7 Breathtaking Spiritual Destinations to Visit Before You Die

From the American southwest to Italy to India, here are some of the most gorgeous and sacred places in the world.

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

Image via Swinn.com

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 campaign Image via El Portal de Sedona Hotel

Image via Pinterest

2. Vatican City

Image via Travel Passionate

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 Square Image via World Nomads

Image via TripSavvy

3. India

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…

Image via Global Travel

The exquisite, mind-blowingly detailed Sun Temple in Konark…

Image via Indian Eagle

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…

Image via Temple Purohit

...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.

Image via TripSavvy

4. Jerusalem

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.

Image via TripAdvisor

Image via The New York Post

5. Mount Kailas, Tibet

Image via YoWangdu

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.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Sapore Decina

Image via Tibet Tour

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

Image via Curiosity

7. Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Image via Kimkim.com

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.

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If you've googled one thing during this pandemic, it is definitely: "Thai food near me."

Thai food has remained one of the most delicious and sought after takeout gems; and in New York City, specifically, there are so many delicious options that it can be overwhelming. Often unlike Chinese food, Thai food offers fresher ingredients and versatile cuisine options. Whether you want some Pad Thai or Pad See Ew, or some coconut milk-infused curry or even just some soup, Thai food is good for any occasion. But with so many options, how do you know you're getting the freshest ingredients at the best price? Here are the best spots to order take-out from, and we even broke it up by borough for you.

Manhattan: Fish Cheeks

Fish Cheeks

Reviewed by The Times as "fresh, vivid and intense," Fish Cheeks offers solid takes on traditional Thai Cuisine. Their speciality remains seafood, so their Crab Friend Rice and Coconut Crab Curry are delicious highlights. Their Tum Yum is also to die for, made with fresh galanagal, lime leaves and lemongrass.

The version [of tum yum] here hums with fresh galangal, lime leaves and lemongrass. Shrimp and knobby mushrooms simmer in a broth that gets extra body from milk, a twist I've never seen before but one I approve of. It could be spicier, but the use of bird's-eye chiles is far from shy.

Manhattan: Lan Larb

thia food

Arguably some of the best Pad Thai in the city, Lan Larb is focused mainly on the food of Thailand's northeast region. As a result, there is often a combo of meat and seafood involved in most dishes, such as the Lao Chicken Soup, which combines fresh chicken with pickled fish and a steamy brown broth. The menu will make your tastebuds whirl if you're one for experimentation, if not, their Pad Thai is iconic and filling enough on its own.

Brooklyn: Ugly Baby

Brooklyn has always been teeming with amazing Thai food joints, but Ugly Baby is the borough's most established success story. The Carrol Gardens sensation was preceded by two long gone Red Hook restaurants known for their authentic Northern Thai cuisine. With Ugly Baby, a name which comes from an ancient belief in Thailand that ugly children bring good fortune, chef Sirichai Sreparplarn had mastered his craft. The restaurant quickly gained glowing praise throughout Brooklyn and New York, and their take on Khao Soi Nuer and Kao Tod Nam Klook remain the stuff of legends.

Queens: Ayada

ayada thai

Ayada's cuisine is so good that it made a New York Times journalist cry at his table. Not out of emotion though, but out of spice. For those looking for a truly bold eating experience, this Queens Thai restaurant holds nothing back when crafting their drunken noodles or Pad Thai, but that spice is what makes it one of the best spots in the city.

Bronx: Ceetay

​While the Bronx isn't necessarily a buzzing Thai food borough, Ceetay's asian fusion cuisine is of the highest quality and will appeal to anyone desperately needing to nom on some noodles. Their sushi is amazing but their Pad Thai is packed with amazing flavor. Seasoned with onions, peppers, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, peanuts, scallions and cilantro, this Pad Thai is packed with flavors and will slam your taste buds in the best possible way.


5 Countries to Visit This Fall

As the weather starts to chill out, we're just getting warmed up to travel

It's not winter yet!

So that means, we're all about that fall travel. It's a beautiful time of year to be outside in many countries, soaking up the colorful landscapes and fresh air. Here are our picks for the top places to visit this fall.

