10Best: Sacred Pilgrimage Sites of the World

  • El Santuario de Chimayó, New Mexico

    El Santuario de Chimayó, a Roman Catholic church in New Mexico, attracts some 300,000 pilgrims per year, many who come during Holy Week. According to local legend, the site is home to a pit of dirt with miraculous healing properties. Legend also says that the church was built on a site where a local friar dug up a crucifix after seeing a strange light.

    Photo courtesy of Nathan Chor/iStock

  • Ganges River, India

    The Ganges River in Northern India has long been a sacred destination for Hindus, nowhere more so than in the city of Varanasi. One of the oldest cities in the world, Varanasi is where many devotees come to die, believing that doing so will release them from the cycle of reincarnation.

    Photo courtesy of Ken Wieland

  • Mecca, Saudi Arabia

    When you think "pilgrimage," Mecca might be the first thing that comes to mind. This sacred site in the heart of Saudi Arabia serves as the spiritual center if Islam, and for many believers, a visit there, particularly during the Hajj, is the most important journey in a lifetime.

    Photo courtesy of AHMAD FAIZAL YAHYA/iStock

  • Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

    The Golden Temple of Amritsar is as beautiful as it is sacred. The golden facade of this holy Sikh pilgrimage site in India glitters in the sun and reflects off the water, and besides the millions of Sikh devotees who visit every year, the temple also attracts countless tourists.

    Photo courtesy of Dmitry Rukhlenko/iStock

  • Lourdes, France

    The largest Catholic pilgrimage site in France and one of the largest in the world, the city of Lourdes in the foothills of the Pyrenees is home to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. Pilgrims flock to the site's Grotto of Massabielle, where the waters of the 17 pools are believed the cause of several miraculous healings.

    Photo courtesy of subemontes/iStock

  • Bahai Garden, Haifa, Israel

    The founder of the Baha'i faith, Baha’u’llah, spent his last days in Haifa, Israel. Each year, thousands of followers of the faith visit Israel on a nine-day pilgrimage to many of its holiest sites, including the Baha'i Gardens where the gold-domed Shrine of the Báb is located.

    Photo courtesy of random exposure

  • The Vatican

    For many a Catholic, the ultimate spiritual experience involves visiting The Vatican to see the Pope in St. Peter's Square. The basilica of the same name, built atop the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle, is the largest religious building on the planet, and undeniably among the most beautiful.

    Photo courtesy of Cristian Bortes

  • Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City

    Located on the outskirts of Mexico City, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe has become one of the most – if not the most – visited Catholic shrines in the world. According to legend, the church was built in 1531 when Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, an Aztec man who'd converted to Catholicism, saw a vision of the Virgin Mary who ordered him to build a church on the site.

    Photo courtesy of LWYang

  • The Western Wall, Jerusalem

    The Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem has long been a place of pilgrimage for members of the Jewish faith. A fact confirmed by both history and archeology, the wall is the last remaining portion of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, with segments dating back to the 2nd century BCE.

    Photo courtesy of israeltourism

  • Bodh Gaya, India

    Bodh Gaya in India is Buddhism's most sacred site, as it is believed to be the place where Prince Siddhartha sat beneath a bodhi tree and attained enlightenment, becoming The Buddha. At the heart of the complex is a huge bodhi tree, a descendent of the one under whose shade The Buddha sat.

    Photo courtesy of Ken Wieland