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A Journey of Miracles: 3 Pilgrimage Sites in Europe

Contrary to industry expectations that leisure- or adrenaline-driven travel would top tourism trends, The Conversation reveals that pilgrimage trips are growing in popularity. Described as a journey with a purpose, pilgrimages offer a unique spiritual solace to travellers. In a time, when most people seek meaning and recovery, a pilgrimage offers holistic benefits like no other. Around the world, there are many places of historical significance that have become pilgrimage sites. In Europe, dozens of new or repurposed pilgrimages regularly surface, and many carry generations' worth of history and religion. Here are 3 top recommendations:

Lourdes, France

No other pilgrimage site in France can compare to Lourdes, which sees around six million visitors annually. The holy history of Lourdes stems from various apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes and numerous miraculous healings. These miraculous healings are attributed to a subterranean spring unearthed in the 19th century by 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous. Located in a cave called Massabielle, the young Bernadette claimed that the Virgin Mother guided her in finding this miraculous spring that has restorative powers. Today, this spring continues to provide thousands of gallons of water daily. This water is used today for bathing, drinking, or filling up bottles to take home. Lourdes is accessible by road and by the port of Saint-Jean-Dae-Luz, and it is a popular stop for cruise ships. If you are planning to visit this destination you can add it to the itinerary of a European cruise tour. Explora Luxury Cruises, which stops at many historic sites across Europe, has a 9-hour pilgrimage to Lourdes. If coming on land, riding in via train and car is the most efficient. Cars can drive in directly from Paris, while the train station connects to and from stations in Bayonne, Toulouse, and Paris. Additionally, some specialised pilgrim tours like Travelserv offer luxury coaches directly to the site from the UK and Ireland. Assisi, Italy

Assisi is an Umbrian hill town just to the north of Rome known for its medieval architecture and religious background. Populated by eight historic churches and two castles built in the Middle Ages, Assisi sees many visitors every year. One of the town’s most recent visitors, though, was none other than Pope Francis. Last year, the Pope travelled to the town in observance of the World Day of the Poor. This marked the Pope’s fifth visit, and also served as a fitting choice given Assisi is the hometown of St. Francis. In his lifetime, Assisi also features the Basilica of San Francesco which has been named a World Heritage Site. Though pilgrims try to make visits year-round, the crowds swell every May when the Festival Calendimaggio is held to recreate medieval times. Since Assisi is a northern neighbour of Rome, it’s easiest for pilgrims and casual tourists alike to visit from the Roman capital. That said because there are no direct bus changes from Rome or from the nearest airport, trains are preferable. From Rome, a non-stop two-hour train ride will lead you to a local connection at Foligno. Following this, passengers will find themselves at the Assisi station that is only three miles from the town centre. Many pilgrimage tours are available to help visitors easily find their way to the Basilica. However, since it’s also relatively convenient to reach from Rome, many pilgrims choose to simply make their way to this site on their own terms. Fatima, Portugal

In the Catholic faith, the Marian devotions are celebrated by millions worldwide. Its beginnings, though, were much more modest. In 1917, three shepherd children from Fatima reported seeing a Marian apparition. The children, who the year prior reported seeing an angel, described the Marian apparition as “a lady more brilliant than the sun”. Over the course of a year, the children reported five more visits from the lady, which lead to them gaining nationwide attention. Every year since then, throngs of pilgrims make their way to Fatima. On the exact site where the children reported seeing Our Lady of Fatima, there now stands the Chapel of Apparitions. Such is the fame of this holy site that the town is now populated by souvenir shops, hostels, and hotels. That said, since Fatima is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites around the world, it is one of the most accessible holy locations. Among the most common routes that pilgrims take are via a bus from the Sete Ros station or ship from the Lisbon Cruise Port. Since Fatima is fairly busy all year round, though, it is recommended that pilgrims sign up for tours in advance. This way, it will be easier to navigate through the town. For instance, visitors from Princess Cruise Lines can use their free time at the Lisbon port to sign up for specially set pilgrimage packages. This also includes being guided by a trained tour guide. Unique from other travels that are guided more by pleasure, pilgrimages promise a deeper level of fulfilment for travellers. Although religious iconography and prayer may not be every tourist’s cup of tea, many pilgrimage sites also offer a less secular perspective into a region’s culture. As with the hilltop pilgrim sites in India where shrines are also the birthplace of dance and art, European pilgrimage sites are also full of colourful experiences where every traveller (religious or not) will feel inspired and reinvigorated.

Please note, this has been a collaborative posting.


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