A sacred place is somewhere connected to a god or a religious purpose. Many seek them out on a gap year, either in the hope of feeling connected to them or just giving their travels more meaning.
Whether you’re looking for a connection to a religion you’re following or just want to learn about the culture of the area that you’re in, visiting a sacred place can really add to your gap year.
Here are just some of the most beautiful and captivating sacred places that we’ve found…
Kyaikto Pagoda – Yangon, Myanmar
Precariously perched on top of a rock, the Golden Rock is a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site. The large stone appears to defy gravity and is believed to be kept in place by a strand of Buddha’s hair.
The boulder and pagoda are hand-painted by monks with gold leaf. Those who are said to complete a pilgrimage here three times (in a year) are believed to be blessed with wealth and recognition.
Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe Chapel – Aiguilhe, France
The Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe Chapel is built on top of a volcanic plug. The 268 steps that climb the 85-meter magma structure are carved into the rock itself, bringing both nature and spirituality together. Previously a monument to the Roman god Mercury, a Church was built to worship St Michael in 962.
Joan of Arc’s mother Isabelle Romee is said to have travelled here to pray.
Hagia Sophia – Istanbul, Turkey
This building has sacred significance for a large selection of people. Since its creation (in 537) the Hagia Sophia in Turkey has been a Greek Orthodox Cathedral (twice), a Roman Catholic Cathedral and an Imperial Mosque.
As of 1935, this beautiful place has become a museum dedicated to the artefacts it has accrued in its existence.
Batu Caves – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A 140 ft tall statue the Hindu deity Murugah (the god of war) watches over the cave temples and all who visit.
Hidden within the 100ft tall limestone are three caves used for worship. The Temple Cave is the largest of the three, located 272 steps up at the top of the hill, and is filled with delicate shrines.
There is also The Ramayana Cave that depicts the story of Rama along its walls.
Boudhanath – Kathmandu, Nepal
The largest Buddhist stupa on the world, Boudhanath is one of the most popular attractions in the Kathmandu area. Over 50 Tibetan Gompas (akin to a monstery) have been erected around the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located on an ancient trade route from Tibet, many merchants have said to have rested or prayed here over the years.
Xuankong Temple – Hunyuan County, China
The Hanging Monastery is built into a cliff near Mount Heng in the Shanxi province. The 1500-year-old building is kept 75 meters in the air by oak beams that have been set into the cliff face, with a large portion of the structure hidden inside the mountain itself.
The only temple to pay homage to three traditional Chinese religions (Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism), the Hanging Monastery is truly one of a kind.
Chimi Lhakhang – near Punakha, Bhutan
While Chimi Lhakhang may not seem spectacular on the outside, its what’s on the inside that counts.
Built by the 14th Drukpa hierarch, Ngawang Choegyel in 1499; the temple was blessed by a “Devine Madman”. Saint Drukpa Kunley had a rather… different approach to his teachings. He liked humour, singing and outrage.
Part of his unique approach was to adorn the inside of the temple with phallic figures and paintings. A wooden penis with a silver handle is used to bless women who have made the pilgrimage there with fertility.
Angkor Wat – Siem Reap, Cambodia
Being the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat has to be included on this list. The intricately carved, two-level stone structure is protected by a 3.6-kilometre wall and a moat. It started its life as a Hindu temple but, towards the end of the 12th century, transformed into a Buddhist temple.
This symbol of pride in Cambodia has undergone countless stages of restoration in order to keep it as pristine as the day it was made, both for site seers and those who visit for religious purposes. The Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.