1. Germany


Burg Eltz Castle is a magical step back into the Middle Ages that's been here for more than 850 years.

2. Switzerland


The red leaves in Bern are absolutely striking.

3. Italy


Nothing like the sheer beauty of the formidable Italian alps.

4. Peru


Machu Picchu beckons visitors from near and far this fall.

5. Mexico


It's not too cold to skip the beach!

Everyone has heard of the murder-hotel where dark shadows creep at the edge of your vision, or the abandoned house where the furniture moves each time you leave the room.

But sometimes the places set up to capture the fun and fright of the Halloween season for paying customers can be far more horrifying than any ghost stories. These "fake" haunted houses will leave you genuinely haunted.

Pennhurst Haunted Asylum

So spoooky!

Thomas James Caldwell

Pennhurst Asylum was in operation from 1908-1987 in the small town of Spring City, Pennsylvania. While we don't have all the records of the residents' experiences there, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that this building was home to true horrors. In many ways, 1908 wasn't that long ago, but in terms of mental health treatment—especially in small-town Pennsylvania—it was absolutely the dark ages. This was the time of lobotomies, straight jackets, and shock therapy. Whatever the jump scares and fake blood contribute to the fear you will feel walking through Pennhurst Asylum's aging, echoing halls, they can't come close to the deep, sinking feeling caused by the deep history of torment that has left its imprint on the very fabric of the place. Four spooky skulls out of five.


Haunted Trap House

Like this, but less 90s

In Centreville, Maryand, in the year 1989, a group of visionaries were struck by a bolt of inspiration. What if—instead of zombies and werewolves and demons, and all the stuff out of children's nightmares—what if they filled their haunted house with the real-world nightmares that were actually infesting their city, killing their residents, and generally afflicting every corner of the entire nation. Thus, the Haunted Crack House was born. Since renamed the Haunted Trap House, it's ostensibly an educational experience on the dangers of drug use, it features simulations of overdoses, arrests, and shootings, as well as actual former convicts who are paid to draw on their real experiences to make your visit as terrifying as possible. This kind of fetishizing of human misery to capitalize on the Halloween season is as despicable as it is spooky. Four-and-a-half skulls out of five.


McKamey Manor

He technically consented to this

A $20,000 reward? A 40-page waiver? These figures have garnered a lot of attention in recent headlines. Supposedly this is the "scariest" haunted house experience in the country. Who could resist the temptation of that once-in-a-lifetime experience, combined with the chance to win a big cash prize? Unfortunately, that is exactly what Russ McKay wants. There's a reason he's put so much work into the legal side of his operation. Rather than gassing up neutered chainsaws and chasing you around in a hockey mask, McKay has opted for producing actual, real, straight-up torture. You may not find the decorations and costumes that scary, but you will absolutely fear for your life when you consent to be water-boarded with fake blood. For being operated by a man who is clearly an unhinged psychopath, McKamey Manor ties the Haunted Traphouse, with four-and-a-half spooky skulls.


Donald Vann's House of Horrors

Donald Vann murdered eleven people. Happens to the best of us, but it does present a problem. How do you dispose of all those bodies? Donald's solution was to open a haunted house and put his victims' decaying remains on display as props. Props to him. For eight months he prepared his fetid, malodorous horrors, before debuting on October 1st. Unfortunately, you won't be able to visit his house of horrors, because he has since landed in some legal trouble—board of health, maybe?—but I'm sure for the lucky few who were able to visit during its brief tenure, and witness Vann's "psychotic smirk," I'm sure the nightmares they're left with keep on spooking.


Every Hell House in America


In the same vein as the Haunted Traphouse, Hell Houses are church presentations intended as educational experiences that warn kids and teens away from the path of sin. Their methods for achieving this obviously vary, but according to The Washington Post, you can generally expect the following: "A devil ushers a gay man dying of AIDS into the fiery pit. A teenager who is raped at a drug-filled rave commits suicide and also goes to hell. A young girl hemorrhaging from an abortion repents at the last minute." Awful. Truly sickening. What kind of trauma are they inflicting on these children to prop up their outdated ideologies? Six spooky skulls. Where'd that extra skull come from?? Nobody knows…