Sacred and Spiritual Sites to Inspire Travel
There are different interests to inspire travel, ranging from food, art, entertainment shows, etc. However, one of the earliest reasons to drive travel has been for religious reasons and pilgrimages. Religious or not, below are some sacred and spiritual sites worth discovering.
Madonna del Sasso
High above Locarno on the Swiss side of Lake Maggiore sits the Madonna del Sasso, a sanctuary and pilgrimage church with a founding that goes back to a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1480. Built on the edge of the rocks, the highly decorated church boasts amazing views of the city. Today, the church is open to the public on a daily basis and travelers from across the globe head to the church to see the life-sized statues depicting scenes from the Bible.
During a visit to the area, travelers can stay at Hotel Eden Roc in Ascona, just a 10 minute drive away. A resort with unrivaled lakeside views, the Eden Roc offers a private beach and yacht harbor, a Spa & Wellness Center and four outstanding restaurants with cuisine ranging from casual Mediterranean to seasonal haute cuisine. Guests can also take advantage of the property's many experiences, including kayaking around the lake, hiking around Locarno and a trip to the Madonna del Sasso.
Temples of Koh Samui, Thailand
Wat Phra Yai, or Big Buddha Temple, is a must-see while on a trip to Thailand. Located on a small rocky island off the coast of Koh Samui, the statue was built in 1972 and depicts a time during Buddha’s journey to enlightenment where he successfully subdued the temptations and dangers thrust at him by the devil-figure Mara by meditating and remaining calm. Travelers to the area can head to the temple to see the Buddhist devotees who come daily to perform religious rituals and make offerings of fruit and flowers and light incense at the base of the statue.
The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui, nestled within a private bay on the Gulf of Thailand on the site of a former coconut plantation, offers guests the chance to travel to Big Buddha Temple from the property each day. Located only 10 minutes away, travelers can immerse themselves in the local culture and religion with a visit to this major landmark and sacred site.
City of Quito, Ecuador
The capital of Ecuador, Quito is recognized for being the very first UNESCO World Heritage City and for having the best preserved colonial churches on the continent. The city is known for its 30 churches, particularly the monasteries of San Francisco, Santo Domingo, San Augustin, La Company, La Merced, the Sanctuary of Guapulco, and the Recoleta of San Diego, which are remarkable examples of the Baroque School of Quito.
Travelers interested in exploring the historic capital can do so with Quasar Expeditions. A leader in experiential travel throughout South America for over 30 years, Quasar offers unforgettable experiences throughout Quito, including tours to the various citadels throughout the area that are are recognized not only for their architecture, but also for their decorative elements such as altarpieces, paintings and sculptures. With itineraries ranging from two to five days, explorers can experience the height of Ecuador's history, art, and religion dating back to the 16th century during their time in the city.
Basilica Sainte Marie Madeleine at Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, France
Basilica Sainte Marie Madeleine at Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume is a large gothic church housing the relics of St. Mary Magdelene, one of Jesus' most celebrated disciples. Construction of the church and adjacent covent began in 1925 and today is the only large Gothic church in Provence. After the discovery of the body of Mary Magdalene and the official recognition of these relics in 1281, Charles II of Anjou, Count of Provence, decided, with the approval and encouragement of Pope Boniface VIII, to build a magnificent basilica in the honor of Mary Magdalene. Under the crypt in a glass dome contains the saint’s skull, declared to be that of “a small Mediterranean type woman, about sixty years of age.” Additionally, a crystal tube is sealed to the bottom of the reliquary, enclosing a fragment of skin and bone tissue clinging to Mary Magdalene’s frontal bone on which Christ had placed his fingers on the morning of the Resurrection. Standing high above many of the other buildings that surround it in the town of St Maxime la St Baume, the church can be seen from afar in the countryside.
