This post was produced in partnership with our friends at Black Book Travel. Read our interview with the company’s co-founder and shaman guide, Jon Rasmussen.


Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion, in 301 AD, and ever since it has been a fierce protector of both its spiritual beliefs and holy sites. It's the birthplace of Christian Gnosticism and is also known as the "country of 1,000 churches," one of which is the Khor Virap monastery, pictured above. The peak in the background is Turkey's Mt. Ararat where, according to biblical tradition, Noah's Ark came aground after the flood.Photo via Black Book Travel


Chile's Araucanía Region

This region of south-central Chile is home to the Mapuche people, who were one of the last resistors of European hegemony in the New World, and today are engaged in protests over land rights in both Chile and Argentina. Traditional religious leaders called Machi, primarily women, remain active in Mapuche culture. The Machi perform ceremonies for curing diseases, warding off evil, and influencing weather, harvests, social interactions, and dreams. They have extensive knowledge of Chilean medicinal herbs and sacred stones and animals.Photo via Black Book Travel


Chichen Itza, Yucatán, Mexico

2013 seems like a good time to dispel the common misconceptions about Maya spiritual beliefs and learn how they remain relevant in today's world. The photo above was taken at Chichen Itza, the best-known Maya archaeological site, but there are many other ruins, as well as living communities, throughout southern Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala.Photo: theilr


Point Lobos, California

Jon Rasmussen, shaman and co-founder of Black Book Travel, says Point Lobos is "perhaps the most powerful vortex on the Pacific Coast (huaca in Quechua -- a place where the veil between the physical and non-physical worlds is very thin). And of course this connects down to Big Sur and the Ventana Wilderness." Spiritual seekers pursue vision quests in the Ventana backcountry.Photo: W Mustafeez


Kairouan, Tunisia

The country that birthed the Arab Spring is also home to the Great Mosque of Sidi-Uqba, one of Islam's holiest sites. It can be enlightening to step out of the Middle East and see how the religion is manifested in other corners of the Muslim world.Photo: EvanManphis


Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India

Though it has already passed, the festival of Kumbh Mela deserves a mention -- it's considered the largest religious gathering in the world. It's held every three years, alternating among four Indian cities, with the Allahabad iteration being the best attended. During the event, pilgrims gather at the confluence of three holy rivers for ritual bathing.Photo: Roshan Raj - Explorer


Carnac, France

Carnac, on the coast of northwestern France, is home to one of the largest collections of prehistoric standing stones, erected some time between 4500 and 3300 BC. The 3,000+ stones are arranged in several different alignments and share the ground with multiple tumuli and dolmens marking grave sites. Some believe the stones were installed as conduits to tap into the energy that permeates the area around Carnac.Photo: mat's eye


Lalibela, Ethiopia

One of the holiest sites in Ethiopia is this complex of stone-cut, Ethiopian Orthodox Christian churches. The layout of the site is thought to mirror that of Jerusalem, suggesting that it was constructed as a response to the holy city's fall to Saladin in the 12th century. The churches remain active today, home to priests, monks, and worshipers, and serving as religious sanctuary for pilgrims who come from all over the world.Photo: DamienHR


Far North Queensland, Australia

Most people see Uluru as the spiritual symbol of the continent, but Australia's indigenous cultures and spiritual traditions are as diverse as its landscapes. The Kuku Yalanji people live in Far North Queensland, the rainforested peninsula that comprises Australia's northernmost point and ends just a few dozen miles shy of New Guinea. They lead visitors on treks to the sacred Mossman Gorge, first performing a smoking ceremony for purification.Photo via Black Book Travel



Dozens of distinct biomes make up the country of Peru. The Andean lowlands are covered in jungle, where shamans can be engaged to lead visitors in an Ayahuasca session. In the Andean region of Cusco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is lined with archaeological sites, and the Q'ero practice a religion that mixes elements of Christianity with the region's traditional worship of Mother Earth. And further south, near the city of Arequipa, the world's deepest canyon cuts through desert rock. Colca Canyon is one of the best places on the continent to see condors (shown above).Photo: gudi&cris



Just across the northeastern border of Botswana, in Zambia/Zimbabwe, the Zambezi River transforms into Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall system on Earth. Further south, in central Botswana, lies the heart of the Kalahari Desert, where the shamans of the Kalahari people practice traditional spiritual rites that are the legacy of one of the world's oldest cultures.Photo via Black Book Travel


Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Centuries ago, the Ancient Puebloans made their home within the protective walls of this canyon; today it is inhabited by members of the Navajo Nation, who also administer the US National Monument grounds that encompasses it. The red rock walls of the canyon are said to possess healing energy, as are many other sites within the Four Corners region.Photo: Wolfgang Staudt


Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India

For Buddhist pilgrims, there is no more sacred site than that where Gautama Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. According to legend, it happened here at Bodh Gaya, at the base of a bodhi tree. Today, the site is surrounded by well-visited temples. Pictured above are decorative markers used in the practice of walking meditation.Photo: lylevincent


Linville Gorge, North Carolina

Linville Gorge is one of the few places in the Blue Ridge Mountains where you'll find old-growth forest -- the steep terrain has made logging, as well as human settlement, impractical. It's part of a US Forest Service-maintained wilderness area, popular with hikers, campers, and climbers. Several sites within the gorge, and at nearby Brown Mountain, are said to possess significant healing energies.Photo: Jdshepard


Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

This western extension of County Kerry has a long historical connection to both Celtic and monastic Christian spiritual traditions. Pictured above is the Gallarus Oratory, thought to be an early Christian church, and there are numerous henges and other stone sites in the area. Jon Rasmussen of Black Book Travel says: "One of my absolute favorite places."Photo: Enrique__