Sacred sites around the world

From the peaceful forests of Polynesia to the frenetic energy of central Bangkok; sacred and religious sites come in all shapes and sizes around the globe. While many of us are used to the traditional churches and cathedrals of Europe, exploring the world shows us how the rest of the world does worship and celebrates their faith. A world cruise can take you on a grand voyage of discovery, allowing you to get a taste of what the world has to offer, and with hand-picked shore excursions pulled together by industry experts you can find an itinerary which shows you the planet like you’ve never seen it before. 

Here we have pulled together our top selection of sacred and religious sites from around the world to inspire you. 

Marae Arahurahu - Papeete, Tahiti

KAP at Arahurahu Marae, Tahiti Dec 21, 2008

The ancient Polynesian temples, known as marae, are dotted throughout the idyllic islands and the Arahurahu is Tahiti’s most stunning example. Located in the Pa’ea district of the island Arahurahu is an open-air temple nestled in the valley of Papeete’s western coast at the foot of the Tefa’aiti valley.

While most temples are now just the foundations of what once stood, walking  into this temple reveals all of the wonders and mystic powers of the tiki, sacred statues, which are some of the most well preserved on the whole of the island.

Keep in mind:

  • The site is outside and located in the forest so sensible footwear and waterproofs are a must.
  • The spirit of the slain hero, Arahurahu, is said to live within the site where his body was laid to rest after a fierce battle with a rival warrior and the site is named in his honour, so beware of any spooky feelings!

Did you know?

  • The ancient Polynesians were polytheists, so they worshipped multiple gods across different sites.
  • The main statues were created from basalt rocks and coral slabs.

Details

Opening hours: 07:00 – 18:00 daily

Location: Paea, French Polynesia

Price: Free

Best cruise:

London Tilbury to Auckland - Departing London Tilbury, 5th January 2019 for 42 nights on board Columbus

Tian Tan, Big Buddha - Hong Kong

The mountain top Po Lin Monastery is home to the 34m (111ft) high Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha) which faces north towards mainland China blessing all those it looks over. Located above the island of Tung Chung you can gain access through the Ngong Ping 360 cable car which runs between Tung Chung and the Tian Tan Buddha. Or for those willing to undertake an adventure there is a 4 hour hike up to the site through the rainforest. Pilgrims from all over Asia travel to visit the Buddha and climb the 268 steps up to the top to gain a closer view of the peaceful statue.

Keep in mind:

  • It can be hard going making it up all of those steps from the base level to the level of the Buddha, so be sure to rest between levels and admire the views.
  • If you do reach the top of the Buddha you should complete one full circle of the statue in a clockwise direction.

Did you know?

  • Erected in 1993, it took over 12 years to complete and cost HK$60 million (£5.8 million).
  • ‘The Offering of the Six Devas’ at the base of the Big Buddha offer up flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit and music to Buddha.

Details

Opening hours: 08:00 – 18:00 daily

Location: Po Lin Monastery, Ngong Ping, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Price: Free

Best cruise:

Sydney to London Tilbury - Departing Sydney, 24th February 2019 for 70 nights on board Columbus

Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, Vietnam

If you say Notre Dame Cathedral to most people images of the Hunchback of Notre Dame will no doubt feature highly in their minds as they conjure pictures Paris’ most famous cathedral. However say it to the Vietnamese and they will probably think of Saigon’s very own Notre Dame.

Built in the late 1800’s by French Colonists the cathedral was not given the title of Notre Dame until 1959 after it installed the statue of the ‘Peaceful Notre Dame’.

Keep in mind:

  • Currently, there are extensive renovation works taking place within the cathedral until late 2019 so it is only open for masses. The outside, however, is still available for pictures and visitors.
  • The Sunday Mass at 09:30 is given in English so is a great way to view the inside of the Cathedral while enjoying the traditional mass.

Did you know?

  • It is believed that the statue outside the church of the Virgin Mary shed tears in 2005.
  • The cathedral was anointed by the Vatican in 1962 as Saigon’s chief cathedral anointing it to a basilica.

Details

Opening hours: Outside – 24/7. Masses – Weekdays 05:30 or 17:30, Sunday 05:30, 06:45, 08:00, 09:30, 16:00, 17:30 or 18:30.

Location: 01 Công Xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Price: Free

Best cruise:

Hong Kong to London Tilbury - Departing Hong Kong, 23rd March 2019 for 43 nights on board Columbus

Emerald Buddha Temple – Bangkok, Thailand

Golden pavilion in Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew has to be one of Thailand’s most beautiful Buddhist temples. Nestled into the historic centre of Bangkok’s Grand Palace, it is a haven of peace and tranquillity amid the bustling delights of Thailand’s capital.

Hidden within is the Emerald Buddha, Phra Kaew Morakot, carved from green jade in the 15th century. The statue itself is relatively small, just 26 inches (66cm) tall, and is housed within a Perspex box for security reasons. The statue wears a cloak; diamond for the hot season, gold for the winter season and cloth for the rainy season.  

The complex itself is home to over 100 buildings and dates back to the 1780’s when Bangkok was declared the new capital of Thailand.

Keep in mind:

  • Photography is not permitted within the temple.
  • The temple sits within the Grand Palace so be sure to factor in some time to explore.
  • No shorts or short skirts are permitted within the palace grounds, also sleeveless t-shirts are not permitted.

Did you know?

