From exploring beautiful temples and churches to witnessing sacred rituals and meeting local worshippers, religious travel is a special experience. To celebrate World Religion Day on the 16th of January, we’re taking a look at the top Trafalgar tours where you can experience different religions. From Buddhism in Thailand and Hinduism in India, to Catholicism in Spain and Islam in Morocco, here are seven of the best Trafalgar tours to experience different religions around the world.
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1. Thailand and Cambodia Uncovered (17 days)
Buddhism in Thailand and Cambodia
As Buddhism is the dominant religion in both Thailand and Cambodia, these countries offer up some incredible spiritual travel experiences. We’ll start in Bangkok at the Grand Palace, where you can visit Wat Phra Kaew, Thailand’s most sacred Buddhist temple. Head to Wat Pho, Bangkok’s oldest temple, and you’ll see the impressive largest-reclining Buddha in Thailand.
After temple-hopping in Bangkok, we’re off to Sukhothai where you can see the 15-metre seated Buddha in the UNESCO-listed Sukhothai Historical Park. Then we’ll visit Chiang Mai for a special experience in Wat Suan Dok where you’ll meet a local monk and learn about Buddhism.
Our trip continues to Cambodia where we’ll visit the iconic Temples of Angkor. Made famous in the film ‘Tomb Raider’ we’ll explore the ancient corridors, courtyards and temples alongside saffron-robed Buddhist monks. As an ancient city of a lost empire, a visit to Angkor is a truly incredible experience.
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2. Land of the Gods (13 days)
Judaism, Christianity & Islam in Israel
There are few better places to experience different religions than Israel, a country known for its cultural and religious diversity. We’ll take you on a sightseeing tour through Jerusalem’s Old Town, a holy city in many religions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Visit the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter, where Jews cede their prayer notes into the wall. Learn how the Dome of the Rock is sacred for both Jews and Muslims.
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We’ll also head to the Mount of Olives and the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus spent the night of his arrest before his crucifixion. Then walk the path that Jesus was forced down on his way to his crucifixion to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Next up, we’ll take a trip to the Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem where the Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. We’ll also explore the Israel Museum to see the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. And you won’t miss out on a special trip to Bethlehem. Here we’ll meet a Local Specialist at the Church of the Nativity, built over the cave where Jesus was born.
3. Days of Devotion (12 days)
Catholicism in France, Spain & Portugal
Kick off your Catholic religious travel experience in Lourdes, France, the global centre of the Marian pilgrimage. It’s said to be the sacred place where St. Bernadette who witnessed the Marian apparitions of the Immaculate Conception. You’ll learn more with a Local Specialist on a visit to St. Bernadette’s Grotto, her birthplace and shrine, where millions of pilgrims come to pray and drink its holy water. Then, you’ll get immersed in the devotion of the pilgrims as we take place in the moving Torchlight Procession. You’ll join believers from all over the world as they sing the Ave Maria of Lourdes and it’s a truly stirring experience.
We’ll then cross the border into Spain to visit Santiago de Compostela, the iconic pilgrimage site. Thousands of pilgrims have walked this spiritual path for centuries and you can visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the final resting place of St. James. You can even join the Pilgrim’s Mass in the evening, to welcome the pilgrims who have finished their journey in the city that day.
We’ll finish our spiritual journey in Portugal, where we’ll visit Fátima, the famous Catholic pilgrimage site. Follow in the footsteps of millions of pilgrims to the shrine where three young shepherds saw the apparition of the Virgin Mary. Join worshippers from all the world in the evening to recite the Rosary in the stunning Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima. From France to Portugal, this is a spiritual travel experience you’ll cherish forever.
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4. Golden Triangle, Tigers and The Ganges (11 days)
Hinduism in India
This beautiful journey offers the chance to experience the different religions of India. We’ll take you to a soul-stirring Aarti Ceremony at the Birla Temple, one of the most iconic Hindu temples in Jaipur. The ceremony involves giving offerings of food, flowers, incense, and water, along with singing and passing a traditional Aarti lamp around the deity. It’s a very special experience all set amongst the glimmering white marble and stunning sculptures of the temple.
We’ll then head to the sacred city of Varanasi where you’ll find yourself at the heart of the Hindu religion. Explore the ancient temples then head to the Ganga Mata (Mother Ganges), the sacred river. Here, we’ll cruise along the river to witness the locals performing moving rituals in the holy water. It’s a magical experience you won’t soon forget.
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5. Spain, Morocco and Portugal (16 days)
Islam in Morocco & Spain
Islam is the dominant religion in Morocco, making it the perfect place to get immersed in this fascinating religion. We’ll kick things off in Rabat where you can see the magnificent 17th-century Palace and Mausoleum of Mohammed V. In Marrakesh, we’ll visit the breathtaking Bahia Palace, before heading to the iconic Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. It’s one of the only mosques in the world open to non-muslim visitors, and we’ll take you on a special guided tour through the magnificent buildings and grounds.
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Next, we’ll hop over to Granada in Spain, where you’ll walk in the footsteps of royalty in the ancient palace of Alhambra. It’s one of the finest pieces of Moorish architecture in the world, built in the 12th century during the Islamic rule in Spain. Known as ‘paradise on earth’, Alhambra is said to have been inspired by the description of paradise found in Islamic verse.
We’ll join a Local Specialist for a guided tour to explore the stunning gardens, intricate rooms, and enormous fortress walls. We’ll also meet a Local Specialist on our visit to Córdoba, to explore the Mosque of the Caliphs. With incredible arches and Byzantine mosaics, this is a true gem of Hispano-Islamic art.
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6. Classic Japan (11 days)
Shintoism in Japan
While Shintoism is the dominant religion, you can experience many different religions in Japan, including Buddhism and Confucianism. We’ll take you to see the iconic Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, a UNESCO-listed temple famed for its grand Main Hall and gorgeous Jishu-Jinja Shinto Shrine.
We’ll also do some temple-hopping in Osaka, where you’ll learn the tragic love story of Ohatsu and Tokubei at the Tsuyunoten Shinto Shrine in Umeda. It’s tradition for visitors to write their prayers for love on wooden plaques known as ema, in honour of the star-crossed lovers Ohatsu and Tokubei.
Next up, we’ll take a ferry to Miyajima Island for a special visit to the famous Itsukushima Shinto Shrine. This UNESCO-listed torii gate rises out of the sea and it’s one of the most beautiful sacred places in Japan.
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7. Best of Germany with Oberammergau (12 days)
Christianity in Germany
If you want to experience one of the world’s most extraordinary religious experiences, you can’t miss the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany. The devoted villagers have performed the play since 1634 as thanks to God for saving them from the 17th-century plague. Held only once a decade, this Passion Play will be happening this year from 14 May to 2 October 2022 – and you can get there with Trafalgar.
The play is a celebration of faith and a moving depiction of the life and death of Jesus Christ – and it’s a life-changing experience for many. When you travel with Trafalgar, we’ll score tickets to premium seats to the Passion Play. We’ll also mingle with locals when we dine at a restaurant before the thrilling second half of the performance.
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Where have you travelled to experience different religions? Let us know in the comments below…