The chirping of birds, the serene sound of breaking waves, nature’s kiss of sunshine on my face, animals living freely in the wild. Mother nature unfolds her wings around us daily, and it’s where I go to find my definition of spirituality.
In many ways, everybody is seeking their salvation. Some follow the lead of their conscience, others worship their chosen divinity. Here are seven of the most spiritual places on earth that you might want to include in your next travel plans, for the add on of a blessing, virtue, inner-peace in a setting that has drawn pilgrims for centuries, or even millennia.
Mount Sinai in Egypt
Set in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, Mount Sinai is the most spiritual site of the Abrahamic people – a Semitic-originating faith that claims descent from the Judaism of the ancient Israelites and the worship of the God of Abraham. Also known as Jabal Musa, Mount Sinai is recognised in the books of Exodus and the Bible. The Jewish, Christian, and Islamic community cherish the place as they believe that Mount Sinai is where the slabs with the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God. The spiritual belief in this place has been intact for thousands of years, and pilgrims, tourists, and saints visit it with a shared faith.
La Mezquita in Córdoba, Spain
One of the most outstanding constructions in the world, La Mezquita in Córdoba is the mosque of miracles. Since its construction, this impressive mosque has been at the centre of conflict between Muslims and Christians. One of the world’s greatest works of Islamic architecture, the Mezquita hints to a refined age when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived side by side and enriched their city with a heady interaction of diverse, vibrant culture. The arcades’ simplicity and number give a sense of endlessness to the Mezquita. The additions that time brought saw the final Mezquita having 19 doors along its northern side, filling it with light and a sense of openness. The prayer hall was built intending to invite the maximum pilgrims to God’s place. Christian additions to the building, such as the solid mass of the cathedral in the centre and the 50 or so chapels around the fringes, as well as the mostly sealed doors, today enclose and impose on the once airy space. Yet nothing can curtail the soulfulness that the place exudes, irrespective of whether you are Christian or Islamic – or simply a tourist awestruck by the volume and architecture.
Mount Kailash, Tibetian Region, China
A great mass of black rock soaring to over 22,000 feet, Mount Kailash magnificently fascinates the Buddhists, Bons, Jains, and Hindus and has the unique distinction of being the world’s most venerated sacred site of four religions and billions of people. Yet the site is visited by no more than a few thousand pilgrims each year given the mountain’s remote location in far western Tibet. No planes, trains or buses journey anywhere near the region and even with rugged over-land vehicles the journey still requires weeks of difficult, often dangerous travel. The Buddhists believe that completing one Kora of 52 km around the mountain can eradicate the sins of one lifetime, and doing it 108 times guarantees salvation.
For the Buddhists, walking around the mountain clockwise – or counter-clockwise for Bons, is known as a Kora. A distance of 52km, it is said to eradicate sin. In hopes of gaining extra merits or psychic powers, some pilgrims will manage to complete the route in under a day, while others may take two to three weeks. It is believed that a pilgrim who completes 108 journeys around the mountain is assured enlightenment. Hindus believe Mt.Kailash to be the home of Lord Shiva, while the Jains call the mountain Astapada and believe it is where Rishaba, the first of the twenty-four Tirthankaras attained liberation.
The Whole of Kyoto City, Japan
The capital of Peace and Tranquillity, Kyoto in Japan is home to over 1,660 Buddhist Temples, 400 Shinto Shrines, and 90 Christian Catholic Churches. The city offers an extreme representation of Japanese culture with each lane in Kyoto expressing a pure and sacred sense of being that is matched by the serene surrounding landscapes. The Fushimi Inari Shrine is the main attraction. The red torii gate trail forming its entrance is impeccable and is located on the top of a mountain with breathtaking views of the spiritual city. Meditate on the beauty of the Sagano Bamboo Forest where towering stalks of bamboo sway in the breeze, which gently whistles through them. Visit the majestic Tenryu-ji Temple in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district and head the temple of Rinzai Zen Buddhism in the most tranquil of settings next to a pond surrounded by trees that turn to shades of russet and burnt orange in the autumn.
Mosque of Mecca, Saudi Arabia
The home of Prophet Muhammad, the father of Islam, Mecca is undoubtedly the holiest city in the world for Muslims – non-muslims are not permitted to enter the city. Mecca is the headquarters for the Islamic Universe and its people. Set between the Sirat Mountains, Mecca is on the holy land of Hijaz, centring the Al-Masjid al-Haram mosque. The cloth upholstered Kaaba is the most precious shrine in the world, believed to have landed from the Jannat, or heaven. Here Muslims gather by the thousands for hajj — Arabic for pilgrimage — a five-day religious pilgrimage to Mecca, it is one of the five pillars, or duties, of Islam, along with the profession of faith in the one God and Mohammed as his prophet, prayer, charitable giving, and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
Mahabodhi Temple, India
The site where Lord Buddha accomplishing enlightenment under the ‘Bodhi Tree’ is where you find the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya in the Bihar state of India. The English translation of the temple name is ‘The Great Awakening Temple,’ and it is the most sacred place for Buddhists. The temple dates back to the 7th century and currently holds a similar essential place in the religious realm. People visit the temple to sit in silent meditation under the Bodhi Tree in the hope of receiving enlightenment, as Lord Buddha did. You can self drive your car installed with roof rack awning from Patna for 96 km and witness this fascinating pagoda.
Giving equal power to Israel and Palestine, Jerusalem as one of the oldest cities in the world is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The location of the city refers to the appeal by King David to his son to build the first temple, the crucifixion of Jesus and where Prophet Muhammad spoke to god in the city. For Jews it is the city that King David made the capital of his kingdom, and where the Temple containing the Ark of the Covenant stood. For Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where Christ died, was buried and rose again, and the birthplace of the Church. For the Muslim community, it is al-Quds because they believe that Muhammad ascended to heaven from the Temple Mount during his Night Journey and the golden-roofed Dome of the Rock, stands on the Temple Mount, also identified as Mount Moriah, where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Set on the Judaean mountains of central Israel, the Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by steep valleys: The Hinnom on the south and west, the Kidron on the east.
Whether you meditate, kneel, bow down, pray out loud, or worship to the lord in private, these spiritual sites around the world are sure to ease the soul.
** Images sourced on Pexel.