Religion and spirituality have played a significant role in humanity's history. Many cultural sights from buildings to festivals and traditions are of a religious nature. Most populated places have at least one place of worship; at least one such place is usually a prominent building, often with more elaborate architecture than profane buildings.
All travellers, religious or not, should learn something about the dominant religions in the countries they visit. Even in communities that seem secular and modern, such as Europe or East Asia, religion has played an important role in customs and values in the past, and often continues to do so to this day. Even religions that have now virtually disappeared have left architectural remains, and sometimes a certain influence on other religions. Good examples of this are the old Eastern Christian churches in the Middle East, and the Precolumbian religions and rituals that are still visible under a thin catholic façade in much of Latin America.
Before the advent of rail travel and steamships in the 19th century, long-distance travel was hardly a pleasure, and many of those who ventured far from home, were motivated by faith. A pilgrimage was, and still remains, a way to find redemption, wisdom, or the meaning of life. Though modern pilgrims can travel fast and comfortably to sacred places, some might, literally and figuratively, choose the narrow path. Some pilgrimage routes have become destinations in their own right as has the "travel infrastructure" of yesteryear - whether it is still in use as such or not. Many pilgrimage routes are also open - and indeed often traveled on - by those of a different faith or no faith at all. Do keep in mind that some pilgrimage routes and destinations are off-limits to non-believers (or different believers) either year round or during special occasions.
Hinduism and Buddhism have their origins in India, together with some associated religions with much smaller numbers of adherents, such as Jainism and Sikhism. While Hinduism has largely remained local, Buddhist values have influenced most of Asia.
- Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent
- Meditation in Japan
- Meditation in Thailand