Reader Question From CC:
I am so glad I came across Journeys To Come––what an amazing resource for all things travel, holidays, history, and culture. You’re doing a beautiful job ❤
What Catholic/Christian pilgrimages and landmarks would you recommend? I’ve never been on any such expedition before and would love to one day. Any suggestions and tips would be greatly appreciated.
Also, do you have any experience or interest in tap dancing (I run a women-in-tap site ?
Thank you so much for asking me about ‘religious tourism’.
Over the last 20 or so years, I’ve had the joy of visiting a handful of absolutely fantastic sites around the world and I’ve found they’ve generally a few things in common.
These sites are often found in visually beautiful locations; they’re open to all types of travellers both in budget and belief; and they’re generally misunderstood by those who’ve never visited them.
If you Google this subject, you’d think only religious fanatics frequent these places and my experience is that nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve never had a bad time at any of the locations. You are free to spend as little or as much time as you choose there and even if you only have a smidge of faith, you’ll still find these locations fascinating.
I suppose an example of this would be my visit to Fatima, in Portugal. I was only passing through the area with the “Getaway” crew, travelling from one nearby location to another, when we saw the signs for Fatima. This is a Catholic pilgrimage site where it’s believed in 1917 a vision of the Virgin Mary purportedly appeared to three shepherd children. It’s now an enormous sanctuary and I found the atmosphere so welcoming and even though I was only there for the afternoon, it was just a spur of the moment decision to film here, it really had an effect on me, a wonderful effect. We walked to the basilica and lit candles, alongside individuals and families crawling towards the shrine on their knees, thousands making vows and there was an air of reverence and respect.
I’m choosing my words very carefully here, as I too am respectful of others beliefs and genuinely don’t want to upset anyone. But from a traveller’s perspective, I’d also like others to know that these sites can be wonderful to visit and open to all.
So, my TOP 5, in no particular order:
- Fatima, Portugal. Open to both day-trippers like myself and those making a lifelong pilgrimage.
- Santiago de Compostela, Spain. This is also a wonderful location for those who love to hike amongst magnificent mountains, food lovers and there’s a variation of accomodation, too.
- The Vatican, Rome. What astounded me upon my first visit (I’ve been a few times now) was that it’s not unusual to actually see The Pope conducting a service, just do your homework on this and for want of a better term, you may get lucky. Also, the tour of the basilica itself is truly awe-inspiring.
- Jerusalem, Israel. One of the best trips I ever did was the pilgrimage from Nazareth to Bethlehem, retracing the steps of Mary and Joseph. Of course, Jerusalem and this entire region opens up many choices for travellers, but I enjoyed my time at The Wailing Wall, Bethlehem’s Church of The Nativity and the path that Jesus walked carrying his cross, the Via Delorosa.
- The River Jordan, where Jesus was baptised by John The Baptist. There are a few locations to experience here. The Israeli side, when I visited, was very busy, lots of people dunking themselves into the water and to me, it felt quite touristy. The Jordanian side, Bethany, felt quite the opposite to me. Very peaceful. No baptisms in the river took place. So, if anything, you certainly have two different experiences on offer and from what I could see, both the busy and the quiet side were being equally enjoyed.
I have found in the Middle East, Dakkak Tours to be brilliant to work with.
Once again, I am choosing my words with the greatest respect but also, having visited many religious sites right around the world, it’s important for travellers to know that you don’t have to be a highly religious to attend, as long as you are respectful at all times these sites are generally open to all with an open heart.
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