You don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to get a life-changing experience, but it is still good to get a change of scene, explore exotic cultures and spend peaceful evenings high up in the mountains. There are also places that are considered special and highly spiritual, possessing some special qualities that are hard to explain with words, you can only go there and experience everything yourself. From the ancient mountains of Altai in Russia to the sacred city of Varanasi in India and the breathtaking natural sights of Ramon Crater in Israel, we present to you 8 spectacular getaways that will change your life forever.
People do not simply come to Varanasi for sightseeing, although there are around 2,000 temples, large and small, scattered all over the narrow gut-like streets of the ancient Benares, also known as Kashi. Witnessing the cycle of life and death right before your own eyes is not for the faint-hearted, but it is a sight that will capture your mind, body, and soul. Head to the Manikarnika Ghat to quietly observe the burning of the bodies that is happening non-stop 24/7. The Ganga Aarti ceremony that takes part every day on the bank of Ganga after sunset is one of the most auspicious and unforgettable sights you’ll ever see. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Benares is one of the most ancient cities on Earth that has remained inhabited for thousands of years.
Altai, the ancient land of shamans and spectacular Siberian nature, is a real gem for travellers, hikers, and people seeking life-changing experiences. One of the most breathtaking destinations in Altai is the sacred Belukha Mountain. Also known as Uch-Sumer, the mountain is often compared to the legendary Mount Meru that connects Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, and is considered the center of all spiritual, physical, and metaphysical Universes. It is actually true that Belukha Mountain is located in the geographical center of Eurasia! Explorers from all over the world, as well as locals, believe this mountain to be one of the most mysterious and powerful places on the planet.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
You don’t have to be religious or love history to enjoy the marvels of Angkor Wat – this place speaks for itself! Located near the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia, this spectacular temple complex stretches for hundreds of hectares. Boasting exquisite Khmer architecture and more than 3,000 carvings of celestial apsaras on its walls, Angkor Wat is a place where you’ll want to spend at least a few days carefully exploring each of the ancient temples and its masterful decorations. Historians believe the main temple of the Angkor Wat complex was built to represent the four Yugas (ages in Hinduism) and as you travel from outer layers to the very centre of the temple where the statue of Vishnu stands proud and tall, you are also travelling from modern times to the age of the creation of the world.
Makhtesh Ramon, Israel
Also known as Ramon Crater, Makhtesh Ramon is one of the world’s most spectacular and less known natural wonders. Although called a crater, Makhtesh Ramon was actually created by erosion, not an impact from a meteorite hitting the ground. Surrounded by the sandy vistas of the Negev desert, the Makhtesh stretches for around 40 kilometers, going deep as much as 400 meters. Hiking is one of the best ways to explore the enigmatic structures created by millions of years of rainfall, along with spectacular rock formations and a moon-like landscape dotted with natural sculptures. It’s like travelling to another world! And there’s a chance that you won’t meet a soul during your journey as it is one of the less touristic places in the world.
The Sacred Valley, Peru
Valle Sagrado de los Incas is not as popular as the city of Machu Picchu located nearby – all the more reason to explore it first! The Sacred Valley is dotted with ancient ruins of the Incas, big and small. From the sophisticated salt complex of Maras (that is still operating after 1,000 years!) to the spectacular agricultural terraces of Moray and mysterious Ollantayatambo ruins, the Sacred Valley of Peru may very well be one of the most exciting places on the planet for all history buffs and spiritual seekers. The ground here is soaked with ancient secrets, all you need to do is just sit amongst the ruins with a cup of hot cocoa and let the magic of the place take you thousands of years back.
Even if you haven’t read Eat, Pray, Love, you’ve probably already heard so much about Bali that you’re wondering whether all they say about it is true. Also known as the “Island of the Gods,” Bali offers all kinds of experiences from luxury escapes to spectacular natural sights and cultural hubs like Ubud, featured in the above-mentioned book. Bali offers its visitors a different lifestyle and a laid-back atmosphere that is ideal to slow down and think about life. Head to the breathtaking active volcano of Mt. Batur for the unforgettable hike and the best sunrise of your life, or opt for the even more challenging Gunung Agung if you feel there’s not enough action in your life.
If you are into Buddhism, pagodas, and ancient Khmer architecture, then Bagan will become a place that will turn your whole world upside down. At the time of its utmost glory from the ninth to 13th centuries, Bagan was home to more than 10,000 Buddhist monasteries, pagodas, and temples. Even now you can still witness its ancient beauty with around 2,000 temples scattered across what used to be the capital of the Pagan Kingdom. Allow yourself to fully immerse into the serene atmosphere as you watch sunsets and sunrises from the local temples.
Mount Kailash, Tibet
Many people refer to the trip to Mount Kailash as the pilgrimage of a lifetime, and for a reason. They say you never come back the same after you perform the parikrama around Mount Kailash as it is the very place where Lord Shiva dwells with his wife Parvati, the representation of Feminine Divine. Apart from Hindus, this place is also considered sacred by Jains and Buddhists, making it the spiritual center of the whole world. One has to be both physically and psychologically fit to undertake this journey as it will take you to high altitudes as well as test your strength, endurance, and persistence. But it is definitely the journey of a lifetime!