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Top Ten Spiritual Places

No Vatican, no Mecca, no Jerusalem – there’s not even anywhere in Europe! What sort of a list of spiritual places is this? As ever, by no means does this claim to be a definitive list, just a selection of ten favorite spiritual places and holy sites chosen from around the HostelBookers office.

Not all our choices are, strictly speaking, religious, while some aren’t even manmade. But, whether they’re grand mosques or merely a humble rock, all resonate with that oddly mystical feeling that comes from the weight of time sitting heavily upon them.

The Umayyad Mosque; Damascus, Syria

The Umayyad Mosque; Damascus, SyriaConstruction of the remarkable Umayyad Mosque (or Grand Mosque) took place over nine years from 706-715AD. Amongst the most dazzling religious structures anywhere in the world, it’s also one of the largest, with the outer walls stretching a staggering 100m by 157m.

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 Varanasi – the Ganges; Varanasi, India

Varanasi – the Ganges; Varanasi, IndiaAs well as being a major Hindu pilgrimage site, Varanasi is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Throughout the year, millions of pilgrims bathe in the holy waters of the River Ganges, having been ushered down through the decaying houses by stone ‘ghats’ (steps). A genuinely special place.

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Borobudur; Yogyakartur, Indonesia

Borobudur; Yogyakartur, Indonesia The vast temple of Borobudur covers an area of some 200 square meters, and consists of a total of over 1.5 million building blocks (and no mortar to hold them together!) Even now, looking upon this vast monument to human endeavor, the effect is little short of awe-inspiring.

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Emei Shan; Southern Sichuan, China

Emei Shan; Southern Sichuan, ChinaThe climb up Buddhist holy mountain Emei Shan takes you through whispering forests, past cascading waterfalls, and through a series of temples. When you finally emerge onto a giant pagoda and a sea of clouds, it’s impossible not to be struck by the mystical aura that surrounds the place.

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Abu Simbel; Aswan, Egypt

Abu Simbel; Aswan, EgyptEven amongst Egypt’s wealth of spiritual sites, Abu Simbel stands out. With its four huge statues of Ramses II, and shafts painstakingly designed to shine sunlight deep into the subterranean temple, nothing can adequately prepare you for the impact of its scale and grandiose vision.

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Ayer’s Rock (Uluru); Alice Springs, Australia

Ayer’s Rock (Uluru); Alice Springs, AustraliaSlap-bang in the middle of the country, and surrounded by mile after mile of next-to-nothingness, an undeniably spiritual feel swirls around Ayer’s Rock (or Uluru). The most incredible thing about it, though, is the way it changes color throughout the day, reaching a magical climax at sunset.

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Adashino Nembutsuji; Kyoto, Japan

Adashino Nembutsuji; Kyoto, JapanAdashino Nembutsuji is one of the more atmospheric of Japan’s many holy places. Reached through a swaying forest of bamboo, a temple now stands on the site where, in the 11th century, the poor of Kyoto used to leave their dead. Few places are blessed with such a peculiar sense of intimacy.

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Lake Titicaca; Copacabana, Bolivia

Lake Titicaca; Copacabana, BoliviaIf it were just for its scenery alone, Lake Titicaca would still be magnificent. But as a site of vital religious importance to the Incas – whose impressive ruins dot the shoreline and crown its islands, Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna – it acquires an almost otherworldly beauty.

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Angkor Wat; Siem Riep, Cambodia

Angkor Wat; Siem Riep, CambodiaIn spite of its overcrowding in places, there’s nowhere quite like Angkor Wat. Thought to be the biggest religious structure in the world, it stands at the heart of a 400km Khmer complex, and possesses a truly transcendental quality.

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Nemrut Dagi; Gazantiep, Turkey

Nemrut Dagi; Gazantiep, TurkeyHigh up in the snow-capped mountains, far-flung, windswept and blessed with staggering views, is Nemrut Dagi. The tomb/temple of the megalomaniacal King Antiochus, enormous crumbling heads adorn the world’s largest manmade mound, and lend the whole site its lingering whiff of madness.

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