Posted by: faithtravelfocus | December 20, 2011

The 2012 Faith Travel Hot List

Israel's Masada

Faith travelers have a world of destinations to explore in the new year. And as more cultural travelers embrace this sector, nations, historic sites and cities are spotlighting what they have to offer.

 Germany: In 2012, Germany continues it decade of celebrations leading up to 2017 and the 500th anniversary of events that launched Europe’s Protestant Reformation. From church singing to music in homes, the Reformation begat a new form of music in Europe, and influenced composers like Handel and Bach so the theme for the new year is “Reformation and Music.” 

Culture travelers will visit cities connected to Martin Luther – long recognized as the Reformation’s founder – and events such as The Handel Festival in early summer, and the Wittenberg Renaissance Music Festival in October.  

London: The Summer Olympics will draw many here in 2012, and so will this world city’s considerable cache of faith heritage sites like Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral and nearby Canterbury Cathedral. England was home to several giants of the Christian faith including John Wesley and C. S. Lewis, whose “trails” lead through cities including Oxford and York.  More info at VisitBritain. 

FranceLourdes is by far France’s largest pilgrimage shrine and it draws about five million pilgrims a year. But there is much more for faith travelers – including  Chartres and Notre Dame de Paris cathedrals; Mont St. Michel, the 11th century abbey on a crag in the Atlantic Ocean; and the 10th century center of monasticism, Cluny Abbey. Along the way, France offers her famed gastronomy, wines and seductive scenery. For more information, go here.  

Bible Lands: Israel has Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and many more sites associated with Jewish/Christian heritage around the Galilee and the Dead Sea. But faith travelers also find inspiration at others in Egypt and Jordan, like Mount Nebo (site where Moses looked in the Promised Land) Madaba (site of the oldest surviving mosaic early map of the region) and Petra, the breathtaking pink rock city which existed during the time of Jesus. Both Israel and Jordan claim Jesus’ baptismal site on the Jordan River. The Jordanian site is more visitor-friendly.  Egypt’s Sinai peninsula is site of St. Catherine’s Monastery, the traditional place (dating to the Roman era) where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. For information, visit goisrael.com; visitjordan; egypt.travel

Mission Trails: California and Texas have beautiful historic missions which date to the 18th century. California’s Camino Real from San Diego to Sonoma has 21 Franciscan missions near the Golden State’s stunning coastal scenery and wineries. Experience San Antonio’s colorful Spanish culture connections at not just The Alamo, but also four other missions built by the church a century before Texas joined the union. Visitsanantonio.com; http://www.parks.ca.gov 

Latin America: Even though it’s been five centuries since Columbus landed in the Caribbean and Catholicism began to spread through the hemisphere, these countries with Spanish heritage haven’t promoted their many faith sites. But that’s changing. The Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor in Santo Domingo is one of the world’s oldest churches. Mexico’s Basilica of our Lady Guadalupe draws thousands of pilgrims annually. There are inspiring churches in the Andean valleys, and of course, Christ the Redeemer monument high above Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro. 

Greece: The islands where St. Paul preached, and archaeological remnants of  ancient and Greek civilizations sear the memory. Stand on the Acropolis and survey the Athens of the ages, then ride a funicular to a hilltop restaurant to watch the Acropolis light up as night falls. Unforgettable deposits for the memory bank! For a more comprehensive journey in Paul’s footsteps, include Corinth, Philippi, and Thessaloniki and other cities mentioned in the Bible. 

Italy:There is only one Rome, and its links with Christendom’s 2,000 years are great. In Jesus’ day, it was the center of the world, and it’s mentioned many times in the Books of Roman and Acts. Italian cities and villages have some of the most beautiful churches in the world, with St. Peter’s in Rome as the centerpiece. Tour The Vatican for its history and stunning art like the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Then wander the countryside to see more temples of faith and art, along with stunning scenery and cultural encounters such as the Amalfi Coast.  

Washington National Cathedral

Washington, DC: Christian heritage symbols are all over this city of world power, including the Capitol rotunda which was a worship site for a century, thousands of historic Bibles in the Library of Congress (including a rare Gutenberg copy), and Moses on the U.S. Supreme Court building. Don’t miss the National Cathedral where stained glass and icons of the faith adorn this magnificent Gothic edifice.  For information go here.   

Scotland/Ireland: The hauntingly beautiful Hebrides Island of Iona was an early center of Christianity. Monks took their message of faith into North England and other parts of Europe. A journey through central Scotland takes one through Scotland’s Reformation era, including St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, home pulpit of reformer John Knox. The beautiful seaside town of St. Andrews was a Reformation hotbed, and has majestic cathedral and castle ruins as well as golf history. For tour ideas, go here. 

The west coast of Ireland is location for The Saint Patrick Centre and exhibits that chronicle the great saint’s life and work. Monasteries, abbeys and giant standing crosses mingle with the natural beauty and friendliness of the locals, castles, country inns and ancestral homes of many travelers. See Visitireland.com

 

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