Sacred Journeys Around the World

Leon McCarron/Abraham Path Initiative

Whatever your religion—if any—or how you choose to observe, in today's plugged-in and stressed-out times, an introspective journey can offer travelers a chance to spend time reflecting in nature. While any hike can be transformative, traveling the same path as others makes these intentional, soul-searching pilgrimages more than simply walks in beautiful places. Follow in the footsteps of Buddhist monks in Japan or a revered Viking king in Scandinavia or seek a shaman's healing in ice-cold lagoons in Peru.


1. Sacred Door Trail
Jackson, Montana

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This 200-mile nondenominational trail with various starting points in southwest Montana is dedicated to deepening the connections we have to our ourselves and our collective church—Mother Earth. Inspired by Spain's Camino de Santiago, this community-created loop path was created in 2012 over existing National Forest trails that run through rugged and remote wilderness areas, tracing the continental divide for part of the route.

2. The Huaringas Lagoons
Piura Region, Peru

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Instead of the over-touristed Inca Trail, walk along this sacred circuit of 14 lagoons that sit 13,000-feet high in Peru's mist-covered Huamani mountain range. Shamans and healers perform ancient cleansing rituals in ice-cold lagoons for those seeking to recover from physical ailments, heartbreak or money woes.

3. St. Patrick's Way
Armagh to Downpatrick, Ireland

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Missing a new season of Game of Thrones? Begun in 2015 by a Camino de Santiago veteran walker, this 82-mile trail through stunning scenic landscapes in Northern Ireland follows the footsteps of St. Patrick. It not only highlights the legacy of the ancient patron saint, but passes through magical woodlands that influenced C.S. Lewis when he envisioned Narnia as well as through the Mourne Mountains, a filming location for Game of Thrones.

4. Madonna del Ghisallo
Lombardy, Italy

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Who said pilgrimages can only be completed on foot? Cyclists pedal 5.84 miles from Bellagio on Lake Como toward the mecca of the bike world, the 17th-century Madonna del Ghisallo chapel dedicated to the patron saint of cyclists. The chapel's shrine to cycling legends includes bikes ridden by Tour de France victors, as well as jerseys from some of the world's best riders.

5. St. Olav's Path
Selånger, Sweden to Trondheim, Norway

St. Olavsleden

Escape the crowds on El Camino and head to Scandinavia to walk the world's northernmost pilgrimage. This 350-mile trail from the east coast of Sweden to the west coast of Norway traces the last journey of Viking King Olav in 1030. It transverses deep forests and mountains and ends at Nidaros Cathedral where the sainted king is said to be buried.

6. The Abraham Path
Şanlıurfa, Turkey to Hebron, West Bank

Abraham Path Initiative

With the goal of sharing the hospitable side of this region with foreigners, the 12-year-old Abraham Path connects places associated with the Biblical figure Abraham—a revered patriarch in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Walk with local guides in Turkey to Abraham's birthplace, and with Palestinian guides from the northern West Bank to his tomb in Hebron, connecting with locals and fostering cultural understanding along the way.

6. Mount Kailash Kora
Darchen, Tibet

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Seek enlightenment or merely extraordinary views while circling Tibet's most sacred mountain—holy to four religions. Mt. Kailash looms about 22,000-feet high, and the circuit—or kora—has taken pilgrims through challenging, high-altitude trails and along the breathtaking glacial Manasarovar Lake for more than 15,000 years.

7. 88-Temple Pilgrimage
Shikoku, Japan

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For over 1200 years, white-robed henro, or pilgrims, have followed the footsteps of the Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi on the rural island of Shikoku. There is no single correct way to complete this about 750-mile sacred walk; it was designed without an official beginning or end. Whether or not you get a stamp from all of the 88 temples, soak in Japanese culture in age-old onsen—natural thermal baths—that dot the trail.