Traveling is good for the soul. It provides refreshment, enjoyment, and renewed appreciation of the world around us. As Catholics, we are able to share our beliefs with millions of others around the world and are a part of a rich history that has shaped cultures and groups of people all over the globe. We can use our travels to discover and enjoy the richness of our faith and its history.
A traveler can receive graces by visiting certain places that are significant to our faith, and those vacations can be transformed into pilgrimages. Pilgrimages are journeys made to a holy place “with the purpose of venerating it, or in order to ask there for supernatural aid, or to discharge more religious obligation.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)
In the words of St. Pope John Paul II, “The great shrines should be places where people go to obtain grace even before they obtain favours… How many people have gone to a shrine out of curiosity as visitors and have returned transformed because they heard words there which enlightened them?”
Ready to start planning your next trip? Here are the top 10 travel destinations for the wanderlust Catholic:
10. Assisi, Italy – Visit the Basilica of San Francesco and explore the famous saint’s old stomping grounds in this beautiful Umbrian town that seems to exude peace among pilgrims and locals alike.
9. Krakow & Czestochowa, Poland – The recent World Youth Day may have attracted a larger than normal number of pilgrims, but these Polish towns are always attracting travelers from around the world. A famous shrine of the Virgin Mary in the town of Czestochowa, the Jasna Gora Monastery, contains the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa or the Black Madonna, to which miraculous powers are attributed. The city of Krakow was home to saints Pope John Paul II and St. Faustina, the later who’s tomb is found in the Shrine of Divine Mercy.
8. Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain – Nestled in the beautiful Catalonian mountain side overlooking the city of Barcelona, the Montserrat Monastery has scenic views and breathtaking architecture that has been through the ups and downs of Spanish history. The abbey houses the image of the Virgin of Montserrat.
7. Turin, Italy – Home to the famous Shroud of Turin in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, this city is a “must” for your bucket list. This city is also the home of St. John Bosco, who cared for hundreds of orphans and poor boys in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.
6. Santiago di Compostelo, Spain – This city is the culmination of the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James), a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James in northwest Spain. Each year, thousands of people from different backgrounds make this pilgrimage that spans parts of France and Spain.
5. Lourdes, France – Five million pilgrims travel here every year to visit the place where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858. The Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes includes a sacred grotto and two basilicas. Many miracles have occurred here and the sick often journey to this sacred destination in hopes of solace from our Holy Mother.
4. Guadalupe, Mexico – Millions journey each year to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to see the miraculous apron of St. Juan Diego containing the image of the Virgin hangs behind bullet-proof glass above the altar in the new basilica. Some pilgrims crawl on their knees for miles as they approach the basilica before praying to the Virgin of Guadalupe.
3. Fatima, Portugal – The Shrine of our Lady of Fatima is one of the most famous Marian shrines in the world. Pilgrims travel to the place where Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children and asked the world to pray for peace.
2. The Holy Land – Walk in the footsteps of Christ by visiting places like Bethlehem, Jerusalem, The Sea of Galilee, and Mount Sinai where Jesus was born, where he preached and healed, suffered, died and rose again.
1. Rome, Italy – The heart of Catholicism! From St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, the scavi tours, the catacombs (not to mention the pasta, pizza and gelato!)…the list goes on an on! If there’s one place to pick to visit from this list, Rome is a must-see for any Catholic travelling the world!
Inspired to book your next world tour of Catholicism? Buon viaggi!