One of the ultimate hideaways in Provence is Hôtel Lou Pinet in Saint-Tropez, a property embodying the bohemian charm of the iconic village. Far from the crowds, but still near everything, Hôtel Lou Pinet strikes a perfect balance for the ultimate Saint-Tropez vacation and was designed for those looking for an equilibrium between the thrill of partying and peaceful refuge. Hotel Lou Pinet is part of the Maisons Pariente collection, and as such the property has been designed to resemble private houses rather than hotels, inviting couples to relax and recharge as they would at home in exceptional settings. The hotel features 26 guest rooms and 8 suites — each bathed in natural light with private gardens, spa in partnership with Tata Harper, two bars, it's very own BeefBar restaurant butcher shop, and the largest pool in Saint-Tropez tucked away in a secret garden.
Rock Art Sites at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe
The forests and sandstone kopjes surrounding Singita Pamushana Lodge are home to more than 80 known rock art sites ranging from single figures to large galleries that contain multiple paintings, painted over three distinct time periods between 700 to 2,000 years ago. Many of the earliest paintings are figurative and illustrate everyday scenes from the lives of the hunter gatherers who made them. These include hunting scenes and animals like elephant, rhino, zebra and many other creatures of the bush including, most significantly, eland which were sacred to the Khoi San herders and represented rain and fertility. Rock art sites, such as those at Pamushana Lodge, are undergoing scholarly reexamination for their complex underlying meanings, such as the visual depiction of the San’s strong spiritual traditions shown by figures in a trance, rain and initiation dances among other rituals. Many scenes, upon closer inspection, show creatures that are half-animal and half-human and probably depict spiritual shamans in a trance state.
Perched on a sandstone ridge high above the Malilangwe Dam, Singita Pamushana draws inspiration from the rich tribal history of the region, the lodge’s design features bold geometric patterns, tile inlays and carved furniture, as well as comforting natural fabrics, raw silks and woven leather elements. Guests at Singita Pamushana Lodge can also take an educational tour of the best rock art sites in the 130,000-acre Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve.
La Sagrada Familia, Spain
With rich culture, tradition and craftsmanship, Barcelona is a city full of sacred sites, but the most notable and celebrated is the emblematic architectural icon, La Sagrada Familia. La Sagrada Família is renowned architect Antoni Gaudí's best-known work and has become an undisputed symbol of Barcelona. This unique modern temple has been under construction since 1882, and is expected to be completed by 2026. During his lifetime, Gaudí completed the crypt and the Nativity façade at the side, which have been declared a World Heritage Site. The surviving models and drawings have made it possible to continue with the building work, which continues to be funded by private donations. Every part of the design of the temple including the monumental facades, steeples, towers, doors and spire are replete with Roman Catholic symbolism. All in all, the completed Sagrada Família will be symbolic of the lifetime of Christ.
For a stay in the middle of Barcelona, luxury travel club THIRDHOME boasts this stylish center city apartment in their portfolio. The industrial-chic loft has two floors, with ground floor containing the kitchen, living room, and patio while the top floor is composed of the master bedroom with en-suite bathroom and a mezzanine with a reading area that leads to a gallery with books. The space is completely unique and unusual, a true gem for people that enjoy creative spaces and architecture.
South Africa Sacred Sites
South Africa is a country old in history and traditions, and also has no shortage of sacred sites, which have been identified and used by people for metaphysical and cultural rituals of religion. These sacred sites are recognized and singled out as having a “sacred quality and value” to humanity and the planet. It can be land, water, people, plants or animals that deserve to be specially acknowledge, honored, and protected. Some of the best-known sacred sites in South Africa are Table Mountain or “Mountain in the Sea” in Cape Town, the mountain range of Three Rondavels in Mpumalanga and the Magaliesberg in North West province, which is recognized as the birthplace of mankind.
The ultimate hotel experiences in South Africa celebrating native culture and traditions are Ellerman House in Cape Town, The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa in Johannesburg, and Tswalu Kalahari in Northern Cape. Ellerman House is an iconic hotel located in Cape Town showcasing the best in South African culture through art, wine, and food. The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa is an 5-star, all-suite hotel emulating the essence of the city and country with a property that is a unique blend of rich, cultural history with contemporary touches throughout. Tswalu Kalahari is the largest privately-owned game reserve in South Africa with the highest standards of comfort, aesthetics, design and service and a world-class conservation initiative, where research is integrated into every part of the experience.