For some faiths, a journey to a sacred worship site is a spiritual mandate. For others, it is a way to show reverence and dedication to God or another holy deity. Others simply want to enjoy the history and spirituality of a location even if their own faith differs. While some sites are closed to unbelievers, others are open to everyone. For people of all faiths, the major spiritual destinations of the world are an unforgettable combination of spirituality and history.
Muslim religious tradition dictates that followers pray five times a day in the direction of Mecca, according to ReligionFacts.com. Visiting Mecca is a requirement as one of the religion's "five pillars of faith." Although non-Muslims are strictly prohibited from entering Mecca, the Saudi Arabian city still gets millions of visitors each year.
Source: Religion Facts
Lourdes is a village in southern France where a young woman named Bernadette Soubirous claimed she had seen a number of visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858, according to lourdes-france.org. After her visions, she was directed to a pool of water that thousands of Catholics visit each year.
The ancient ruins of Stonehenge have remained a mystery for centuries, according to Britannia. Some speculate that the circles of giant blue stones were constructed as a place to worship ancient deities. One popular idea is that a group of priests called the druids created stonehenge for worship. Although science has debunked that idea, many still consider Stonehenge a sacred place of pagan worship.
Source: Encyclopedia Brittanica
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider temples to be houses of the Lord. In temples, worthy members of the church participate in ordinances that allow them to return to God and to be united with their families forever.
There are 148 temples operating worldwide, 14 under construction and 11 announced.
Portions of Israel's Western Wall or the Wailing Wall are made of the remains from the Second Temple of Jerusalem, according to Britannica. This a pilgrimage destination for Jews. Anyone who visits the wall can write a prayer on a piece of paper and place it in one of the wall's cracks.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
The Vatican, is the world's smallest sovereign state and is the residence of the the Catholic ruling Pope, according to the Vatican City-state website. It is a draw for Catholics as well as those interested in touring museums and the famous Sistine Chapel.
Source: Vatican State
The Bodhi Tree is a tree considered sacred in an area where it is said that Buddha was resting when he received enlightenment. Although the original tree is no longer standing, Bodhi trees in Sri Lanka and Bodhgaya, India, are believed to have been grown from parts of the original tree.
Buddhist temples also contain Bodhi trees.
Source: Buddhist Studies
Tibet's Mount Kailash is a place of religious significance to those following the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Bon religions, according to Sacred Destinations. Hindus believe it is Lord Shiva's home.
Those who make the trek to Mount Kailash will then walk around the mountain as part of their pilgrimage.
Source: Sacred Sites
The Golden Temple in India is an ancient and architectural marvel and is the holiest shrine in the Sikh religion, according to The Golden Temple Amritsar. It is open to anyone — four entrances to the shrine indicate a willingness to welcome anyone from any background. It was built lower than the surrounding land as a reminder of humility.
Thousands of people eat at the langar, or free food kitchen, daily.
Source: Golden Temple Amritsar
Tradition teaches that Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec man who converted to Christianity, on Dec. 9, 1531 and again a few days later. She asked that a church be built at the spot where she appeared. Diego was resistant so Mary asked him to bring her roses. After doing this, he opened his cloak, let the roses out and Mary's image showed up inside his cloak.
Some have disputed this teaching, but many still see this as a sacred place of pilgrimage.
Pope John Paul II canonized Diego and made Our Lady of Guadalupe the patroness of the Americas.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
The Holy Land in Jerusalem is significant to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Jews have the Western Wall, which is a remnant of the retaining wall of the mountain where the second temple was built. The temple contained Judaism's most sacred place: the Holy of Holies. The wall is now the place where Jews can pray closest to where the Holy of Holies was.
Many Christians are drawn to places where significant moments from Jesus' life are believed to have happened. One of these is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where they believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected.
Muslims have the Dome of the Rock, and the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Noble Sanctuary. According to Muslim tradition, this is where the Prophet Muhammad came from Mecca and "prayed with the souls of all the prophets," BBC reports. Muslims believe the Dome of the Rock is where Muhammad was taken into heaven.
London's Westminster Abbey was established in the mid-tenth century by a group of Benedictine monks and is not only a major historical site, but also a religious one with daily worship continuing from its opening until today. Westminster Abbey is also the coronation site of England's royalty. Travelers from many different countries and faiths travel to London to worship at the holy site and to view the rich history it preserves.
Source: Westminster Abbey
Uluru is the Aboriginal name for Ayers' Rock, a sacred and spiritual place for the Aboriginal people of Australia, who believe it is part of their creation mythology. The Anangu believe that their ancestors traveled the earth making beautiful creations, including the Uluru.
They believe that parts of the rock depict their ancestors' spirits and if they touch those parts of the rock, they will receive blessings from and communicate with their ancestors.
It is also a natural wonder, reaching more than a mile and a half into the ground, six miles around and more than 1,000 feet high.
Source: Uluru: Australia's Iconic Red Centre