The meaning of religious travel varies from pilgrim to pilgrim. The Web provides resources on each of the many ways that people undertake religious trips, including volunteer trips with religious organizations, religious spas and baths, pilgrimages such as the Muslim Hajj, and journeys to religious cities and sites around the world. This guide explores the various forms of religious travel and provides essential online tools to aid your travel planning.
The international religious travel market now takes in a reported $18 billion every year. To learn what the industry entails and to read about the storied roots of religious travel, visit the Web sites in this section.
- On the Web, you’ll see religious travel (or faith-based travel) packages and tours offered by companies that also offer general tour packages. Globus is one such company that has family, cruise and independent vacation packages to various destinations.
- The religious travel industry includes secular vacations. These types of trips are promoted by religious institutions and used as fundraisers for their organizations. If you’re interested in such vacations, ask around at local churches, ministries, and synagogues.
For articles about religious tourism …
The New York Times
“Travel” section has an article on the religious travel trend, including the author’s experience visiting Dharamsala, a Tibetan exile community in India. Trends in religious travel such as cruises are discussed, but options are also given for travelers desiring a more authentic religious wander.
published an article about religious and pilgrimage travel, especially among older Americans. It discusses reasons for the trend, as well as the types of trips many people are taking and where they’re heading, notably Istanbul, Greece, and Chicago.
For an introduction to pilgrimages …
The University of York
devotes a section of its Web site to “‘Pilgrimage’ as a universal practice,” outlining several different categories of pilgrimage like new age, secular, holy figures and relics. Read about the reasons for religious journeys and why pilgrimage is so widespread.
Taking a religious vacation can be quite leisurely, such as a Christian cruise with musical performances and various on-board social events, or intensive and draining, such as an on-foot pilgrimage to Mecca. In this section are Web sites detailing the choices available for religious travelers, including volunteering trips, visits to religious sites around the world, and active and wellness vacations with religious themes.
- The findingDulcinea Travel Web Guide can help you put together a religious trip with online flight and hotel searches, advice for getting around once you arrive in a destination, and tips for passports, visas and various other travel requirements.
- Even if you don’t consider yourself very religious, don’t discount sites of religious or spiritual significance as potential travel destinations. There’s not much difference between tourists and religious pilgrims, according to a USAToday.com article.
For listings of religious cities and sites …
is a nondenominational guide to more than 1,000 international holy places, pilgrimage destinations, sacred sites and religiously significant architectural and artistic creations. Search listings organized by category or country for thorough descriptions. Numerous photographs for each destination are also available. Despite the many Google ads at the top of each page, this site is a comprehensive and valuable resource. The links for “Travel Planning” and “Guided Tours” take you to external affiliates that aren’t necessarily as reliable as this site.
The University of York
is an extensive resource that details the history of several pilgrimage destinations, such as Westminster Abbey, and prepares readers for what to expect during their visits. Links to official Web sites for each location are provided.
For religious spas and baths …
The New York Times
“Travel” section features an article on sulfur hot springs outside of Rome. Although not considered religious, the water tends to have a renewing effect on bathers. If you’re looking for a spiritual travel experience, Roman baths are an option to consider. The baths also have an intriguing history, which is detailed in the article.
The Official Roman Baths Museum Web Site
in Bath, United Kingdom, presents one of the most well-preserved Roman religious spas from ancient times, according to the site. Take a past and present tour of the baths online, and learn about features like the “sacred spring
” that drew worshippers from throughout the Roman Empire.
For pilgrimages in Asia and Europe …
is the Web site of the Association for The Establishment of European Pilgrimage Routes and promotes the Via Francigena and the Way of St. James, two pilgrimage routes
that form a cross over Europe. The Via Francigena was once the main route between Rome and Europe. Learn the history behind both roads and view maps on this site.
Pili Pala Press
publishes books on popular pilgrimages in Spain, the Camino de Santiago and the Vía de la Plata, and provides historical background and photos of each. The routes are especially significant for Christians, as they were used by Christian pilgrims during Muslim domination; but the churches, cathedrals, chapels and monasteries dotting the routes could interest any religious traveler.
Pilgrimage on Shikoku Island
is a detailed guide to the famous 88-temple pilgrimage on Shikoku, the smaller of the four main islands of Japan. Read through the extensive advice on preparation and walking, study the useful maps of the trail and read up on the history and meaning of the pilgrimage.
For volunteer religious travel …
provides volunteer opportunities in different countries and categories, including short-term urban missions and virtual volunteering. Browse trips by service area or skill, such as working with children and medical missions, or by region, including Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Programs range in length from less than a week to two years.
Religious Youth Service
is a nonprofit organization that places volunteers ages 18 and up in various international social service projects, including teaching seminars and building parks. Applicants should be interested in world religions, and available to volunteer for one to two weeks.
For religious cruise and tour providers …
, a tour company affiliated with Gate 1 Travel
, provides several religious tours in various destinations throughout Europe and the Middle East. Each pilgrimage lasts between one and two weeks, and includes hotels, food and drink and bus travel between destinations.
Christian Travel Finder
is a California company focused on Christian cruises and travel events, including Christian-themed cruises and charters, and faith-based land tours and missionary cruises. Cruises travel to different destinations including the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Register for cruises and book online, or call an agent using the number listed on the site.
Certain routes and cities carry great historical significance, whether immortalized in religious texts or living on through storytelling. The sites in this section provide historical context and travel information for a few well-known pilgrimages and locales.
- To plan a visit to a historic religious area of the world, use the findingDulcinea Travel Web Guide to book a flight, find a hotel, and learn more about passports and various international travel requirements.
For Christian pilgrimages …
Journey of the Magi
is a site dedicated to chronicling the original journey of the Magi, or wise men, to visit Christ, as well as the retracing of this journey by a group of pilgrims in 2000. Read an excellent discussion of the story of the original Magi, and the historical versus symbolic interpretations of it. Also find a photo journal
of the 2000 trip.
section on the Holy Sepulchre gives a fascinating history and description of this Christian holy site, along with photos, and is available in English, Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
For Jerusalem …
is an online culture and tourism portal that organizes educational tours and pilgrimages to religious sites of interest for Christians, Muslims and Jews. Jerusalem archaeological and historic sites
are also listed, including religious places of interest like chapels, synagogues and religious museums.
The Noble Sanctuary Online Guide
gives an overview of the mosques and other sites housed in the sanctuary, known in Arabic as Al-Haram al-Sharif, in Jerusalem. These structures include the Dome of the Rock, the most famous Muslim site in Israel and one of the most important mosques in Islam.
For learning about the Hajj …
published an article about the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Travelers may be surprised to learn that the journey draws a “melting pot” of ethnicities and backgrounds, and the atmosphere is celebratory and lively for the most part.
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