RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL TRAVEL
Explore below some of the world’s most amazing spiritual places:
1. La Mezquita, Córdoba, Spain
“Mezquita” means “mosque”, but this Córdoban complex is more, well, complex than that. After the Islamic conquest of Iberia in the eighth century, Córdoba’s existing basilica was split and shared by Muslims and Christians. But in AD 784, construction began on a magnificent new mosque, with an orange-tree courtyard and prayer hall of seemingly infinite striped arches. In the 16th century, following the Christian reconquest, a Catholic cathedral was squeezed inside; the minaret encased in a bell tower. The result: a clash of architecture and religions. But still one of the world’s most striking buildings.
2. Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto was once known as Heian-kyo, “Capital of Peace and Tranquillity”. It’s been the centre of Japanese culture for more than a thousand years – and remains so today. The city is overflowing with spiritual sites: 1,660 Buddhist temples, 400 Shinto shrines and 90 Christian churches dot its ancient lanes. The eighth-century Fushimi Inari Shrine and its photogenic trail of red torii (gates), on a hill on the outskirts of Kyoto, is a good spot to gain an overview of the spiritual city.
3. Lake Titicaca, Peru and Bolivia
Shimmering at an altitude of around 3,800m, vast Lake Titicaca was central to the birth of the Inca civilisation. Their founder-king Manco Cápac is said to have emerged from a rock on the lake’s Isla del Sol. Consequently this “Island of the Sun” became a key religious centre, and pilgrims from across the empire came to visit its shrines. Today you can sail across to the car-free island to walk the flagstoned paths, visit temple ruins, stay at a posada and soak up the stirring snowcapped-Andes views.
4. Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka
In the midst of tea country, sits a lump of dented rock – otherwise known as the sri pada, or “sacred footprint”. Devotees of multiple religions make the stiff climb to worship at this holy heel, which – depending on your faith – might be the mark of Buddha, Shiva, Adam or Saint Thomas. Pilgrim trails lead up the 2,244m mountain via tea estates, shrines, steep steps, long drops and wildlife-filled forest.
5. Mount Kailash, Tibet Autonomous Region, China
Soaring 6,714m high in the wilds of western Tibet, Kailash is more than a mountain. It is a mandala, the navel of the universe, a pyramid of power, source of four of Asia’s great rivers, revered by billions of people – Buddhists, Bons, Jains and Hindus all consider it sacred. The ultimate test is to perform a kora, a circular pilgrimage around the mountain, roughly 52km long and strewn with yaks, prayer flags and literally breathtaking views. Buddhists believe one kora absolves the bad karma of one lifetime, while 108 koras will lead to full enlightenment.