Traditional pilgrimages are drawing ever-increasing throngs. Every year, tens of millions of people of many faiths take spiritual journeys that are becoming increasingly important both to pious and nonpious alike. From Lourdes to Our Lady of Guadalupe, from Jerusalem to Lhasa, from Mecca to Mariambad, the travelers embark on what Phil Cousineau, author of “The Art of Pilgrimage” calls “a transformative journey to a sacred center.” Some of the main pilgrimage routes and sites around the world:
LAC ST. ANNE, Canada
Fifty miles west of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Every July, tens of thousands of pilgrims flock to this lake named for St. Anne, traditionally identified as the grandmother of Jesus.
CHIMAYO, between Santa Fe and Taos, N.M.
Each year during Holy Week, thousands of people make a pilgrimage to Chimayó to visit the Santuario, and take away a bit of the sacred dirt.
MORMON TRAIL, from Nauvoo, Il., to Salt Lake City, Utah.
This trail follows the steps of Brigham Young, who relocated the Mormon community after the people of Nauvoo drove them out.
SHRINE OF PADRE CICERO
From Juazeiro do Norte following 530 kilometers (about 320 miles) in the backlands of Ceará, in northeast Brazil, to the shrine of Padre Cicero. Every year 2 million people visit his shrine, many
bearing crosses and climbing the long stone stairs to the monument on their bleeding knees.
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, Mexico City
A 140-day walk to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, including a stop along the way at Queretaro de Arteaga.
OUR LADY OF APARECIDA, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The most-visited shrine in Brazil and one of the most popular in the Roman Catholic world. Pope Benedict XVI will visit this shrine in May.
WAY OF ST. JAMES TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
The Way of St. James connects various pilgrim routes throughout Europe. The most popular is the Camino Frances, or French Way, starting either from Saint Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees or from Roncesvalles on the Spanish side.
VIA FRANCIGENA, from Canterbury to Rome.
This route stretches south to the ancient port cities where pilgrims [and Crusaders] used to depart for the Holy Land.
NIDAROS, from Oslo to Trondheim.
One of the great northern pilgrimage routes of the Middle Ages
Over five million pilgrims and tourists visit Lourdes, France. The Vatican has recognized 68 miracle healings from those who consumed the water from the sanctuary grotto, which is thought to possess healing powers.
OUR LADY OF FATIMA, Portugal
Pope John Paul II believed he was saved from death at the hands of his assassin by Our Lady of Fatima and visited the shrine three times after the attempt on his life.
HILL OF CROSSES, Lithuania
Thousands of crosses, crucifixes and rosaries make up this shrine to recognize the endurance of Catholicism throughout Lithuania's history.
MECCA, Saudi Arabia
This holy journey takes place on the eighth day of the 12th month of the Islamic Calendar. All able-bodied Muslims are obligated to make the journey to Mecca at least once to make the Hajj, which includes taking the Umra, or acts of faith. Many also make the Ziarah pilgrimage to Medina to the mosque and grave of prophet Muhammad at the same time.
VIA DOLOROSA and HOLY SEPULCHRE, Jerusalem
Thousands of Christians follow the path they believe Jesus walked on his way to his crucifixion.
AL AQSA MOSQUE, Jerusalem
Known as the "farthest mosque," it is one of the holiest sites in Islam.
WAILING WALL, Jerusalem
Jews have prayed at the Western Wall for hundreds of years, believing that the Divine Presence rests upon it and that the gate of heaven is situated directly above it.
Known as Asia's Lourdes, Christians and some Muslims make the pilgrimage between Sept. 7 and 10.
FOUR HOLY SITES OF BUDDHISM
Pilgrims generally follow a circular route from Delhi to Sarnath (where Buddha gave his first sermon) to Bodhgaya(where he attained enlightenment) to Kushinagar (where he died) to Lumbini (where he was born). Many pilgrims also visit Rajgat on the banks of the Yumana River where the Mahatma Gandhi was cremated.
This Hindu pilgrimage is known to be one of the most spectacular in the world. It rotates among Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik on the shores of the Ganges, every three years over a 12-year cycle. On the 12th year, the Grand Kumbh Mela becomes the biggest pilgrimage in the world.
GUFU, Shandong Province, China.
This is the hometown of Confucius.
Tibetans have many ancient pilgrimage routes starting from all over the area that was ancient Tibet and culminating in Lhasa, the Dalai Lama's seat of power.
MOUNT KAILASH, Tibet
This 52-kilometer (32-mile) pilgrimage should be made in one day. Hindus and Buddhists make it in a clockwise direction. Jain and Bonpo religions circumnavigate it in a counter-clockwise direction.
SOLOMON'S ROCK, Ferghana Valley, Central Asia.
Pilgrims travel to the top of the hill to see the imprints where Solomon (in his Muslim incarnation) is said to have pressed his hands and feet into the rock.
KWAZULU-NATAL, South Africa
Every year members of the Nazareth Christian Church walk barefoot—their possessions carried on their heads—to the holy Nlangakazi Mountain about 80 kms (50 miles) away.