Throughout history, civilisations have sought to honour the divine in some way, be it at awe-inspiring natural spots, places where miracles or visions were reported, or buildings consecrated for worship.
Today, sacred spots retain a mysterious allure for millions of people, many of whom still follow the ancient practice of pilgrimage. Here are 3 of the best spiritual escapes from around the world, accessible for those on a budget.
"Adam's Peak by Day" by Adeel Anwer is licensed under CC BY 2.0
1. Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka
Adam's Peak, known locally as Sri Pada, is Sri Lanka's most sacred mountain, located in the southern Hill Country. This lofty peak has been venerated throughout history thanks to a 5-foot long footprint-shaped indentation in the mountainside.
Today, it's held sacred by four religions: Christians and Muslims who believe it was the footprint of Adam, Hindus who think it belongs to Shiva, and Buddhists who think it's one of many traces left by the Buddha.
Whatever your belief, it's a special sacred spot that's been a focus for pilgrimage for over 1,000 years. Pilgrimage season runs from December until May, with pilgrims setting off in the depths of the night when the route is illuminated by ribbons of lights. Like this, they reach the top as dawn begins to illuminate the holy mountain. The sight of the sun spreading over the hills and valleys, revealing the beauty of the landscape, is well worth the climb alone.
Once you're done and have managed the descent, you can relax in an infinity pool with one of the best views in the world, all at an incredibly affordable price if you're travelling on a western budget. Rest those legs, you've earned it, and carry the spiritual feeling through the rest of the day.
"Tiwanaku" by Danielle Pereira is licensed under CC BY 2.0
2. Tiwanaku, Bolivia
The ancient city of Tiwanaku, located near the southern shores of Lake Titicaca, was the capital of a powerful pre-Incan civilisation that stretched from the Peruvian coast to northern Bolivia, and included some parts of Chile.
It was the highest city in the ancient world, standing at 3,850 metres (12,600 ft.), and at its peak was home to between 10,000 and 20,000 residents.
In mythology, Lake Titicaca was considered the centre of the world, and its two islands were thought to represent the sun and the moon. So it's little surprise that this site was the spiritual, as well as the political, centre of the Tiwanaku culture.
Today the monumental remains include a number of temples and sacred spaces, symbolic gates such as the gigantic Gateway of the Sun, a pyramid, and large mysterious carvings of faces. People travel from all over for anything from visiting Shamans to climbing the two mountains, Paccha Mama (Mother Earth) and Paccha Tata (Father Earth).
"Kumano" by Peachykeen103 is licensed under CC BY 2.0
3. Kumano Kodō, Japan
Kumano Kodō is a network of pilgrimage trails stretching across the mountainous Kii Peninsula in the southern Kansai region of Japan. Along with the Camino de Santiago, they are one of only two pilgrimage routes that have UNESCO World Heritage status.
For over 1,000 years, pilgrims have used these routes to move between the different sacred sites in the area. At the heart of the region is the Kumano Sanzan, comprised of three shrines: Hongu Taisha, Hayatama Taisha, and Nachi Taisha.
However, the Kumano Kodō is much more than these sacred areas. The entire process of the pilgrimage, which passes through arduous terrain, is a religious experience in itself, and pilgrims traditionally undertook a process of worship and purification along the way. Today, it offers a fantastic opportunity to explore this unique, spiritual landscape.
This is merely a taster for the multitude of sacred sites around the world that hold a spiritual significance. There are plenty more to discover - happy exploring!