The Rise of Spiritual Tourism: 8 Must-Try Experiences

Books like "Eat, Pray Love" and "Wild" may have set off a boom in self-discovery travel, but more and more places are providing full on spiritual immersion travel options. With such limited time off from our busy lives, travelers are seeking to make the most of their vacations by testing out one-of-a-kind healing and restorative practices from around the world. From a temazcal ritual in Mexico to a monk initiation ceremony in Myanmar, hotels and travel companies are offering unique experiences that can only be found in the special destinations responsible for creating the rise in spiritual tourism. Here are eight that are definitely worth a try.

1. Temazcal Experience

A type of sweat lodge, temazcals originated with pre-Hispanic Indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica. Participants enter a round stone structure heated by volcanic rocks where they can spend hours detoxifying and purifying their minds, bodies, and spirits.  Hotels like Hacienda Encantada Resort & Spa and Vidanta in Nuevo Vallarta embrace their Mexican roots by offering this traditional service through their spas, which are lead by authentic Mayan shamans.

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2. Sound Bath

Photo: Flickr

Planetary gongs and quartz crystal singing bowls have been used since the 8th century in parts of Asia and are tuned to the orbital properties of the planets, sun, and moon, providing listeners with the sounds of the cosmos. SoSPA at Sofitel Los Angeles added a "Sound Bath" to its wellness offerings where guests can “bathe” in sound, taking a musical journey that invokes a deep meditative state for a relaxing and healing experience. Guests reportedly leave feeling more relaxed, peaceful and “in-tune” than when they arrived.

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3. Despacho Ceremony

Blended naturally into a landscape of vivid red rock cliffs and canyons of southern Utah, Red Mountain Resort makes use of its relaxing surroundings by offering an ancient Peruvian spiritual ceremony. With the guidance of the Shaman Spirit, you create a prayer bundle to offer gratitude to the Earth Mother to celebrate a life, an anniversary, or a milestone birthday. The resort also offers an Intuitive Energy Reading, Life Path Reading, and Sound Healing.

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4. Gandan Monastery Rituals

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Nomadic Expeditions was so inspired by the rise in spiritual tourism, the company created a new cultural journey entitled "Mongolia: Spiritual and Cultural Awakening with Robert Thurman." On the 13-day journey, travelers take in the beauty and rituals of Gandan Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia. The tour also takes participants to visit the Ovgon Hiid Monastery, one of the oldest temples in Mongolia, Erdenezuu Monastery in Kharakhorum, a place of Buddhist activity for more than 500 years, the Tuvkhun Monastery set within an Alpine forest, and the ruins of the 17th-century temple Ongiin Hiid, still known as the "Pearl of the Great Desert." Travelers are guided through meditation sessions throughout the journey.

5. Burmese Initiation and Wedding Ceremonies

Photo: Belmond

Myanmar is a spiritual destination all around, and Belmond Orcaella cruise takes advantage of that by arranging for guests to take part in, and witness, special rituals during their time in the country.  On the 11-night trip along the Chindwin River, guests are invited to witness a novice initiation ceremony, a young monk's right of passage, in the rural village monastery of Moktaw. If you want to participate, couples can experience an authentic wedding blessing ceremony in Bagan at a local monastery. You will be dressed in traditional attire and taken to the monastery by horse and cart, where a Buddhist Monk will bless you.

6. Moon Ritual

The moon and other celestial bodies have been a main focus for a number of cultures, including St. Lucia's Caribs and Arawaks, for thousands of years. Embracing this ancient practice, Capella Marigot Bay in St. Lucia offers spa services based on the phases of the moon to help guests "attune their wellness routines to the rhythms of nature." From a new moon to a waning one, each 120- to 180-minute service is carefully crafted to focus on what each phase of the moon is set to bring about. For example, the waning moon is the time to feel restored and is associated with the color amber. To get you in tune with this phase, you will receive a detoxifying foot massage and a purifying facial to you leave feeling fully revived and renewed.

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7. The Path of Senses

We've heard about initiation ceremonies where young men are sent out into the woods for days to fend for themselves. While you won't have to endure such harsh conditions, Sandos Caracol Eco Resort wanted to provide guests with a similar experience by creating The Path of Senses. Guests here are blindfolded and led on a guided walk through the jungle; on this path, you are encouraged to welcome your most introspective and positive thoughts.

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8. Vietnamese Tea Ceremony

Photo: Flickr

There's nothing quite like getting into the heart of a country and its culture by biking through it. On the nine-night "Journey Through Vietnam" cycling tour by VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacation, you will see Saigon, Imperial City, the Forbidden Purple City, and Non Nuoc village, as well as visit with Buddhist monks and participate in a tea ceremony at Thien Mu Pagoda.

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