Certain places on Earth have always called out to people. Like beacons in the darkness, they seem to promise a connection to something far beyond the self. Whether their influence is due to the presence of intangible energy beams, or the influence of ancient myths, or a bit of both, each place on this list is steeped in rich spiritual significance and ancient power.
When visiting these places, it's important to be respectful of their importance and history, especially if you don't practice the religion specific to the site. That being said, here are 7 of the most breathtaking spiritual destinations in the world.
1. Sedona, NM
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For a while now, this place has been drawing new age mystics like moths to a flame. Apparently, it has an extremely high concentration of energy vortexes, which emanate waves of positive psychic energy and earthly power. Though the area has grown somewhat overpriced and commodified, it still boasts a variety of gorgeous views and certainly still offers the opportunity to collect some of the positive, spiritually rejuvenating energy that, if you listen to any of the wandering mystics or wayward wine moms filling the area, is radiating from the ground itself.
Sedona OH campaignImage via El Portal de Sedona Hotel
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2. Vatican City
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Home of the Pope, this legendary tiny nation boasts countless majestic and sacred sites, both large and small. You can see Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel paintings, so richly detailed they seem to contain all of life; then stroll to St. Peter's Basilica to view the grand, shining majesty of the Catholic Church's crown jewel; then lounge in the elegant St. Peter's Square, or explore the labyrinth of catacombs under the basilica for a more macabre window into the darker side of the Church. You can also see darling Pope Francis give a papal address every Wednesday morning. Humbling and imposing, Vatican City is a place to reflect—both on spirituality and on the opulence that often coincides with religion.
Saint Peter's SquareImage via World Nomads
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There are endless spiritual destinations in India, and to choose just one would be a disservice to the rest.
There's the Golden Temple/Swarn Mandir, opulent homage to Sikhism…
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The exquisite, mind-blowingly detailed Sun Temple in Konark…
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Amarnath Cave, only accessible via a rigorous, dangerous trek, and the place where mythology tells us that Lord Shiva told the secret of immortality to the goddess Parvarti…
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...and the booming, radiant Varanarsi, always teeming with crowds of worshipers, all having come to this ancient city where, it is believed, everyone who passes through will be liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth.
Image via India Tours
Among the most famous is the Bodh Gaya, which is the world's most sacred Buddhist temple. According to scriptures, nearly 2,600 years ago, the Buddha found enlightenment under a Bodhi tree, after spending 49 days fighting off demons and falling deeper into meditation under its branches. It's believed that a nearby tree is the direct descendent of that legendary one, and today, you can see a beautifully carved Buddha statue sitting beneath it, looking out serenely at the world around him. The temple is the common end point of religious pilgrimages for Buddhists, and with its astounding architectural details and rich history, it very may well catalyze a spiritual awakening in you, too, if that's what you're seeking.
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One of the world's most sacred cities for Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike, Jerusalem boasts innumerable holy sites. Among the most famous: the Chapel of the Ascension, which is part of a mosque but which holds significance for Christians too; and The Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock, the original place where the Islamic prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven. The Western Wall holds special importance for Jews, and Mount Zion, which holds the Tomb of David and the room where the Last Supper was held, is also steeped in spiritual importance.
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5. Mount Kailas, Tibet
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This mountain is sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains, and is believed to be the actual spiritual center of the universe in some sects of these faiths. According to Hindus, it's the home of Lord Shiva, god of creation and death. To Jains, it's the location where the first Jain reached Nirvana. For Buddhists, it's the legendary home of Buddha Demchog, who symbolizes supreme bliss. Mount Kailas is somewhat difficult to visit, because it's located in the remote Himalayas, and most visitors approach on foot or on pony or yak.
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6. Crater Lake, Oregon
Image via Dave Morrow Photography
This lake holds deep spiritual significance for the Klamath Native American tribe, partly because of the dramatic way it formed. The crater was made when the volcano Mount Mazama exploded in around 4680 BC, blasting a massive indent into the earth. Believing it symbolized the power and rage of the earth gods, members of the Klamath tribe often make pilgrimages there. According to myth, the basin was formed when two gods—Llao of the Underworld and Skell of the World Above—engaged in a war for world domination. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in Oregon and the seventh deepest in the world, and presents a popular and stunning destination where people across the world can appreciate the raw, awe-inspiring power of the earth.
Image via Fine Art America
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7. Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
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Located in the highlands of the Sierra Mountain Range, this lake was made from a volcanic eruption that reorganized the landscape around 84,000 years ago. Since then, it's become the picture of abundance, with its lush fields and generous spread of volcanoes and horizons. The crown jewel, though, are the waters themselves, which often radiate an unearthly shade of blue. Like Sedona, it is believed that the lake exists on top of a powerful energy vortex. The lake is also rimmed by indigenous Mayan villages, and many pilgrims come to visit the lake, such as yogis and retreaters looking to participate in the famous Full Moon Course, 40-day silent retreats, and the like. For more, read this guide to the best places to visit in Guatemala during a two to three week stay.
Image via Eagle's Retreats
From forests and sunsets to cathedrals and glittering skylines, every square inch of the world is full of wonder if you really think about it. Still, in some places, it's easier to sense that wonder, or perhaps to get in contact with its source. Sometimes, you do have to travel quite far in order to come back home.