Religious Tourism

Definition and Concept

Religious tourism is an important part of the tourism industry it called special interest  tourism, which usually related to the followers of particular faiths who visit locations that are considered as holy sites.

Religious sites are not only visited by the pilgrims but also visited by non-religious tourists since they have cultural, historical and religious significance.

Most niche of tourism industry is directly affected by economic instability but this religious tourism is less affected by these economic issues because the reason for travelling is very strong and it plays a very important role in their lives so money does not play a very vital role to stop from visiting a destination.

Religious tourism is the pioneer form of tourism which has begun almost with the dawn of humanity. From the ancient times religious destinations were not only a part of the cultural landscape but they also had become a vital factor in local marketing and prime parts of the economy of hosted destinations. Some of the religious places such as Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Fatima in Portugal and Lourdes in France attract millions of religious tourists, charity workers, missionaries and humanitarians creating a huge financial transaction in the destination.

Religious tourism, in the literature of tourism studies is, often described interchangeably as a cultural heritage tourism, cultural tourism, cultural heritage tourism and spiritual tourism by different authors.

It is difficult to give a specific definition of religious tourism and the reason behind it is that cultural and religious travel are used synonymously. This is because the majority of cultural tourists visit religious destinations as a part of their itinerary and are thus referred to as religious tourists.

The general meaning of religious tourism implies travelling with the prime motive of experiencing religious activities or the products they induce such as art, culture, traditions and architecture.

Religion and tourism are interlinked with each other. The pioneer form of tourism was in the form of visiting religious pilgrimages such as Christians travelling to Jerusalem and Muslims to Mecca.

Religious pilgrimages have always been one of the dominant factors for motivating people to travel. Tracing back to the religious history it is found that major religions have globally stimulated tourism as a foundation for spreading their own religious beliefs

Historical and Heritage Concepts:

The founders of the main religions;  Prophet Mohammed (Islam), Jesus (Christianity), Moses (Judaism)  in addition to Gautama Buddha (Buddhism), have inspired various acts of pilgrimage as a part of their establishment. 

Beside the above-mentioned religions there are several other religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism, which carry their own norms and values. They have their own special religious destinations. For example, Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal the most important pilgrimage destination of Hindus.

A significant number of pilgrims travel every year to their particular sacred destinations to accomplish their religious missions.

Marketing of religious products and services

The interconnections of religion and marketing of religious products seem to be ineluctable in our culture with some striking similarities. Religious people see the religious products and services as a means of conveying their faith while sellers see them as a means of spreading faith. Religion and marketing institutions both depend on conveying a message and a willingness of people to believe in what is intellectually unbelievable. Through the means of rituals, practices and myths religions creates their meaning while marketing does the same through advertising and shopping. Similarly, religion is about accepting a belief system and marketing is accepting belief about a product.

Religions have faith communities while marketing has brand communities. Religion and marketing have a symbiotic relationship, for example, religion is considered as a product and the products as religions.

The most important Islamic Religious destinations in the world

Al-Masjid Alharam  – Mecca:

The Grand Mosque or the Al-Masjid Al-Haram is the holiest place for Muslims in the world. It is the largest Mosque in the world and covers an area of 356,800 square meters. Millions of pilgrims visit the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia each year to visit Mecca and Medina. During the Hajj period up to 2 million people can worship in the Mosque and is the largest gathering of people anywhere in the world.

Al-Masjid Al Nabawe – Almadina Almunawwara

The second holiest site in Islam is the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi or the Prophet’s Mosque situated in Medina. It was built by Prophet Muhammad and is now one of the largest mosques in the world. It is open 24/7 all year round and is a big destination for pilgrims who perform the Hajj from Mecca to Medina.

Al-Aqsa Mosque – Al-Qods – Palestine:

Al Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is located on the same site as the Dome of the Rock. The mosque is believed to be the second house of worship built after the Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca. Although Muslim visitors can visit the mosque to pray the Israeli government sometimes restricts entry due to safety concerns

Dome of the Rock (Qubbat Al-Sakhrah Mosque) – Alqods – Palestine

Masjid Qubbat As-Sakhrah is also known as Dome of the Rock and is located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is the most controversial piece of property in the world as it is the holy place of Christians, Jews and Muslims. The controversy is over the foundation stone inside the building that is the rock under the dome.

Quba Mosque – Almadina Almunawwara

The Quba Mosque lies on the outskirts of Medina and is a very holy place for Muslims. The first stones of the mosque were laid my Prophet Muhammad himself as soon as he arrived on his emigration from Mecca to Medina. It is a very important mosque for Muslims as praying here is considered to be a very holy act.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque – The blue Mosque – Istanbul Turkey

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque was completed in 1616 in Istanbul, Turkey. It is known popularly as the Blue Mosque for the exquisite blue tiles that adorn its interior. It is a popular tourist destination in Istanbul and one of the holy sites for Muslims around the world and is still used as a mosque.

And many other famous mosques such as: Sultan Zayed (Abduldhabi) – King Hassan (Morocco) – Crystal (Malaysia).

There are many other important monuments related to Islam : Imam Ali Najaf – Imam Redha Mashhad – Jabal Ohud – Albaqee – Ahl Alkahf – Madayen Saleh – Alhussein And Sayeda Zeinab(Egypt)  – Ghar Hiraa – Ghar Thor – Alharam Alibrahimi – Jabal Altoor – Bahaii Park (Palestine) – Alqairawan Jama .

