Modern tourism has transformed the nature of what it means to travel and see new parts of the world. With access to the Internet, cheaper flights than ever, and the chance to see new and beautiful parts of the world, it’s little wonder why travelling has become such an incredibly popular pastime in the last few decades.
And while many prefer to visit and stay in cities around the planet and enjoy their favourite shows or the odd game of blackjack online, others are seeking travel in a different form altogether: such as pilgrimages. These are often long, spiritual journeys that see the traveller follow the paths of the many thousands that came before them, and to follow in the footsteps of ancient traditions.
La Via Francigena – England, France, and Italy
La Via Francigena was one of the most well known pilgrimages of the Middle Ages, and records have shown that his journey started taking place as far back as the 7th century. The most famous account of the Canterbury to Rome trail was by Sigeric the Serious, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 10th century, and his records have inspired thousands to take the path. While it’s not the most popular pilgrimage in the world today, 1000 people take it yearly, and requires that the traveller come with camping gear to get them through the 9 day journey.
The Abraham Path – Middle East
One of the more modern trails on the list, the Abraham Path is a non-religious pilgrimage that retraces the travels of Abraham, who many believe was an ancient ancestor of a large portion of humanity. The trails see the traveller through Turkey, and into Egypt, Palestine, Israel, and finally Jordan. Developments for the route began in 2007, and it currently takes travellers through 2000km of historic sites, and it’s expected to be expanded in the future, taking up to 120 days to complete.
Kumano Kodo – Japan
Rather than a single, large route, Kumano Kodo is made up of a collection of trails through the mountainous regions of Japan’s Kii Peninsula, with all of them ending up in Kumano. Kumano is a sacred Shinto site where the ancient Kumano Sanzan Shrines can be found, which was once an important site for ancient priests looking to deepen their spirituality. Today, the route can be completed with tour guides, and starts out in Osaka.
The Pilgrims’ Way – England
The Pilgrims’ Way is a long and beautiful trail that takes the visitor from the town of Winchester in the county of Hampshire, through the south of England where it ends at the Shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury. Along the way, travellers can expect to come across a number of historic sites, with plenty of other activities to see before the end.
El Camino de Santiago in Spain
Possibly the biggest pilgrimage walks in the world, and the world’s best known, the Way of Saint James is a series of routes that take the traveller to the shrine of James the Apostle. It was a major pilgrimage during the Middle Ages, and today around 200000 visitors embark on the 100 kilometre journey every year.