Throughout the centuries spirituality has been associated with a formal religious ceremony or church attendance. Modern day society, however, accepts spirituality as a form of personal development that is not restricted to any particular practice or place of worship. Many people seeking spiritual growth and understanding are therefore more open to experiencing spiritual connection with the great outdoors and sacred places.
All over the world there are many destinations that have special spiritual significance and which are visited by vast numbers of people every year. These sacred locations are hugely popular travel destinations for travellers wanting to feel more spiritually connected.
- Vatican City – Italy
The famous landmark of St Peter’s Basilica, situated in the Vatican City, is located on what is believed to be the site of the Circus of Nero, where Christians were martyred in the first century, and the tomb of the Apostle St Peter. The Vatican City is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in the world and stands within a 109–acre walled enclave in the heart of Rome. Visitors flock here to attend papal mass with Pope Francis, the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church.
- Stonehenge – UK
The distinctive stone slabs of Stonehenge are situated in isolation in Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire and were erected circa 2600 BC, at the end of the Stone Age. It is believed that each individual stone slab was dragged from the Marlborough Downs, located 40km away. The sacred and monumental megalithic site was once a complete circle of 30 upright stones, each weighing around 25 tons. Today, 17 still stand.
Stonehenge is a World Heritage site and attracts visitors from all over the world. It is considered to be a sacred spiritual site, and Druids and Pagans attach significant religious meaning to the stone monument.
- Lourdes – France
Lourdes was once an unremarkable market town located at foot of the Pyrenees mountain range. In 1858 a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous had a series of 18 visions of the Virgin Mary, at the entrance of a cave overlooking the River Gave de Pau. A spring was uncovered at the site and several miracle cures were attributed to the water. As a result of these visions visitors began to travel to Lourdes in search of sacred healing. Today, the town is the world’s most visited healing pilgrimage site, attracting around 5 million visitors from all over the world every year.
- Santiago de Compostela – Spain
At the start of the 9th century, a hermit called Pelagius saw a mysterious light shining above the long forgotten Roman tomb of St. James the Greater, in the middle of a forest. This became the site of the famous Christian pilgrimage town of Santiago de Compostela, and today it attracts visitors from all over the world.
Santiago de Compostela is situated in Galicia, in the far north west of Spain. The Camino de Santiago is the main walking pilgrim route and starts and extends from many countries. The walk can take several weeks or months to complete and culminates at the Cathedral, located at the top of Monte do Gozo, at the end of the Camino Frances (French Road).
- Varanasi – India
Varanasi (also known as Benares) is a holy city situated on the Ganges River in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. The most sacred of the Hinduism and Jainism sites, Varanasi is a vast terraced area where religious devotees come to mediate, bathe and perform cremations. Although now polluted, the water of the Ganges is considered to be spiritually pure, and is considered to have the power to grant ‘moksha’, which is final liberation from the cycle of life and death and rebirth.