Bodh Gaya to Mount Kailash: Walking Holidays For the Spiritually Inclined

Pilgrimages for mind and sole. | By NGT Staff  
Bodh Gaya, Bihar
At Bodh Gaya in Bihar, a fig tree such as this one shaded Buddha on his journey to enlightenment. Photo: Diane Cook & Len Jenshel

Bodh Gaya in Bihar, India

The spiritual hub of Buddhism is Bihar’s Bodh Gaya, whose famous fig tree was said to have sheltered Siddhartha Gautama as he meditated for seven days during his quest for enlightenment. Today, the tree (a descendant of the original) and the nearby pyramid-shaped Mahabodhi Temple are among Buddhism’s holiest sites.

Mount Kailash in Tibet

This nearly 22,000-foot Trans-Himalayan mountain in southwest Tibet is an important site for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. Pilgrims circumambulate a 52-kilometre path at the base of the mountain—Hindus to pay their respects at Shiva’s abode, Buddhists to honour the Buddha Demchog, and Jains in reverence to their first tirthankara.

St. Paul Trail in Turkey

This rugged, almost 500-kilometre path partly follows St. Paul’s journey to spread Christianity. Leading from Perg or Aspendos to Antioch (now known as Yalvaç), the route forges past fragrant pine forests and mirage-like lakes.

Sri Padaya (Adam’s Peak) in Sri Lanka

A sacred footprint enshrined on the summit of this 7,329-foot-summit in southern Sri Lanka is venerated by followers of four major faiths—Hindus, Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists. Pilgrims undertake one of three treks to reach the summit and pray to the sacred footprint, usually travelling through the night in the hope of catching a beautiful mountain sunrise.

Route of Saints in Krakow, Poland

Wawel Hill features a 14th-century cathedral with 19 chapels and an ornate cluster of tombs, including one of Poland’s patron, St. Stanislaus. See embroidered scenes from his life on a 500-year-old robe displayed in the cathedral museum. On foot, follow Krakow’s Route of Saints, which links 16 beautiful churches.

Appeared in the December 2016 issue as “Mind, Body, Soles”.

Psst. Want a weekly dose of travel inspiration in your inbox?