Considered the most holy place for followers of the Buddhist faith, Bodhgaya is located in the Indian state of Bahar. Prince Siddhartha, otherwise known as Gautam Buddha, achieved enlightenment under the bodhi tree found at the Mahabodhi Temple. Inside the temple the roots from the current bodhi are growing amid the same soil as the original high-powered tree. Also located in Bodhgaya is the Great Buddha Statue and a few monasteries. The destination is well connected by air, rail and road. The atmosphere is a blend of austere tranquility, backpacker accommodations and small-town energy, constructed by a deep reverence that makes it perpetually interesting.
If it’s enlightenment you’re seeking, Peru is home to a certain “spiritual” journey. Ayahuasca is used largely as a religious sacrament. Users of ayahuasca in non-traditional contexts often align themselves with the philosophies and cosmologies associated with shamanism. Ayahuasca shamanism was practiced among indigenous peoples like the Urarina of Peruvian Amazonia. This term, Ayahuasca, refers to the liana Banisteriopsis caapi plant, and to the brew prepared from it. Once ingested, the substance causes what experiencers document as spiritual revelations regarding their existence on earth and what is necessary to become their best self. Many consider this experience a spiritual awakening and what is often described as a rebirth.
Another location of spirituality found in India, but with this one’s significance aligning with the Hindu people. The ancient city is located along the River Ganges in the Indo Gangetic Plains of North India. Haridwar is viewed as one of the seven holiest places to Hindus. It is also one of four sites where drops of Amrit, the elixir of immortality, accidentally spilled over from the pitcher while being carried by the celestial bird Garuda. This is manifested in the Kumbha Mela, a holiday celebrated every 12 years, where millions of pilgrims, devotees and tourists perform the ritualistic bathing on the banks of the river Ganges to wash away their sins to attain Moksha—liberation or release from the cycle of life and death. The next Kumbha Mela celebration is in 2021!
Located in the middle of the Arizona desert and famous for its red sandstone formation, Sedona is known for its strong spiritual energy. Straying further from the usual meaning of spiritual, it was a historical place for Native Americans to gather and settle. It is the home of many psychics, spiritual retreats, reiki healers, and shamans. Sedona is considered a mecca for alternative healers due to what some view as its variety of vortexes. It is also a great destination for those who enjoy hiking and convening with nature, and is a perfect place to enjoy stargazing due to the absence of light pollution.
On one of Japan’s main islands, Shikoku, is where you can seek spiritual enlightenment by journeying on its 88 Temple Circuit. Pilgrims can choose to walk the 1,500-kilometer route between all 88 of the temples, as was done in the past, or can opt for the more modern option, traveling by tour bus. The 88 temples symbolize the number of evil human passions as defined by the Buddhist religion. It is said that by completing the circuit, travelers can free themselves from these passions. The circuit begins in Tokushima, and then pilgrims can choose their path, most opting for a clockwise route.
Mount Kailash, Tibet
Measuring 5,600 meter high, Mount Kailash is one of the holiest mountains in the Himalayas. Serving as the source of several of Asia’s greatest rivers, including the Ganges, Karnali and Indus, it goes without saying that the peak of Mount Kailash is worshipped by many religions. A pilgrimage destination for Buddhists, Hindus, Bopos, and Jains, Mount Kailash even caters to trekkers as of recent years. Pilgrims can walk the 52-kilometer long circuit in a day if they are truly up for the challenge, or they can take their time on the mountain to take in its beauty.
Borobudur Temple, Indonesia
Dating back to the 8th and 9th centuries, Borobudur Temple was built in three tiers, covering a total surface area of 2,500 m2. The three tiers represent the three spheres of the universe according to the Buddhist faith, the sphere of desires, forms, and formlessness. This ancient temple, located in the center of Java island, is the oldest and largest Buddhist structure in the world. There are two, smaller temples at the site, its entirety surrounded by volcanoes. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Borobudur Temple is a phenomenal place to see at sunrise or sunset, when you can see the sun cast light upon its hundreds of Buddha statues.