Spirit-Renewing Destinations

There are many paths to finding yourself. We asked several spiritual travel writers for their picks for destinations with the most spirit-renewing focus. Here's what they had to say.
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Photo By: Church of the Transfiguration, 5 Bay View Drive, Orleans, MA 02653

Rishikesh, 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 of Nirvana: Absolute Freedom

Chartres Cathedral, France

"When I was here in 1987, an old Frenchman who reminded me of Grandfather Charlemagne took me by the hand and led me to the labyrinth in the center of the apse and showed me how to walk it." — Phil Cousineau, author of The Art of Pilgrimage

Angkor 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

Negev, 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 of God at the Edge

Mount Shasta, California

"Believed by many to be a spiritual power point, Mount Shasta has the power to rejuvenate, revitalize, heal and inspire those who visit her. Standing at a spectacular 10,000 feet, she has power, grace and beauty that are especially palpable in summer, when the sun brings out the best in her." — Yogi Kanna

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

"A place where your prayers rise to heaven — made a little easier, it is said, by the 6 minarets that poke holes in the sky so your words reach God." — Phil Cousineau

Newgrange, 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

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

"To witness the raw juxtaposition of blinding white pack ice to the north and lush mountains, tundra and wildlife to the 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


"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 of Flunking Sainthood

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Berkshires, MA

"Kripalu offers yoga retreats for all skill levels but also functions as something akin to a spa. It has some of the best yoga teachers in the world and also offers related seminars on health and wellness." — Jana Riess

Tiruvannamalai, India

"Home to the sacred Mount 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, Mount 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

Northwestern 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 and 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

San Juan Capistrano, California

"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

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

"I shot a documentary here in 1993 and was stunned to hear that the Navajo and Hopi had been making sacred journeys here for about 1,000 years. The stillness stays with me to this day." — Phil Cousineau

Daintree National Park, Australia

"I felt as if I had gone back in time to some prehistoric era. The rain forest 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 and yellow. I could have died there and never felt so alive." — Niles Goldstein

The 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

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