For thousands of years, people have made pilgrimages to seek divine favour, to give thanks for blessings received, or to find greater meaning in life. Many of those ancient pilgrimage routes are still in use today, and even if you don’t believe in their religious purpose, they offer some incredible hiking. Find out which of those routes are the best for hikers.
Kumano Kodo, Japan
For more than 1,000 years, Japanese pilgrims have followed the Kumano Kodo routes across the Kii Hantō peninsula. The goal of the routes is the Kumano Sanzan sacred site and the Three Grand Shrines. The full pilgrimage is comprised of seven routes. Completing them all can be time-consuming, but you can hike sections of the trails to the three Shinto shrines in little more than a week. The routes offer the beauty of wayside shrines, breath-taking views, and sacred hot springs. If you plan on doing a self-guided hike, use the Nakahechi route. The signage, amenities, and transport options available on it make it the best option for those who aren’t familiar with the language.
El Camino de Santiago, Spain
Spain’s Way of Saint James, or El Camino de Santiago, arguably is the best-known pilgrimage in the western world. The goal of the pilgrimage is the church of the apostle St James the Great in the town of Santiago. The most popular is the route known as the Camino Frances, which begins in the French village of St Jean-Pied-de-Port and takes 31 days to complete. Try to time your arrival at the church with a feast day, so you can see the giant incense burner known as the botafumeiro in use – it’s an experience that’s as exciting as the action at top betting sites.
The Pilgrims’ Way To Canterbury, UK
Britain’s most famous pilgrimage route is the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury. The 153-mile route, which takes 15 days to complete, follows paved roads. Luckily, there’s a Pilgrims’ Way cycle route on which you can walk between Rochester and Canterbury. A few of the many highlights along the way include Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, the holloways near Lenham, the Box Hill stepping stones, the Black Prince’s holy well at Harbledown, the shrine of St Thomas More at St Dunstan’s, and, of course, Canterbury Cathedral.
The Via Francigena, France/Switzerland/Rome
The Via Francigena was one of the most important European pilgrimage routes during the Middle Ages. If you want to do it in all its glory, you can start in Canterbury, England, and make your way to Pontarlier, France, which is one of the more popular starting points. However, as the goal of the pilgrimage is Rome, most pilgrims limit themselves to one of two options. The first is to trek from Pontarlier to the Great St Bernard Pass in Switzerland, and the other is to walk from the Great St Bernard Pass to Rome. The latter route is approximately 1,000km long, and takes 50 days to complete. You may need to do some camping out due to a lack of accommodation for pilgrims on the route.