and shining on this wonder of the world.

The Great Pyramids of Gizah were one of my highlights of traveling around Egypt, so make sure to visit soon! Contributor: Patrick Muntzinger

Jerusalem, Isreal

Jerusalem, Isreal

I don’t think it would even be possible to visit Jerusalem’s Old City without somehow being irresistibly drawn to the Western Wall. The holiest place on earth to religious Jews, the wall looms above a large plaza that teems with people: locals and tourists.

Men, their heads covered with a kippah or a black hat, pray in the larger, left-hand section. They stand close to the wall, sometimes touching, almost caressing it, deep in prayer. Women, their heads draped in scarves, have a smaller section on the right, but pray just as fervently. Tourists snap pictures, mostly ignored.

What’s interesting to me about the Western Wall is that it isn’t the wall itself that is holy; a retaining wall originally, it is all that is left of the Second Temple, built in 19 BCE and destroyed in 70 CE. The real holy place is behind it on the hill above, on the spot where the “Holy of Holies” stood: where the tablets of the Ten Commandments were kept.

On that spot today is the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine with a golden dome, believed to be the spot where Muhammed’s journey to heaven started. This is the third holiest place in the world to Muslims, after Medina and Mecca.

Not only that but one of the holiest places in the world for Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is very nearby. The endpoint of the Via Dolorosa that winds through the Old City, It marks the spot where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, buried and resurrected.

The proximity of so many locations holding so much importance to three major faiths is what makes this a spiritual place, even for the casual visitor. This juxtaposition is intense and fascinating and definitely worth seeing for yourself. Contributed by Rachel Heller from rachelsruminations.com

Lumbini, Nepal

Lumbini district of Nepal

Not many visitors to Nepal know that the Buddha’s birthplace is actually in Nepal and not India. Located in the southern region and close to India is Lumbini, the actual birthplace of the Buddha.

A very important spiritual center and pilgrimage site, Lumbini hosts large monasteries from around the world to celebrate the teachings and life of the Buddha.

The monasteries and temples typically reflect and are created by what the countries particular design style, art, sculpture and other related religious artifacts that are celebrated in their country and create a unique representation of the Buddha and his teachings.

This makes the experience of visiting Lumbini and seeing all of these temples, monasteries, and landmarks dedicated to the Buddha from around the world a fascinating visit with so many different ways of how the Buddha is represented. To see more images and details to the monastery and temple visits, check out this Lumbini post for more inspiration.

Mount Kailash & Lake Mansarovar

Mount Kailash & Lake Mansarovar

If there’s god in this world, s/he must be resting in nature somewhere. To find this god, I took a trip to Mount Kailash & Lake Mansarovar which is located in Tibet. This mountain is a holy place for 3 religions – Hinduism, Buddhism & Jainism. It is not as accessible like other tourist destinations in the world though.

How to visit Mount Kailash & Lake Mansarovar?

If you are an Indian, you can avail the government lottery system (happens every year) where they randomly choose a number of people for the pilgrimage. It is not as cheap as other pilgrimages but still cheap compared to international trips.

If you are not an Indian (or Indian who wants to visit these places privately), you can either choose any major travel agency who arranges trips to Tibet (not recommended) or contact people who take small, private groups to Tibet (totally recommended). Do note that it is not possible to travel to these regions of Tibet alone.

There are multiple ways of visiting Tibet. Most obvious is by taking a flight to a major Chinese city – from there to Lhasa – from there, hire a car to get around the region. Another option is to take a flight to Kathmandu, Nepal – Drive to Nepal-Tibet border – Take 4×4 (with a driver) and go around the region. The latter one is more scenic.

Since I am a Hindu & Jain both, I knew a lot about its history & it was an awe-inspiring moment when I finally saw it in real. Lake Mansarovar is HUGE! It takes a lot of time to take so much of nature & its beauty together. I sat near the shore of the lake for hours.

I remembered so many things about my past that I normally don’t think about. Tears were flowing throughout this time & I didn’t know why. But I know one thing, when I got up from there, my heart was lighter than ever.

Magic? Belief? Faith? I don’t know but I want to go back again. Contributed by Parampara- Parichay www.awaradiaries.com

Sulaiman-Too, Kyrgyzstan

Sulaiman-Too, Kyrgyzstan

Sulaiman-Too in the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan and it is one of my favorites in the world.  The site is at a rock that protrudes out of the middle of nowhere in the Fergana Valley of western Kyrgyzstan and offers some absolutely stunning views of the city and beyond.

