Easter is the biggest holiday in the Christian calendar, and whether you’re Christian or not, no one can argue with chocolate eggs and a couple of weeks off work or school. If you’re considering jetting overseas for the Easter holidays this year, why not get into the spirit of the holiday by visiting some of the most fascinating religious destinations around the globe? Whether you’ve always dreamed of visiting Jerusalem, want to develop your own spirituality, or are simply interested in learning more about different faiths, there’s so many diverse experiences to choose from. After all, so many of the most historic and most-visited monuments on the planet - from the Hagia Sophia to Angkor Wat - sprang from religion. Here’s the Flexicover Team’s guide to some of the most fascinating religious destinations around the world.
Lourdes, France Every year around six million visitors, most of them Catholic pilgrims, flock to the small market town of Lourdes, in south-west France. Many pilgrims have disabilities or health conditions and are praying that bathing in Lourdes’ famous waters will provide a miracle cure. In 1858, the Virgin Mary was believed to have appeared 18 times to a local girl, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous (now St Bernadette). During the apparitions, she asked for a chapel to be built at a nearby cave grotto. These days, Catholics flock to Lourdes to visit the surrounding churches and chapels, take part in evening candlelight processions, collect holy water, and bathe in the water that springs from the grotto, in the hope of experiencing a miracle. There’s also plenty of shops selling wonderfully tacky Lourdes-themed trinkets, to counter the spiritual atmosphere!
Jerusalem, Israel Jerusalem is one of the most famous religious destinations on the planet, thanks to its significance in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This city is fantastically historic, with monuments such as the 4th-century Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Islamic Dome of the Rock shrine, and the Western Wall, an ancient site for Jewish prayer. According to the Old Testament, King David created Jerusalem as the capital of the Kingdom of Israel, while in the New Testament, this was where Jesus was crucified. In the Qur’an, Jerusalem was the place where Muhammed ascended to heaven and spoke to God. Considered by so many to be the holiest city in the world, Jerusalem is one of the most evocative and important places on the planet.
Siem Reap, Cambodia While Siem Reap can appear like just another stop on the backpacker trail, with its bouncing Pub Street and rake of hostels, it’s also an incredible religious destination. A pleasant 7km bicycle or tuk-tuk ride from Pub Street you’ll find Angkor Wat: the largest religious monument on the planet. Constructed between 1113 and 1150 by King Suyavarman II as his personal mausoleum, Angkor Wat boasts walls nearly half a mile long on each side, and the structure reflects Hindu cosmology. In short, it’s breath-taking. It’s just one of a host of temples in the area, many of which are in a state of beautiful disrepair, thanks to the trees and roots entwined with the structures. When it comes to exploring historic Hindu and Buddhist temples, there’s simply no better destination than Siem Reap.
Istanbul, Turkey There are so many reasons to visit the gargantuan city of Istanbul: it’s the only city that straddles two continents (Asia and Europe), it’s got an incredibly rich, multicultural history, and its east-meets-west culture is endlessly evocative. But it’s also home to some of the most important religious monuments in the world. Minarets and domes dominate the skyline over the Bosphorus River, and The Hagia Sophia Museum is one of the most iconic religious monuments in the world. Originally built in 537 as a Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral, in 1453 it was converted into an Ottoman imperial mosque, and since 1935 has been a museum. The combination of Islamic and Christian symbolism inside is simply stunning, and makes it Istanbul’s biggest attraction. Better still, next door is the impressive Blue Mosque, constructed in the early 17th century.
Uluru, Australia For truly ancient religious monuments, consider visiting Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the Central Australian desert. These huge, red rocks are millions of years old, and the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal people have lived here for tens of thousands of years. According to their religious beliefs, the land was made by creation ancestors. These ancestors left behind marks in the earth, as well as spiritual law concerning the relationships between people, animals, and the land, by which they live. To visit Uluru, base yourself in Alice Springs and either take an organised tour or hire a car. You might not be able to climb it anymore, but for the more adventurous, there are campgrounds nearby so you can sleep under the stars against the backdrop of this incredible spiritual monument.
Wherever you plan on heading to over the coming months it’s good to know that Flexicover is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.