10 group travel ideas: spiritual spots and religious journeys

Date Posted: 16/12/2013

Machu Picchu

Pictured: The hilltop citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru.

Whether you’re practicing religion, after inspiration, or looking for somewhere rich in history and culture; opt for a group trip to one of these ten most sacred of spots.

1. Machu Picchu, Peru

The ruins of the lost Incan city of Machu Picchu were discovered in 1911 by the Yale architect Hiram Bingham. Located on an Andean mountain top in Peru, the site overlooks the deep canyon of the Urubamba River.

The city was reportedly of great astrological importance based on its positioning with regards to the sun, and Shamanic folklore also proposes that the stone is a gateway to allow psychic and spiritual vision. The Incan deities were reported to be linked to the stones fate, so much so that when a psychic placed their forehead (third eye) on the stone, the psychic and spiritual world would be shown to them.

Planning a visit? The hilltop citadel is a great example of landscape architecture and the easiest way to get there is on PeruRail’s luxury train service between Cusco and Machu Picchu. The journey takes one day and there are discounts for groups.

2. Uluru, Australia

Uluru (Ayers Rock) is a large sandstone rock formation in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, down towards the south-west corner of Australia’s Northern Territory.

A World Heritage site, tribes were living in the area 10,000 years ago, and the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginals own the land around it today.

Uluru has also become important for New Age practitioners in recent years. Myth has it that the huge monolith was formed by the activities of ancestral beings in creation time; the area remains sacred to several Aboriginal tribes, who still use it for rituals and leave paintings in its caves.

Groups visiting the site can climb and discover caves and waterfalls, and also explore the base of it, which is around ten kilometers long by footpath.

Jewish Quarter

Pictured: Josefov, also known as The Jewish Quarter, has guided tours about Jewish history.

3. Vatican City, Italy

At the heart of Rome, Vatican City is a popular destination for tourists, religious or otherwise. Standing as a landlocked city-state, Vatican City is also the smallest independent state in the world by both area and population.

Highlights of a group trip to the city can include the Sistine Chapel, and the Raphael Rooms. You can also opt to visit the Vatican Museums which house 22 separate collections ranging from Etruscan and Egyptian art to maps and modern religious art.

4. Josefov, Prague

Also known as The Jewish Quarter, Josefov’s history dates back to the 13th century, when the Jewish community in Prague was ordered to vacate their disparate homes and settle in one area.

Its present appearance dates mainly from 1893-1913 where many structural changes were made, although most of the significant buildings from previous eras were saved, a living testimony to the history of Prague Jews.

These buildings form a preserved complex of Jewish historical; a group visit can explore six remaining synagogues plus the Jewish Town Hall and the Old Jewish Cemetery. A Jewish Quarter Walking Tour is also available, plus you’ll find entry to many of the buildings with a ticket to the Jewish Museum.

5. Bethlehem, Jerusalem

Bethlehem, known as the birthplace of Jesus and King David, is a predominately Christian Palestinian city just south of Jerusalem.

According to the Torah (Old Testament), Rachel, the favourite wife of Jacob, was buried in Bethlehem. King David was born and raised there. According to the New Testament, Jesus was also born there and Christian traditions link locations around the city to Jesus from as early as the second century C.E.

Groups visiting the city shouldn’t miss a visit to The Church of the Nativity, which is one of Bethlehem's major tourist attractions and a magnet for Christian pilgrims; it stands in the centre of the city over a grotto called the Holy Crypt, where Jesus is said to have been born. Tours are also availble.

Whitby Abbey

Pictured: The ruins of Whitby Abbey, where you can experience an interactive visitor centre.

6. Stonehenge, Wiltshire

The megalithic ruin of Stonehenge has created an enigma for many centuries, although many groups such as pagans and druids believe that the stone circle was used for rites and ceremonies; theories about who built it have included the Druids, Greeks, Phoenicians, and Atlanteans.

Stonehenge improvements in 2014 are set to include a welcome host, dedicated parking for 30 coaches, and a pre-printed ticket collection system. With a recommended visiting period of at least two hours, groups of 11 or more are entitled to a ten per cent discount, with a free place for the group travel organiser.

7. Whitby Abbey, Yorkshire

Set on a headland over the seaside town, you can discover the long history of Whitby Abbey and the daily life of the monks who once lived there. You can also find out about abbey founder, Hilda, who spread Christianity and encouraged education in the area.

Groups can visit the interactive visitor centre with its digital reconstructions, or listen to an audio tour as you wander around the ancient ruins and enjoy the stunning views.

8. Chalice Well, Somerset

According to legend, the Chalice Well is believed to have sprung from the ground at the location where the 'Holy Chalice' (aka the Holy Grail) that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper. The sacred vessel is believed to have been thrown into the well by Joseph of Arimathea.

The well itself is thought to have been built by those of the Old Religion, the Druids, and the water has been claimed to have magical powers.

Visitors can still drink the water which is today believed to possess healing properties. Groups can also explore the surrounding gardens by day or at Full Moon events where you can see the area by night. Accommodation for groups in two lodges is available to hire. 

Pictured: St. Paul's Cathedral by night: climb to the top for panoramic views of London.

9. St Paul’s Cathedral, London

The present St. Paul's Cathedral, the masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren, is at least the fourth to have stood on the site. It was built between 1675 and 1710, after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, and services began in 1697.

The building is a relative newcomer to a site which has witnessed Christian Worship for over 1,400 years. A group visit can include climbing up the dome to the Whispering Gallery - a whisper on one side can be heard 100 feet away - and seeing panoramic views of London from the top of the Golden Gallery.

Further highlights comprise a touchscreen multimedia tour, guided tours, and Oculus – a 270 degrees film exhibition about the history of St. Paul’s.

10. The East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre

The East London Mosque Trust has a history spanning over 100 years, and is reportedly London's oldest mosque in the heart of the East End.

Beginning as small room for Friday prayers in 1910, the mosque was gradually converted in a large place of worship, and has been built with dome and minarets. 

Groups arranging a visit to the mosque can book tours for up to 18 people, with further highlights comprising a basic understanding of Islam plus a question and answer session.

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