The site became famous as it was once the site of a Muslim and pre-Muslim pilgrimage in Central Asia.  Sulaiman-Too’s five remarkable peaks are home to many ancient places of worship and caves that contain petroglyphs.  The area is also home to two 16th century mosques.  The museum seen on the side of the mountain is actually a famous piece of Soviet architecture that was built in 1978 to celebrate the 3,000 year anniversary of the city.

Osh is a can’t miss city for those traveling in Central Asia.  The best way to get here is by a bus or shared taxi from Bishkek.  You can also fly, but depending on the time of year, you may encounter issues with the weather (and the road trip to Osh from Bishkek is one of the most beautiful in the world). — Contributed by Megan Starr from meganstarr.com

Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro, Bhutan

Tiger's Nest Monastery in Bhutan

Located precariously the side of a cliff in the Paro Valley is one of Bhutan’s sacred and most iconic temples, the Tiger’s Nest, or Paro Taktsang Monastery. The site is reached via a 2-hour long hike climbing 900 meters and ending in 700 stairs leading to the monastery.

The original temple was built in 1692, around the cave where Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Bhutan’s Buddhism, meditated for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours in the 7th Century.

According to legend, Guru Rinpoche flew to the cave on the back of a tigress. He then meditated inside the cave to subdue the evil demons residing in the cave turning them into deities. This is where monastery takes its name. The cave has been considered a holy site since this time. Today it is still a working monastery with monks living here.

It is the most visited place in Bhutan, and the reason why many tourists come to Bhutan. The walk is extremely popular. If you are going to hike to the temple, leave early as the trail gets very busy. The temple is located at 3120 meters, so many people spend a couple of days in Bhutan to acclimate to the altitude before attempting the hike. — Contributed by Elizabeth Rudd from www.compassandfork.com

Check current hotel reviews for Paro Valley on TripAdvisor.

Do it: A 14 night Pilgrim’s Paths trip costs from £2,970, including Kyoto, temple stays at Mount Koya and walks along the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails. Flights not included. Departures tailormade. Inside Japan (0117 370 9751;

Sacred Sites of Australia

Uluru

Uluru, Australia sacred site

Uluru is one of the most iconic destinations in Australia. The world’s largest monolith, it is located at the end of the Lasseter Highway (it’s so famous, a highway was made just for it!) and is a must-visit on a road trip through Australia’s Red Centre.

To visit, you’ll want to stay in Yulara – the town built for Uluru’s tourism. There are hotels, a campsite and a hostel at the Ayers Rock Resort. Entry to the Uluru/ Katja Tutja National Park costs $25 for a pass that is valid for three days.

When visiting, remember how special a place this is for the Indigenous Australians. It is a highly spiritual location for them – Aboriginal culture worships natural formations rather than man-made structures – and has been a focal point of local Indigenous life for thousands of years.

Ceremonies have taken place around Uluru, it provided shelter and native Australians have used the flora and fauna around the rock for food for millenniums. One thing that the natives never did was climb it – which is why tourists shouldn’t either. Contributed by Claire Martin 

Sacred Sites of Europe

Glastonbury, England

Glastonbury, England Spiritual site

The small Somerset town of Glastonbury, in the heart of England’s West Country, has been a center of great spiritual significance going back to prehistoric times, at least 4,500 years ago.

It’s situated in the low-lying land of the Somerset Levels, an area prone to flooding, at the base of a conical hill that dominates the landscape, Glastonbury Tor. It’s one of the area’s most important spiritual sites, and is crowned by the ruined tower of the church of St Michael – and it’s a great viewpoint over the surrounding countryside, the Bristol Channel and the distant mountains of Wales.

Much of the medieval town remains – the high street has a 15th-century church, several old houses, and a historic inn, the George and Pilgrim, dating back to the late 15th century.

The most important site in the town is the ruin of Glastonbury Abbey, which was destroyed on the orders of King Henry VIII along with all other abbeys and monasteries around England and Wales. According to tradition, a church was founded by Joseph of Arimathea – who helped bury Jesus Christ – on the site, and King Arthur was reputedly buried in the Abbey.

Many visitors to Glastonbury also head for the Chalice Well, an ancient spring reputed to have healing and curative powers.

The name Glastonbury is also linked to one of the world’s most famous music festivals, which is actually held seven miles (11 km) from the site at Worthy Farm, near the village of Pilton.

