We all travel with a purpose – and sometimes that purpose is to connect with something bigger than ourselves. Whether you are religious, spiritual or neither, it’s hard to deny the larger-than-life feeling you get when visiting a sacred place that was once (or still is) a place of worship.
For thousands of years and all over the world, humans have worshipped a variety of gods, goddesses and deities. And the sites they have built to profess their faiths remain some of the most fascinating places in the world today. Here are the ones you have to visit in your lifetime:
Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
Originally built as a Hindu mausoleum in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat later became a Buddhist temple by the turn of the century. Today, it is the world’s largest religious monument and it considered a true masterpiece of Khmer architecture.
Uluru and Kata Tjuta (Australia)
These two interesting rock formations are located in the heart of Australia’s Red Center within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The sites are considered sacred by the Anangu people of the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal tribe: they believe their ancestors built these rocks and their spirits live on here.
Cenote Sagrado (Mexico)
Located near the Chichen Itzá archaeological site, this natural underground sinkhole was an important place of worships to the Mayans. The site was used for special ceremonies and occasional sacrifices.
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá (Colombia)
Located inside a salt mine some 500 meters below the ground, this is one of the most unique sacred sites in the world.
Church of the Nativity (Palestine)
Located in Palestine, on the West Bank, this church was constructed on top of the cave where Jesus is believed to have been born. Today, it is an important pilgrimage site for Christians.
Mount Sinai (Egypt)
What’s so unique about Mount Sinai is that it connects the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. Although archaeologists have yet to find evidence to confirm this as the place referenced in the holy books, biblical scholars have theorized that it was here that Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.
Taung Kalat (Myanmar)
Propped on the top of Mount Popa, Taung Kalat is a popular pilgrimage site visited by thousands of people every year. You’ll have to climb 777 steps to reach it but the view at the top is simply breathtaking.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkey)
Originally built in the 17th century, this is one of the iconic landmarks of Istanbul. The mosque is also known as the Blue Mosque because of the stunning blue Isnik tiles that line its interiors.
Vortexes (Arizona, USA)
Practitioners of New Age spiritually flock to Sedona, Arizona year-round to visit its vortex energy sites. The region is filled with a number of them and people believe these vortexes can help them find inner healing.
Stone Circles (Gambia and Senegal)
The Stone Circles of Senegambia consist of four sites of ancient monuments found along the river Gambia in Gambia and Senegal. Archaeologists have made all kinds of discoveries at these sites including pottery, iron instruments and ornaments dating back to the 1st and 2nd millennia to our era.
Hagia Sophia (Turkey)
The site of Hagia Sophia was first a pagan temple, then a cathedral (6th century), later a mosque (15th century) and today it is a museum.
St. Basil’s Cathedral (Russia)
Located in Moscow, this is one of the most easily-recognizable cathedrals in the world. Its kaleidoscope of colors and unique architectural design are what make it a true icon of Russian culture today.