Magical Travel: 25 Places With Healing Powers
Outside the realm of medical science lay a sea of sites regarded by many as capable of miraculously healing the ill and injured. Some may be affiliated with specific faiths; some may open their metaphorical doors to all peoples. Some may date back to ancient times; some may have only acquired their seemingly magical abilities in modern times. The one thing they have in common, however, is their ability to entice visitors of all types to come see for themselves whether or not these allegedly altruistic energies meet their needs.
Please keep in mind that this article does not intend to take the place of professional medical (or spiritual) consultation. It merely looks at the different places that various people believe possess unexplainable healing powers. The veracity of these claims is left entirely to the reader. Some may label it as superstition, others may find something hopeful and effective. But individual interpretation does not change the perceptions of others represented in this article.
One of the most popular destinations for Christian pilgrims – especially amongst Catholics – Lourdes only gained its reputation as a place of healing within the past 140 years. Beginning in February of 1858, Bernadette Soubirous started seeing visions of the Holy Mother that allegedly drove her to dig up a spring with her own bare, girlish hands. The first reports of its curative powers began trickling in around 1873, and the site plays host to millions of pilgrims as a result. Hailing from every nook and cranny of the globe, they seek out the pools of water formed from Soubirous’s original spring with the hopes that it alleviates their myriad maladies.
The iconic stone monument located in Wiltshire County, England plays host to several artifacts that lead archaeologists to believe that ancient cultures considered Stonehenge a place of healing. Even before the first majestic tablet went up, bluestones dating back to 7000 B.C. point towards the site’s status as a popular pilgrimage destination. Some of the small rocks can be traced all the way back to sites in South Wales…sites about 150 miles away! Bodies buried near Stonehenge also come accompanied by the supposedly magical bits of dolerite and quartz as well. This only solidifies theories that the monument served a plethora of purposes – not only as a conduit for healing and worship, but charting the stars and solstices as well.
The first recorded instance of El Santuario do Chimayo’s healing properties dates back to 1813, when Fr. Sebastian Alvarez discussed the waves of pilgrims headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico seeking solace from physical ailments. Known as “The Lourdes of America,” the holy site continues to draw predominantly Catholic visitors ever since the shrine completed construction in 1816. Many believe that the magnificent crucifix Fr. Alvarez discovered buried in the hills exists as the source of the curative energies. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe currently owns and operates the lovely chapel, which attracts around 300,000 pilgrims annually – some for the spiritual element, others for the potential healing.
4. Machu Picchu
New Age practitioners flock to Machu Picchu, nestled in the Andes Plateau of Peru, believing that it sits upon a major chakra capable of healing visitors and the planet itself. Some shops catering to that community sell oils distilled from orchids found on or near the ancient village, and many shamans and alternative doctors with a heavy spiritual bent prescribe visits to facilitate overall wellness. Many even host their own pilgrimages, bringing along patients desiring to quell their own ills or pray for the health and safety of Earth and all its inhabitants.
5. Naag Mandir
This Vanua Levu (one of the Fiji islands)-based Hindu temple devoted to the snake god Naag has supposedly been gradually growing over the past 120 years. Beginning at 2 feet tall, it has over time risen to around 15 – the shrine has been renovated several times in order to accommodate its expanding height. Visitors frequently seek out Naag Mandir to heal their fertility issues, leaving offerings of foods, flowers and incense alongside prayers for children. Some even claim that a trip to the temple eventually cured 20 years’ worth of infertility and impotence!
Jamaica boasts at least 3 major mineral springs – Rockfort Mineral Bath, Bath Fountain Hotel and Milk River Bath – each of them overflowing with their own unique stories of healing. The health benefits of such baths remain disputed, of course, though many swear by their ability to relieve a variety of different ailments. If nothing else, they still provide rest and relaxation from everyday physical and mental stresses! One story from Milk River Bath claims that a slave owned by Jonathan Ludford received a severe, tragic beating. He escaped and sought refuge bathing in what eventually became their mineral springs, returning a couple of days later with his injuries entirely healed.
Sancreed Well, Madron Well, Alsia Well, St. Levans Holy Well and Chapel Euny’s Well all call Cornwall home, and all of them have served as places of healing since before the advent of Christianity. One common practice they all share involves the use of clouties. The ill and injured tie pieces of their clothing around nearby trees, with the hopes that the conditions in question will rot away alongside them. Madron Well even sports a number of different “thank yous” for its altruistic services! Churches and chapels located in Cornwall utilize the well waters for baptism ceremonies.
