Religious tourists put their faith in India

19th Jun 2013

India, Burma and Bhutan are at the forefront of the growing market in religious tourism.

In fact, Asia accounts for more than half of the estimated 600 million faith and spiritual voyages around the globe, according to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO).

There are countless places where religionis a feature that continues to attract holidaymakers on specialist tours from far and wide.

They include:

- Varanasi (India): pilgrims on city breaks can wash themselves in the river of one of the holiest Hindu destinations

- Shwedagon Pagoda (Burma/Myanmar): the country's most significant pagoda, which is seen by worshippers and monks daily

- Takstang Monastery (Bhutan): this Buddhist centre clings to a cliff 3,000 feet (914.4 metres) above the valley below. Tourists, locals and monks visit daily, braving the precarious location

- Bodh Gaya (India): Buddha attained Enlightenment here

- Varanasi (India): considered the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism.

Elsewhere, holy cities such as Jerusalem (Israel) have drawn massive numbers every year that travel to see diverse religious cultural sites.

Others travel to destinations for pilgrimage, as missionaries, for fellowship, to relax, receive teaching or undertake study.

Even if you don't practice a particular religion, holy sites still have a wide appeal for other grounds such as architecture, culture or history.

You may even swap a traditional hotel for a religious dwelling such as a convent, monastery or ashram, or undertake a yoga course or meditation class.

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