We may read from different scriptures and observe different rituals, but when we step inside a house of worship of any tradition, it's hard not to feel that palpable, familiar atmosphere that sets a place apart as sacred.
Perched on mountaintops and nestled into busy cities are some of the world's most dazzling sacred sites. If you're looking for a spiritual pilgrimage, then look no further than these remarkable houses of worship around the globe.
From the red rocks of Arizona to the bustling streets of Moscow, these sacred sites are sure to inspire some wanderlust:
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Thailand's Wat Rong Khun, or White Temple, attracts thousands of tourists every year with its intricate carvings depicting surprisingly modern figures and themes
, including aliens, Superman, and scenes from "The Matrix."
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Built in the early 18th century, Russia's Church of the Transfiguration features an octagonal spruce and pine log framework with 22 domes covered with birch bark. Construction of the wooden structure began in 1714, and it is said to have been built without a single nail
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Popa Taungkalat Monastery is situated in the shadow of the nearby Mount Popa, a famous pilgrimage site in Myanmar. Visitors can climb 777 steps
to this secluded Buddhist monastery to explore numerous shrines and see breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
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The Chapel of the Holy Cross springs out of Sedona's famous red rock and is considered one of Arizona's seven man-made wonders
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Thailand's Sanctuary of Truth is an all-wood building
filled with sculptures based on traditional Buddhist and Hindu motifs. It is covered in intricate wood carvings, meant to depict complex ideas about ancient thought, human responsibility, and the cycle of life.
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The Tempio Maggiore, or Great Synagogue, of Florence took eight years to build
and opened its doors in 1882 near the historic center of the Italian city. It was intended to serve the local Sephardi community, and its design echoes motifs from the Moorish architecture of Spain.
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The Roussanou Monastery is one of six precarious religious sites
that rise out of Greece's rock cliffs. The cliffs were first inhabited in the 9th century by hermit monks. Centuries later, the secluded rock pillars provided monks with protection from political upheaval. Although the Meteora rock formation once held 20 monasteries, only six survive today.
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The Sacré-Cœur sits atop the hill of Montmartre, Paris's artistic district. Not only is it one of the most important European basilicas
, but it provides a breathtaking panoramic view of Paris' skyline. Visitors can climb 270 steps to the top of the Sacré-Cœur for an unforgettable experience.
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The Malacca Straits Mosque is located on a man-made island in Malaysia. This gorgeous mosque is also called the "Floating Mosque
" for an illusion it gives off of sitting right on top of the water.
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This metropolitan cathedral is truly a masterpiece. The innovative hyperboloid structure was designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer
and is full of intricate details, from the suspended angels to the sweeping columns.
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is the largest religious site in the world
, expanding across 162.6 hectares of land. What is now the Angkor Archaeological Park once served as the center of the Khmer Empire, a dominating force in Southeast Asia from the 9th to the 15th century. The inhabited park is intimately connected to nature, and part of its land remains a forest.
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This intricate temple complex dates back to the 15th century, and in 1998 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site
. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is the three-tiered centerpiece to a number of complex structures, each built according to rigid philosophical guidelines.
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With its sleek white architecture and tranquil reflecting pool, Abu Dhabi's grand mosque stuns day and night. It is the largest and most important mosque
in the United Arab Emirates, drawing over 41,000 people for Eid prayers.
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This whimsical cathedral is renowned as Antoni Gaudí's principal architectural masterpiece
. The design is so intricate that the cathedral was not finished in Gaudí's lifetime; it has been under construction since 1882 and is scheduled to be finished in 2026, marking the centennial of Gaudí's death. Don't miss the incredible stained glass interior.
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Located in the heart of Old Montreal, the Notre-Dame basilica is not only an important place of worship, but also a key Canadian landmark
. Instead of depicting scenes from the Bible, the Basilica's stained glass features scenes from Montreal's religious history.
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Located near the border of Colombia and Ecuador, the Las Lajas Sanctuary is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful basilicas in the world. The precarious gothic revival structure is built into the canyon of the Guaitara River, connecting the two banks. The church was constructed in honor of two legendary miracles
, and its miraculous location surely pays tribute to these origins.
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Saint Basil's Cathedral is the focal point of Moscow's Red Square, its bright colors bound to capture any visitor's eye. This UNESCO World Heritage site's
unique architecture resembles a bonfire, with its multi-layered towers rising up towards the sky like flames.