There are many paths to finding yourself. Recently, we asked several spiritual travel writers for their destination picks with the most spirit-renewing focus. Here's what they had to say.
spiritual-meccas_ss_001Rishikesh, India: “Located at the foothills of the great Himalayas and the banks of the holy river Ganges, Rishikesh is an ideal place for a spiritual retreat. The city has attracted a lot of spiritual leaders to establish ashrams and yoga schools, providing tourists and pilgrims a nourishing atmosphere to revitalize their mind, body and spirit.” -- Yogi Kanna, author, Nirvana: Absolute Freedom 960 1280
spiritual-meccas_ss_003Angkor Wat, Cambodia: "I made my pilgrimage here in 1996 in honor of my father, who gave me a book about the magnificent site when I was a boy. When I finally made the journey, in his honor, the first person I met was a Buddhist nun whose hands had been cut off by the Khmer Rouge. She offered to pray for me.” -- Phil Cousineau 960 1280
spiritual-meccas_ss_004Negev, Israel: "Deserts often numb me, but the Negev numbs me in a particular way. As a Jew, I view it as a powerful reminder of and metaphor for my history, my ancestors' journey, our collective isolation and pain, our fortitude and courage." -- Niles Goldstein, author, God at the Edge 960 1280
spiritual-meccas_ss_005Mt. Shasta, CA: “Believed by many to be a spiritual power point, Mt. Shasta has the power to rejuvenate, revitalize, heal and inspire those who visit her. Standing at a spectacular 10,000 feet, her power, grace and beauty are especially palpable in summer, when the sun brings out the best in her.” -- Yogi Kanna 960 1280
spiritual-meccas_ss_007Newgrange, Ireland: “The oldest megalithic site in Europe, at least 1,000 years older than the Giza Pyramids, and an example of the old Celtic belief in the rebirth of their heroes. To venture inside is to have your spirit rekindled, whatever your faith.” -- Phil Cousineau 960 1280
spiritual-meccas_ss_008Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska: “To witness the raw juxtaposition of blinding white pack ice to my north and lush mountains, tundra, and wildlife to my south -- of death and life -- was mind-blowing. And to see how both ecosystems, separated by so little physical space, were so symbiotically linked -- all of it made me feel a sense of interconnectedness that I can only describe as ‘spiritual.’” -- Niles Goldstein 960 1280
spiritual-meccas_ss_009Sedona, AZ: “I've never been to Sedona (it's on my list!) but it is regarded as a 'thin place' where the veil between spirit and flesh, life and death, is believed to be more permeable. There are 'energy vortexes' where visitors say they can feel spiritual energy more fully. Even people who don't buy into [that] idea ... are still impressed by the gorgeousness of the red rocks and the landscape.” -- Jana Riess, author, Flunking Sainthood 960 1280
spiritual-meccas_ss_010Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Berkshires, Western Massachusetts: “Kripalu offers yoga retreats for all skill levels but also functions as something akin to a spa. Kripalu has some of the best yoga teachers in the world, and also offers related seminars on health and wellness.” -- Jana Riess 960 1280
spiritual-meccas_ss_011Tiruvannamalai, India: “Home to the sacred Mt. Arunachala and Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai is my favorite of all sacred sites. Believed by many sages to be the physical manifestation of the male aspect of the divine, Mt. Arunachala has a wonderful transformative effect on those who tune into his energy. Thousands of pilgrims circumambulate around the holy mountain and visit the Arunachaleshwara temple during the full moon every month.” -- Yogi Kanna 960 1280
spiritual-meccas_ss_012Northwestern Mongolia: “I had never seen such spectacular expanses of mountains and steppes, or met such hospitable people, in my life. The culture of the nomad was a culture of hospitality, trust, even a strange sort of love. Other than animals, there was very little to see in the way of actual possessions. But a palpable abundance of spirit permeated everything.” -- Niles Goldstein 960 1280
