After the release of the best-seller The DaVinci Code, historical-sacred sites in France and Scotland experienced a jump in tourism, even spurring “DaVinci Code tours” consisting of exclusive visits to holy or historical sites mentioned in the book.
But spiritual travel may be more than just a sales gimmick for some tourists seeking to improve themselves and the world. Spiritual tours are a growing niche of tourism, particularly for countries such as Egypt, known for its strong ancient civilizations.
A holy quest
New-age travellers are commonly pantheistic, meaning they choose to believe in the truths of all religions, as opposed to adhering to only one. While some tourists are seeking a unique opportunity for meditation and reflection at the some of the world’s more sacred spots, others embrace more rigorous rituals such as bell-ringing and dancing.
Popular spiritual destinations include Stonehenge in England, the oracle of Apollo in Greece as well as places such as Delphi, Chartres and Glastonbury, which sits on the ancient Isle of Avalon. (The legendary island is said to be the final resting place of King Arthur. Legend also holds that Jesus visited Avalon with Joseph of Arimathea before it later became the site of the first church in Britain.)
One company that specializes in spiritual tourism, Luminati Travel (www.luminati.net) is hosting an event called Circle the Pyramid in 2007 with Peace in Your Heart. The event, part of the Global Peace Conference in September, invites hundreds of spiritual travellers to circle the Great Pyramid hand in hand with “unconditional love in their hearts”.
Another travel company, Body Mind Spirit Journeys, organizes pilgrimages to sacred sites hosted by authors, teachers and other experts in their fields. “These unique journeys are for those who seek to genuinely experience the people, cultures and spirituality of the countries and places visited, gaining exposure to the esoteric secrets of the ancient mysteries that have been guarded for centuries, as well as connecting to the spiritual energies of the sacred sites,” the company says on its website.
For a listing of the company’s new-age journeys, click here.
A taste for mystery
Other tourists are lured by a sense of mystery. Sites built by ancient civilizations have a certain mystique either because little is known of the construction methods or of the civilization itself. Awe-inspiring sites such as Stonehenge and the pyramids are seen by many as evidence that these ancient civilizations had mystical powers
In archaeology, a megalithic monument is a construction involving one or more large stone slabs, usually of prehistoric antiquity. Because they were constructed in ancient times, megalithic sites are among the more mysterious travel destinations. Here are some examples:
• The Morbihan Coast in France. The Neolithic menhirs, dolmens, passage graves and stone rows in the Bretagne region are among the oldest of the megalithic sites in Europe.
• The Orkney Neolithic Heartland in Scotland. Sites include the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar and the Neolithic ruins of the Barnhouse Settlement found on the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland.
• Megalithic Tombs of Malta and Gozo. The Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo were colonized by Neolithic farmers around 4000 BC.
• Boyne Valley in Ireland. Here you can find several large megalithic tomb sites including Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth and Four Knocks.