Thanks to the rise of communication technologies and the jet plane, the world grows smaller each day.
You can hop on a plane in New York or London and be in Cape Town or New Delhi just hours later. To reflect this change, commentators have started using the term “global village.” It’s the idea that while we live on an enormous planet, our technology has brought us closer together than ever.
This, of course, is good news for travelers wanting to experience as many of the world’s cultures as possible. And with so many religious sites to choose from, they’re almost spoilt for choice.
Here are the world’s most spiritual destinations.
The Ganges River
The Ganges River is the largest river in India, running all the way from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal in the south, and a major spiritual site.
It attracts more than 20 million people a year to its banks, mostly Indian, who believe that the river has the power to purify their souls and reinvigorate their lives. The river itself is often referred to as Mother Ganges and has become central to people who depend on it for their survival.
The story of the Ganges River revolves around the goddess Ganga who poured herself over the ashes of King Sagara’s sons to create it.
This was an act of self-sacrifice, which is part of the reason why the river is held in such high esteem today. The legend says that the sins of whoever steps into the river shall be cleansed.
The Golden Temple
Sikhism is one of the most interesting religions to have ever originated in India.
Unlike many of the Abrahamic faiths, it’s not expansionist, meaning that people don’t go out and try and convert new Sikhs. Instead, they remain firmly in their communities, adhering to the word of the Guru Granth Sahib.
At the center of the Sikh faith is the Golden Temple, a stunning temple complex located in Amritsar in India. The site represents the founding of the Sikh beliefs and is one of the most popular sites for tourists in India, attracting more than 50,000 visitors every day.
What’s great about the Golden Temple is that it welcomes everybody, regardless of their caste or religion. This makes it a must-visit destination for tourists taking a whistlestop tour of the sub-continent.
Our Lady Of Guadalupe
According to estimates, nearly 10 million people visit Our Lady of Guadalupe every year, a basilica located in Mexico City. This makes it one of the most visited Marian shrines in the whole world, second only to the St. Peter’s basilica itself.
The story of the shrine is very interesting.
Legend says that Mary, the Mother of God appeared to an Indian saint called Juan Diego more than 470 years ago. She told Diego that he was to build a basilica on the spot where she spoke to him and construct a shrine in her honor. Although her instructions were written on a cactus cloth which was only supposed to last 20 years, her writing remains to this day.
Roughly 4.2 million people visit the tiny sovereign state of the Vatican every year. Many take part in an express Vatican tour which gives them an idea of why the Basilica is the way it is today and how it managed to survive centuries of conflict.
For others, it’s for purely religious reasons.
Catholics believe that the Vatican is a holy place. Many believe that it was in the circus where St. Peter took his final breath. The circus is surrounded on all sides by monuments to various saints, both old and new.
Although many tourists and travelers believe that the Vatican has always been its own independent nation, many are surprised to find out that sovereignty is actually a recent phenomenon. The Vatican only gained its independence from Italy in 1929 which was the first year in which it became self-governing.
Jerusalem was the ancient home of the Jews, located in the historical nation of Israel.
However, during the middle ages, the Jews lost their home and were scattered all over the world, including Europe, Russia, and America. At the end of the 19th century, the Zionist movement began – a movement which hoped that the nation of Israel would be restored and that Jerusalem would be returned to the Jews.
In 1948, soon after the Second World War, that became a reality, and Jews from all over began descending on Palestine. A new country was born in the process – something which led to the troubles and conflicts that are ongoing.
Jerusalem is the Biblical Zion, and the City of David described in the Pentateuch. This is where Jesus took his last supper, and near to the site of the crucifixion. The modern city of Jerusalem is shared by both Jews, Muslims and Christians and all over the city are beautiful temples, churches, and mosques.
Bethlehem has long been a place of pilgrimage for Christians.
It is the birthplace of Jesus described in the Bible. Although it was difficult to access in the past, today around 1.4 million people visit the small town, and the numbers are growing every year.
Don’t be surprised if you can’t find a booking in one of the city’s many hotels. Even 2000 years later, Bethlehem still has trouble housing all of its guests.
Machu Picchu has been confusing researchers and archaeologists ever since it was discovered.
Why would the ancient Incas build a city thousands of feet up in the Andean mountains when it was so far away from all the things they needed to live?
A recent theory from an Italian study suggests that Machu Picchu was never intended to be an actual city. Instead, it served as a pilgrimage site for the ancient Incan people.
Today, the site is visited by more than 1 million people a year. More than 2500 people ascend to this ancient mountain spot every day and get a sense of why the ancient Incans went to so much effort.