Glastonbury’s History

Glastonbury is believed to be the fourth Earth chakra, the Heart. Glastonbury Tor was an initiation center for Druidic priests and priestesses around 4,500 BC, and the area was also home to stone circles, temples and fertility sites. The area is also a meeting point of ley lines, channels of spiritual energy.

According to legend, Joseph of Arimathea brought the Holy Grail – the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper – with him, and that it remained in Glastonbury, being kept at the Abbey, and this gave rise to its popularity as a pilgrimage destination in the Middle Ages. The site of the Lady Chapel at the Abbey, the easternmost part of the church and just beyond King Arthur’s supposed grave site, is the most powerful location on the Abbey site, where two ley lines converge.

Glastonbury is also believed to be the mystical Isle of Avalon of Arthurian legend, and Glastonbury Tor would have been an island at some point before medieval times, surrounded by marshland. — Contributed by David Angel from delveintoeurope.com

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania

Hill of Crosses is located in Northern Lithuania

The Hill of Crosses is located in Northern Lithuania near the town of Siauliai. This is one of the most spiritual locations of Lithuania. The Hill of Crosses (as the name suggests) is basically a hill, covered in many wooden crosses, brought there by local Lithuanian and foreign Catholic pilgrims. No one has counted the exact number of crosses, which are place on the hill, but the estimated number is over 200.000.

The first crosses appeared on the Hill after the 1890 and became considered as a sacred place after 1900. More and more pilgrims came to visit and to leave their own cross or wooden carving of Jesus, Virgin Mary or the saints. In 1993 the Pope visited the Hill of Crosses, which made this place even more holy in the eyes of the Catholics from all over the world.

To visit the Hill of Crosses, you can travel to the town of Siauliai by car, bus or train. From Siauliai there is a short (12 km) trip to the hill. You can also take a guided tour with transport from either Siauliai or any other major city in Lithuania.

Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina

medjugorje

Medjugorje is a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina, not far from Mostar. Since the 1980’s it has attracted Catholic pilgrims from around the world due to reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Six school children allegedly saw the Virgin Mary appear in 1981 and claim to still receive messages from her to this day.

Over 40 million visitors have since come to Medjugorje and an average of a million visitors a year now visit. The streets of Medjugorje are lined with stores selling souvenirs and Catholic artifacts such as rosary beads and prayer cards. Unfortunately, a lot of it does seem quite commercial and tacky but it’s still an undeniably spiritual and powerful place to visit.

The best way to visit Medjugorje is to either self-drive or go on an organized pilgrimage. There are even options to stay in the homes of the original people who received the apparitions (now obviously adults!). We did a day trip from Croatia and aside from a small wait at the Bosnian border, it was very easy to drive there with no parking problems even in August.

While you’re there you can visit Saint James Church, which holds regular mass services and has also been the location for some of the apparitions. It’s believed that true pilgrims should also climb to two holy sites in Medjugorje – the rocky path up Mount Podbrdo, also known as Apparition Mountain and the site of the first appearance of the Virgin Mary, and also to visit the 16-ton concrete cross atop Mount Krizevac. — Contributed by Kylie Gibbon of Our Overseas Adventures

Meteora, Greece

Meteora, Greece

In Meteora, Greece, ancient monasteries perch precipitously atop vast rock pillars, standing elegant and powerful, high above the town of Kalambaka. It is, without a doubt, one of the most incredible places of spiritual significance that I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting.

The six monasteries of Meteora are majestic and quite simply unique. The atmosphere is one of palpable awe, peace, and sublimity. Leave Athens and the island hopping behind; a visit to this remarkable part of the World should be a must for anyone visiting Greece.

In practical terms, Meteora is situated about 350km North West of Athens and is easily accessible by car, bus or train. When you’re there, you can hike up to the monasteries, take a bus, or, for a price, go on one of the huge selection of tours available. Each monastery requires a €3 per person donation upon entry.

The history of Meteora is fascinating too. The site assumed its religious significance, as a home for monks, as early as the 11th Century, but the monasteries weren’t built until a few hundred years later.

Construction must have felt like a daunting prospect at the time. The buildings are positioned hundreds of meters above the ground and were accessible only by rickety contraptions of ladder and rope until the 1920s when steps were carved into the rock. Their remote location and lack of accessibility provided the Monks’ refuge and protection at numerous points through history.

