Whether you’re going on a pilgrimage to deepen your faith or you’re curious about other religions and cultures, visiting sacred places can really open your heart and mind. These places have a distinctive energy, a certain veil of mystery, and you can feel the way centuries have accumulated around them, shaping history as we know it. Sacred spots help you realize there’s something bigger than ourselves, something that connects us all and serves as an affirmation of humanity in us. From the Inca religion to Christianity, Islam and Judaism – here are the some of the destinations for your spiritual revelation.
The Wonder of Incas: Machu Picchu, Peru
Most archeologists agree that Machu Picchu (“old mountain” in the Quechua language) was Incas’ secret ceremonial city. It’s still an enigma for historians, given the fact we know its religious function intertwined with politics and that it was also partially residential, but the details about sacred practices stay a mystery. Presumably, the high-altitude position and the fact it is protected by subtropical forest was of great significance to Incas. For a full experience, you can start by exploring the valley of the Urubamba River (a.k.a. “The Sacred Valley”) and enjoy a horseback ride. There are several tourist offers and a 3-hour ride is included. The entrance ticket for the ruins is around $40. To avoid tourist crowds and bad weather, visit during November or April.
Located in Jordan’s southwestern desert, Petra is one of the most famous archeological sites. You’ll find yourself surrounded with pink sandstone and tombs and temples carved right out of it. This is how the site got its name as “Rose City”. The city was the capital of the Nabataean kingdom and has three main spots that help you orient yourself and get around: the Siq – a gorge through which you can enter the city; the Treasury that hides tombs, the amazing Roman-style theatre, as well as the Petra Archeological Museum; and the Ad-Deir Monastery. To get to the Monastery, you have to climb over 800 steps but it’s certainly worth it: the remains are stunning as is the view. To visit Petra, there’s an entrance fee (50 JD, which is around $70) but there is also a possibility for a guided night tour (17JD, around $24).
The Island of Gods: Bali
Religion is an important part of Balinese cultural identity and they have a very festive and joyful relationship to it. You can see ceremonies and rituals every day – be it on the streets or in the temples, during anniversary celebrations. There are around 20,000 religious compounds on Bali.
Tanah Lot temple is breathtaking as it looks like it’s directly carved from the sea rock. The 11th century Goa Gajah is also a temple you don’t want to miss: enter the Elephant Cave and explore the stone idols and ornaments. Balinese really care about their tradition and Hinduism and so they transfer to other fields of life, too.
Yoga and meditation are especially appreciated, both from the locals and the tourists. You can sign up for a Bali yoga teacher training and get a fuller understanding of yoga’s spiritual dimension: it doesn’t have to interfere with your own religious beliefs. It can be a great way to consolidate different religions and see where they intersect while taking care of your well-being.
Mount Kailash is of great significance for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. According to the ancient texts, it is considered to be the center of the world. However, the pilgrimage believers are ready to undertake is not an easy one. The route includes a 52km hiking track and all visitors should be fit and well prepared. Visiting the holy mountain has to be done on foot or on a yak or a pony (Y65, which is around $10 per day) and it usually lasts for three days. It includes visits to three temples and the holy Lake Manasarovar. Keep in mind you need legal permission to visit Tibet and specifically Mount Kailash.
The Biblical Mountain: Mount Sinai, Egypt
Mount Sinai is believed to be the holy place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God as the moral codex that all humanity was to live by from that moment on. The peak is over 2200m high and you can climb it via foot or on a camel. It’s advisable to join a guided tour. There are two different paths: Steps of Penitence and the Camel Path. The first one is shorter but demands more strength: there are over 3700 rock steps to the top. The second one is not that steep but it takes you longer to get there (2-3 hours, depending on the pace). Saint Catherine’s Monastery is a must-see: it is believed to preserve the Burning Bush via which God spoke to Moses.
In order to get a fuller understanding of our identities, we have to take a step back and position ourselves in a broader picture so to find where we belong.
Traveling is a great way to do that: do put some of these sacred sites on your bucket list – trust me, you won’t regret it.
About the author: Nicole is a lifestyle blogger passionate about travel and healthy living. She enjoys sharing her experiences and ideas on how to lead a happy and healthy life. If you want to read more from Nicole you can find her on Twitter and FB.