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The Worlds Best Pilgrimages

By Tanya Jacobs

The Top Pilgrimages in The World Worth Walking in Your Lifetime

With depression, anxiety, and suicide rates skyrocketing across the world, it’s difficult to not look at the world and see a dark, grim place. We live in a fast-paced world of long work hours, endless screens and buttons to press, and a series of environmental problems that weigh on all of us. Our modern lives have given us a lot in the way of convenience, but they’ve also taken a lot from us in terms of inner peace, well being, and health.

There are ways to cleanse the modern mind and soul, and it can’t be find on the Internet or with video games. Instead, it means taking long pilgrimages to places that have existed for countless years. Places that were built not just for the religious, but for all peoples seeking to get away from the turmoil of society. These are pilgrimage sites: ancient temples and places of peace that our forefathers and their forefathers before them would travel to seeking enlightenment and serenity.

All of them are long walks that often require meandering through the wilderness, and each has a lesson to teach us about ourselves and our meaning in this life. They provide a respite from the world of online technology, televisions and more – and while not all of this is inherently bad for us, it’s good to take a break from it every now and again.

1. Mecca – Saudi Arabia

Considered as the holiest place in Islam, it’s become the religious duty of all Muslims to attempt the pilgrimage to this incredibly important place at least once in their lives. The mission eventually culminates in a visit to the Masjid al-Haram mosque, which is the largest mosque in the world.

The centre of the building is a cuboid structure, known as the Kaaba, where all visiting Muslims must face when making prayer. Although Mecca is strictly off limits to those who aren’t Muslim, Medina, the second holiest site is open to all religions and creeds.

2. Glastonbury Tor to Stonehenge – The United Kingdom

Before the Romans invaded the United Kingdom, the British people followed an ancient set of religious doctrines and beliefs that can be traced back to the foundational belief system of Animism.

While the Druids and pagans of old have long since been eradicated, the pagan Pilgrimage the journey from tower of St Michaels, which is on top of Glastonbury Hill, to the ancient site of Stonehenge is one that 10000 neopagans take once a year. It’s a 15-hour hike through the English countryside, and emulates what the ancient pagans would have done annually.

3. Kumano Kodo – Japan

The Kumano Kodo is the name given to a series of pilgrimage routes that make their way through the Kii Peninsula in Japan. It’s an ancient set of criss-crossing walks that eventually take the traveller to the Kumano Sanzan temple complex, which is the birthplace of the Kumano Cult.

It’s one of the most beautiful routes in the world, where the traveller will make their way through a rugged mountain landscape, as well as several small, traditional wooden villages that line the walkway. The most popular of these routes is the Takijiri-ojo, which is the gateway to the sacred area of Kumano.

The UNESCO World Heritage site is open to all those that wish to take it, and it’s an experience unlike any other.

4. Mount Kailash – Tibet

This is one of the most popular pilgrimages in the world, and is undertaken by thousands of people of numerous faiths every year. The route takes the traveller to the remote mount Kailash, and it’s believed that hiking the difficult terrain and circumnavigating the base of the mountain will bring good fortune to those that manage to complete it.

It’s a 52km, which many believe needs to be done within a single day, while others will take it at a much slower pace that can take up to four weeks to complete.

Walking around the holy mountain can only be done on foot, yak, or pony, and generally takes most travellers around 3 days in total to finish. Nobody has ever climbed to the summit of the holy mountain, as it is strictly forbidden to attempt to climb the mountain.

5. The Way of St James – France & Spain

Arguably the most famous of the pilgrimage routes in Europe, the Way of St James is completed by around 200,000 people every year – all of which make their way to Santiago de Compostela, which is the alleged resting place of St James.

The most popular route is the ‘French Way’, which begins in the French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port, and travellers will make their way across Pyrenees to Lower Navarre, and eventually into north Spain to the iconic cathedral.

It’s a 780km trek through some of the most beautiful parts of southern France and northern Spain, and not one to be missed.

Tanya Jacobs is a former sports journalist, now blogging about all things wellness. An avid hiker, she's climbed some of the tallest peaks in the world, survived a shipwreck, and camped in Yosemite for a month. Now a digital nomad, Tanya and her partner share their home in California with a cheeky cat named Eliot.

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