People have long been fascinated with the idea of retracing the ancient footsteps of the famed Camino de Santiago. Also known as The Way of Saint James, the immense network of pilgrimage routes winds its way through scenic countries like England, France, and Portugal before ending in northwestern Spain. The final stop brings travelers to the shrine of James the Apostle at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, which is believed to be the saint’s final resting place.
During the Middle Ages, it was considered one of the most significant pilgrimages of Christianity, and it has since regained its global appeal, attracting roughly 200,000 modern-day pilgrims each year. In fact, it’s Europe’s only pilgrimage route recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed in 1993. While some follow the Camino seeking spiritual growth, others—like hikers, cyclists, and even horseback riders—go simply for the thrill of adventure.
Today, The Way of Saint James is considered to be the most popular trail of its kind, but there are still plenty of other inspiring and impressive routes for the aspiring pilgrim to discover—like sacred routes emperors and samurai traversed for thousands of years in Japan, marked by temples and shrines.
From ancient paths that date back to biblical times to more recent, under-the-radar additions, here are a handful of the most epic pilgrimages to be found around the world.