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The World's Most Popular and Sacred Seven Pilgrimage Centers

Updated on October 31, 2015
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Travel, especially the pilgrimage are the great pleasure for Sunil Kunnoth. He loves to wander with his spiritual sojourns.

Pilgrimage contributes to a good share of travel activities. People who don't believe in God or worship too visit pilgrimage centers. For the sheer pleasure of exploring something new, these people too visit the pilgrimage sites. What are world's most popular seven pilgrimage sites? The ranking is made based on the number of pilgrims' arrival in a year at these sites.

  1. The Ganges (River Ganga, India)

The river Ganga, the holiest of rivers and a sacred place for Hindus. The river rising from the Himalayas and flows to Bay of Bengal. It covers a length of 1560 miles or 2511 km. Taking a bath in the Ganga is believed to cleanse all sins. So Hindus across the country (India) and from other nations too make a pilgrimage to here. Pilgrims also reach to its famous shores at Rishikesh, Varanasi (Banaras), Allahabad and Kolkatta. There are a number of ancient beautiful temples in these regions.

It gets around 20 millions visitors a year. The Ganges stand No.I in pilgrimage sities. There is no challenge to Ganges as far as number of visitors are concerned. People of other faiths also visit the Ganges. During the famous 'Kumba Mela', visitors from Europe and USA reach here.

The Holy Ganga River
The Holy Ganga River | Source

Pilgrimage can be classified into certain classes. Some involves just a journey and some requires a kind of sacrifice as well. A pilgrimage to Mecca or Sabarimala (Kerala, India) belongs to the second type. All religious people make pilgrimage and find pleasure in it. For the worship place, the pilgrimage is a revenue generating avenue.

Incidentally since I touched the word 'revenue', I cannot skip a mention about Tirupati. The Tirupati Balaji Temple in Andhra Pradesh in South India holds the record for having received the top revenue collection. They still maintain the record.

2. Mecca

The world's largest 2nd pilgrim site. Mecca is in Saudi Arabia. It is Islam's most sacred city. Every Muslim's ultimate dream is to reach here before his or her death. Mecca received 13 million pilgrims a year. Last year about 2 million Muslims visited Mecca for Haj. Only Muslims are welcome here. Entry of the people from other religions is banned. It is a punishable offence too. From India, a very large contingent of Pilgrims go to Mecca for offering Haj. Their selection is based on certain criteria. India has the second largest population of Muslims in the world.

Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Mecca, Saudi Arabia | Source

3. Our Lady of Gudalupe

The world's second most visited Catholic Church after Saint Peters, Vatican. Our Lady of Gudalupe is in Mexico City. Nearly 10 million pilgrims visit the Virgin Mary's Shrine. The legend goes thus: About 470 years ago Mary appeared to a poor Indian and asked him to build a shrine to her. She left an image of herself on his outer garment, a Til-ma, which is still intact.

Our Lady of Gudalupe (The Virgin of Gudalupe)
Our Lady of Gudalupe (The Virgin of Gudalupe) | Source

4. Lourdes

Lourdes is in Southern France. Expecting some miraculous cures, seven million pilgrims visit here. It celebrates the Virgin Mary's ascent to Heaven.

Lourdes, France.
Lourdes, France. | Source

5. Mata Vaishno Devi Temple, India

This Hindu Temple is in Jammu and Kashmir, India. A sacred place of Hindus and situated on the top of a steep hill at an altitude of 5200 feet in Katra. Eight million pilgrims flock to the temple.

Mata Vaishno Devi Temple, J&K, India.
Mata Vaishno Devi Temple, J&K, India. | Source

6. The Vatican

The No.1 choice of Christians and the seat of the Catholic faith. It receives 4.2 million pilgrims annually. St. Peter died in the center of the Vatican circus and interred here, so believes the Catholics. Vatican is the smallest Country in the world.

Vatican, Italy
Vatican, Italy | Source

7. Jerusalem

What makes Jerusalem something rather special is, this is the sacred city of Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. Yearly it receives around 2 million visitors. It is a great tourist destination in the world and is in Israel. Christians believe the Last Supper was here and also the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Christ. For Muslims, it is their third most revered site. They believe Prophet Mohammed ascended to Heaven here. And for the Jews, it is famous for the Biblical Zion, the City of David, the site of Solomon's Temple and Israel's eternal capital.

Jerusalem City
Jerusalem City | Source

© 2013 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth


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    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 18 months ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thanks for your reading and comments. I will check it and add if found ok.

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      Shima 21 months ago

      You missed Karbala in arbaeen? 17 million pilgrims each year

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      I will be thankful if you could correct me with specif data. Thanks for your patient reading and comments.

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      DaDa 2 years ago

      Extremely incorrect information (period)

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      The number varies and what I have given is an average figure. Roughly, not less than 50,000 people visit the temple.

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      Manoj 2 years ago

      30 to 40 million people pilgrimage to tirumala tirupati temple.. & its the most visited pilgrim center in the world.... pls check wikipedia..

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      krish abiseiak 2 years ago

      I love. Hindhusium

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      Nithin 3 years ago

      Just make a search on Sabarimala :)

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      Idibat 3 years ago

      Sorry about your date is not accurate. You missed the the largest pilgrimage site in the world arbaeen in Karbala.

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      Kumar 3 years ago

      I am sorry, but the data is wrong. Sabarimala is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. unless you are confusing "pilgrimage" with "visit"

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Hi Kishore,

      My data is accurate as far as my research is concerned. You may wonder when knowing that Sabarimala receives more visitors during a particular festival season than Tirupati. The flow of pilgrims during Nov to Jan during the Makara Vilakku Pooja is so large and at times even stands as a world record. You can check it on Net. But Tirupati receives largest visitors when we consider the data for a full year. How Tirupati differs from Ganga is people visit the temple in Tirupati, whereas the millions of pilgrims reach the Ganga River to take a dip there. They may or may not the visit the temple at Banaras. At Ganga the importance is given to the Holy River Ganga, the river is considered as a Goddess. Pilgrims are satisfied the moment they touch their feet on the waters of this holy river and accordingly Ganga stands first as far as the number of pilgrims concerned. 20 millions a year is a very huge amount.

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      kishor kumar 4 years ago

      Ok dear, plz check yor data, maximum no. Of pilgrims in a year over the whole world visit in trupati.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 4 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Sunil, I love this article. You have enhanced it with some beautiful photos. The information you provide is very enlightening. Well done! Thank you.

    • nikhilchandra profile image

      Nikhil Chandra 5 years ago from New Delhi

      Very informative post indeed. India could have 2-3 more pilgrimage sites featured. Tirumala is the most visited shrine in India with more than 19 millions of footfall every year followed by Vaishno Devi which is second with 10 millions. Then Amarnath and Chardham Yatra is also undertaken by millions every year.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 5 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Yes Niranjith, India is too great. Thanks for yr visit n comments.

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      Niranjith 5 years ago

      India have 2 out of seven.Remarkable.