While Vegas and Disneyland are certainly worthy escapes, pandemic-weary travelers are increasingly opting for a more spiritual brand of rejuvenation. If you are looking for more chill than thrill in your next excursion, consider these ten spiritual hotspots.
1. Es Vedra, Spain
Just off the southwest coast of Spain lies a limestone island named Es Vedra, the gorgeous offspring of a seismic shift in a near-by mountain some 155 million years ago.
Es Vedra is rich with mysticism and mythology. The island is said to be home to the sirens and sea nymphs who tried to summon Odysseus to jump ship in Homer’s Odyssey. And legend has it, two brothers, with the help of some enterprising little sea urchins, were able to mine a healing stone called rock samphire from Es Vedra to save their ailing father, evading a huge giant living in one of the island’s many caves.
While Es Vedra hosts no full-time human inhabitants, it does allow for access by boat from the nearby sister island of Ibiza. And for any spiritual seeker it is well worth the trip.
2. Lourdes, France
Tucked in the foothills of the French Pyrenees you will find the charming market town of Lourdes. Marked by château fort de Lourdes, a fortified castle once conquered by the legendary King Charlemagne, and now home to the Pyrenean Museum, Lourdes rose to international prominence in the mid-1880s, owing to the legend of a local peasant girl who claimed to witness the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary while fetching firewood.
Today, Lourdes remains a popular spiritual destination for people of many faiths. How popular? While the town is home to just 15,000 French citizens, it welcomes over 5,000,000 tourists from all over the world each year.
3. Snæfellsjökull Glacier, Iceland
Snæfellsjökull, or “snow-fell glacier,” for those who need to brush up on their Icelandic, is a 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano in western Iceland, representing one of the country’s most famous tourist destinations.
Fans of author Jules Vernes will recognize Snæfellsjökull as the entrance to the center of the earth from his well-known novel. However, mystics and spiritual seekers will be interested to know the 1,466-meter-high glacier/volcano is also recognized as one of earth’s seven chakras (energy centers), standing on the same ley-line as Mt. Shasta and the Keops Pyramid in Egypt.
4. Auroville, India
On February 28, 1968, delegates from 124 nations came together near the southern tip of India to celebrate the founding of a new society called, Auroville, also known as “The City of Dawn.”
Inspired by the philosophies of yogi and poet, Sri Aurobindo, this “experimental township,” was designed to be a utopian community free of conflict and dedicated to the transformation of human consciousness. Towards that end, at the center of Auroville, sits a golden-domed spiritual center, the Matrimandir, a popular destination for people seeking peace and tranquility.
Today, over 2,800 call Auroville home. Visitors are welcome. Places to stay are “pay what you think it’s worth,” but there is no money in Auroville. The economy works via something called an Aurocard. Although, unofficially, some places do accept cash.
5. Machu Picchu, Peru
Located in the Amazon rain forest, Macchu Pichu, also known as “the lost city” was home to the ancient Inca civilization. Recognized as one of the “7 wonders of the world,” this archeological marvel is also a spiritualist’s dream.
Owing, in part, to its quartz-rich terrain, Machu Picchu is known as perhaps the most powerful energetic center for mental, physical and emotional healing in the world. It is said, simply by visiting, you can open all 7 chakras. But it gets even better. At the highest elevation within the Inca citadel, you will find the Saywa Stone, a pyramid-like structure with a small rock needle at the top. Legend says if you place your forehead on this stone, you will achieve enlightenment.
Not into headbutting ancient stones? Take a dip in the Machu Picchu hot springs for a more soothing renewal experience.
6. Haleakalā Volcano, Hawaii
On the Hawaiin Island of Maui you will find the largest dormant volcano in the world. Standing at over 10,000 feet high, Haleakalā, or “The House of the Sun,” is responsible for creating 75% of the land mass of Hawaii’s second largest island. As one might expect given the importance of the volcano to island life, mythologies are abundant.
According to legend, the goddess Hina lived in the crater at Haleakalā’s summit. One day, she complained to her son, the demigod Maui, that the days were too short for her dry her tapa cloth. Wanting to please his mother, the trickster Maui devised a plan. He lassoed the sun as it reached its apex in the sky and would only let it go if the sun promised to slow its path. The deal was done.
While in ancient times only kahuna, the island’s priests, and their students were allowed to summit Haleakalā. Today, visitors are welcome, so long as they demonstrate respect for the volcano’s delicate ecosystem. Those who do make the trek will receive a remarkable benefit. Haleakalā’s magnetic field resonates at the same frequency of the human heart, which yields a sense of peace and calm.
7. Manitou Lake, Canada
Known as Canada’s Dead Sea, Manitou Lake is one of 100,000 lakes in Saskatchewan, but possesses a quality unique in the Western Hemisphere. With salt levels three-times greater than the ocean, it is nearly impossible to drown.
But beyond the benefit of effortlessly floating on your back, there is another reason why people flock to a lake that quite honestly lacks visual appeal. Carved by glaciers, springs on the bottom of Lake Mantou’s bed constantly pump large volumes of minerals into the water. Among them: magnesium, potassium, silica, iron oxide, calcium and sulphate.
The net result is a body of water that has been credited with the miraculously healing a variety of skin conditions. First people’s who populated the area claimed the waters could heal smallpox. And over the years, many have traveled to the Lake to cure a variety of ailments from eczema to gangrene, or to simply take advantage of this “fountain of youth” for the skin.
8. Cape Reinga, New Zealand
Lying at the northern most point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga has been called the country’s most spiritual destination. And despite its modesty, marked only by an ancient pohutukawa tree and a 10-meter-high domed lighthouse, Cape Reinga remains a highly popular destination for spiritual enthusiasts.
For, according to Maori legend, this is the very point where the spirits of the deceased cross over to the world of their ancestors.
The lighthouse meanwhile, is one of New Zealand’s most iconic landmarks. It was the last “watched” lighthouse to be built in the country. And while it has been over 30 years since a lighthouse keeper last stood watch, the lighthouse still projects its warning signal 49 kilometers out to sea.
9. Byron Bay, Australia
About 1,000 miles northwest of Cape Reinga, New Zealand you will find the spiritual capital of Australia, Byron Bay, flush with natural beauty and rich in mythology. Aboriginal elders say Byron Bay, the place where the sun first kisses the Australian east coast, has been a place of spiritual renewal and healing for over 20,000 years.
And it has never been more popular. Unlike some of the other hotspots on the list, Byron Bay is an energy vortex well populated by an eclectic mix of spiritual seekers and bubbling with a wide variety of wellness activities. If you don’t mind the crowds, plan your trip around the Byron Bay spirit festival held each April.
With gorgeous beaches, tropical rainforests, and abundant wildlife on the land and in the sea, Byron Bay, or “The Shire,” as it is known, has become a destination for people craving a natural experience. But it is the spiritual magnetism that brings over 2,000,000 tourists to the Bay each year.
10. Marrakech, Morocco
Situated about 100 miles south of Morocco’s largest city, Casablanca, you will find the country’s spiritual jewel, Marrakech.
For those who love to be transported back in time, Marrakech has done a beautiful job maintaining its old-world charm, while offering high-end healing experiences. Whether it’s a soak in one of the city’s Romanesque Hammams (bathhouses), a massage, or a steam, there are plenty of options for physical renewal.
But if it is a spiritual experience you seek, consider a camel trek and overnight stay in a Berber tent underneath the skies of the Saharan desert. Bask in the stillness of the desert by day and marvel at the clearest night sky you have ever seen before drifting off to a dream-filled sleep.