For thousands of years, travelers have embarked on pilgrimages around the world, some seeking religious guidance, others to feel the presence of spiritual belonging or to have good fortune bestowed upon them, and others to simply experience a unique journey. Booking.com, the global leader in connecting travelers with the widest choice of incredible places to stay, looks at some of the best pilgrimages around the world.
From the ancient Inca Trails in Peru, the famous Stonehenge in the beautiful English countryside, to scaling the incredible Mount Kailash in Tibet; take part in these life-affirming experiences and behold their out-of-this-world beauty.
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – Peru, South America
Legend has it that the Incas built this trail to serve as a holy pilgrimage to prepare visitors when entering the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. This once in a lifetime hiking experience is challenging due to the high altitude and rough terrain but resilient explorers will be rewarded with breath-taking mountainous views and beautiful ancient temples. Discover the lost city of Machu Picchu, trek across luscious jungle backdrops and visit Lake Titicaca, one of the highest lakes in the world. Top endorsements for Cusco, Peru by Booking.com travelers include Inca Ruins, history and culture. The top accommodation types are hotels, hostels and guest houses and the top nationalities that booked Cusco in 2016 are Peruvian, Brazilian and American.
Where to stay: JW Marriott El Convento Cusco is a historic and beautiful hotel with exposed bricks, vaulted ceilings, and a charming colonial courtyard. Ideally situated, Cusco’s cathedral and the main square are just three blocks away and guests can sample Peruvian specialties or international cuisine in the two stylish on-site restaurants. After a strenuous day hike, travelers will enjoy recharging in the hotel’s massage rooms.
The Way of St. James – Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France
The Camino de Santiago, often referred to as The Way of St. James, is arguably one of the most famous spiritual pilgrimages in Europe with an estimated 200,000 travelers undertaking this journey each year. The most popular route begins in the picturesque French village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, crossing the Pyrenees, through Lower Navarre and on to northern Spain to the iconic Santiago de Compostela cathedral. Folklore has it that St. James the Great is buried here and many retreats to this path for spiritual growth. Top endorsements for Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port made by Booking.com travelers include old towns, scenery, and hiking. Top nationalities that booked Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in 2016 include French, Spanish and American, plus the top accommodation types are bed and breakfasts, guest houses and hotels.
Where to stay: Situated in the heart of Basque Country lies the picturesque medieval city of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and the beautiful bed and breakfast of Gite Azkorria. Guests can hire bikes, perfect for exploring your surroundings and the location is unrivaled, ideally set on Saint James’ Way next to the Pilgrims Welcome Desk.
Kumano Kodo – Kii Hanto, Japan
For over a thousand years the ancient pilgrimage routes of Kumano Kodo criss-cross through the Japanese mountains of Kii Hanto all the way to the ancient Kumano Sanzan Temple. Along the way expect to see out of this world mountainous landscapes and tiny traditional wooden villages that line the path. The walk itself was an integral part of religious worship and purification, however, nowadays pilgrims travel to Kumano Kodo to experience the unique cultural landscape and spiritual countryside. After completing the trek travelers can soak in the UNESCO World Heritage hot spring which is open to the public in Yunomine. Top nationalities that booked Kumano, Japan in 2016 include Japanese, Chinese and Thai, and the top booked accommodation types are hotels.
Where to stay: Resort Kumano Club offers Japanese-style accommodations with tatami (woven-straw) seating areas, hot-spring baths, and traditional gardens. Japanese Yukata robes are provided for all guests and some rooms come with a private open-air bath, the perfect way to relax your body after a challenging hike through the mountains of Kii Hanto. After working up an appetite from the Kumano Kodo, tuck into a fusion of Japanese and Western cuisines available at the on-site restaurant.
Peak, Sri Lanka
The ancient pilgrimage of Adam’s Peak is known to some as the sacred footprint of Buddha, whereas Muslims believe it was the first footprint of Adam and Hindus believe that it was made by Shiva. With such a significant history, this famous pilgrimage attracts thousands of travelers each year which is no surprise due to its stunning views and traditional tea shops that line the trail. The 7km trek is best achieved at night when the weather is more bearable, but make sure to time it right to witness the timeless sunrises atop of this stunning summit in central Sri Lanka. Top endorsements for Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka are the beautiful scenery, nature and high tea. Top nations that booked Nuwara Eliya in 2016 include China, Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia and the top accommodation types include hotels, guest houses and inns.
Where to stay: Set within 900 yards of Lunuganga in Bentota, Yathra by Jetwing is a traditional wooden boat providing accommodation, seating areas and even a balcony. Wake up to nature’s beautiful rivers all around you and fresh daily continental breakfasts, the perfect way to start your day’s adventure. For something, a little more relaxing guests can take a short trip to Bentota Lake for a tranquil afternoon of fishing.
The Tor – Glastonbury, United Kingdom
The two mystical sites of Glastonbury and Stonehenge are traditional Pagan pilgrimages in the heart of the English countryside. From the Grade I listed St. Michaels Tower to the world-famous site of Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is thought to have been constructed as early as 2600 BC. Thousands flock to this pilgrimage in the hope of rebirth and returning as a new person, or perhaps to simply enjoy the unimpaired views of the beautiful British countryside. The best time to take this journey is in June when tens of thousands gather to celebrate the summer solstice. Top endorsements for Glastonbury by Booking.com travelers include history, alternative culture and relaxation. The top nationalities that booked in 2016 include British, German and American and the top types of accommodation booked are inns, bed and breakfasts and guest houses.
Where to stay: Middlewick Holiday Cottages offers a farm stay located in Glastonbury and boasting views of Glastonbury Tor and The Mendips. The cottages and studio cabins come with fully equipped kitchens, an outdoor pool and lounge area. Perfect for celebrating summer solstice, guests can enjoy the beautiful gardens and barbeque facilities provided. Children will love the array of activities from cycling, hiking and feeding the on-site farm animals. After completing the pilgrimage, travelers are just a short drive away from Cheddar Gorge and the world-famous Glastonbury music festival.
Mount Kailash – Tibet, China
For thousands of years pilgrims from numerous faiths have journeyed to Mount Kailash on foot in the hope of good fortune. Legend has it that in order to be bestowed good fortune the 52km trek must be completed in a single day! Top endorsements for Lhasa, China by Booking.com travelers include temples, culture and scenery. The top nationalities that booked accommodation in Lhasa in 2016 are Chinese, Hong Kong and American and the top types of booked accommodation include hotels, hostels and inns.
Where to stay: InterContinental Lhasa Paradise is the world’s tallest InterContinental hotel set in the famed “sun city” of Lhasa, one of the highest cities in the world. Travelers must visit the treasured landmarks of Portala Palace, a symbol of Tibetan Buddhism which is just a short journey from the hotel. Other must-see sites include the most sacred temple in the whole of Tibet, the Jokhang Temple and the majestic vies of Lhasa River. Guest will be spoilt for choice at this luxurious hotel with three on-site restaurants and four bars, including the Cha Lounge and the beautiful Moonlight Bar.