Don't let the stresses of life's daily grind eat at your mind. Take some time out to de-stress, re-live, and cleanse the soul on a spiritual journey like no other.
Photo: Kuni Takanami
Vipassana Meditation Centre, Blue Mountains
With its deep Aboriginal heritage, dramatic landscapes, and listing as a World Heritage Site, Australia's Blue Mountains are just the place for a soul escape. The Vipassana Meditation Centre offers a unique spiritual package in a gorgeous retreat on the edge of the Blue Mountains: 10-day meditation courses run solely on a donation basis, meaning there are no official charges for the course, accommodation or food.
For those who need five-star luxury to help soothe the soul, the Maldives is a paradise guaranteed to relax. Whether it’s lounging by the pool, indulging at an overwater spa, doing yoga on the beach at sunset or even just finding time to connect with nature, the Maldives has it all. The tropical lagoons, pristine beaches, luxurious resorts and amazing natural beauties hiding below the ocean will all have you smiling at the world again in no time.
The home of enlightenment, Tibet is said to be the ultimate soul cleanse. There are a number of tours that offer soulful journeys to beautiful Tibet, focussing on yoga, meditation, trekking, visiting cultural and historical sites, and even visiting Buddhist monasteries. Alternatively, take on a volunteering role where you can stay with a host family and teach English at a local school.
Isolated far out on Lake Tana lies Tana Kirkos Island in Ethiopia. The source of the Blue Nile and the largest lake in Ethiopia, it’s believed that this is the hiding place for the Ark of the Covenant. Treasures and remains of ancient Ethiopian emperors are said to be kept in the isolated island monasteries. Guarded by monks, the island can still be visited by those seeking peace.
Mentawai Islands, Indonesia
Revive a weary soul at a surf and yoga retreat on a private island in Indonesia’s gorgeous Mentawai Island region. For those wanting to get away from it all, check into an eco retreat covered in lush tropical foliage and fringed by a transparent lagoon or jump aboard a surf safari boat and island hop from one surf break to another. Spend a week or two surfing in paradise, practicing yoga, eating freshly-prepared healthy meals and taking in the wonders of living simply and your soul will surely thank you.
Photo: Kuni Takanami
Home to some of the most dramatic scenery in the world, birth place of Buddha and framed by the awe-inspiring Himalayas, Nepal captivates visitors with its beauty, mysticism and gentle, spiritual people. This landlocked country between India and China has a long history that is both tumultuous and deeply spiritual. Many travellers come to Nepal for meditation, yoga and healing retreats in the Himalayas, or to embark on challenging yet rewarding treks and climbs. Aside from climbing sections of the highest mountain peak in the world, Mt Everest, other routes include the Everest Base Camp Trek and the Around Annapurna trek.
Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
One of the most beautiful places on earth, Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula boasts more than 6000 years of history from the Mesolithic period right through the Stone age, Bronze and Iron ages, Early Christian period, Viking and Medieval periods to now. The fresh air, abundant nature, and treasure trove of archaeological sites will surely soothe a stressed soul, while activities such as horse riding, surfing, cycling, canoeing and fishing will get you one-on-one with nature and far away from the usual daily grind.
Travellers looking for a deep soul cleanse should challenge themselves to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru. Along the trail you will journey through the Andes mountain range where you will come across native highlanders, pass through stunning Andean environments and Incan ruins. While the trek is incredibly physical, many attest to wondrous spiritual gain upon completion. The Lost City of the Incas, or Machu Picchu, is purportedly built on a sacred site with strong astrological significance. Others claim it was built to house the Gods.
India’s cultural capital, Varanasi, commonly known as Banaras or Benares, sits along the sacred River Ganges where pilgrims and locals alike come to bathe in the holy waters. A few days in this holy city rich in history, book stores, yoga centres, temples and local culture, will give you a soul cleanse like no other. Take a walk along the famous Ghats, hire a boat-man to guide you along the river, or sit and sip chai high above the city at a rooftop café.
Mark Twain once said about the city: "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together."
Sit in reflection under the famous Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya where Gautama Buddah received enlightenment (Nirvana) during deep meditation more than 2500 years ago. Located in the Bihar state in northeastern India, Bodh Gaya is the most important of the four Buddhist pilgrimage sites and is visited by tourists and pilgrims alike. Alongside the scared tree you can’t miss the stunning Mahabodhi Temple (Great Awakening Temple), a UNESCO World Heritage site.