Pilgrimage Holidays: Monasteries and Temples to Visit on a Spiritual Journey around the World

There is something tranquil about religious establishments and visiting a religious place is always a peaceful experience for everyone. While a majority of active temples and monasteries are found in the Asian continent, there are spectacular religious monuments to be seen all around the world. This post highlights the places you should visit if you wish to undertake a spiritual journey around the world:

  1. Taktsang or Tigers Nest Monastery, Bhutan

Situated on a dramatic cliffside of the upper Paro Valley in Bhutan, The Taktsang Monastery is an iconic religious site in Bhutan. The name Taktsang means Tigers Nest and the legend behind this name is that Guru Rimpoche who meditated at this site for 3 years, arrived in Bhutan on a flying tigress. The tigress landed in a cave which is now within the monastery. This spectacular spot is a 2-hour hike or a pony ride, which makes this incredible spiritual experience all the more exhilarating.

  1. Golden Temple, Amritsar

Situated in the busy city of Amritsar, the golden temple removes you from the hustle bustle of everyday life. Built using 750 kilograms of gold, this temple is not just grand but being present at this serenesite is also very soothing. Chants from the Sikh holy book can be heard all around the temple complex and amidst the holy waters of the Amrit Sarovar which is central to the complex, stands the glowing Golden temple. This temple is traditionally called Harmandir Sahib and it is the holiest temple for the Sikhs.

  1. Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

This Christian Monastery is situated in the valley of RilaMassif and is founded by a patron saint by the name of John of Rila. Being the centre of religious, cultural and educational experiences in Bulgaria; this monastery is the largest Eastern Orthodox Monastery in the country. The Monastery is surrounded by a pristine nature park and makes for a great day trip from Sofia. You should also consider visiting St. Luke’s Hermitage while you are there.

  1. Rock Temples of Abu Simbel, Egypt

Besides the regal ambitions of the Pharoah, what makes these temples particularly interesting is that they were relocated by a UNESCO team to their current location. The original spot was flooded by Aswan High Damn in the 60’s and the entire structure was lifted piece by piece to save it from being destroyed. Dedicated to the Pharoah Ramses II and his wife Nefertari, the site comprises two incredible rock cut temples that are worth a visit if you happen to be in Egypt.

  1. Mar Saba Monastery, Israel

This orthodox monastery is considered to be the strictest monastery in Israel and is also believed to be amongst the oldest continuously active monasteries in the world. While Bethlehem presents many reasons for tourists to travel here, Mar Saba is certainly amongst the top. However, the only aspect that happens to be dispiriting is the fact that women are not allowed inside. Situated amidst the Judean Hills and Kidron Valley, one needs to travel about 2 hours trough a desolate desert to get here and the experience is one you’ll never forget.

  1. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Spread over 400 acres in a verdant jungle in Cambodia, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. Originally the complex was built as a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and gradually it turned into a Buddhist place of worship. It is believed that the temple was erected to serve as a funerary temple as it is oriented to the West. As a reversal of the normal order, a western orientation symbolizes associations with death in Hinduism. The temple walls are covered in reliefs that tell stories of Hindu and Buddhist deities and events.

  1. Sveti Marija Benedictine Monastery, Croatia

Adding to the list of incredible sites in Croatia, the Benedictine Monastery on the island of Sveti Marija accommodates a Church built in Romanesque style that is only accessible by boat. Built by Italian monks, the church is surrounded by the Mljet island and national park.  The Time magazine has ranked the Mljet Island amongst the top 10 most beautiful islands in the world and the monastery building is now a restaurant/cafe where you can visit to admire the stunning architecture and natural environment.

  1. Temple of Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chichen Itza was a pre-Columbian city built by the Mayans who inhabited the area. The ruins of what was an incredibly vibrant city accommodates remnants of many important Mayan structures. The temple at the centre is a pyramid shaped establishment that was apparently used for religious rites with the objective of ensuring good agricultural produce. An interesting fact about the pyramid is that each side has 91 steps along with one step at the top, and all the steps add up to make 365 steps, representing each day of the year.

  1. Ki Gonpa, India

This Tibetan Buddhist monastery occupies a spectacular spot in the Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh. At an altitude of 4,166 metres above sea level, this is the biggest centre of Buddhist learning in the area and it is also over 1000 years old. The monastery belongs to the Gelugpa/Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism and is known for its ancient weapons and murals and also beautiful rare thangkas (paintings). The entire setting is particularly special as the monastery has breath-taking views of the grand Himalayan snow-capped mountains.

  1. Seiganto-ji, Japan

Seiganto-ji is the first stop on the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage in the Kii mountain range. It has spectacular views of the tallest waterfall in Japan and the beautiful forests of Nachi. Located in Wakayama Prefecture, this temple belongs to the Tendai Buddhist Sect and was apparently founded by a monk from India. Legend has it that this monk came across this spot when he was looking for a place to practice abstinence and, the Goddess Kannon appeared and instigated him to build the temple. People also believe that this site may have previously been a place for nature worship.

Temples don’t just offer an introduction to the spiritual aspect of life, but tell us so much about the history and culture of a place. Visiting a temple or a monastery is definitely a tranquil experience but it is also fascinating to learn about the lives of people and their value systems. If you are looking for inspiration, motivation or just peace and quiet, a journey to visit temples around is surely something you should consider. And, with access to facilities like multi stop tickets, you can pack a multi destination spiritual adventure into your next vacation.