There are 100+ cruise itineraries that provide access to sacred places – worldwide sites of healing, guidance and divine inspiration. The significance of these hallowed sites cannot be expressed in words or pictures. To understand their impact, the faithful must visit them in person to experience healing, guidance or divine inspiration.
While many of the world’s most sacred sites have historically been inaccessible to all but the hardiest of travelers – those who were able to make arduous overland journeys – the travel experts at CruiseCompete say travelers will find that today’s cruise itineraries make many of these locations surprisingly easy to visit.
To find a cruise ship voyage offering a myriad of ethereal experiences to sacred locations where legends that transcend time were born, click here for entire list or scroll through by region or continent below.
Sacred Places to Visit Via Cruise Ship
Beppu Onsen is a group of eight hot spring towns in the Southern Japanese city of Beppu; each with its own specialty. Every resort is filled with many modern hot baths and a Ryokan where you can stay overnight after a relaxing bath. Apart from the conventional hot baths, you can also find sand baths with naturally heated sand and muddy hot water baths – which also have healing properties.
Nearest cruise port: Beppu Port
Trivia: from the 12th-14th century wounded Samurai bathed in Beppu Onsen which is believed to help speed up their recovery.
The monument of love needs no introduction. One of the 7 modern wonders of the world – the Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah in memory of his departed wife Mumtaz. The white marble mausoleum on the banks of the Yamuna River was built in 1648 after construction of 16 years by over 20,000 artisans. No matter if you have seen countless pictures or movies about this monument – it always makes you wonder-stuck when you visit in person with its intricate marble inscriptions. It’s a bucket list for anyone visiting India from Presidents to Kings.
Nearest cruise port: Agra Port
Trivia: There is a popular myth that a second monument was planned next to the Taj Mahal with black marble by Shah Jahan but didn’t realize.
The pilgrimage center of North India, Rishikesh, is a revered city in the backdrop of the Himalayas. The serene and sometimes raging river Ganga flows through it. The town is referred to as the “yoga capital of the world” because it has a myriad of Ashrams to learn and practice yoga. Rishikesh is considered the holiest city among the Hindus. You can enjoy a spiritual retreat through yoga and meditation.
Nearest cruise port: Delhi – 4 hours drive
Trivia: The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram is now nicknamed as the Beatles Ashram after the band’ visit.
Hiroshima, Japan, Peace Memorial Park
Located at the heart of the atomic blast, the massive Peace Memorial Park contains a museum and monuments honoring the 140,00 lives who died in the explosion. The park has two buildings, one exploring the development of nuclear bombs and other the history of Hiroshima. The remnant monuments give you a glimpse into history, standing the test of time. Bow down and take a moment to pray for world peace.
Nearest Cruise Port: Hiroshima Port
Trivia: The Genbaku Dome, popularly known as A-Bomb Dome, is one of the few buildings that stood intact after the bombing.
Kochi, Kanyakumari, India, 3 oceans unite, Ghandi Memorial
The southernmost tip of India, Cape Comorin of Kanyakumari, has the force of nature in its favour. It is the intersection of three oceans: the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is also the only place on earth where sunrise and sunset are seen from the ocean. Amidst nature’s wonders are the Gandhi Museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and the Thiruvalluvar Statue, a sculpted homage to the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar. You can explore the beaches, religion and beauty of nature all at once in Kanyakumari.
Nearest Cruise Port: Kochi Port – 6 hours drive
Trivia: The statue is 133 feet tall to indicate the 133 chapters in Thirukkural.
A physical piece of history, the 100 caves in Ellora showcase the confluence of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The 2 km long rock-cut cave temples built around A.D. 600 to 1000 are stunning works of art. 2 hours from Ellora Cave is another older cave – the Ajantha Cave which is home to Buddhist beliefs and some of the greatest surviving rock art. A stroll through these caves will surely take your breath away with the intricate carvings and grandeur.