8. Hells Gate
In spite of its name, Hells Gate in Rotorua, New Zealand plays host to healing mineral mud revered by the Ngati Rangiteaorere (more commonly known as the Rotorua Maori) Tribe for over 700 years. Today, they operate a spa on the sacred grounds in order to share its unusual geological properties and – of course – the curative abilities. In addition to the usual massages, visitors can relax and enjoy baths, facials and scrubs utilizing both the magical mud and traditional Ngati Rangiteaorere techniques. Detoxification, skin care and antibacterial treatments comprise the main health benefits that spa patrons seek. Alongside the usual rest and relaxation, obviously!
Onsen lay scattered about various locales in Japan, but all of them share some degree of healing capabilities. Depending on the minerals contained in the springs, visitors can pursue solace from a wide spectrum of different conditions. For example, carbonated onsen allegedly provide relief from cardiovascular and neurological issues, while those with an acidic composition appeal more to diabetics and individuals suffering from chronic skin disorders. All of them, though, serve as excellent stops for anyone desiring a little rest and relaxation – necessary components in treating many mental health and stress-related illnesses.
10. Lago de Atitlán
Thousands of devotees to New Age spirituality descend upon Guatamala’s Lago De Atitlán every year to take advantage of the spas, meditation centers, yoga studios and other hallmarks of the faith. Holistic, alternative and traditional Mayan treatments abound in this lush Central American haven, and Las Pirámides del Ka appears to be one of the most popular destinations for health and healing enthusiasts. Visitors take part in yoga and meditation sessions, take classes on a variety of relevant topics and pursue certification in different facets of spirituality. As they emphasize healing and personal growth, people of all religions – including atheism – are entirely welcome.
Places of healing associated with Catholicism oftentimes correspond directly with Marian apparitions, and the one affiliated with Aparecida, Brazil follows the trend. The largest shrine dedicated to visions of the Holy Mother ever constructed inspires great pride in Brazil’s peoples, and 5 million pilgrims travel yearly to pay homage. Although the most well-known miracle associated with Our Lady of Aparecida involves fisherman reeling in a generous bounty after an extended battle against futility and emptiness, she is frequently sought after to perform healing rituals as well. Even prayers intending to invoke her intercession often request relief from physical, mental and emotional pain.
The Mayan civilization considered Chichen Itza a valuable hub when it came to the healing arts – a tradition that continues today, enjoyed by visitors of all ethnicities and religious leanings. Spas have sprung up around the archaeological site in order to keep Mayan treatments alive, and regular healing ceremonies still take place as they did here thousands of years ago. Along with its religious significance, Chichen Itza also served as a major political center as well.
Anguilla, one of the Caribbean Islands, allegedly possesses a “Sacred Vortex” capable of inspiring creativity, self-awareness and – of course – healing. Reiki practitioners enjoy meditating in the caves and swimming in the water, connecting with the energies that flow through the magical locale for a variety of different ends. At least one spa has sprung up that sells the island’s curative properties, offering up soaks and other packages taking advantage of the energy-charged atmosphere.
La Salette became one of the few sites supposedly visited by Mary in the 20th Century, and the Vatican as well as national and local clergy frequently send out investigators to dissect the cavalcade of claims regarding healings associated with the place. A popular destination for Catholic pilgrims, Our Lady of La Salette has allegedly quelled the suffering of many individuals who sent her prayers and visited her shrine. The fountain it contains draws visitors into its waters – often people who desire its energies to cleanse them of physical torment as quickly as possible.
Native Americans have long considered the arid deserts of Sedona, Arizona sacred places of healing and worship – a belief that persists into contemporary times. Pilgrims in search of spiritual and physical healing journey to this Southwestern state to consult with shamans on a multitude of matters, hoping to find answers in the flowing energies and breathtaking scenery. Some sign up for retreats and learn how to best harness the powers that be in the interest of their health and well-being. Others prefer exploring its mysteries in a more solitary fashion, though their intentions remain the same.
Considered a saint in her native India, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi operates an ashram in her home city of Amritapuri for pilgrims worldwide – mainly children – to come hear her messages of unity, peace and compassion. She is widely believed to possess a healing touch in addition to a kind and generous heart, making her quite popular amongst the ailing. Health-related Ashram activities that continue even without her presence include yoga classes and ayurvedic, homeopathic and allopathic treatments. It is magical because she made it so.