spiritual-meccas_ss_013San Juan Capistrano, CA: “Aside from its historical significance as one of the oldest Spanish missions in California, this is a beautiful place to visit. It's one of my favorite places in the American West. Be sure to listen to the "Voices of the Mission" audio tour, which explains the history of Spanish colonization. The chapel is particularly beautiful and peaceful, and Catholic visitors might wish to catch an early-morning daily Mass here.” -- Jana Riess 960 1280
spiritual-meccas_ss_015Daintree National Park, Australia: “I felt like I had gone back in time to some prehistoric era. The rainforest and reef met on the beach where I stood, and the coral sea I had gone diving in the day before was lapping against the shore, feeding the wilderness. It was a riot of green, blue, white, yellow. I could have died there and never felt so alive.” -- Niles Goldstein 960 1280
spiritual-meccas_ss_016The Community of Jesus, Orleans, MA: “This ecumenical monastic community is a wonderful place to go on retreat; visitors can soak up not only the natural beauty of Cape Cod but also the community's world-class choir and band. Its new basilica is resplendent with visual arts such as fresco, mosaic, and stonemasonry. It's amazing how the brothers and sisters care for visitors with first-class dining and attention to detail.” -- Jana Riess 960 1280
MacauMacau has the second-highest life expectancy in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook. Some point to this Chinese territory’s strong (largely gambling-based) economy -- about 70% of money generated on the casino floor is invested by Macau’s government into healthcare.
Average Life Span: 84.41 years
Typical Diet: Mainly plant- and seafood-based 960 1280
San MarinoThe 30,000 citizens of this tiny microstate, landlocked by Italy, enjoy one of the longest life spans in the world. San Marino has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, no national debt, a budget surplus, and roughly half its people actively practice their faith -- all possible factors.
Average Life Span: 83.01 years
Typical Diet: Similar to cuisine in Italy's Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions 960 1280
MonacoIt may be the second-smallest -- and the most densely populated -- country in the world, but Monaco sees the world’s highest life expectancy. It doesn’t hurt that the Western European country, on the French Riviera, is home to the highest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita in the world.
Average Life Span: 89.73 years
Typical Diet: Largely Mediterranean 960 1280
SardiniaSardinia ties with Okinawa for having the highest ratio of centenarians in the world -- 22 centenarians per 100,000 people. The island, 120 miles off Italy’s coast, is home to rugged terrain great for calorie-burning. Come evening, locals enjoy a glass of red wine alongside humor-filled conversation -- in fact, the word “sardonic” originates in Sardinia.
Average Life Span: 81 years
Typical Diet: Plants and beans; sheep cheese and goat’s milk; meat eaten as an accent 960 1280
IcelandIceland has the sixth-highest life expectancy in the world, according to United Nations’ figures. One possible reason is Iceland’s low levels of pollution (geothermal energy reliance is the norm). The country’s low levels of common illnesses, such as heart disease and depression, are also linked to a daily diet rich in fish oil.
Average Life Span: 81.28 years
Typical Diet: Fish; pasture-raised lamb and wild game; black tea, veggies, wild berries and whole grains 960 1280
Loma Linda, CaliforniaJust 60 miles from the fast-paced LA scene, the town of Loma Linda, CA, is home to America’s longest living population -- and some say it’s a matter of faith: Many of the town’s 23,000 residents are members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, a religion whose members typically live 4 to 7 years longer (with more health and happiness) than the rest of the country.
Average Life Span: Well into the 80s
Typical Diet: Vegetarianism is a popular practice among 7th Day Adventists; most restaurants in town accommodate with a vegetarian menu option. 960 1280
OkinawaElderly Okinawans have among the lowest death rates in the world from common diseases -- a fact attributed to a traditional Japanese diet, with only 25% of its sugar and 75% of its grain intake. In recent years, though, younger Okinawans’ move toward fattier foods (Spam is now sometimes added to stir-fries) has led to lower life expectancy.
Average Life Span: 5 times as many Okinawans live to be 100 as their compatriots elsewhere in Japan.