Nearest cruise port: Mumbai Cruise Terminal – 7 hours drive or 45 min flight to Aurangabad, then 2 hours to Ajanta
Trivia: Cave 15 of the Ellora caves is well-known for depicting the famed Dashavathar (ten Avatars) of the Hindu God Vishnu.
Lanterns, lamps and vibrant colors jazz up the night of Seoul every spring during the Lotus Lantern Festival. It’s a week-long joyous celebration of the birth of Buddha as it brings people from all faiths together for the festival of light. The star child of the festival, the lotus lantern parade fills the streets with thousands of lotus lanterns and the air with the vibrating beats of the traditional drums.
Nearest Cruise Port: Shanghai – 2 hours by plane to Seoul
Trivia: The date is calculated each year anew. It’s on the 8th of the 4th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar.
The most exquisite panorama in Japan is the union of Mt. Fuji, one of the three holiest mounts in Japan. It is worshiped as a deity (kami) by Shintoists, Buddhists, Confucianists and other smaller religious groups. Its volcanic activity represents the earth, sky, and fire. Thus, many pilgrims walk or take cable cars to the peak of Mount Fuji. You can experience the holiness of the mount and the scenery at Mount fuji.
Nearest Cruise Port: Shimizu Port. 2-hour drive.
Trivia: The mount is made up of three different volcanoes stacked on top of one another. The Komitake volcano lies at the bottom, followed by the Kofuji volcano, and finally the youngest, Fuji.
Taipei, China/Taiwan, Wenwu Temple
Located on the northern edge of Sun Moon Lake, the Wenwu Temple is a place of worship for the locals with Buddhist, Taoist, and folk religionist backgrounds. It is a twin temple that honors the dual guardian gods of civil and martial affairs. The temple got built by Emperor Taizhong of the Song, but it has gone through multiple reconstructions over the centuries. The simmering view of Sun Moon Lake from the top would leave you mesmerized for hours.
Nearest Cruise port: Taipei port;
Trivia: The temple’s delicately carved fountain is also a wishing well to toss a coin and make a wish.
An ancient city with the richest archaeological sites, Bagan was once the capital of Myanmar. Now, it is one of the most visited tourist places in Myanmar. The temples of Theravadin Buddhists on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwady River would leave you spellbound. You can also visit the nearby villages to glimpse cotton weaving, mural painting, oil processing and palm sugar production.
Nearest cruise port: Thilawa sea port. One hour drive.
Trivia: The place has roughly 2000 monuments located on the land between the river bank and the Turintaung range, and pagodas scattered all over.
The spectacular festival of light, Diwali is a holiday for Hindus to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. The center of the Diwali festivities in the western hemisphere is downtown Trinidad’s, Divali Nagar. It is said to be the first Hindu theme park in the world. You can experience the vibrant aura and a piece of India here!
Nearest cruise port: Bridgetown
Trivia: Trinidad and Tobago hosts one of the most widespread places for Diya lighting outside of India and has one of the largest East Indian communities in the entire Caribbean area.
The heart of Pyrenees, Lourdes, is where the Virgin Mary first appeared in 1858. Since then, countless people around the world visit Lourdes every year to experience its grace. In this beautiful city filled with Roman Catholic churches, you can experience the impact of the Virgin Mary’s apparition.
Nearest cruise port: Port de la Lune. 3-hour drive.
Trivia: The sanctuary of Lourdes is one of the most-visited Catholic shrines in the world, with around four million pilgrims coming every year.
The monastery of Horezu founded in 1690 is a masterwork of “Brâncovenesc” architecture – the original Romanian style. Prince Constantine Brancovan built this as a holy place of worship for Eastern Orthodox Christians. It is renowned for its architectural harmony and elegance, as well as for the depth of its sculptural precision, how its religious compositions are handled, the votive portraits, and the painted ornamental pieces. Admission to the monastery is free for all, you can check out an array of art pieces here.
Nearest cruise port: Bucharest Port. 4-hours
Trivia: Since 18th century, the monastery hosts a school of mural and icon painting that is famous across the Balkans.