The most important Christianity Religious destinations in the world

Church of the nativity Bethlehem:

is a major Christian holy site, as it marks the traditional place of Christ’s birth. It is also one of the oldest surviving Christian churches

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher:

where Jesus is believed to have been buried and resurrected

The Mount of Olives

where Jesus prayed during the night of his betrayal, and the Via Dolorosa (which tradition says is the route taken by Jesus to the cross).  The steps of the Via Dolorosa are the oldest Christian pilgrimage path in the world, a route taken by countless pilgrims through the centuries as they relive the last hours of Jesus’ life. Sacred sites honored by both Christians and Jews include the Western Wall, the only remnant of the Second Temple, and Mount Zion, where King David’s tomb is said to be located.

Mt. Sinai and St. Catherine’s Monastery, Egypt

For thousands of years pilgrims have climbed to the summit of this remote peak.  The surrounding landscape is both bleak and beautiful, particularly at dawn and evening when its harsh terrain glows with an almost unearthly light.

At the base of the mountain, St. Catherine’s Monastery is home to a small community of Greek Orthodox monks. Visitors enter through massive stone walls built in the sixth century to protect the monastery from attack. 

Ephesus House of the Virgin Mary  – Turkey

Pilgrims to this site in western Turkey gather at two major landmarks:  the House of the Virgin Mary (located on top of a mountain several miles from the city) and the ruins of the Basilica of St. John, where the remains of the apostle are said to lie.  The city’s many well-preserved Roman-era sites provide an evocative backdrop for imagining the earliest years of the Christian church.

Vatican City – Italy

Steeped in Christian tradition and history, Vatican City is one of the most-visited pilgrimage sites in the world. It is full of artistic as well as religious treasures, including the ceiling frescoes of the Sistine Chapel and the Pieta, both by Michelangelo. Among its newest places of veneration is the tomb of Pope John Paul II, located less than 100 feet from the tomb of St. Peter.

And much more places like: Croagh Patrick (Ireland) – Lona (Scotland) – Lisieux (France) – Lourdes (France) – Zaragoza (Spain) – Santiago de Compostela (Spain) – Basilica de Guadalupe (Mexico City) – St. Paul’s Chapel (NewYork City) – Abbey of Gethsemani (Kentucky) – Chimayo (New Mexico)

The most important Judaism Religious destinations in the world

 Jerusalem AlQods

For three millennia, Jerusalem has been the center for the Jewish faith. Biblically, the old city of Jerusalem is recognized as the site where God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. It was in the same place that, according to biblical and archeological history, King David established the city as the Kingdom of Israel and his son, King Solomon, built the first temple in the 10th century. After the temple was destroyed, King Herod built the second temple on the temple mount, which he surrounded by walls. The western wall is worshiped as the most sacred space for the Jewish people, as it is revered as the last relic of the last temple. Jerusalem is associated with the fire element in reference to the sacrificial fires that burned in King Solomon’s temple. Synagogues around the world are, and have always been, built with the holy arch facing Jerusalem.


Located south of Jerusalem within the Palestinian controlled west bank, is the elevated city of Hebron. It is associated with the earth element, as it is the site of burial of the Jewish patriarchs, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah. Because Hebron is referenced numerous times in the book of Genesis, many Jews place Hebron as the birthplace of Jewish civilization. Historically Hebron was the first capital of King David, before Jerusalem, and it became an important center for Jewish learning in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Built along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias is associated with the water element. The city is, like Hebron, revered for its historical significance, as it was also an important center for Jewish learning in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was in Tiberius where prominent Rabbis gathered shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem and the second temple in an effort to preserve Jewish knowledge. There they assembled the Jerusalem Talmud, a compilation of oral Jewish law, which is used as a foundational text for Jewish study.


Located 900 meters (2900 feet) above sea level, the city of Tzfat (also spelled Safed) is associated with the air element, as it is the highest city in the Galilee region and the whole of Israel. According to Jewish lore, Tzfat was founded by one of the sons of Noah after the great flood. Historically It is revered as the center of Kabbalah study and Jewish mysticism, as the Jewish mystical tradition underwent a period of development and creativity there during the middle of the 16th century. The ancient city of Tzfat is largely made up of homes, schools, artists’ galleries, old synagogues and yeshivot — Jewish centers of textual study.

The most important Buddhism Religious destinations in the world

In India

Bodhgaya city (Bihar) – Sarnath, Koshinagar, Sravasti, Sankisa and Kaushambi (Uttar Pradesh) – Dharamsala (Himachal Pradesh) – Theravada (Arunachal Pradesh)

In Srilanka:

 Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and Dambulla

In Thailand – Nepal – Tibet – Japan and Mongolia

The most important Hindu Religious destinations in the world

Yamnotri, Syana Chatti

Ayodhya, Faizabad – Uttar Pradesh

Rudraprayag, Gaurikund and Kedarnath

Laxmi Narayan Temple

Rukmini Temple, Nageshwar Jyotirlinga Temple, Sri Dwarkanath

And many other holy places around the world which makes the religious tourism very important.

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