Religion plays a significant role in most people’s lives, and this is evident in the 10,000 distinct religions worldwide, of which 84% are affiliated with one of the five dominant religious groups. Almost every religion has its holiest holy sites where pilgrims of the faith from different parts of the world converge to pay their respects. While some of these holy sites are located in mountainous towns and remote destinations, many important cities around the world are renowned as pilgrimage centers because of their significance to the religion. Not surprisingly, many of these most religious cities are located in Asia, a land that has been the birthplace of almost all the world’s significant religions.
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Vatican City, Italy
We have to start our list with Vatican City, one of the most religious cities on Earth. It has been the center of the Roman Catholic Church since the foundation of Saint Peter’s Basilica in the 4th century. As the permanent seat of the Pope, Vatican City, located in central Rome, became the primary “holy city” for all Catholics around the world. This is also the reason why it’s called the “Holy See,” which means the see of the bishop of Rome. Masses are often held at St. Peter’s Square, where people gather to have a glimpse of the Pope and receive his blessings. Moreover, a unique collection of architectural masterpieces can be found within the boundaries of this small state.
With that being said, within this religious city also lies one of the 12 Most Forbidden Places On Earth. You Cannot Visit. But what’s most amazing is that roughly all 825 people of the Vatican are Christian. This also means its city unaffiliated percentage is 0%! Are you looking for a Vatican City travel guide? Well, why don’t you join the St. Peter’s Basilica Dome to Underground Grottoes Tour? You’ll have the chance to explore St. Peter’s Square and Basilica along with a knowledgeable guide. You’ll also go underground and witness the historic grottoes.
Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Mecca, the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, lies in the region of Heljazi in Saudi Arabia. It’s also the holiest and most religious city in the country. A cave located 3km from Mecca is where the prophet received the revelation of the Quran. The pilgrimage to the cave is called the Hajj and is an obligatory duty for able Muslims. They must attempt a Hajj to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. As one of the most religious cities, it’s home to one of Islam’s holiest sites, the Kaaba. Those who love to attend religious services will be familiar with Kaaba. It’s the black cuboid granite structure at the center of the Great Mosque of Mecca. It’s a sacred site built by prophets Abraham and Ishmael. Muslims are expected to face the Kaaba when they say their prayers, as illustrated by the image below!
If you plan to visit Mecca, joining a full-day tour with lunch will make your trip more exciting! You’ll explore sacred Islamic Mosques and famous religious areas along with other travelers. And as we said earlier, you’ll also be given lunch so you can explore the city with a full and happy tummy!
Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China
For Tibetan Buddhists around the world, Lhasa, the “Place of the Gods”, is the center of their religious faith. This revered city was once the seat of the Dalai Lama before the Chinese invasion of Tibet. The impressive Potala Palace rising high above the city, is where the spiritual leader once resided from 1649 to 1959. Since then, it has been a museum. Then, in 1994, it became a World Heritage Site. Lhasa was the religious and administrative capital of Tibet since the mid-17th century and is still highly revered by Buddhists and Tibetans. No wonder it’s named one of the most religious cities in the world! Aside from being a religious city, Lhasa is also a nice holiday destination. It gets more than eight hours of sunshine a day throughout the year, making it the perfect place for those wanting to be sun-kissed all day long.
You can’t talk about the most religious cities without mentioning Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s Old City is one of the most sacred cities of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. It’s the metro area where these three important faiths were established. For Christians, Jerusalem is a holy city as it’s where Jesus preached, died, and was resurrected. Fun fact: the city is mentioned around 800 times in the bible, more than any other place! There are many religious sites in the surrounding areas, accompanied by some of the best hotels in the city, with the most revered being the Temple Mount/Al-Haram Ash Sharif, the Western Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be the site where Christ was crucified. It’s also one of the 8 Oldest Continuously Inhabited Cities You Should Visit One Day.
The religious capital of India lies on the banks of the holy Ganges in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. It is the holiest of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism and Jainism. It’s also mentioned in the ancient scriptures of the Puranas and also in Buddhist teachings. Varanasi is believed to be the place where Buddha preached his first sermon and founded Buddhism. Many Hindus flock to the city to bathe in the holy Ganges or to cremate their dead with the hope of attaining salvation. If you want to travel to Varanasi, October until March is the best time to be in the city. The weather is pleasant, and plenty of celebrations are held in those months. They include the Dussehra, Bharat Milap and Diwali, and Ganga Festival.
One of the prime pilgrimage sites of the Roman Catholics is Lourdes, 43km south of Pau. The Grotto of the Sanctuaries of Notre Dame of Lourdes is considered one of the holiest sites for Christians. It’s believed that this is the place where the Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to a 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubirous. Apart from that, Lourdes is also known to be a major place of miraculous healing. A spring is supposed to have sprung up where Bernadette was instructed by Our Lady to dig. This spring continues to flow today. It draws many people from all parts of the world to be healed physically and spiritually. Here’s an insider tip: Lourdes is the busiest from Easter to October! That said, August is the month where you’ll find countless people come to be healed, especially during Assumption.