The oldest cathedral in Northern Europe and with significant symbolic importance is the Aachen Cathedral with its Palatine Chapel. Built in 800 AD, in the then-popular Gothic style; the church gained new elements between the 14th and 15th centuries. In the years that followed, there were further additions, the most recent being the 74-meter-tall tower. Since 1930 the church has also been the mother church of the Diocese of Aachen.
Nearest cruise port: Port of Cologne. 1-hour drive
Trivia: The Aachen Chapel served as the crowning chapel for more than 30 German Kings and 12 Queens.
The story of the Three Wise Men’s trip to Bethlehem is one of the most poignant in the Bible, and the Shrine of the Three Kings holds their mortal remains. Above the high altar of the Cologne Cathedral is a huge tomb adorned and covered with gold leaf. Built around the 12th century, it stores the grandest relics of the Western world and is a pinnacle of Mosan art.
Nearest cruise port: Port of Cologne
Trivia: Over a thousand gems and beads were used to embellish the framework, decorated with filigree and enamel.
The crown monument of Ireland’s Ancient East is the Stone Age (Neolithic) structure of Newgrange, said to be built by Stone Age farmers. A massive circular mound with a diameter of 85 m, Newgrange has chambers inside and is made with over 200,000 tones of stones. The 97 huge kerbstones, some of which are inscribed with symbols of megalithic art, surround the mound. A leisure stroll around Newgrange would leave you gripped by its history.
Nearest cruise port: Dublin Port
Trivia: Built roughly 5,200 years ago, Newgrange is older than Stonehenge and the Giza Pyramids.
St. Winifred Well gets housed inside a remarkable Perpendicular Gothic-style building from the early 16th century. Winifred, a Welsh lady in the seventh century, was beheaded by a suitor upon rejection. There are different versions of this story, but the most popular one is about a pool miraculously erected in the place where her head fell. Her head got reattached to her head, and she lived on as a Christian nun. It is said that you can make a wish upon this well for health and healing.
Nearest cruise port: Holyhead Port. 2-hour drive.
Trivia: A bathing pool for pilgrims is set inside the structure’s star-shaped inner chamber.
Fátima, formerly a small, unremarkable village, is today one of the most significant pilgrimage sites in Europe due to several apparitions of the Virgin Mary since 1916. The Sanctuary with spectacular architectural lines houses a magnificent 1952-built organ with more than 120,000 pipes inside the Sanctuary. Every year the pilgrims visit Fátima on May 13 and October 13 – the most significant dates of the apparitions.
Nearest cruise port: Lisbon Port. 2-hour drive.
Trivia: You can find a collection of catholic buildings with 15 churches devoted to the 15 rosary mysteries.
The interior of Mezquita also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption is one of the greatest examples of Islamic architecture in Spain. This cathedral was influenced by the Alhambra palace in Granada with Almeria marble used to embellish the exterior. The monument is open to all, so you can explore the interiors and appreciate its serenity.
Nearest cruise port: Madrid Cruise Port. 2-hour drive.
Trivia: The site was initially used for a temple, then for a Christian cathedral.
It was established as the world’s second-largest mosque during Islamic rule.
In Normandy, which was witness to the fiercest battles and amphibious landings that changed the path of World War II, now lies an American Cemetery and Memorial home to 9,386 graves of fallen heroes. There are 1,557 names engraved on the Walls of the Missing, located in a garden on the east side of the memorial. You can pay homage to the lost soldiers and take a short stroll to the now calm beach nearby.
Nearest cruise port: Cruise Terminal Le Havre. 2-hour drive.
Trivia: The Battle of Normandy was one of the largest military operations with 156,115 Allied troops, 6,939 ships/landing vessels and 2,395 aircraft in action
Paris, France, Chartres Cathedral
The Chartres Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church represents the finest of French Gothic art. The cathedral has been an important destination for Christian pilgrims who come to see the Sancta Camisa, which is said to be the tunic worn by Virgin Mary. It is also an architectural masterpiece for its building innovation and the famed 13th-century stained-glass windows as well as its gorgeous sculptures on the facade.
