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Religious tourism

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Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is one of the largest gatherings for religious purposes anywhere in the world.
Christians come to the Jordan river to baptise. Picture taken in Yardenit, Israel.

Religious tourism, spiritual tourism, sacred tourism, or faith tourism,[1] is a type of tourism with two main subtypes: pilgrimage, meaning travel for religious or spiritual purposes, and the viewing of religious monuments and artefacts, a branch of sightseeing.


Religious tourism has been characterised in different ways by researchers. Gisbert Rinschede distinguishes these by duration, by group size, and by social structure.[2] Juli Gevorgian proposes two categories that differ in their motivation, namely "pilgrimage tourism" for spiritual reasons or to participate in religious rites, and "church tourism" to view monuments such as cathedrals.[3][4] The Christian priest Frank Fahey writes that a pilgrim is "always in danger of becoming a tourist", and vice versa since travel always in his view upsets the fixed order of life at home, and identifies eight differences between the two:[5]

Distinguishing pilgrimage from tourism, according to Frank Fahey[5]
Element Pilgrimage Tourism
Faith always contains "faith expectancy" not required
Penance search for wholeness not required
Community often solitary, but should be open to all often with friends and family, or a chosen interest group
Sacred space silence to create an internal sacred space not present
Ritual externalizes the change within not present
Votive offering leaving behind a part of oneself, letting go, in search of a better life not present; the travel is the good life
Celebration "victory over self", celebrating to remember drinking to forget
Perseverance commitment; "pilgrimage is never over" holidays soon end


Tibetans on a pilgrimage to Lhasa, doing full-body prostrations, often for the entire length of the journey

Pilgrimage is spiritually- or religiously motivated travel, sometimes over long distances; it has been practised since antiquity and in several of the world's religions.[6] The world's largest mass religious assemblage takes place in India at the Kumbh Mela, which attracts over 120 million pilgrims.[7] Other major pilgrimages include the annual Hajj to Mecca, required once in a Muslim's life.[8]

Religious sightseeing[edit]

Tourists and pilgrims in front of the Sanctuary of Fátima in Portugal.
Shops of religious tourism in Fátima, Portugal.

Religious sightseeing can be motivated by any of several kinds of interest, such as religion, art, architecture, history, and personal ancestry.[9][10] People can find holy places interesting and moving, whether they personally are religious or not. Some, such as the churches of Italy, offer fine architecture and major artworks. Portugal, for example, has as its main religious tourism attraction the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, internationally known by the phenomenon of Marian apparitions. Others are important to world religions: Jerusalem holds a central place in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Others again may be both scenic and important to one religion, like the Way of Saint James in Spain, but have been adopted by non-religious people as a personal challenge and indeed as a journey of self-discovery. Religious tourism in India can take many forms, including yoga tourism; the country has sites important to Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism, as well as magnificent architecture and, for some travellers, the attraction of orientalism.[11][12] Japan too offers beautiful religious places from Buddhist temples to Shinto shrines.[11]

Secular pilgrimage[edit]

