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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It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!


So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—Workaway.info.

Workaway Workaway

Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).

Workaway WoIsango.com

You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway

Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker