An unusual thing about the pandemic is that it has made some people become more interested in religion or just being more spiritual. While spirituality can be associated with practices like worship, meditation, or some certain lifestyle, traveling is also a great way to enhance your spiritual side, by immersing ourselves in a sacred and deeply spiritual environment, we open our minds towards a better, more positive mindset.
Spiritual tourism, alongside wellness tourism, has already been a rising trend before the pandemic, and its popularity has been increasing tenfold after traveling around the world becomes a possibility once again. As such, many places not known by tourists have now become popular hotspots among those who are seeking spiritual pilgrimages. Here are some places you can visit to open your mind and soul.
The Old City of Jerusalem, Israel
The Old City of Jerusalem is often seen as one of the top spiritual places in the world, containing many sacred sites of great importance to many Abrahamic religions, such as the Western Wall for Judaism, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christianity, and the Dome of the Rock for Islam.
Even if you’re not interested in the spiritual journey, the city is still home to many ancient architectures and fascinating local culture, coupled with interesting shops and foods to open your mind.
The Ghats of Varanasi, India
Varanasi is considered to be the oldest and holiest city in India, to point that it was named the “Spiritual heart of India”, with over 1400 years of history. The city is home to more than 3000 Hindu and over 1300 Muslim holy sites, alongside many spiritual places for those practicing Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Christianism. However, the most famous part of Varanasi is the “ghats” running along the Ganges River. Ghats are the 80 sets of stairs leading into the Ganges River from the many Hindu temples, shrines, and palaces in Varanasi. There are bathing ghats where devotees come to clean themselves, as well as cremation ghats for funeral purposes.
Many of these ghats that we see today were rebuilt in the 1700s by the Marathas, Bhonsles, Scindhias, and Holkars. They were again renovated and beautified in recent times by the government. Most of these Varanasi Ghats are associated with mythology and legends. You will see some boats tied to the ghats all around the day. The boatman will want you to take for a boat ride on the Ganga. Visiting the ghat and riding boats to watch the sunrise and sunset are the best things to do in Varanasi.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The famous Angkor Wat is a historical relic built in the 12th century, considered by many to be one of the largest spiritual buildings in the world. It was originally built as a Hindu temple, serving as a final resting place for King Suryavarman II. Then, Angkor Wat was slowly transformed into a Buddhist temple where monks come and gather.
Visitors coming to Angkor Wat should note that there’s a dress code that everyone should abide by. Visitors will need to wear clothing that covers the shoulders and knees. One of the most popular activities in this place is watching the sun settling down at the end of the day right on top of the tower. So much that Angkor Wat was deemed by many to be one of the most beautiful places to watch the sunset.
Temple Circuit, Japan
The Temple Circuit, also known as the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, is a 1200 km long journey around the southern island of Shikoku (meaning “Four Provinces”) It is believed that by going through these four provinces and visiting all 88 temples, you will gain enlightenment.
Each year, roughly 10000 people participate in this long and arduous journey, either by going on tour buses or on foot, for a variety of different reasons outside of Buddhism. For those who want to walk the entire 1200 km journey, the entire trip can take from one to two months to complete. Coupled with the turbulent weather that can sometimes occur in Shikoku, pilgrims who wish to walk the entire way need to be in good health condition. In fact, many pilgrims attempted to walk the entire trip and did not manage to finish it.
An outlier from the other places in this article, Uluru is a natural, giant sandstone formation that is 550 million years old. Considered a sacred place to indigenous Australians, the site is the subject of many legends and is an important part of the local culture. Tourists visiting Uluru will also find a lot of rock caves and ancient paintings around the site.
Seen by many as the spiritual core of Australia, Uluru is a popular place for spiritual travelers and tourists who are interested in grand, natural sceneries. It’s also a good place to learn about the rich, interesting history of Australia and the indigenous Australian culture.