Typical Diet: Lots of fish, soy and legumes 960 1280
AustraliaSurfs up in Australia -- the country now surpasses the UK, Canada, New Zealand and the US in overall life expectancy rates, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. A low smoking rate, coupled with an active lifestyle, is among the reasons. That good fortune isn’t universal, though: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples still trail behind.
Average Life Span: For women, 83.7 years; men, 79.2 years
Typical Diet: Shrimp on the barbie, mate! 960 1280
AndorraThis tiny European nation, wedged in quiet isolation between France and Spain, also boasts many long-timers. An active lifestyle, encouraged by some of the best skiing and day hikes in the Pyrenees, is a big reason. So is Andorrans’ focus on family and friends. The influx of tourism (and fast food) is quickening life’s pace, though.
Average Life Span: 82.51 years
Typical Diet: Mediterranean-style, with meat, veggies and fish from Andorra’s larger neighbors 960 1280
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaIn this 75-mile-long stretch of Costa Rica, longevity rules supreme: The 75,000 Nicoyans who call this peninsula home have more than 4 times the chance of making it to 90 than a 60-year-old in America. Maybe it’s because of the area’s relative calm -- it’s home to some of the country’s most isolated and beautiful beaches.
Average Life Span: Well into the 90s
Typical Diet: Meso-American diet includes beans, squash and corn tortilla; also, the area’s calcium- and magnesium-rich water, which strengthens bones and relaxes arteries, is an added benefit. 960 1280
GuernseyThis second-largest island in the English Channel sees a high standard of living -- and long life expectancy. Islanders’ relative wealth may be the reason; it’s the sixth-richest place in the world. Other life-enhancing perks include Guernsey’s low tax rates and high-paying jobs, which afford residents top healthcare options.
Average Life Span: 82.24 years
Typical Diet: Champagne wishes and caviar dreams … come true 960 1280
IsraelIsrael has the fifth-longest life expectancy in the world. The top 3 cities ranked by life expectancy are Ra’anana (85.5 years), Modiin-Maccabim-Reut (84.1) and Beith Shemesh (83.1); the bottom 2 cities are Nazareth (77.9) and Rahat (77.1) -- a gap that’s been narrowing over the past few decades, with a 7-year gain among Israeli Arabs since 1980.
Average Life Span: 81.5 years
Typical Diet: Fusion of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines 960 1280
Ikaria, GreeceBlue Zones author Dan Buettner has called this the “island where people forgot to die.” The 10,000 residents of this island in Greece typically live well into their 90s. Laid-back, daily socializing may be one reason. As one resident told Buettner: “When you invite someone to lunch, they might come at 10 a.m. or 6 p.m. We simply don’t care about the clock here.”
Average Life Span: 1 in 3 residents lives into their 90s
Typical Diet: Vegetables from the garden, legumes, greens and lots of olive oil 960 1280
Hong KongIt’s not just remote, slow-paced corners of the world that see long life spans. Hong Kongers are among the longest living people in the world. That’s especially true for Hong Kong’s women, who live longer than most other populations in the world. Experts credit a tradition in Hong Kong of dawn workouts, such as daily swims and morning hikes.
Average Life Span: 86.7 years for women, 80.5 years for men
Typical diet: Cantonese food, big on steamed fish and vegetables 960 1280
SingaporeSingapore ranks as one of the top places in the world for life expectancy – signaling great strides in the country’s public health initiatives and economic opportunity. Over the last 3 decades, Singaporeans have seen their life expectancies increase by 10 years. Adult obesity is around 11% -- far lower than many Western countries.