  • This is the only temple in Thailand not to house any monks, it was built without the monk’s accommodation.
  • The King of Thailand is the only person permitted to touch the Emerald Buddha and changes its ceremonial robe three times a year.

Details

Opening hours: 08:30 – 15:30 daily

Location: Na Phralan, Phra Nakorn (inside the Grand Palace complex), Old City (Rattanakosin)

Price: 500 Thai Baht - £11.50

Best cruise:

Sydney to Singapore - Departing Sydney, 24th February 2019 for 38 nights on board Columbus

Karnak Temple – Luxor (Safaga), Egypt

A post shared by Linda Th (@lindath76) on

More than just a single religious site, this is an entire town. The Karnack Temple complex was completed around 1350 BC across over 2sq km (200 acres) during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II. The main highlight of the complex is the Temple of Amun-Ra, one of the world’s largest religious complexes.

There are avenues of ram-headed sphinxes, courts and pylons, and the Hypostyle Hall is a mass of over 100 pillars, every square inch of which seems to be covered with carved figures and hieroglyphics.

Keep in mind:

  • Trips early in the morning are best for a quiet experience.
  • As the site is so large it is best to wear comfortable shoes and bring water. Shoulders and knees must be covered by clothing.

Did you know?

  • The central sacred enclosure of Amun can hold ten average size European cathedrals.
  • The sandstone used to create the temple was transported over 100 miles by the River Nile.

Details

Opening hours: 06:00 – 18:00 daily

Location: Sharia Maabad Al Karnak, Luxor, Egypt

Price: 120LE - £5.20

Best cruise:

Singapore to London Tilbury - Departing Singapore, 3rd April 2019 for 32 nights on board Columbus

Western Wall – Jerusalem, Israel

Western Wall

The site of the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem is the holiest place on earth for the Jewish community. The wall itself is the only remains of the Second Temple of Jerusalem which was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD, it is believed that the temple was originally created around 20BC. The site has seen many controllers over the centuries and the Jewish population came and went with the ruling control. Nowadays there is relative peace at the site and it is common to see people of all religions visiting the site. The Western Wall itself was fully excavated in 1967 to show two levels and to create the Western Wall plaza and it forms the support wall for the Temple Mount.

Keep in mind:

  • Both men and women should dress modestly on a visit to the wall. Shoulders and legs should be covered. Men can hire a kippah as their heads should also be covered.
  • Men and women worship at different parts of the wall so do not worry if the sexes are separated this is to ensure there is a smooth flow into both parts of the wall.

Did you know?

  • Be sure to write your pray and wish on a bit of paper which you can leave in the wall.
  • After the six-day war in 1967, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it was declared that all religions would have free access to the wall to pray.

Details

Opening hours: 24/7

Location: The Western Wall, The ancient city, Jerusalem, Israel

Price: Free

Best cruise:

Hong Kong to London Tilbury - Departing Hong Kong, 23rd March 2019 for 120 nights on board Columbus

Al-Aqsa Mosque – Jerusalem, Israel

Al-Aqsa mosque

Al-Aqsa is the third most important site to Muslims in Islam after The Kaaba, Mecca and The Prophet’s Mosque, Medina. It is also reputed to be the second mosque to have ever been built, having been built by the Prophet to be his final resting place before he rose to heaven.

The original mosque was built around 710 AD a few decades after its nearby neighbour the Dome of the Rock. However, it was destroyed by two earthquakes within its first 60 years of existence and was rebuilt 5 times over the next 300 years.

Keep in mind:

  • Al-Aqsa as a whole has two holy sites; the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock (Gubbat al-Sakhra) so allow time to visit both.
  • Both males and females will need to dress modestly to enter the site and women will need to ensure they have a scarf or pashmina to cover their heads.

Did you know?

  • The Mosque has capacity for 5,000 worshippers.
  • The site was used as the headquarters of the Knights Templar in 1118.

Details

Opening hours: Sat-Thur 07:30 – 11:00 and 13:30 – 15:00

Location: Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem

Price: Free

Best cruise:

Singapore to London Tilbury - Departing Singapore, 3rd April 2019 for 32 nights on board Columbus

Hassan II Mosque – Casablanca, Morocco

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca - Morocco

The Hassan II Mosque is the third largest Mosque in the world after Mecca and Medina and can accommodate over 25,000 worshippers. Building originally began in 1987 being partially funded by King Hassan II before completion in 1993. The mosque itself sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean and worshippers who if permitted access to the specific rooms when praying can look over the Atlantic through the glass flooring.

Over 6,000 Moroccan master craftsmen were employed to work on the Mosque and at 689ft, the minaret is the tallest structure in all of Morocco with a light shining at night towards Mecca.

Keep in mind:

  • Both males and females will need to dress modestly to enter the Mosque, however, women do not need to cover their heads.
  • The entire complex is over 22 acres in size.

Did you know?

  • The Mosque was designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau.
  • The only materials to be imported from outside of Morocco were the stained glass and chandeliers, all other materials were sourced from different regions of the country.

Details

Opening hours: Sat-Thur 07:30 – 11:00 and 13:30 – 15:00

Location: Boulevard de la Corniche, Casablanca 20000, Morocco

Price: Free entry, guided tours from 120 dirhams (£10)

Best cruise:

Fremantle to London Tilbury - Departing Fremantle, 10th March 2019 for 43 nights on board Astor.