I’ve put together a list of 10 holiest sites in the world. It turns out there’s much more to pilgrimage than just faith. Religious tourism brings about $10 billion to just American traveling industry, not to mention other countries. Having that in mind I collected the list of most popular places of cult for tourism (one for each billion ). Take a look at 10 holiest sites in the world worth visiting.
1. MASJID AL-HARAM IN MECCA
Photo Credit: ♥ForUrEyeZOnly♥ via Compfight cc
Located in Saudi Arabia, this temple is the largest one in Islam and it is surrounding the Al-Kaaba, which is considered the holiest place in our golbe by almost ¼ of all the people in the world (23% of the human race is Muslim). Every Muslim is supposed to visit this place at least once in their lifetime, as it is one of Five Pillars of Islam. And that makes it one of the most important travel destinations on Earth.
2. VATICAN CITY
Photo Credit: MarcelGermain via Compfight cc
Vatican is also an obvious choice here. The most sacred city for Catholics, that is located in the middle of another gorgeous place – Rome. It’s been an important place for the European civilization for ages and it is offering a unique collection of relics and churches. Only in Vatican pilgrims have a possibility to experience pope’s teaching and blessing during the “Angelus” prayer almost every Saturday at noon.
3. SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, SPAIN
Photo Credit: Isidr☼ Cea via Compfight cc
Let’s stay in Europe for a little while longer. You might have already read about this city on our blog at Travel World Passport. I was blogging about it in the post on solo traveling. Here’s just a reminder: the church in Santiago de Compostela is the end of the pilgrim route that is called the Way of st. James, and as such it is one of the most commonly known holy site in the world.
4. THE BASILICA OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, MEXICO
Photo Credit: David Holt London via Compfight cc
North of Mexico City there is a shrine, the holiest site in Mexico. Located on the Tepeyac hill, where in 16th century St. Juan Diego is believed to have seen Virgin Mary. The Mother of God performed a series of miracles and helped him convince people to raise a church there. Nowadays it’s one of the most important Marian shrines in the world.
5. MT. ATHOS, GREECE
Photo Credit: k.kazantzoglou Life is full of surprises!!! via Compfight cc
Hills and mountains are actually a pretty common place to locate a temple. A similar situation is with Mount Athos – arguably the most sacred place for Eastern Orthodox Church. This mountain was mentioned in ancient mythology, but in 11th century the first Christian monastery was built there. Nowadays there are 20 monasteries and only monks reside there. However tourists are more than welcomed. Besides attending church services and venerating the relics, you can also cross barefooted the Athos desert – the crossing is believed to be a salivating ritual.
6. SHAOLIN TEMPLE, CHINA
Photo Credit: madiko83 via Compfight cc
Ok, so maybe this isn’t the most sacred place, but I couldn’t resist it’s coolness. It is best known thanks to the popularity of kung-fu movies in the 70’s and thereafter. The temple was built in 495 in Chinese Empire. Tourists do not have access to most of the monks, who are trying to reach perfect spiritual and physical balance, but some of them give presentations of martial arts skills for the visitors. It is also possible to sightsee the architectural complex and meditate in most of the temples.
7. BODH GAYA, INDIA
Photo Credit: chaostrophy via Compfight cc
For Buddhists there is probably no sight holier than Bodh Gaya, where the sacred tree grew. It is believed that under that tree Siddhartha Gautama became Buddha by enlightenment. There is a temple called Mahabodhi, which is a symbolic center of Buddhism. Bodh Gaya is also important to Hinduism.
8. VARANASI, INDIA
Photo Credit: ironmanixs via Compfight cc
With Varanasi the situation is exactly opposite: it is the holiest site for Hinduists, but also an important place for Buddhists. Every year the holy river Ganges, that runs through the city is attracting masses of pilgrims, who desire to fulfill the ritual of ablation on the Ghats (steps to the river). Because of the multitude of temples, Varanasi is actually called The City of Temples.
9. THE GOLDEN TEMPLE, INDIA
Photo Credit: Koshyk via Compfight cc
This Golden Temple, or Harmandir Sahib, is the most sacred location for Sikhs. It is deliberately built in the low point, so that even the humble ones can enter the temple from the height. It has four entrances, which symbolizes it’s openness to everybody.
10. JERUSALEM, ISRAEL
Photo Credit: papalars via Compfight cc
This may be considered the most holy sight of all. Muslims believe, that this is the place where Mahomet had taken the Night Journey, which is when he spoke to God and received directions on how people should live their lives. For Christians it is the place where Jesus Christ died for the salvation of mankind. Jewish tradition is worshiping God by the Western Wall on the Temple Mount, which is the only remaining to this day part of the Holy Temple – the utmost sacred place for the Jews, where the Ark of Covenant used to be kept before it’s disappearance. Due to the importance of the city to those three religions, there is unfortunately an ongoing conflict over Jerusalem.
Sometimes for spiritual renewal, sometimes as a form of prayer, sometimes in search of help or answers, sometimes to see the most important places to one’s religion… The reason is not really the matter. The important thing is that luckily there is plenty of destinations for those, who want to visit a holy site. No matter the beliefs.