Spiritual Pilgrimages

Spiritual tourism in Bali Indonesia

Spiritual tourism is to travel to find purpose and meaning to your life. It elevates your physical, mental, and emotional energies. It develops, maintains, and improves your body, mind, and spirit. Spiritual tourism is not connected with any specific religion. It is different from religious tourism.

Spiritual Tourism is linked to Religious Tourism, in the sense, pilgrimage implies a ritualized, hyper-meaningful journey – both inward and outward – to a person’s or group’s sacred center, set apart from everyday life, and built on rich mythological representations and symbolic markers

Going on a pilgrimage is a life-changing and a transformational experience. Walking these paths is usually long because their purpose is to give time to be with God/the gods, with your faith, with yourself and with others.

A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of a new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life. | More Info…

Ultimately, what makes a trip a pilgrimage is the intention behind it and the presence you bring, that and the three elements required for any pilgrimage, A Journey, Engagement with True Self, and Sacred Encounter .

Some Spiritual Pilgrimages (Worldwide)

Canterbury Cathedral

Pilgrims’ Way to Canterbury, England

Location: Winchester or London to Canterbury, England

Significance: Visit the shrine of Thomas Beckett at the Canterbury Cathedral. He was known to be a miracle maker. Priests are available throughout the day to offer blessing to those who are done with the walk and to offer prayers to those who are arriving.

Routes: On the road you will enjoy the beauty of the countryside, villages, towns and cities. Learn some religious history while enjoy the English countryside. This journey will take approximately two weeks to complete.

From London – 180 km (112 miles)
From Winchester – 214 km (133 miles)

Kumano Kodo Trail

Kumano Kodo Ancient Trail, Japan

Location: Mountains in Kii peninsula, south of Osaka, Japan

Significance: This trail focuses on three grand sacred shrines, the Oji shrines and numerous protector shrines and tea houses. This walk was part of the pilgrimage process for the pilgrims from 1000 years ago as they undertook rigorous religious rites of worship and purification. This is one of only two UNESCO-recognized pilgrimage walks.

Route: There are several routes which will take approximately 5 days each to complete. You can do the whole pilgrimage in roughly six weeks.The walking is mostly through paved village paths and unpaved mountains trails, ascending and descending constantly. The unique landscape views are often impressive. The most popular is the Tajijiri-Oji route, which is 40 km (25 miles). This is one spiritual journey that will make your heart sing.

Machu Picchu view in early morning

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru

Location: Machu Picchu, Peru

Significance: Experts believe the Incas built this trail as a holy pilgrimage to prepare visitors to enter Machu Picchu.The access to the trail is strictly controlled, with the Peruvian government only issuing 500 permits each day and about 200 of these are for tourists.

Route: The walk is very challenging since the terrain is rough with high altitudes. The distance is approximately 43km (26.7 miles).

Milestone on Way of St James

Camino de Santiago, Spain (Also known as The Way of St. James)

Location: From southern France (Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port) to northern Spain (Santiago de Compostela)

Significance: This path leads to where the apostle St. James is said to be buried at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The trek very easy to follow and gives the opportunity to stop and admire the culture of the small towns as you pass by and and even gives you the opportunity to try rioja wine.

Route:  The are many routes but the most popular one is The French Way, spanning a distance of approximately 725 km (450 miles), or approximately a month of hiking. Generally, routes will vary and take anywhere from a week to several months to complete. You will walk through very scenic views of the towns and amazing cornfields.

Mount Kailash in Tibet

Mount Kailash Pilgrimage, Tibet

Location: Mount Kailash, located in the westernmost part of the Tibetan plateau

Significance: Several religions believe that circling Mount Kailash on foot is a holy ritual that will bring good fortune and erase your sins. Your religious preference will determine which direction you travel around the mountain. Hindus and Buddhist travel in a clockwise direction, while other religions, like Bon faith, make the journey counter clockwise.