Now, of course, the unfathomable location of these magnificent buildings is exactly what makes for such a profound, divine experience for any visitor. — Contributed by Danny Newman from www.coddiwomp.co.uk

Montserrat, Spain

Montserrat, Spain

The Montserrat Mountain is one of the major landscape features in Catalonia. Since it’s a mountain situated in the middle of a quite flat plain, it can be seen from many points of the region. Even the shape of the mountain is attributed to divine intervention, but due to a large number of religious sites found between the mountains, it’s considered to be the spiritual heart of Catalonia.

The legends say that the statue of the Black Madonna (found today over the main altar of the Montserrat Monastery) was carved from wood by St. Luke in the 1st century. It’s believed that later the statue was brought to Catalonia, where it was hidden in the Santa Cova (the Holly Grotto). Local shepherds who saw a bright light and heard holy music discovered the statue in the 9th century.

The Black Madonna statue can be seen now in the main monastery and a copy is exhibited in a small chapel that was built in the place where the statue was discovered.

If you hike in the Montserrat Mountain area, you can visit many other small chapels and shrines. Walking around these spiritual sights and feel the energy they transmit is one of the most gratifying experience you can have while you visit Barcelona. Montserrat can be easily accessed from Barcelona on a day trip either by public transport or by car.

Mount Saint Michel, France

Mount Saint Michel, Spain

Mount Saint Michel is one of the most spiritual (and most visited) places in France. Located in the region of Normandy, its proximity to the French capital makes Mount Saint Michel one of the most popular day trips from Paris.

We find the origins of this holy place in the VIII century, when Abbot Aubert received during his dreams the visit of Saint Michel, the Angels’ leader, asking the abbot to build a chapel in his honor. In the X century, a group of Benedictine monks settled in this first sanctuary and make it grow to turn it into a major place of pilgrimage and culture in the Christian West.

Since then, Mount Abbey has been visited by millions of pilgrims and (today) tourists and they are always fascinated by the beauty of its architecture and its spirituality.

Why would you like to visit Mount Saint Michel? The abbey has a fantastic location, built on a small peninsula which becomes an island with the high tides. If you have the chance to visit the abbey during the days of higher tides, usually after the full and new moons, you can watch the water rise at the speed of a galloping horse,” as the saying goes. The abbey is also a great place for architecture lovers, with different architectural styles from the IX century to its XIX century restorations.

Finally, you can do like medieval pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James), and add Mount Saint Michel in your itinerary: that first view of Mont Saint-Michel, surveyed by the archangel’s gilded statue sent their spirits soaring. — Contributed by Elisa Subirats from worldinparis.com

Newgrange, Ireland

newgrange, ireland

Newgrange is Neolithic monument in Ireland’s Ancient East that was constructed about 5,200 years ago, making it older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza. Newgrange is a large circular mound, believed to have been a royal tomb. The mound is ringed by 97 large curbstones, some of which are engraved with symbols of megalithic art.

In order to get to see Newgrange, you must get your ticket at the Brú na Bóinne Visitors Centre. The cost is €7 Euros and that will give you access to the megalith and the museum.

Once your ticket is purchased you take a short walk over the River Boyne to where the shuttle buses are waiting to take you to the site. At the site a guide meets you.

Your guide introduces you to the history and archaeology of Newgrange and leads you deep into the tomb itself. Inside the tomb, you are treated to a re-enactment of how the solstice sun penetrates the tomb, exactly as the people who built it intended. It feels like a moment out of time watching the sun creep through the opening and illuminate the interior of the tomb.

There are so many who want to attend the true solstice at Newgrange that they gather at dawn to see this event. The tomb is so small that Newgrange holds a lottery every year to grant access to the few that can fit within the tomb. It must be one of those life events that live in your memory forever. These solstice celebrations take place towards the end of September and are broadcast around the world

Standing on the hills at Newgrange you can feel a little of what those early pagan tribes felt at the magnificence of the sun and the beauty of the land they lived in.

Reims, France

Reims, France

Reims’ cathedral is worth a visit for many reasons. It’s only 45 minutes by train from Paris, has a stunning effigy to Joan of Arc that isn’t to be missed, and boasts double the statuary on its exterior compared with Notre Dame de Paris.

Upon visiting, if you can tear your eyes away from the cathedral’s magnificent, centuries-old stained glass scenes and 20th-century chapel windows, you’ll notice two very plain, very special stones embedded in the main aisle.