Aside from being called one of the most religious cities, Rishikesh is also dubbed the “Yoga Capital of the World”. The city has been a sacred site for Hindus since ancient times. It rose to prominence on the world stage when it was visited by the Beatles in the late ’60s. Rishikesh’s spirituality arises from its location on the holy Ganges river, on whose banks several ancient and modern temples are located. Numerous yoga centers throughout the city attract visitors from all over the world. Furthermore, Rishikesh is also one of the finest places to visit in North India! Apart from being the home to pilgrim spots, it also houses hip cafes, dense forests, and many outdoor attractions. And given the pleasant weather of the city, you can visit it anytime you want throughout the year! What good news for explorers!
Sri Pada, Sri Lanka
A religious attraction and pilgrimage site for four different religions like the Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Islamists, the lofty peak, often referred to as Adam’s peak, has been a pilgrimage site for more than 1,000 years. Sri Pada literally means “sacred footprint”, which Buddhists believe to be the footprint of Buddha when he ascended into heaven. Called one of the most religious cities in the world, Christians and Muslims believe the footprint is Adam’s footprint when he was exiled from Eden. Meanwhile, Hindus believe it to be the imprint of Shiva or Hanuman. While many religious people climb the mountain daily to invoke blessings, you should note that good physical condition is required! That’s because it can take up to five hours to reach the peak!
Known as the cradle of Christianity, the city of Bethlehem is an important pilgrimage destination for Christians. That’s because it contains the Church of the Nativity built on the site where Jesus was born. A silver fourteen-pointed star marks the place beneath an altar. The site is especially busy at Christmas when Christians from all over converge here to celebrate Christ’s birth at the place where he was born. Considered one of the most religious cities on Earth, the 2,000-year-old city is also the birthplace of King David. However, did you know that besides Christians, it’s also seen as a holy city by Muslims? For Muslims, Jesus Christ is a major prophet, and Jerusalem is where key events of Jesus’ life happen. And thanks to its unique atmosphere and historical significance, Bethlehem is an extremely popular destination.
For Buddhists, Lumbini is a major pilgrimage destination. It’s the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of the Buddhism religion. Queen Maya Devi gave birth to Prince Siddharth at this place, who later renounced the world to follow a religious path of teaching and sacrifice. The site of Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini was largely lost to the world till an inscribed pillar by the Indian emperor Ashoka was discovered among the monastic ruins in 1896. Today, Lumbini is seen by many as one of the most religious cities in the world. It’s a holy city that has Buddhist centers from all parts of the world. However, the most significant of these is the Maya Devi Temple. It was built on the spot where Buddha was born. For those who have an interest in religious history, especially Buddhism, Lumbini is worth a visit.
Visitors from around the globe make their way to the religious city of Amritsar in Punjab to visit one of the most revered gurudwaras of Sikhism, the Harmandir Sahib. It’s also better known as the Golden Temple. It was completed in 1577 by Guru Ram Das. In 1604, a copy of the holy scripture, the Adi Granth, was placed inside by Guru Arjan. Constructed using marble, the Golden Temple is a sacred place to the Sikh community. To them, it represents the strength and greatness of Sikhs all over the world. It’s safe to say that the sense of community surrounding the temple is extremely strong. Additionally, the temple is surrounded by a pond that’s believed to have medicinal properties! The good news is that the temple is open to the public. People of all faiths are welcome, and thousands of pilgrims come to pay their respects here each day.
Read more – 13 Pictures From Amritsar That Will Will Make You Fall In Love With Sikh Punjabi and check out our list of the best hotels in Amritsar near the Golden Temple.
Just So You Know:
- Apart from Lumbini, the other revered pilgrimage city for Buddhists is Bodh Gaya in India. It’s the place where Buddha gained enlightenment. The tree under which he gained enlightenment is believed to be housed in the Mahabodhi Temple here.
- The seven sacred ancient Holy towns of Hinduism are Ayodya, Mathura, Varanasi, Haridwar, Ujjain, Kanchipuram, and Dvaraka.
- According to Jewish tradition, the four holy cities are Jerusalem, Tiberias, Hebron, and Safed.
Where is the most religious place in the world?
According to US News 2022 Best Countries rankings, Saudi Arabia is the country seen as the most religious among all of the 85 countries on the survey. It’s not surprising, considering it’s home to Mecca.
Which city is sacred to all 3 religions?
The city of Jerusalem is considered one of the most sacred sites by all three major world religions. They include Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Some of the most influential places for each of those religions are in Jerusalem.
What is the world’s largest religion?
Out of all of the world’s major religions, Christianity is the largest. It has more than two billion followers. This is also backed by a survey Gallup World conducted. According to the Gallup World Poll, in 2021, 35% of the respondents were Christians, which is the biggest out of other religions.