Nearest cruise port: Le Havre. 3-hour drive.
Trivia: The Chartres Cathedral was completely rebuilt over 26 years following a fire in 1194 and the famed stained glass runs into more than 28000 feet.
One of the most iconic views in all of Europe is the tidal island of Mont-Saint-Michel.
This Magical Island has the gravity defying Benedictine abbey which is a prime example of Medieval architecture. For a long time – this was one of Europe’s major pilgrimage destinations and the now created hiking trails depict the path medieval ancestors took for this pilgrimage.
Nearest cruise port: Le Havre. 3-hour drive.
Trivia: Mont Saint Michel also served as a jail having housed prominent political prisoners during the French revolution.
With a history spanning seventeen centuries, St. Catherine’s Monastery is the world’s oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery. According to the Old Testament, the monastery is said to have been constructed on the place where Moses saw God in the Burning Bush. The Church also pays homage to an additional 170 saints, known as the Sinai saints.
Nearest cruise port: Port Said. 6-hour drive.
Trivia: The monastery’s treasures are its manuscripts of gospels and icons which were painted before the 8th century.
One of the holiest places in Christianity, the Sea of Galilee, is Israel’s largest freshwater reserve. The nearby city Nazareth is now a center of Christian pilgrimage. According to the New Testament, Jesus was raised in Nazareth, where he also delivered the sermon that caused his hometown’s residents to reject him. You can trace back to the cradle of Christianity in this city, and its nearby places.
Nearest cruise port: Port of Haifa
Trivia: According to the Bible, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee, that separates Israel from the occupied Golan Heights.
Set in the historic old city, the Istanbul Blue Mosque for is an exquisite sight – it was constructed between 1608-1616 as a regal display of power to complement the Hagia Sophia Mosque across. The interiors feature more than 20,000 handmade porcelain Iznik tiles decorated with a variety of tulip, rose, carnation, and lily motifs and are well-lit by 260 windows, which has earned it the nickname “Blue Mosque.” Apart from this mosque, there are numerous gorgeous sights nearby for you to visit.
Nearest cruise port: Galataport ?stanbul cruise port
Trivia: Pope Benedict XVI visited the Mosque in 2006 during his visit to Turkey becoming the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship
Unlike the pictures on the Christmas cards, the birthplace of Christ is a dark rock cave. The cave was expanded to accommodate pilgrims when the first church was constructed in the fourth century by Constantine the great, and a silver manger was added at that time. It’s a small but significant place in the faith of Christianity, where you can learn about the humble origins of Christ.
Nearest cruise port: Cruise port of Ashdod
Trivia: The site has convents of multiple churches – Latin, Greek Orthodox, Franciscan to Armenian.
The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall or Ha-Kotel Ha-Maaravi in Hebrew, is a Jewish holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City and is a place of prayer and pilgrimage. The wall was initially built as part of Herod the Great’s expansion of the Second Jewish Temple, which the ancient Jews revered as being exceptionally sacred. It is also the site of Muslim holiness where the Prophet is said to have ascended to paradise.
Nearest cruise port: Ashdod cruise port
Trivia: The walls are what’s left after the Romans demolished the Second Temple in 70 CE, while the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in 587–586 BCE.
The Holy Sepulchre in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem is a church established on the believed place of Jesus’ Crucifixion and burial. In present day the tomb is enclosed by a shrine called the Aedicula and the final four Stations of the Cross, or Via Dolorosa, are inside the church. There are sermons by various Christian groups you can partake in.
Nearest cruise port: Ashdod cruise port
Trivia: It was originally built by Constantine the Great around 336 AD, but over the years, it has been destroyed and restored multiple times.
