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You don’t have to be religious to get something out of a visit to a pilgrimage site.

Inspired architecture, a heavenly bit of peace and quiet and the chance to see ancient religious traditions still being practised today are just a few of the potential highlights, even for the staunchest of atheists.

As for the devoted or the not-really-sures, if you do manage to score some divine one-on-one time communing with the big guy in the sky, well that certainly would be a bonus. 


1. Lotus temple, India

India spoils you for choice with its many spiritual sites, from the Islamic Taj Mahal to the Hindu stone carvings of Mumbai’s Elephanta caves.

But the Lotus Temple in Delhi is definitely one to stick on your must-see list, as it’s one of the most actively inclusive holy places in the world.

A Bahá’í House of Worship, it welcomes people of any or no faith through its doors.

Prayers and scriptures from other religions are allowed to be recited inside too – this isn’t to say anyone will appreciate it if you start reeling off chunks of the Star Wars’ Jedi Code at top volume.

But if you’re discreet and respectful, pretty much anything goes, and the main hall has fixed times for prayer sessions of different faiths.

The temple doubles up as a learning centre, as there’s an information centre and library where you can read up on the monotheistic Bahá’í Faith, ask the volunteers questions or watch religion-based films throughout the day.

The man, woman, animal or Wookie upstairs aside, this is still a tremendous place to visit.

Inspired, obviously, by the lotus flower, its design features 27 free-standing marble petals arranged in clusters to form nine sides, which is a traditional feature of a Bahá’í temple.

Nine ponds surround the marble lotus, which makes it look like it’s floating on water, too.

The creative design has won the Lotus Temple countless architecture awards and other accolades for its dramatic illuminations at night – after dark, the curved petals are flooded with blue, gold and green light.


2. The Vatican, Italy

The Vatican’s website has a rather unsettling picture of His Holiness, surrounded by twinkling stars and reaching out as if to give you a sharp clip around the ear.

But don’t let that put you off a visit to Vatican City.

The Sistine Chapel’s ceilings are there to crane your neck at, as well as St Peter’s Basilica and the Apostolic Palace.

If you make it on a Sunday, you’ll probably get to catch a glimpse of the Pope, too.


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