Average Life Span: 82.14 years
Typical Diet: Mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay cuisines 960 1280
Banjar Hot SpringsLess than a mile from the village of Banjar in northern Bali, this hot spring is a relaxing 98.6 degrees. The hot spring water pours from the mouths of 8 stone-carved naga (mythical, dragon-like creatures) into a rectangular-shaped pool. 960 1280
Calistoga Spa Hot SpringsHead to Napa Valley for a dip in this mineral pool, one of 4 geothermally heated pools on the grounds of Calistoga Spa Hot Springs hotel in Calistoga, CA. Recline in waters ranging from 80 to 104 degrees, while enjoying the surrounding beauty of nearby Mt. St. Helena. 960 1280
Dunton Hot SpringsA century ago, miners in southwestern Colorado soothed aching bones in these natural hot tubs. Today, the tradition continues: Choose from among 5 different pools, the hottest of which reaches 106 degrees. The wine-red waters are rich in iron and magnesium, with a dash of lithium. 960 1280
Cascate del MulinoTake a dip in the most famous natural springs in southern Tuscany. Consisting of several natural pools of warm thermal water, the Cascate del Mulino are open to the public -- and free -- throughout the year. At a warm 99.5 degrees year-round, the waters contain properties that have been known to help skin, digestive and circulatory ailments since Roman times. 960 1280
Banff Upper Hot SpringsWith the spectacular Canadian Rockies just beyond, settle into the soothing waters of Banff Upper Hot Springs. Located in the town of Banff, these hot springs were discovered in 1884 and continue to draw visitors with their year-round temperatures between 98 and 104 degrees. Minerals such as bicarbonate, which may assist in opening peripheral blood vessels and improve circulation to the body’s extremities, can be found in the waters. 960 1280
PamukkaleFor thousands of years, people have bathed in the hot springs of Pamukkale, located 12 miles north of the city of Denizli in southwestern Turkey. The hot springs, 17 in all, are saturated with calcium. When the calcium cools on the hillside, it forms a white limestone known as travertine. This explains the name of the hot springs -- literally translated as “cotton castle.” 960 1280
Big Bend Hot SpringsAfter a long day of hiking through Big Bend National Park, consider a dip in these hot springs -- 105 degrees bubbling up from a hole in the ground. The water carries dissolved mineral salts that some say have healing powers. Just make sure you limit the exposure of little kids to these warm waters -- they can feel super-hot in summer! 960 1280
Arenal Hot SpringsUntil 2010, Arenal in Costa Rica was one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world. Arenal has been calming down, leaving room for travelers to kick back in area hot springs, heated by an underground geothermal river. 960 1280
Lava Hot SpringsWho says Idaho is all about potatoes? The small, sleepy town of Lava Hot Springs (population: 407) is noted for its many hot springs, suitable for bathing as well as a bumpy inner tube run through part of town. The waters range from 102 to 112 degrees. 960 1280
Blue LagoonThis outdoor geothermal spa owes its steamy waters to a lava field in the fishing town of Grindavik on Iceland’s southwestern coast. The waters are rich in minerals such as silica and sulfur, and is said to help people suffering from skin conditions like psoriasis. 960 1280
Ma'In Hot SpringsMix a journey back into ancient times with a relaxing reprieve in the Middle East. Situated 866 feet below sea level, this hot freshwater mineral spring and waterfall offers a refreshing spa experience. The hot springs are located on the edge of Wadi Mujib, a gorge in Jordan that feeds the Dead Sea; nearby attractions include the Tomb of Moses (Nabi Musa) and the city of Petra (about 3 hours by car). 960 1280
Grutas de Tolantongo, MexicoAbout 125 miles from Mexico City is a small canyon with steep walls called Tolantongo. Near the bottom of the steep box canyon are heated pools, as well as warm waterfalls that flow down the steep canyon walls. 960 1280
Yangbajing, TibetWelcome to the highest altitude hot springs in the world. Set at an altitude of 14,764 feet above sea level, these hot springs are located about 54 miles northwest of Tibet’s capital city of Lhasa. While taking a dip, visitors can view the far-off snow-covered Nyainqen Tanggula mountain range. 960 1280