Nestled on the Mount of Remembrance just outside of Jerusalem lies Israel; official holocaust memorial dedicated to perished Jews, Yad Vashem. Its nine somber halls of interactive historical exhibits feature the Holocaust. It displays include pictures, documents, letters, artwork, and personal things retrieved from the camps and ghettos. This museum presents you with the cruel realities of the Holocaust.
Nearest cruise port: Ashdod cruise port
Trivia: A 2.5-acre monument dug from the bedrock carries the names of nearly 5,000 Jewish towns destroyed and the few who suffered but survived in the shadow of the Holocaust.
The Franciscan Sanctuary’s beating center is the Chapel of the Stigmata.
It was constructed in 1263 and is located where St. Francis received the Stigmata, a Christian miracle. A memorial tablet marking the precise location of the miracle stands on the ground. An artwork from Andrea Della Robbia, showing the Holy Mary with the Blessing Child, hangs above the entryway.
Nearest cruise port: Livorno Port. 3-hour drive.
Trivia: The chapel features the magnificent altarpiece by Andrea della Robbia, installed in 1481, one of the largest terracotta made ones at nearly 20 feet height.
The Valley of the Kings, a sacred place of mystery and exploration, is a long, narrow valley in Upper Egypt located west of the Nile River. The 62 known tombs, in the hills behind Dayr al-Ba?r? are the burial place for Egyptian royalty with the most popular being the tomb of Tutankhamun. The Egyptians being firm believers in the afterlife – valuables were buried with Kings to prepare for their new life. The tombs are inscribed with scenes from Egyptian history giving a glimpse of the ancient civilization.
Nearest cruise port: Luxor Cruise Port
Trivia: Almost all of tombs were robbed before the end of the 20th dynasty – Egyptian records speak of robbers’ trials and the harsh punishments.
Located in the Patmos Town, the Cave of Apocalypse is a remarkable illustration of a conventional Christian pilgrimage spot of excellent architectural importance. The cave was Saint John’s home and served as the setting for his revelations. He dictated to his disciple Prohorus, and the Book of the Apocalypse, also known as Revelation, was born. It’s a place you can sit still and experience the heavenly aura of the miraculous cave.
Nearest cruise port: Central Port. 9 – hours on cars & a ferry ride.
Trivia: In present days – a monk sits on the rock to tell the story of the Apocalypse and the book to tourists.
A Cistercian Monastery built in the 1200s, The Abbey of San Galgano, in Italy was once a prosperous hermitage. Still, due to inadequate security from wandering bandits, it quickly fell into disrepair and was finally shut down, leaving the magnificent remains that still exist today. Even though the abbey could never get reconstructed, precautions got taken to prevent it from disintegrating completely. You can witness the standing remains in the Italian countryside like a spectral ghost.
Nearest cruise port: Rome cruise port. 3-hour drive.
Trivia: Parts of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1983 film Nostalgia were shot in this abbey.
One of the Renaissance’s biggest treasures, St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the finest buildings ever constructed for over a century between 1506 – 1626. “The biggest Church in Christendom” is the identity of this Vatican City’s largest Church – Popes and other notable figures have artistically designed tombs inside the Basilica. Its interiors adorned with marble, architectural sculptures, and gliding are a sight you can adore for days.
Nearest cruise port: Rome cruise port. 1-hour drive.
Trivia: Contrary to popular belief, St. Peter’s Basilica is not called a cathedral because it is not the seat of a bishop.
Petra is a Jordanian city in the middle of the rocky desert canyons. The traditional Nabataean rock-cut Islamic temples blended with the Hellenistic architecture create a unique artistic architecture. The monuments and temples from prehistoric times are a testament to the skills honed by the lost civilization. This location got nicknamed A Rose city for its pink aesthetics. It’s a spot you cannot resist posting on the gram.
Nearest cruise port: Port Aqaba. 2-hour drive.
Trivia: The city is half-built and half-carved into vibrant red and pink stone walls of the surrounding mountains, making it one of the world’s wonders.
