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In need of a little soul-searching? These destinations offer a fabulous place to heal, and possibly even experience a life-changing transformation, along with beautiful scenery and a whole lot more.
Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico
Todos Santos is a magical place, just a little over an hour from hopping Cabo, yet truly a world away. A rugged, remote paradise, it draws all types of visitors, particularly the adventurous and creative types, with a wealth of art galleries, boho shops, surfing schools, welcoming cafes, an outstanding culinary scene, and of course, golden beaches that can often be enjoyed in total solitude. Although it has a laid-back culture, it packs a punch when it comes to things to do – with yoga studios galore, a wealth of festivals, community events and plenty of outdoor activities, from sea kayaking, snorkeling and whale watching to horseback riding along the sand. This town of around 6,000 permanent residents is special – it seems to have a soul of its own, making it difficult to leave but easy to discover what you’ve been missing. In fact, it might just be right here.
Mount Kailash, Tibet
Mount Kailash is considered one of China’s most beautiful mountains. Its shape is like the pyramids in Egypt with four nearly symmetrical sides, and the glistening snow-covered top makes it especially eye-catching. Around this sacred mountain, there are five temples that are shrouded in mystery and legend. The mountain has been revered as a meeting place for Heaven and Earth, calling thousands to take the trek to its summit, and many find it to be life-changing. They make their way through the high plateaus to the edge of the heaven, discovering monasteries, nomads, meditation caves, monks and Buddhist traditions along the way. The farther you travel, the deeper it seems you go within yourself to discover what your soul is truly in need of.
Croagh Patrick, Ireland
Making the steep ascent up this 2,509 feet high mountain in Ireland offers some of the most magnificent views in the western region of the country. Known as Patrick’s sacred mountain, this is where the legendary patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, is said to have spent 40 days and nights praying and fasting, and to have banished snakes from the country. Over a million people from across the globe arrive here every year to follow in his footsteps – and many of them do it barefoot. Located near the town of Westport, panoramic vistas of Clew Bay and the surrounding south Mayo countryside can all be had. Though it typically takes just a couple of hours to reach the top, it’s certainly not an easy journey. Once accomplished, you can attend mass in a modern chapel or simply soak up views before heading back down for a pint of Guinness in a local pub.
Taos, New Mexico
This small town is bustling,yet it offers a taste of authentic New Mexico as a true original. Indigenous, artistic, rustic and soothing to the soul, the colorful plaza holds court to a unique mix of characters that are as different as the town itself. Filled with a wealth of independent shops, world-class galleries and eateries, along with quiet casitas and cozy fireplaces, it’s easy to find the time for soul-searching here. Although a number of celebrities call it home, including actress Julia Roberts, Taos remains unpretentious, offering an earthy comfort. Visitors also find plenty of exciting things to do, from hot air balloon rides to hiking, and visiting the fascinating Taos Pueblo.
Taos Pueblo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in North America, attracting artists and photographers year-round. It’s the only living Native American community designated both a UNESCO World Heritage site, a National Historic Landmark, and the best preserved northern pueblo, giving testimony to the culture of Pueblo Indians that developed after the disappearance of the Anasazi tribes in the region.
Glastonbury Tor, United Kingdom
Taking this half-day journey to the summit of Glastonbury Tor, a hill that sits atop the roofless St. Michaels Tower, is called a journey of rebirth, and one that you’ll return from completely transformed. Rich in legend and mythological associations, it’s believed to have been a place of ancient ritual, though it was also famous for Catholic pilgrimages during medieval times. It’s a popular destination for Grail theorists as well as those who just want to make the climb to take in the panoramic view of the Somerset countryside. The Tor is also a short distance from
Stonehenge, which was built sometime between 3000 BC and 2000 BC and remains one of the most compelling mysteries of ancient times – despite every type of modern scientific technology used to attempt to unlock the secrets of this gargantuan structure, nobody has yet to ascertain its origins.
Bushwalking in Australia
The Larapinta Trail in Central Australia stretches for over 138 miles along the West MacDonnell Range, one of the oldest mountain chains on Earth. This ancient, rugged landscape is known as the setting for one of the most incredible multi-day hiking treks one can take in the entire world, as a living desert landscape that boasts oasis-like gorges, rocky quartzite ridge tops and desert plains that are dotted with rare, exotic plants. Outfitter Trek Larapinta offers this tour with a variety of options, including everything from two-day treks to a 16-day adventure across the entire trail. Go during Australia’s summer, between May and August, when temperatures are more comfortable as summers bring intense heat. You’ll still need a wide-brimmed hat, lots of sunscreen and sunglasses to keep you protected from the sun, along with a lightweight rain jacket and warmer clothes for wet days and chillier nights.
Shambhala Mountain Center, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
This 600-acre retreat is located in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado, about 50 miles northwest of Fort Collins. Here, guests can create their own personal retreat package or register for a variety of programs that range from an “Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” to “The Path of Simply Being” and nature-based programs with an interdisciplinary focus on astronomy. Stay for a weekend, a week or even a month to embark on a journey of self-exploration focusing on mindful living, body awareness or personal transformation. Lodging options include everything from tent platforms, where you’ll have the chance to truly immerse yourself in the gorgeous surroundings to lodge suites with modern amenities. The property also features eight miles of trails where guests can practice active meditation by running, hiking or snowshoeing.
Kumano Ancient Trail, Japan
Made popular by emperors over a thousand years ago, the Kumano Ancient Trail is situated in the Kii Mountains south of Osaka, and leads to three sacred shrines, multiple protector shrines and tea houses, providing particularly stunning views along the way. The trek itself was an integral part of the pilgrimage process, as emperors and aristocrats undertook rigorous religious rites of worship and purification. It offers an unforgettable, awe-inspiring experience of the unique cultural landscape of the region’s spiritual countryside. And, you can also look forward to soothing your aches and pains at the end of each day with hot spring hotels never far away.
Stillpoint Lodge, Halibut Cove, Alaska
This remote, isolated lodge in Halibut Cove, sits at the edge of Kachemak Bay Park in Alaska. It offers guided meditation and yoga, along with a labyrinth for walking meditations that are complemented by breathtaking surrounding wilderness that allows guests to truly get back to nature. It also features a poustinia, or silent meditation space, that comes complete with a pillowed floor and subtle lighting for serenity and stillness, 24 hours a day. Visitors are likely to spot all types of wildlife too, including bears, whales, sea otters and seals. Look forward to meals that are focused on local ingredients, including many from the property’s own organic garden, like fresh-caught oysters, mussels, salmon and halibut. Hiking and paddling among the icebergs are just a few of the popular outdoor activities available.
Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California
Set atop the dramatic cliffs of California’s central coast, the Esalen Institute offers one of the most awe-inspiring settings one can imagine. Guests can enjoy soul-seeking meditation and mindfulness workshops in this historic lodge that’s hosted many legendary guests over the years, including world-famous spiritual people like Deepak Chopra as well as celebrities like singer Joan Baez and actor Steve McQueen. An array of various meditation practices are offered, from tantric to Buddhist, depending on the particular workshop. There are over 500 workshops on the menu, all focused on different subjects including mindfulness as well as massage and martial arts. Of course, outdoor activities are available too, like hiking through the lush forest or kayaking in the ocean.