A category intermediate between pilgrims belonging to a major world religion and pure tourism is the modern concept of secular pilgrimage to places such as the Himalayas felt to be in some way special or even sacred, and where the travel is neither purely pious, nor purely for pleasure, but is to some degree "compromised".[13][14] For example, New Age believers may travel to such "spiritual hotspots" with the intention of healing themselves and the world. They may practise rituals involving (supposedly) leaving their bodies, possession by spirits (channelling), and recovery of past life memories.[15] The travel is considered by many scholars as transcendental, a life learning process or even a self-realization metaphor.[16][17][18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gannon, Martin Joseph; Baxter, Ian W. F.; Collinson, Elaine; Curran, Ross; Farrington, Thomas; Glasgow, Steven; Godsman, Elliot M.; Gori, Keith; Jack, Gordon R. A. (11 June 2017). "Travelling for Umrah: destination attributes, destination image, and post-travel intentions" (PDF). The Service Industries Journal. 37 (7–8): 448–465. doi:10.1080/02642069.2017.1333601. ISSN 0264-2069. S2CID 54745153.
  2. ^ Rinschede, Gisbert (1992). "Forms of religious tourism". Annals of Tourism Research. 19 (1): 51–67. doi:10.1016/0160-7383(92)90106-Y. ISSN 0160-7383.
  3. ^ Gevorgian, Juli. "Religious Tourism". Academia. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  4. ^ Ralf van Bühren, The artistic heritage of Christianity. Promotion and reception of identity. Editorial of the first section in the special issue on Tourism, religious identity and cultural heritage, in Church, Communication and Culture 3 (2018), pp. 195-196.
  5. ^ a b Fahey, Frank (April 2002). "Pilgrims or Tourists?". The Furrow. 53 (4): 213–218. JSTOR 27664505.
  6. ^ Guzik, Helena. "What is a pilgrimage?". National Trust / University of Oxford. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  7. ^ Eck, Diana L. (2012). India: A Sacred Geography. Harmony Books. pp. 153–155. ISBN 978-0-385-53190-0.
  8. ^ Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi (26 March 2016). The Laws of Islam (PDF). Enlight Press. p. 471. ISBN 978-0994240989. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  9. ^ Makrides, Vasilios (2009). Hellenic Temples and Christian Churches: A Concise History of the Religious Cultures of Greece from Antiquity to the Present. NYU Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-8147-9568-2.
  10. ^ Greenia, George. "Pilgrimage and the American Myth" (PDF). College of William & Mary. p. 5. Retrieved 4 December 2019. Scholars in religious studies take spiritual sketches of travellers' yearning for the transcendent, while sociologists capture glimpses of mixed motives and intrusions of the definitely non-sacred. Even tourism studies help us see past the picture postcard images of the exotic and wondrous and show us vacationers, trekkers, skeptics, seekers and spenders flowing in and out of the channels of belief.
  11. ^ a b Higgs, Andy (20 May 2019). "Tips for Organising a Religious Sightseeing Trip". Grown-up Travel Guide.
  12. ^ Goldberg, Philip (2010). American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation – How Indian Spirituality Changed the West. New York: Harmony Books. pp. 7, 152. ISBN 978-0-385-52134-5.
  13. ^ Singh, Shalini (2005). "Secular pilgrimages and sacred tourism in the Indian Himalayas". GeoJournal. 64 (3): 215–223. doi:10.1007/s10708-005-5649-8. ISSN 0343-2521. JSTOR 41148001. S2CID 143325849.
  14. ^ Ricketts, Jeremy R. (2018). "Tourism to Sacred Places in America: A Spatial Analysis". Tourism to Sacred Places in America: A Spatial Analysis. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.013.541. ISBN 9780199340378. "Tourism to sacred places" or "sacred tourism" allows the flexibility to include hallowed places that are either formally religious or not. Indeed, sites of secular pilgrimage continue to proliferate wherein "pilgrim" is used indistinguishably from "tourist" because of the mixture of secular and sacred at the site itself as well as the diverse motivations of the people who journey there.
  15. ^ Todras-Whitehill, Ethan (29 April 2007). "Touring the Spirit World". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  16. ^ Rountree, Kathryn. "Goddess pilgrims as tourists: Inscribing the body through sacred travel". Retrieved 15 October 2008.
  17. ^ Oberholtzer, Heidi. "Pilgrimage in literature of the Americas: Spiritualized travel and sacred place". Retrieved 15 October 2008.
  18. ^ "書目明細".

Further reading[edit]

  • Ralf van Bühren, Lorenzo Cantoni, and Silvia De Ascaniis (eds.), Special issue on “Tourism, Religious Identity and Cultural Heritage”, in Church, Communication and Culture 3 (2018), pp. 195–418
  • Razaq Raj and Nigel D. Morpeth, Religious tourism and pilgrimage festivals management: an international perspective, CABI, 2007
  • Dallen J. Timothy and Daniel H. Olsen, Tourism, religion and spiritual journeys, Routledge, 2006
  • University of Lincoln (Department of tourism and recreation), Tourism – the spiritual dimension. Conference. Lincoln (Lincolnshire) 2006
  • N. Ross Crumrine and E. Alan Morinis, Pilgrimage in Latin America, Westport CT 1991

External links[edit]