The first commemorates the 5th-century martyrdom by beheading of Saint Nicasius – founder of the first church on the site of the current cathedral. The second commemorates the early 6th-century baptism of Clovis I, the first king of the Franks and the first Merovingian king, by Saint Remigius on this site.

There are a number of stories around the former event, the most incredible being that the oil used to baptize Clovis was presented by Heaven itself. Some say it was brought down by a dove, while other sources say the ampule miraculously filled as an answer to prayer.

Regardless, the Holy Ampulla now resides in its reliquary next door to the cathedral, in the Palace of Tau’s treasure room. And the cathedral’s holy and regnal history made it the site of the coronation of each successive French monarch throughout the centuries.

So, site of miracles? Check. Site of the baptism of one of Europe’s first great rulers? Check. Site of at least one high-profile martyrdom? Check. And finally, site of moving art and architecture created to celebrate the glory of a higher power? Check. For those looking for a truly spiritual place to explore, look no further.

St. Brigid’s Cathedral and Perptual Flame, Ireland

St. Brigid's Cathedral and Perptual Flame, Ireland

The cathedral of St. Brigid is located in Kildare town, about 30 miles south of Dublin.  While St. Patrick is the patron Saint of Ireland, St. Brigid is the Patroness Saint of the country.  Converting to Christianity at a young age, Brigid taught across the island and started several monasteries.

But it was in Kildare, where she performed her first miracle and built her church beneath an oak tree. (Kildare translates to the church of the oak.)  Here, Brigid built both a men and women’s monastery, a scriptorium, an art school, and a metalwork school. It was also here that she tended the perpetual flame, in the fire pit behind the cathedral.

There are numerous holy wells and shrines to Brigid across Ireland, including in the town of her birth, Faughart.  Many followers make the annual 9-day pilgrimage in July, following the Pilgrim’s Way, from Faughart to Kildare. It is said that this walk awakens the creative feminine power and unites it with their masculine strength.

In Kildare, visitors can worship in the cathedral, and from May to September, climb the round tower to see all the land once owned by the church.. Below the tower, the original fire pit remains.

The fire was extinguished by Henry VIII, but it was relit in 1993, and still burns within the sculpture in the town square.  Along the outskirts of town, the Solas Bhride Centre is the home of the Brigidine Sisters where further learning can be found.

And nearby, is one of the most widely known holy wells of St. Brigid, where one can pray and sip the healing waters. — Contributed by Roxanna Keyes of www.gypsywithadayjob.com

Sanctuary of Fatima, Portugal

Sanctuary of Fatima, Portugal

The Sanctuary of Fatima is the biggest pilgrim destination in Portugal with thousands of Christians pilgriming every year from all over Portugal and Europe to worship the Virgin Mary of Fatima.

The reason the Shrine was built in tribute the Virgin here, was because of her apparition in May 1917 to 3 shepherd children, Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia. Mary revealed 3 secrets to the children. And, in October 1917 occurred the Miracle of the sun, where the Virgin Mary appeared in front of a crowd and performed miracles. Due to these events, a Sanctuary was built in this place, so Christians can pray to the Virgin Mary.

The Sanctuary is very big with a big Basilica, several Chappells, an Oak tree (where the Marian apparition occurred) and a big open space for people to pray.

About 4 million pilgrims visit the basilica every year, and due to the big affluence of pilgrims it has the title of “shrine of the world”. Thirteen of May is the date of most significance as it is the apparition day and when most pilgrims gather in the Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary of Fatima has great significance for the Roman Catholics, especially the Portuguese. It is a peaceful and pleasant place to visit even if you aren’t a believer. Contributed by Cláudia & Jorge from www.couplertw.com

Santiago de Composte, Spain

Santiago de Composte, Spain

Santiago de Compostela literally means St. James under a field of Stars, and it’s where Catholics believe that St. James’ body is laid to rest. The city’s cathedral marks the end of the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, which is a walking pilgrimage that dates back to the middle ages.

Whether you choose to participate in your own Camino or come to Santiago de Compostela on your own, it’s a very spiritual city since you will see many pilgrims spilling into town. Watching the euphoria on their faces as they enter the square in front of the cathedral, you will witness people of all ages, races, nationalities, and all walks of life celebrating one of the most spiritual moments in their lives.

