Though the idea of being called a pilgrim brings images of kindergarten Thanksgiving plays to mind, the ancient practice of a sacred trek to holy sites is still a robust practice in our modern world. With places for people who are religious or secular, the point of a pilgrimage is to reflect and find some sort of clarity with dedication and distance from everyday life. Lace up your hiking boots and get ready to find yourself in the forests of Japan, the roads of Spain or the rocky terrain of Tibet!

Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka

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This short hike up to Adam’s Peak is only 4.3 miles, but it carries with it the weight of four different religions. While Buddhists claim that the giant imprint of a foot at the summit is Buddha’s, Hindus assert that the print belongs to Shiva and both Muslims and Christians say that the huge imprint belongs to Adam, the world’s first man. No matter whose foot it is, this stunning peak draws thousands of pilgrims each year who usually hike the rugged terrain in the cool of night, punctuating their journey with stops into the tea shops that line the path to the top.

The Kumano Kodō, Japan

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The 43-mile trail winds its way through the verdant forests of the Kii mountains, just south of Osaka. Popularized in the 10th Century by powerful emperors who made the sacred trek through the rugged landscape, the trails are now officially a UNESCO World Heritage site – one of just two pilgrimages to bear that title. On your way, you’ll pass by three ancient shrines, numerous tea houses and a wealth of housing options for those making their pilgrimage. At the end of the route, pilgrims are rewarded with a soak in the route’s famous hot springs.

Mount Kailash, Tibet

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Drawing pilgrims of all faiths for over 15,000 years, a circumnavigation of Mount Kailash in Tibet is still a popular path for pilgrims to embark upon. While some insist on making the entire 32-mile journey in a day and others still try to make the trek on their hands and knees, most travelers take about three days to complete the voyage. Though the path around the mountain’s base is extremely popular, nobody has climbed the mountain – this is because it is strictly forbidden. Pro tip: complete the pilgrimage 108 times to reach nirvana!

Pilgrim’s Way To Canterbury, England

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The trek from London to Canterbury became popular after the murder of Canterbury Archbishop Thomas Beckett in 1170 under the reign of King Henry II. He was later canonized after becoming well-known to have performed miracles. Pilgrims also began to trek from London to Canterbury in his name – completing the journey in about two weeks. Modern pilgrims unfortunately can’t take the same path that their fellow pilgrims made nearly a thousand years ago (due to heavy traffic along the route). An alternate way takes the trekker 112 miles through the English countryside, with beautiful views and steeped in history.

Camino de Santiago, France and Spain

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One of the most popular routes is the Camino de Santiago – or The Way of Saint James – that takes the pilgrim from southern France through to the Northern Spanish coast, ending at cathedral of Santiago de Compostel, where Saint James is said to be buried. The 485-mile walk takes its followers through the Spanish countryside and gives the pilgrims real insight into the casual everyday life of locals who live along the trail. Hikers are housed in hostel-like homes and are treated to the local way of life along the UNESCO World Heritage path. All in all, the pilgrimage takes about a month to complete.

Char Dham, India

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The pilgrimage is of high importance to Hindus worldwide, many of whom try to visit one of the sites in their lifetime. Char Dham refers to four unique pilgrimage sites – Badrinath in the north, Rameswaram in the south, Dwarka in the west and Puri in the east. Taking you all over India, the route is 3,900 miles in length! So while some parts can be completed on foot, the pilgrim with other obligations can see the country by train and car, as well. You should plan for at least two weeks to allow enough time to see all four sites.

Mecca, Saudi Arabia

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No pilgrimage list would be complete without a mention of Mecca! The actual pilgrimage length varies, as people all over the world of Muslim faith fly into Saudi Arabia to participate in Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Last year, about 3 million Muslims came to Mecca to complete their pilgrimage – one of the five pillars of faith that all Muslims must at least attempt to complete in their lifetime. Though non-Muslims are not allowed into the holy city, they can visit Islam’s second holiest city, Medina, which is where the prophet Muhammad is buried.

Do you want to take on any of these pilgrimages or think we left an important one out? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

About The Author

Mary Zakheim
Content Writer

When she is not figuring out what the middle button on her headphones is for, explaining the difference between Washington State and Washington D.C., arriving to the airport too early or refusing to use the Oxford comma, you can usually find Mary in the mountains, at a show or on her couch. Mary is a content writer at Fareportal and likes annoying her coworkers with weird GIFs throughout the day.

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