The pilgrimage sites you haven’t heard of

From a forbidden city in Morocco to a dog shrine in Vermont, we explore odd and fascinating mystical journeys

Topics: Trazzler, Slide Shows, Travel, slideshow,

Most modern places of pilgrimage didn’t take off until medieval times or later, but the impulse to hit the road in search of a transformative experience is an ancient one. There is nearly always a magical or religious element: time off in purgatory, healing miracles, increased luck in love, seeing the future, or payback for answered prayers. (Of course, for the destinations, it’s also an ancient form of marketing that brings in funds from near and far.) Still, many pilgrims are equally motivated by the secular and social aspects of the journey — the rituals, physical challenge, communal spirit along the way, and most of all (as Chaucer’s 14th-century “Canterbury Tales” captured so well), the exchange of stories.

For every Mecca, Lourdes, Fatima and Bodh Gaya, there are hundreds of smaller, lesser-known sites around the world. That they are often quirky and surreal — and draw a modern-day cast of characters diverse and colorful enough for countless tales — is all part of the pilgrimage construct. These 14 places run the gamut, from mountaintops to a lotus flower behemoth to a tiny chapel dedicated to dogs.

You can find many more places of pilgrimage on Trazzler.

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    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

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    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

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    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

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    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

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    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

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    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

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    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

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    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

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    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

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    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

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