People have been making pilgrimage for hundreds of years, mostly with a religious motivation behind their epic journeys. However, it is a modern day trend that to go on a pilgrimage can be a leisure pursuit and this is becoming more and more popular.
In past ages the only chance for people to leave their villages is when they went on pilgrimage, but the modern day pilgrim need not have any religious purpose to want to walk these ancient paths, apart from just enjoying the scenery.
For our first pilgrimage we travel to Japan, and to a UNESCO World Heritage Site named Kumano Kodo. Actually rather than being a single trail Kumano Kodo is a series of paths that traverse the mountains of the Kii Peninsula.
The paths all lead to the same place, namely Kumano, which is the home of several Shinto shrines, and the pilgrimage is enjoyed today by religious people as well as many photographers, nature lovers, and hikers.
La Via Francigena
La Via Francigena was one of the most popular pilgrimages of the Middle Ages, and the walk is meant to date back to the 7th Century C.E. This epic trail starts in Canterbury and ends in Rome, with a vast proportion of it being in France.
It is not the most popular modern walk, as the length and time of the trail is rather prohibitive. And due to the lack of accommodation along the way many pilgrims have to camp out as part of this great trail. If it is comfort you are looking for then this walk may not be for you.
The Abraham Path
This trail is a non-religious walk but roughly follows the path that Abraham followed when he was journeying in the Middle East. Similar to our first Japanese walk, The Abraham Path is a series of trails that take in Turkey, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine. The path was redeveloped in places during 2007, and currently from end to end it is two thousand kilometers long. As most of the path is still undeveloped it is advisable not to take this pilgrimage by yourself.
The Pilgrims Way
Located solely in England, this walk starts in Winchester, and winds its way across the country in the south of England to its finish point in historic Canterbury. There is the shrine of Thomas Becket who was a prominent figure during the Middle Ages and was actually a living saint.
The trail is fairly well mapped, but there is dispute as whether a pilgrimage route from Winchester to Canterbury ever really existed. This walk is a wonderful way to see this part of England, there are plenty of things to see as you progress on your walk including charming villages and towns.
Because of the good infrastructure for most parts of this walk it is ideal for the solo traveler as well as groups. And part of the route is through the wonderful North Downs and its National Trail which delivers great scenic sights. These great modern walks take the pilgrim to enchanting places steeped in history and can be trodden by any keen walker.