Every year for the past 14 centuries, Muslim pilgrims gather in Makkah to perform rituals conducted by the prophet Mohammed. The Hajj is the fifth pillar and the most devoted manifestation of the Islamic faith. The heart of Hajj lies in the absence of any altercations. Peace and serenity are the ultimate desired outcomes of the pilgrimage and pilgrims.
Nearest cruise port: Jeddah. 1-hour drive.
Trivia: The Hajj is the world’s largest religious gathering of roughly 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims from around the world.
More than 400,000 military veterans from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as World Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the American Civil War, are laid to rest in the Arlington National Cemetery, the nation’s largest military cemetery. The site originally built after the Civil war is open to the public every day with free admission, so you can visit and pay your respects to the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Nearest cruise port: Port of Baltimore MD, one hour drive
Trivia: The cemetery displays eternal flame on President John F. Kennedy’s grave.
Day of the dead, contrary to its name, is the celebration of the continuity of life. It is one of the most important traditions practiced by the indigenous communities of Mexico. The ofrendas- altars with memorial offerings- are the center of attention throughout the festive season. It’s a celebration filled with lively decorations and hearty food with which you’ll fall in love.
Nearest cruise port: Huatulco. 45 min flight ride to Oaxaca city
Trivia: The Day of the Dead celebration is rooted in the belief that the spirits of their loved ones would return to visit them.
Ground Zero today stands where iconic Twin Towers of World Trade Center stood before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York. Ten structures, including all seven WTC towers and the WTC plaza were destroyed in the Lower Manhattan. Visiting ground zero would give you an insight into the history and the resilience of the American public.
Nearest cruise port: Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and Cape Liberty Cruise Port
Trivia: The Freedom tower stands at a height of 1776 ft – the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, popularly known as The Wall, is a national memorial in Washington, D.C honoring American servicemen who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. The monument, a black granite V-shaped wall, is etched with the names of the about 58,000 men and women killed or missing in action. You can pay your tribute to the lost soldiers before venturing into the Capitol.
Nearest cruise port: Port of Baltimore MD
Trivia: A competition was conducted for the design of the memorial’s architecture, 21-year-old Maya Lin, an American architect student, won the contest out of 1,421 entries.
The Bolivian islands of Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna in Lake Titicaca are incredibly fascinating. Although there were also settlements on the islands, most remains are temples. The bigger of the two islands, the Island of the Sun is believed to be the birthplace of the Sun God. It will take you between four and six hours to explore the islands and return to Copacabana on the same day.
Nearest cruise port: Copacabana
Trivia: The islands are home to several intriguing ruins that date back as far as 300 BC.
Famous for its stone statues along its coastlines, Easter Island is the most isolated inhabited island in the world. Easter Island’s ahu platforms were sanctuaries of the people of Rapa Nui, Polynesian religionists, who believed in the mystical spiritual force known as mana. The moai sculptures were the ritually charged holy artefacts of those sanctuaries. It’s a place of peace with fascinating sculptures for you to encounter.
Nearest cruise port:
Trivia: There are nearly 900 Moai on Easter Island. The average size of a Moai statue is 13 feet tall and 14 tons.
Peru is most famous for the Incas, the biggest empire in pre-Columbian America. The most famous city of the Incas, Machu Picchu, is one of the world’s wonders and is on many bucket lists by default. Even so, steering directly to Machu Picchu would be an injustice to the rich history and culture of the country. The stunning Sacred Valley is located approximately 15 kilometers north of Cuzco. The ancient cities and remote weaving villages in this serene Andean region are worth touring.
Nearest cruise port: Lima dock, Peru. 2-hour flight.
Trivia: Machu Picchu is also an astronomical observatory, and the sacred Intihuatana stone precisely points the two equinoxes. Twice a year, the sun sits directly over the stone creating no shadow.
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Cover photo: Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built over a cave, at right, where Jesus of Nazareth was believed to be born. ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews
Dennis Cox is All Things Cruise Writer and Official Photographer