I completed the last 113km of the Camino, walking from Sarria to Santiago. Even though I am not a religious person, I found myself breaking down in tears at the pilgrim’s office as I talked with them and received my Compostela (certificate for completing the pilgrimage).

Afterward, I went and sat in the small chapel and balled my eyes out. I hadn’t felt this connected to Catholicism since my first Communion at age six. And though I am not a Catholic anymore, I am thankful for the experience I had in the city.

If you choose to come without taking a pilgrimage, the city is easily accessible by train or bus and also boasts its own airport. No visit to the city would be complete without visiting the Cathedral and walking around the historic center of the city. Contributed by Stephanie Craig of sofiaadventures.com

Walsingham, United Kingdom

Walsingham, United Kingdom

Walsingham became a pilgrimage site because of the apparitions In 1061. Lady Richeldis had a vision where the Virgin Mary took her to Nazareth to show her where the Angel Gabriel had appeared to her.

As Mary instructed, Richeldis built a copy of the Holy House in Walsingham.   Inside the Walsingham Holy House, they kept a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary with Jesus seated on her lap. Years later, the Priory was built around the Holy House.

Unfortunately, the shrine and the statue were destroyed during the Reformation. A replica of the Holy House was built in the early 20th century, and Walsingham once again became a pilgrimage destination.

Walsingham is a charming little village in Norfolk, England, that is popular with tourists as well as pilgrims.   You should visit Our Lady of Walsingham, the church with the replica of the Holy House and the Catholic Church known as the Slipper Chapel.

Walsingham Abbey is now just ruins but becomes a very popular destination in the early spring when the snowdrops bloom. From mid-March through the end of October, there is also a tourist steam train that you can ride from Wells on the Sea to Walsingham.

Unfortunately, Walsingham is not easily accessible by public transportation.  The best way to get to get to Walsingham is to drive.

Sacred Sites of North America

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

The diverse country of Guatemala has abounding things to offer, but not many of them are so widely praised as Lake Atitlan. Hidden amongst three volcanoes in the Guatemalan highlands, the lake’s ecosystem blends characteristics of the mountain and tropical climate.

With its all year round mild weather is a perfect spot for active or leisure vacation, although many foreigners made it their permanent home. Picturesque landscape is only a background for diverse local culture inhabiting the place for many centuries, with Mayan descendants living in numerous traditional communities.

Each village around the lake and there are plenty, has its distinctive character and atmosphere, one can choose from authentic spots to popular backpackers destinations. The lake is two hours away from Colonial city of Antigua Guatemala, easily accessible by frequent shuttles.

The origin of the lake is well known, attributed to the intrusion of a vast volcanic crater, but the source of its powerful energetic impact remains a mystery.

Widely celebrated by indigenous people, the lake shores host many different traditional ceremonies, rooted in Mayan Cosmology, one of them being New Year’s celebrations.

Sacred fires, songs, and fragrance of burnt offerings fill the air for several days, resembling the ancient rituals, taking place in the city of Samabaj. Spiritual island town has been hidden underwater for many years, most of its history and size still untouched.

One can discover numerous sacred places that remain or visit a sinful saint of Maximon, a fascinating mixture of Mayan and Catholic religion. Taking its place in the town of Santiago, the saint accepts everyone who is brave enough to find him in the labyrinth of narrow city streets.

Sacred Sites of South America

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca straddles the border of Peru and Bolivia at an altitude of 3,800 meters (12,500 feet). It is not only the world’s highest lake but also one of the oldest, thought to be over 1 million years old.

Most people reach it from the transport hub town of Puno on the Peruvian side, and either take a day trip to the closer islands or head further afield to one of the more local islands. We stayed a few nights at Amantani island which we loved for the natural beauty and tranquility.

The landscapes here are breathtaking, and the lake reminded us a lot of the Mediterranean Sea. One of our favorite moments at Amantaní Island was watching the beautiful sunsets on our private terrace, listening to the sound of the waves and just soaking up the peace and serenity of the place.

History and background Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is considered to be the origin of the Inca civilization, where the creator god, Viracocha made the moon, sun, and stars from the islands in the center of this large lake. It is also believed to be the birthplace of the first Inca king, Manco Capac, the sun god’s son. There are several indigenous communities living here, the most prominent are the Uros in the floating man-made islands, the Quechua speakers of Amantaní Island and the Taquile people of Taquile island.

Which of these 30 spiritual and sacred places in the World have you visited? Anything we missed? Share it in the comments!

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