I love cozy, affordable travel - and visiting spiritual sites fits in perfectly with that! Read my best tips for visiting churches when you travel.
Meet one of our travel value all stars! No matter where you go, what you do, or why you travel, these features, attractions, or amenities will always offer you tremendous value; an excellent experience for your limited time and money.
Houses of Worship
For many travelers, visiting a house of worship is a deeply personal occasion. Seeking solace and spiritual inspiration, travelers of all different beliefs cross the globe to visit those locations that are meaningful to their faiths. For the spiritually inclined, visiting churches when you travel can be a life changing experience.
However, you don’t have to have strong spiritual beliefs to enjoy a visit to a house of worship or a spiritual site. Virtually all religious sites welcome people of different faiths and most allow visitors to enjoy the sanctuary space between prayer, worship, and music programs. Houses of worship offer a special insight into the beliefs and culture of a region. They are also of interest for those who love history, philosophy, art, architecture, genealogy, anthropology, music, and literature.
Visiting churches is about so much more than just religion.
Those seeking spiritual guidance and comfort and those looking to renew and enhance their faith will often be drawn to houses of worship, but all respectful travelers can enjoy church visiting for any number of reasons. If you want to experience world famous art, reflect on the lives of princes, poets, and politicians, connect with local culture, revel in architectural wonders or simply have a moment of personal reflection, you will enjoy visiting a house of worship.
Visiting a church or spiritual site is a chance to connect.
For me, any opportunity to travel is an opportunity to connect from people of different cultures, faiths, and ways of life. Visiting a house of worship helps facilitate that connection and I always welcome the chance to learn more about different religious backgrounds.
I also love how houses of worship are gatekeepers of history, art, literature, and architecture - some of my favourite travel subjects. When I learn the history of a house of worship, I'm really getting to know a city, a people, and a community.
Guidelines for church visiting etiquette
In some cases, houses of worship have become equally famous as tourist attractions as their original design. The Blue Mosque of Istanbul, the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, and Westminster Abbey in London often welcome as many tourists as they do worshipers. While you might be surrounded by hoards of tour groups, always remember that you are in a sacred site. Dress modestly and respect signs indicating photography rules. Keep your voice down as not to interrupt those visiting for religious purposes.
What exactly does it mean to "dress modestly" when visiting a spiritual site? There are no hard and fast rules but if your great grandmother would have raised an eyebrow and said "tsk tsk" you might have a problem! Certain places like mosques and orthodox churches require women to cover their head with a scarf. Others, like the Swedagon Pagoda in Myanmar, don't permit shorts or skirts above the knee. In many places there are no hard and fast rules on what you have to wear or avoid when visiting a church or other house of worship but bare shoulders and stomachs is probably pushing things.
However, don't stress about this! At places like the Blue Mosque, which is a major tourist attraction, there are ample signs explaining what to wear and you can almost always borrow (or sometimes rent) a scarf or two as a headdress or to make a pair of shorts or a skirt more modest. At the Swedagon Pagoda, our shorts were just a touch too short and so the staff came over and draped us both with a sarong. And in western Europe, while modesty is appreciated, there is no expectation of it.
Costs and donations
Houses of worship rarely charge an admission fee, yet they incur significant maintenance and staffing expenses when they host so many visitors. Always remember to offer a donation. If you don't have actual change or cash on you, you can often pay with credit card at the attached gift shop or cafe and those proceeds also help with operational and maintenance costs. However, don't be too eager to part with your money when it comes to "guides" hanging around outside to show you around (at worst, scam artists. At best, a very overpriced tour that will likely lead to pressure to buy things elsewhere).
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. Do you seek out spiritual sites when you travel?
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