Route: Circling around the base of the mountain is 52 km (32.3 miles), taking roughly three days to complete the pilgrimage. It is forbidden to actually climb the mountain.

Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick, Ireland

Location: County Mayo, West of Ireland

Significance: Croagh Patrick is considered one of the holiest mountains in Ireland. This is where St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, is said to have spent 40 days and nights praying and fasting, his prayers leading to the removal of snakes from the country. Millions of people follow St. Patrick’s footsteps, some even do it barefoot.

Route: The mountain ascends 765 m (2,509 feet) – a roughly climb that may take hours to reach the top. There are, however, stunning views along the way up including breathtaking views of Clew Bay and the surroundings of south Mayo countryside are spectacular from any point while ascending the mountain. Once at the top, there is a chapel anyone can attend or one can just enjoy the views before you go back down. At the end of your hike, you can visit a local pub and chat with other pilgrims or locals. There is also the St. Patrick’s Heritage Trail that you can choose to walk, covering a span of 61 km (38 miles).

Himalayan Mountain Path

Char Dham, India

Location: Foot of the Himalayas, India

Significance: There are four sites that serve as an important part of the Hindu tradition, with many Hindus aiming to visit all of them at least once, going from east to west. For those of other religions and spiritualities, going on this journey can be an excellent opportunity to learn from the Indian culture and their traditions.

Route: The 4 sites are: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. Visiting all of them in a single go may take two weeks.

The Iya Valley, High angle view, Tokushima Prefecture, Shikoku, Japan

Shikoku Pilgrimage, Japan

Location: Coast of Shikoku, Japan

Significance: The trail gives you a glance into Japanese tradition and history.

Route: The pilgrimage runs through 88 temples and 200 bangais (unofficial temples). As one of the longest trails on this list, the pilgrimage covers a distance of 1,400 km (870 miles!) and can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to complete. There are a number of shorter imitative trails in Japan, such as the 150 km circuit on the island of Shōdoshima, a 3 km course in Ninna-ji, Kyoto and a route on the Chita Peninsula.

Ganges river in Himalayas mountains

The Ganges River

Location: Runs from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal in Ganges, India

Significance: With approximately 20 million people visiting a year, the Ganges River, also known as Ganga Ma or “Mother Ganges” is one of the most popular pilgrimages to embark on. To the many people living around it, and those who believe in its majesty, this river goddess represents life and purity. The story of the Ganga is of how the goddess poured herself down from heaven upon the ashes of King Sarga’s sons. It was this cleansing and self-sacrificing act that raised the king’s sons to dwell in peace in heaven. It is also believed that anyone who touches these purifying waters even today is cleansed of all sins. Hindus bathe in the river as they walk slowly during the Maha Kumbh Mela (Grand Pitcher Festival).

Route: The river’s length is 1,569 miles and while you do not have to traverse the entire length to experience the river, many Indians walk from their villages and cities to bathe in the river. You can choose to walk from any destination to the river.

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba at dawn

Hajj Pilgrimage, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Location: Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Significance: The pilgrimage to Mecca is called Hajj and is one of the largest gatherings in the world as the Islamic religion views Mecca as the holiest of places. It is part of their culture to do this pilgrimage at least once during the week of Hajj. Muslims have to be physically and financially capable to perform this pilgrimage. The week of Hajj entails a series of rituals such as head shaving and animal sacrificing. The entrance to the city of Mecca is strictly prohibited for non-Muslims since it viewed as a holy city.

Route: The pilgrimage can take anywhere from 3 days to a week’s worth of walking. Their rituals suggest walking counter-clockwise around the Ka’aba, symbolic for stoning the devil. Then they go between the mountain of Safa and Marwah getting on the wide plain of Arafah, where they start praying for forgiveness. The pilgrimage ends with Eid Al-Adha, a festival in which they celebrate with prayers and animal sacrifice, and they also exchange gifts.