Ten places to travel for a higher cause

Golden Temple, India

If you are seeking some deeper meaning on your travels, why not make your own pilgrimage to some of the world’s great spiritual sites? The city of Amritsar on the India-Pakistan border has a golden heart with the Golden Temple — the holiest site in Sikhism — dominating the city. Glowing in the hot Punjabi sun, the temple is as golden as its name suggests, and sits in the middle of the holy Amrit Sarovar pool, which lends its name to the city. Pilgrims bathe in the pool and amble clockwise around its marble edges, while the temple kitchen by the eastern entrance spoons out free meals to pilgrims and tourists alike. (Graham Crouch/LPI)

Mount Kailash, Tibet

As the source of several of Asia’s mightiest rivers, including the Ganges, Karnali and Indus, it is little surprise that Tibet’s peak of Mount Kailash is revered in a number of religions. To circuit holy Kailash is a pilgrimage for Buddhists, Hindus, Bonpos, Jains and more recently, trekkers. The most ardent pilgrims walk the 52km circuit in a day, while the truly pious prostrate themselves around the mountain, lying down with arms outstretched, then standing and lying down again at the point that their hands reached. (Mark Daffey/LPI)

Medugorje, Bosnia and Hercegovina

On 28 June 1981, six youths in the Bosnian mountain village of Medugorje claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Instantly, a place of pilgrimage was born, complete with bus tours and an unholy number of souvenir stands. The Virgin is said to still appear at Medugorje, bringing messages to the world, delivering them through the original six “visionaries” – three of them see the apparition daily. (Patrick Horton/LPI)

Mount Athos, Greece

Known as the Holy Mountain, Mount Athos is a self-governing community of 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries sprinkled around the slopes of the 2,033m-high mountain on Greece’s Chalkidiki Peninsula. A strict entry-permit system applies: 100 Orthodox pilgrims and 10 non-Orthodox visitors are allowed in at a time; only men over 18 years of age can visit; permit applications from non-Orthodox visitors must be made at least six months ahead; and diamonitiria (permits) usually allow stays of just four days. The Holy Mountain is reached by boat, and you then walk between monasteries, each of which contains a guesthouse. (Karsten Bidstrup/LPI)

Shashemene, Ethiopia

With Rastafarianism founded on the belief that Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie is an African Messiah, it is unsurprising that a Rasta community has taken root in Ethiopia. Around 240km from Addis Ababa, Selassie granted land in the town of Shashemene to Jamaican Rastafarians in the 1960s, and today has a community numbering in the hundreds. In the late 1970s the most famous Rasta of all, Bob Marley, visited Shashemene, and in recent years his widow has talked of relocating his remains here. Pictured here is Gladstone Robinson, one of the first Jamaican Rastafarians to settle in Ethiopia and founder of the local Black Lion museum, in front of a portrait of Haile Selassie. (Jane Sweeney/LPI)

Mashhad, Iran

With a name that translates as “The Place of Martyrdom”, Mashhad is sacred to Shia Muslims as the place where the eighth imam and direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, Imam Reza, died in 817. Each year, more than 15 million Shia pilgrims visit the city in eastern Iran. The busiest pilgrimage times are around the Iranian New Year (21 March) and the dedicated pilgrim season from mid-June to late July. Non-Muslims are not permitted into the Holy Shrine itself. (Bradley Mayhew/LPI)

Camino de Santiago, Spain

One of the great Christian pilgrimages is to the tomb of the apostle St James in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. It is a journey of such spiritual note that it has been named Europe’s Premier Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe in 1987 and is also listed on the Unesco World Heritage register. The Camino begins in Roncesvalles, on the French border, and covers 783km to the Atlantic coast. Cycling and horseback are considered appropriate forms of pilgrim transport, but most people walk the route, wandering between an extensive system of albergues (hostels) for about a month. (Philip Game/LPI)

The Ganges, India

The River Ganges begins in the Himalayan peaks of Uttar Pradesh and spills out into the Bay of Bengal more than 2,000km later. For Hindus, the Ganges is the holy of holies, and many thousands make the pilgrimage to its source. Pilgrims also bathe in the holy waters; every day about 60,000 people go down to the Varanasi ghats (steps leading down to the water) to take a holy dip along a 7km stretch of the river. (Christer Fredriksson/LPI)

88 Temple Circuit, Japan

On the Japanese island of Shikoku are 88 temples, a number equal to the evil human passions as defined by the Buddhist doctrine. If you want to free yourself from every one of these passions in a single hit, you can do so by completing the 88 Temple Circuit. Traditionally the 1,500km route was walked, even though there is a distance of more than 100km between a few of the temples. In modern times, it has become just as acceptable to complete the 88 Temple Circuit by tour bus. (Anthony Giblin/LPI)

Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka

Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka In the Sri Lankan highlands is a mountain that is all things to all religions. Depending on your spiritual persuasion, the indent on the summit of Adam’s Peak is either the place at which Adam first set foot on earth, or a footprint left by Buddha, Shiva or St Thomas. So it is not surprising that the track to the summit is like an ant trail in the pilgrimage season (December to May) — on a clear day it stretches to the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, 65km away. Pictured here, pilgrims mix with tourists atop Adam’s Peak in the freezing cold shortly before sunrise. (Andrew Burke/LPI)