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Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Places

Updated on June 1, 2011

Sacred sites are not necessarily those associated with an organized religion, although many of them may be. Some of the best known include Stonehenge, Delphi in Greece, Machu Picchu, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the pyramids in Giza, Egypt, Uluru in Australia, the Maya city of Tikal in Guatemala, the Sedona Vortexes and Aramu Muru's portal near Lake Titicaca in Peru.

It is widely believed these special places have a natural energy that can have a positive effect on people who visit. When the ancient Greeks were looking for a site to build a temple to Gaia, the earth goddess, they chose Delphi. According to Pliny the Elder, Delphi was a favourable location because it had an abundance of plenum, an earth energy rising up from the ground.

According to the Old Testament, when God tested Abraham by ordering him to sacrifice Isaac, his son, the place chosen for the offering was Mount Moriah. It became known as Temple Mount after Solomon built the First Temple upon it, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. A Second Temple was built there by King Herod, and now only its western wall, known commonly as the Wailing Wall may still be seen. In the 7th century AD, the octagonal building called The Dome of the Rock was built to commemorate the great ride of the Prophet Muhammad on a steed given by the Angel Gabriel. Visitors are permitted to touch the holy rock through a small hole in the wooden lattice that surrounds it, and many profound reactions have been reported by those whose fingers have come into contact with so many millennia of religious history.

From the British Isles to Central and South America, many megalithic, Maya and Inca sites are oriented to the sun. Newgrange in Ireland, for example, only lets the rising sunlight through its narrow window box on a few mornings at the time of the winter solstice. In Yucatan, the Maya Chichen Itza pyramid gives the illusion of a snake moving on its steps at the time of the spring and autumn equinoxes.

Visitors to these sites as part of a group tour will typically be led in a spiritual ceremony to help them connect with the spirit or energy of the place. In Peru, for example, tours to sacred sites including Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuaman, Pisac and Aramu Muru's doorway will often partake in a ceremony to connect with Pachamama, the Inka name of Gaia, or the spirit of Mother Earth.

Spiritual travel is sometimes called experiential travel, as group members on pilgrimages are seeking a deeper, more meaningful experience. Besides learning about different places and cultures, they frequently learn more about themselves.

This is nothing new. It is a tradition among North American native people for young boys and girls who are coming of age to go on vision quests. These journeys by aboriginal youth to sacred sites are sometimes preceded by fasting and working with a shaman, medicine woman or tribal elder. Once at vision quest sites, they hope to have a spiritual experience to give them guidance in how to live their lives to best serve the Creator.

One modern travel company that has similar goals is Body Mind Spirit Journeys. The company is a division of RMC travel who has a long and honorable track record within the travel industry. The "tours of enlightenment" offered by Body Mind Spirit Journeys include group tours with like-minded people to sacred sites in Egypt, England, Ireland, Peru, and more destinations. Some of their tours are for women only, because some female participants are more comfortable sharing ceremonies and other spiritual travel experiences with like-minded sisters. For more information visit


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