Top 10 Most Visited Pilgrimage Sites in the World

Millions of people embark on spiritual journeys to holy sites across the globe every year. These sites offer blessings, healing, and enlightenment to those who seek them. Every individual has the opportunity to feel a sense of serenity and divine energy during their pilgrimage.

Below are the top 10 pilgrimage destinations that draw in millions of visitors annually.

10Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City is a Catholic Church.  Regarded as the National Shrine of Mexico, the church worships the Virgin Mary under the name Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is a popular destination for pilgrims, with 20 million visitors annually. Also called La Villa de Guadalupe, this basilica includes several churches and related buildings.

On December 12th, at the Saint Mary of Guadalupe feast, around 9 million pilgrims visit the site annually. In fact, in 2022, the number of pilgrims to Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica exceeded that of pilgrims to Vatican City, with a historic 12.5 million visitors after lifting the Covid-19 restrictions.

9Mount Kailash, Tibet

Mount Kailash, Tibet
Saga Dawa Festival at Tarboche, Mount Kailash, Tibet

Mount Kailash is a sacred destination that may be unfamiliar to Western people. Many people visit the area, for Kailash Manasarovar Yatra, due to the cultural significance, natural beauty, religious value, and thrilling experience. One popular activity is the challenging walk around the base of Mount Kailash, known as “kora,” which pilgrims and tourists complete.

Pilgrims believe that participating in the Manasarovar yatra after completing the Kailash kora helps to purify the soul. From Chiu Monastery, one can enjoy a fascinating view of the sacred Mount Kailash and holy Lake Manasarovar together, all the way to the end port of Lake Manasarovar Kora.

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8Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Platerias square, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

The Old Town of Santiago is a famous pilgrimage site located in north-west Spain. It symbolizes the Spanish Christians’ battle against Islam. The Old Town of Santiago amalgamates Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architecture, making it one of the most aesthetically pleasing urban areas.

It is one of the most famous pilgrimage towns, significant for Christianity. The site attracts pilgrims from all over the world who come to pay homage to the Holy Tomb. The town has considerably impacted the surrounding area. This helps construct small towns, churches, hospitals, and monasteries along the Camino, which thousands of pilgrims visit every year.

7Golden Temple, India

Golden Temple, India The Golden Temple, or Harimandir Sahib, is an important spiritual site for the Sikhs. Located in Amritsar, Punjab, India, it is an open worship space that welcomes people from all walks of life and beliefs. The temple has a square plan and a circumambulation path surrounding the pool.

Four entrances symbolize the Sikh belief in equality and welcome all people to the holy place. The temple also includes a clock tower, a museum, and a langar. The langer represents a free Sikh community that runs a kitchen to offer a vegetarian meal to all visitors. Each day, the temple receives over 150,000 visitors who come for worship.

6Notre Dame Cathedral, France

Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
The west facade of Notre Dame Cathedral during sunrise

Located in the heart of Paris, France, Notre Dame de Paris, or simply Notre Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is significant among the most famous cathedrals in history, featuring a combination of Romanesque and French Gothic architecture. The church adorns intricate sculptural decorations.

Paris Chartres Pilgrimage, a popular three-day walking pilgrimage, covers approximately 60 miles from Notre Dame de Paris to Notre Dame de Chartres. Organized in groups of 20-60 people, pilgrims walk through Paris streets and the countryside. This pilgrimage dates back to the 12th century, though interrupted by various wars throughout European history.

5Varanasi, India

Sunrise on the Ganges, boat tour at Rana Mahal Ghat, Varanasi, India

Varanasi, or Benares, is a highly revered city in Hinduism situated on the banks of the Ganges River. Every year, over 20 million Hindu pilgrims visit the city to perform rituals on the ghats, visit temples, and witness cremation ceremonies.

Varanasi has several notable temples, such as the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Shiva, and the Durga Temple. Hindus believe bathing in the holy Ganges River can purify their souls. Foreign tourists, primarily from Srilanka and Japan, also come to witness the rituals performed on the many ghats.

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4Lumbini, Nepal

Lumbini, Nepal
World peace pagoda, Lumbini, Nepal

Lumbini, which marks the birth of the Lord Buddha, is a sacred pilgrimage site for Buddhist pilgrims in Nepal. It became a place of pilgrimage after King Ashoka visited in 249 BC and erected a pillar to commemorate his visit. The city holds the archaeological remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha.

Ashoka pillar still stands today, and visitors can also see other holy monuments, such as the Maya Devi Temple, the exact spot where Buddha was born, and Puskarni, where Buddha’s mother bathed before giving birth. In 1997, UNESCO recognized Lumbini as a World Heritage site because of its cultural significance as the birthplace of Buddha.

3Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem, Israel
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem is a significant city in Israel because of its religious importance to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Some of the most revered sites in Jerusalem include the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Dome of the Rock.

The Western Wall is a fragment of the ancient Jewish temple. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where Jesus was buried and resurrected. And the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine, marks the spot where Muhammad ascended. Famed as a city with some of the most iconic holy sites in the world, Jerusalem has been fascinating to millions of visitors over the years.

2Vatican City

Vatican City
Aerial View of Vatican City

Vatican City is a small, independent country located within Rome, Italy. It is the most revered site in the history of Christendom and offers a unique spiritual experience. The country has an impressive collection of artistic and architectural masterpieces, with the center being St. Peter’s Basilica.

St. Peter’s Basilica is the world’s largest religious building. It is a synthesis of the combined genius of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini, and Maderno. The basilica is located over the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle, surrounded by gardens and palaces, with a circular piazza in front. Over 4.2 million people visit Vatican City every year.

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1Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Kaaba, Great Mosque of Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Mecca, located in the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia, is the holiest city in Islam. An estimated metro population of about 2.042 million people was recorded in 2020. And that makes Mecca the third-most populated city in Saudi Arabia after Jeddah and Riyadh.

Every year, millions of people visit Mecca during the twelfth lunar month of Dhu al-Hijjah. This is because Mecca is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and the location of the Kaaba, which is a sacred site for Muslims. The pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj, is obligatory for all Muslims and is an important event in the Muslim world.