This Spanish church houses an incredibly mysterious statue of a Madonna with skin as black as pitch. Theories abound as to her true origins, but whatever they may be she is still considered a healing presence. Some believe that the statue may serve as a physical conduit between the Holy Mother and her ardent followers – an avatar on earth through which she stores her power and projects it where people need it most. Unsurprisingly, the Pilgrimage Church of Guadalupe sees millions of visitors each year hoping to seek Mary’s intercession.
18. The Dead Sea
Israeli doctors praise the mud and salt from The Dead Sea as viable treatments for chronic skin diseases such as acne and psoriasis. It probably comes as little to no shock, then, that a multitude of entrepreneurs have cashed in on its spiritual and medicinal significance to set up resorts and spas in order to encourage travelers to take advantage of what the area has to offer – and spend their money! Still others market the mud and salt as products to be consumed by patients worldwide.
19. Mount Banahaw
Mount Banahaw looms 50 miles south of the Filipino capital of Manila and attracts pilgrims pulling from both traditional faiths as well as Catholicism. Both religions regard the volcanic structure and its plentiful caves and waterfalls as sacred, and churches are in no short supply as journeys progress. Dipping oneself in pooling water 7 times is said to act as a general healing ritual that may possibly lead to medical miracles.
Medjugorje, Yugoslavia hosted one of the most famous and popular Marian apparitions, attracting millions of pilgrims yearly. A goodly portion of them come specifically to ask the Holy Mother for healing – some even go so far as to claim her capable of curing multiple sclerosis. The Catholic Church constantly sends out priests to investigate these claims before declaring them miracles, of course. Although most stem from reasonable scientific explanations, the true origins of a few healings remain mysterious.
21. The Ganges River
Hindus hold The Ganges River with the utmost reverence, considering it a deity in its own right. Known mostly as a place of death, where sacred cremations take place in order to lead the deceased to Moksha, the mighty waters also allegedly restore life as well. Many earnestly believe that bathing in or drinking the water holds the potential to restore one’s body to its original healthy form – a mindset that leads to millions of men, women and children to make the pilgrimage to its banks every year.
All Muslims are expected to make at least 1 hajj in their lifetime, meaning that around 2 million believers make the journey every year to this sacred site in Saudi Arabia. Once they arrive, the worshippers engage in a heavily ritualized battery of prayers and drink from an ancient spring named Zamzam. Some say it has flowed for around 4,000 years, and followers of Islam consider it sacred for its supposed healing properties. However, they believe that the waters only cure those of true, strong faith – though that does not stop local merchants from capitalizing on selling it in jerry cans to anyone willing to pay the price.
23. Dragon Cave
Nestled deep in the Phang Nga district of Thailand sits the sacred Dragon Cave, sought after by individuals suffering from the ravages of HIV and cancer – though other maladies are represented as well. Those curious about its healing properties consult with the Buddhist monks who call it home and charge nothing for their services. Driven by altruism, they teach the pilgrims how to meditate properly and serve up piping hot tree bark tea to the pilgrims camping out and honestly seeking solace from their pains…if not a cure.
Better known to “Westerners” as Ayers Rock, Uluru carries great significance to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara peoples of Central Australia. Tourists come to gawk at the natural wonder, many never realizing that the indigenous tribes consider it a sacred site for spiritual and physical healing. Considered one of the most important sites for their culture, leaders annually climb into an obscure cave to pray for the health and rejuvenation of the planet and its inhabitants. Others are welcome to gather around the breathtaking structure and meditate on their own recovery – or the recovery of a loved one.
25. Table Mountain
As with many other locales on this list, Table Mountain in South America garners great reverence amongst New Age types for its hefty concentration of chakras and ley lines intended to heal individuals and nature alike. Individuals hoping to practice alternative medicine often make pilgrimages to this majestic geological formation in order to strengthen their connections to themselves, their peers and the planet itself. Some believe themselves capable of harnessing its psychic energy for distribution elsewhere in the world, most especially those in need of healing and positivity.
Regardless of a reader’s personal opinions, millions of ailing men, woman and children journey to these locales – and others not listed here! – to seek out the healing energies they host. Whether magical, psychosomatic or simply science that has yet to be explained, people still believe that traversing the globe with these sites as their ultimate destination holds the key to their overall health and wellness.