Millions of people from all over the world come to India, ‘the land of faith’, seeking spiritual fulfilment at its awe-inspiring centres of worship. Fortunately, most of the pilgrim sites in our country are tucked away in corners blessed with unparalleled natural splendour. In the revered land of temples and saints, here’s our pick of top 5 destinations that you can visit in the new year.
★ Puri: The land of Rath Yatra and blissful beaches, Puri in Odisha is a world-renowned pilgrimage destination as it houses the illustrious Jagannath Temple, one of the Char Dhams in India. Also hailed as the resting place of Lord Shiva, its impressive history dates back to the 3rd century BC. Apart from its religious significance, the place has a lot to offer to tourists in terms of cultural experiences, heritage sites, architectural wonders and a stunning coastline.
How to Reach: Although Puri does not have its own air-base, the nearest airport is close by, approximately 49 km away in Bhubaneshwar.
Nearest Airport: Biju Patnaik International Airport (BBI)
★ Rameshwaram: Situated on a beautiful island in Southern India, this holy town has one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Lord Shiva and is also a part of the Char Dham circuit. Holding a special place in Hindu mythology, it is the site where Lord Rama worshipped and repented after killing the demon king Ravanna. Apart from its divine air, Rameshwaram is celebrated for its incredible architecture and culture including the famous Ramanathaswamy Temple, which houses the longest corridor in the world.
How to Reach: In order to reach Rameshwaram by air, you can book a flight to the nearest airport to Rameshwaram i.e. Madurai airport, located at a distance of about 174 km.
Nearest Airport: Madurai Airport (IXM), Madurai
★ Shirdi: A must-visit for the devotees of the great saint Sai Baba, the small town of Shirdi is blessed with a few historic places and religious sites that will soothe your soul. Carrying an air of lingering spirituality and holy chants, Shirdi is both grand and simple at the same time.
How to Reach: Passengers who want to book an air ticket to Shirdi can take a flight to the nearest destination, Aurangabad and then book a bus or cab ride.
Nearest Airport: Aurangabad Airport (IXU)
★ Vaishno Devi: Beckoning devotees from her abode high up in the mountains, Mata Vaishno Devi presides in mysterious caves over the breathtaking Trikuta Hills in Jammu. Undertaking an arduous trek to the top makes for a thrilling adventure, one that remains etched in the memory forever. While ‘Navaratri’ is considered to be the most auspicious time to visit Mata Vaishno Devi cave temples, it is thronged by pilgrims all round the year.
How to Reach: In order to reach Vaishno Devi by air, tourists can book a flight to Jammu which is situated at a distance of about 34 km.
Nearest Airport: Jammu Civil Enclave (IATA: IXJ, ICAO: VIJU), Jammu & Kashmir
★ Varanasi: The spiritual capital of India and the world’s oldest living city, Kashi, Banaras or Varanasi is a renowned centre of faith for Hindus as well as Buddhists. Spiritually blessed, the heart of the city pulsates around the holy Ganga which meanders throughout Varanasi and amplifies its sanctity. An auspicious place, devotees believe in the city’s power to provide ‘moksha’ and cleanse sins. A ritualistic aarti is performed at the ghats of Ganga at dawn every day, adding to the divinity of this sacred city.
How to Reach: With an international airport, Varanasi receives domestic flights from all the major cities in India along with some direct international flights.
Nearest Airport: Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport (IATA: VNS, ICAO: VEBN), Babatpur
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