Let’s see what spiritual tourism is, some of its best-known destinations, and options to experience it without spending a lot of money.
Also known as reflection tourism or mindfulness tourism , the growing popularity of spiritual tourism is related to the increasingly noticeable need that people have, especially those who live in large cities, to clear their minds and bodies from everyday stress, a product of the pressures labor, economic, social, and the general chaos typical of densely populated places Matses.
But let’s look in more detail at what spiritual tourism is and how you can experience it.
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What is spiritual tourism?
Unlike conventional tourism, in this type of tourism the main objective is not to know places, but spiritual tourism focuses on knowing oneself , seeking inner peace.
The search for this emotional well-being can take different paths depending on each person. For some people, spirituality is related to religious faith, so they will travel to places that are significant to their beliefs. For others, it is spending time in peace, away from outside noise, spending time meditating, resting and reflecting in a peaceful environment.
Another way is by attending a spiritual retreat , where through different guided practices, such as yoga, tai chi, meditation, talks with guides and mindfulness (full awareness when carrying out any activity), generally in a natural environment, you work on introspection. .
Taking a trip by bicycle or walking alone can also be a form of spiritual tourism, since it exposes us to spending a lot of time with our mind as our only companion.
Although for each person spirituality may have a different connotation, and may be sought in different ways, there are several destinations in the world that stand out for attracting those who are interested in spiritual tourism. Let’s look at some of the best known.
Destinations known for spiritual tourism in the world
Known as “the yoga capital of the world ,” Rishikesh is a small town in northern India that rose to fame when the Beatles attended yogi Maharishi Mahesh’s ashram in February 1968.
From that moment on, and motivated by the growing popularity of practices and knowledge originating in India such as yoga and Ayurveda, Rishikesh began to receive more and more international travelers in search of spirituality lost in the West.
Located at the foot of the Himalayas and on the banks of the Ganges – a sacred river for Hinduism -, Rishikesh is a place that has had enormous spiritual importance for Hindus since long before its worldwide popularization.
The Chota Char Dham pilgrimage is an event in which you can participate, sharing with Hindus this path that runs through four sacred sites in the region: Badrinath, Kedarnath (photo below), Gangotri and Yamunotri. The season begins in summer and ends at the end of October.
In the city there are many ashrams , which are centers of Hindu meditation and teaching, both religious and cultural. If you want to spend time in one, ask for recommendations from other travelers who have had the experience, since being such a tourist place there are everything from excellent to dubious reputation.
Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka
Traveling to places of religious importance, even if they are not related to our beliefs, can generate deep feelings of spirituality by surrounding yourself with those who experience the special moment of having arrived where they longed for.
I experienced this when making the pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada), a sacred place for Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims in central Sri Lanka .
Starting at night, you climb thousands of steps seeking to reach the top to see the sunrise.
At the top, a sanctuary awaits those who arrive exhausted, treasuring one of the most important relics in the country: a rock in the shape of a footprint of which there are several legends. For Muslims, it corresponds to the foot of Adam, who was taken to Sri Lanka as the best place he could live after the Garden of Eden. Buddhists say it is the footprint of Buddha, and Hindus attribute it to Shiva.
Whatever the belief, what this sacred site achieves is uniting religions in a climate of peace.
The largest Buddhist temple in the world is not located in a country where this religion is the majority, but in Indonesia, the nation with the largest number of Muslims. This is because at the time of its construction, in the 9th century, Buddhism had a strong presence.
Located on the island of Java , this complex has a massive three-story central structure, each adorned with detailed bas-reliefs and statues depicting passages from the life of Buddha and Buddhist mythology.
Along with the Temples of Angkor in Cambodia , and Bagan in Myanmar, Borobudur is one of the three most important religious sites in Southeast Asia.
Visiting it at dawn, when the first rays of light illuminate it, is a highly spiritual experience.
Mount Kurama, Japan
Perhaps the least known of the places we are seeing, Mount Kurama is a special site on the outskirts of Kyoto for spiritual tourism, since it offers a feeling of deep tranquility.
This peace is what led Mikao Usui, founding father of Reiki , to retire in 1922 for a time on Mount Kurama to dedicate himself to meditation. After twenty-one days, he said he felt an energy that led him to enlightenment and the rediscovery of Reiki. According to him, this healing technique through the transfer of energy was practiced ancestrally, it had just been lost.
The beautiful Yuki-Jinja sanctuary is the site of the ancient bamboo-cutting festival, which is held every June 20 to give thanks for water and as a symbol of the destruction of evil.
A visit to Mount Kurama takes you on a peaceful walk through the forest, visiting temples of enormous historical importance such as the Kurama Temple – built around the year 770 -, and relaxing in the open-air onsen (hot spring baths).
A sacred city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Jerusalem is a place steeped in history, spirituality and conflict.
The Old City , surrounded by the Ottoman walls of the 16th century, is the historic center of Jerusalem, where the main sites that make it one of the most important places for humanity are located, such as the Western Wall , the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Temple Mount.
Divided into four neighborhoods: Jewish, Muslim, Armenian and Christian, traveling to Jerusalem is a cultural experience like few places in the world can represent. Its impressive history, which dates back more than 3,000 years, makes it a place that moves everyone who visits it, whether religious or not.
The Camino de Santiago is probably the most famous pilgrimage route in the world , but what many do not know before starting to investigate how to do it is that in reality it is not a single path, but rather it is a network of paths that cover a large part of Spanish territory, and even parts of Portugal and France , culminating in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Originating in the Middle Ages, these paths were traced by faithful Christians to get from their place of origin to the site where, according to tradition, the Apostle Santiago was buried.
Doing the Camino de Santiago is an experience that for many represents a personal transformation , as it is a physical and mental challenge. Yesterday as today, arrival at the Cathedral is loaded with a high emotional and spiritual content.
These are just some places to experience spiritual tourism, although as we saw, each person is unique, so there is no single way or limited places to seek an encounter with oneself.
Volunteering related to spiritual tourism
Spending time in a holistic center is a possibility to get closer to practices that seek spiritual development.
Of course, an important barrier in this is often the prices of the programs, but did you know that you can participate as a volunteer? Many volunteer vacancies are published on the Worldpackers page in holistic centers around the world looking for people who want to help with daily tasks. In exchange, you will receive lodging and meals, in addition to being able to participate in the different practices.
In addition to knowing inside the operation of holistic centers and being part of them, volunteering is an excellent way to travel the world cheaply , since the main expenses will be covered. It will also allow you to meet many people, develop new skills and reach places that as a tourist would be unlikely.
Some examples of places that are looking for volunteers are:
Be part of the meditation center of the Kadampa Buddhist community , located in a natural environment on the outskirts of Sao Paulo . The volunteers are in charge of organizing tasks, cleaning the space and helping in the kitchen.
In the Penedès region of Catalonia, there is the Alaya Retreat Center holistic center , where meditation, yoga, detox, mindfulness and everything related to spiritual and physical health are taught. You can be part of this oasis of relaxation by helping to prepare vegetarian food, as a yoga teacher, spreading the word about the space through photography and social networks or other tasks.
Would you like to spend some time living in a Thai meditation center ? Through your help in the daily tasks of the Insight Meditation Center (Dhutanga PunyaPanya) you can have this unique cultural immersion.