Blue Lagoon, Iceland"After I saw Samantha Brown and Anthony Bourdain take a dip (separately, of course) in the otherworldly Blue Lagoon, Iceland quickly moved to the top of my bucket list. Seeing the steamy Blue Lagoon firsthand literally took my breath away. I ended up spending an entire day soaking in the geothermal seawater and emerged feeling like a new person -- and looking like a new one, too. The mineral-rich water is a natural fountain of youth." -- Kathleen, Producer 960 1280
Spa at the St. Julien Hotel"As a man, I was skeptical at first … a spa, really? But after an evening of drinks, the only thing better than sleeping off an epic headache was to head down to the spa at the St. Julien Hotel. Take a dip in the spa’s indoor pool, then hop over to the hot tub -- fit for a king! Afterward, grab a cup of their extremely refreshing cucumber water (seriously, it was good). Top-notch facilities with a very friendly staff (not to mention good-looking), St. Julien’s spa is fit for any occasion." -- Ben, Producer 960 1280
Mii Amo Spa (Sedona, AZ)"There’s nothing more relaxing to me than experiencing the beauty of Mother Nature, from the comfort of a spa. This past year, I put the red rocks of Sedona, AZ, on my getaway list. One of my favorite stops was the Mii amo Spa at Enchantment Resort, where you can indulge in one of the many innovative spa treatments offered daily. Take a cue from Cleopatra herself and try the spa’s milk-and-honey bath inspired by her beauty regimen!"
-- Vanessa, Photo Editor 960 1280
Las Olas Surf Safari
"Calling all adventurous ladies! Get away from it all in one of Las Olas's open-air villas, complete with ocean view terraces, plunge pools and enough hibiscus and bougainvillea to make you feel like you've escaped to a secluded treehouse. Enjoy a yoga session, a sea mud facial or a sea salt body scrub before heading out for your twice-daily surf lesson. When you get back from hitting the waves, learn some vital life skills with on-site margarita and guacamole-making lessons." -- Amanda, Producer
Bishop, California“Go on a bouldering adventure in one of America’s best climbing spots. You may not think a physically demanding adventure is the best way to recharge, but not only do you escape the hectic urban chaos, you can take a few moments to relax and appreciate this stretch of California’s natural beauty, such as the view of the Buttermilks with its massive glacial boulders sitting on the foothills of the Sierras. Bishop offers a lifetime worth of climbing, so even if you can only go for a short time, be sure to grab a guidebook and escape to this bouldering mecca.” -- Arthur, Video Project Manager 960 1280
Big Timber, Montana“One of the best places to recharge is under the wide open skies of sunny Montana. June is the best time of year to visit this expanse of central Montana. Head to a working ranch like the Rocking M Bunkhouse, located near the Absaroka Mountains. Saddle up for an authentic western experience: Ride a horse, see nearby Yellowstone (and Old Faithful), and swing by a rodeo for more fast-paced action. At the end of a long day, enjoy a hearty home-cooked meal and do some stargazing from the private bunkhouse's wide porch. You might even meet a cowboy.” -- Lisa, Producer 960 1280
Red Fox Inn
“Sometimes all it takes to recharge is a weekend getaway. Middleburg, VA, may be just an hour from Washington, DC, but it feels like a world away. When I’m feeling a little suffocated by city life, I make my escape to this quaint, historic town's acres of well-tended pastures surrounded tidy post-and-beam fences. Stay at the downtown Red Fox Inn, browse the antique shops, stock up on horse- and hunt-inspired gifts, and spend an afternoon just sipping coffee at the Market Salamander.”
-- Allee, Producer 960 1280
East Canyon Hotel & Spa“Escape to California’s Coachella Valley and rejuvenate at the gay-friendly East Canyon Hotel and Spa in Palm Springs. This resort has a fully-staffed spa onsite, with a variety of massages, facials and treatments available to guests, including a heated-stone massage, an aloe vera full-body detoxifying wrap and a papaya enzyme peel. Also recommended, especially for the adventurous traveler, is a hike in the nearby San Jacinto Mountains.”
-- Kwin, Managing Producer 960 1280