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Pilgrimage Tours Give Old-Time Religion New Light

by Carley Wade

Jun 22, 2018

© Marina Bombina | Dreamstime.com


Pilgrims aren’t just the folks who came over on the Mayflower in funny shoes and hats — no matter what your persuasion, holy journeys known as pilgrimages around the world are still the ultimate way to honor one’s heritage or just reflect on the intersection of history and spirituality.

In Mexico, you can witness the grand spectacle of the Sacred Mayan Journey at Xcaret Park. The annual re-creation brings to life the sights, sounds and flavors of the Mayan’s annual paddling of canoes toward the island of Cozumel to worship the goddess Ixchel with offerings and in search of her divine message. Oarsmen build their muscles in the Caribbean Sea each May here, accompanied by dancing and music, culminating in a visit to Pueblo del Maiz, a re-created ancient Mayan village.

Camino de Santiago, or Way of Saint James, honors the route the Apostle’s remains were carried to and from. He was buried in what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain, and most follow routes to there by either walking, hiking or cycling. Many begin in Porto or Lisbon, Portugal, where, like Spain, populations veer primarily Catholic. Interest has gotten even stronger in the years since several sites along the route earned it a collective spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and since the 100-year anniversary of the apparition of Fatima. Several churches take this as a group tour, although you can also travel solo or with your family only with many operators.

It’s no surprise Israel is packed with sites venerable to several religions. Many tour operators offer custom options for each, but no matter what there are usually sites important to both Jewish people and Catholics, for instance. Eight to 10 days are recommended to visit Galilee, Nazareth, Mount Zion, Mount of Olives, the Dead Sea and Jaffa. All walks of life can be found praying at the Western Wall. Those with time can extend their adventure in the Bible lands in nearby Egypt and Jordan.

OBERAMMERGAU, GERMANY-Traditional painted houses of the small village home to the Passion Play every 10

Traditional painted houses in Oberammergau, Germany © Thandra | Dreamstime.com

Every 10 years, the village of Oberammergau, Germany, in the heart of Bavaria comes to life with thousands of visitors trekking to see the Passion Play, or re-creation of the life and times of Christ. No matter what religion, travelers from around the world listen enraptured by the portrayal put on by most of Oberammergau. For a year and a half prior, the men here aren’t allowed to cut their hair or shave their beards and only a village native can portray Jesus. The tradition has continued for more than 400 years, since inhabitants pledged they would continue so long as the Plague spared the town. They have every decade, except for during World War II. Tickets to the seven-hour extravaganza (conducted in German) sell out months in advance, so reserving for 2020 early is advised. Some tour operators also combine Oberammergau with a Poland pilgrimage to explore the life and times of Pope John Paul II.


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