Whether you’re religious or not, there are numerous reasons to visit religious destinations, people’s dedication to faith is often reflected in the architecture in sites of religious significance.
While churches and cathedrals are often top of the list, and the always-popular pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago is not far behind, here are five other religious sites that also double as novel destinations for the culture-curious.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Japan
Every year, over 10 million visitors make their way eastwards of Kyoto to the Kiyomizu-dera, which translates to ‘Pure Water Temple’. Nestled in the hills by the peaceful Otowa Waterfall, this splendid temple is a beautiful example of Buddhist architecture. There are renovations on the roof until March 2020, but visitors can still visit the temple and see everything except the main hall: there’s the shrine dedicated to the deity of love, which attracts those needing some extra luck, and there’s an area from which to drink from the waterfall for the benefit of finding love, good education and a long life.
The Golden Temple, India Sacred sites are treated with such reverence that followers and visitors change the surrounding energy, and nowhere is that more apparent than The Golden Temple. Aided by the walls around it, the magnificence of the bright gold temple, and the shimmering, sacred lake in which it stands, the Sri Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar is an apt symbol for Sikhism. Everyone is welcome and they’ll find that the temple is a centrepiece in a deeply fascinating gudwara complex, complete with historical artefacts, gracious devotees, and most famously, the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs. Visit at sunrise or sunset for a most favourable ambience.
Mecca is the first place most people think of when considering sacred sites – so much so, that it’s been appropriated into our everyday language. Because of this, we couldn’t leave it out although only Muslims are allowed to enter the Saudi city. Every day during the Hajj – the month in which this pilgrimage is undertaken as part of the five pillars of Islam – over two million followers head to the Masjid Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca for the five-day ritual. Nearby towns and villages become heaving with religious travellers and those soaking in the atmosphere, even if they can’t enter Mecca, or the other holy city of Medina.
Sanctuaires Notre Dame de Lourdes, France
Lourdes in France is the site of one of the most famous Christian miracles. In 1858, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous was said to have experienced apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the Grotto of Massabielle. Once pilgrims began visiting the grotto, many found its waters cured sickness and wounds, leading to its reputation as a place of healing. Today the grotto attracts 25,000 daily visitors who come to touch the stone, leave mementos, and bathe in the holy spring waters. The surrounding complex features two basilicas, nine chapels and plenty of stalls selling Lourdes souvenirs.
The Western Wall (or ‘Wailing Wall’) in Jerusalem’s Old City holds great significance for the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It’s here that Abraham is said to have sacrificed his son for God, where Jacob dreamed of the ladder, and it encases the sacred Temple Mount. Now, only 187 feet of the wall remain, and it’s here that five million visitors come to pay their respects annually, with men and women separate for the duration. Visiting the wall is free, but an informative guided tour for around £7 gives insights into its significance and the tunnels that lie beneath.
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