10 Must-See Holy Cities in Asia

    A holy city transcends mere religion or even spirituality. At its core, a venerable holy place provides magnificent insights into other cultures and traditions. Count these ten among the best of the best.

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    Amritsar

    The spiritual home of Sikhism is, remarkably, the most popular tourist target for Non-resident Indians in all of India. No wonder. Amritsar is in Punjab, for one, a veritable country with some 28 million people, and, of course, has a spectacular landmark in the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple – see above).

    Where to stay: Radisson Blu Hotel Amritsar

    Amritsar City Guide

    Lhasa

    The lofty capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China is a natural lure for scores of domestic and international tourists alike. If you can handle the elevation – Lhasa sits over 3.5 km up in the foothills of the Himalayas – the UNESCO World Heritage city is a marvel of marvels. Standouts include the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera Monastery and Norbulingka.

    Where to stay: Four Points by Sheraton Lhasa

    Lhasa City Guide

    Udaipur

    Brilliant Rajasthan’s City of Lakes unfurls a bevy of spiritual treasures, from the City and Lake Palaces to Jag Mandir and the Jagdish Temple.

    Where to stay: Taj Lake Palace Hotel Udaipur

    Udaipur City Guide

    Ise

    Less than two hours from Mie, the home of the Ise Grand Shrine – the most sacred Shinto shrine in Japan – is a small city of 125,000. The Grand Shrine is one of 123 Shinto shrines in the city and resides on the outskirts of Ise-Shima National Park.

    Where to stay: Hotel Kintetsu Aquavilla Ise Shima Mie

    Mie City Guide

    Qufu

    Some 130 km south of Shandong capital Jinan, the small (small for China, that is) city of Qufu is the hometown of Confucius and, specifically, his birthplace, Mount Ni. As a result, the three bellwether cultural sites in the city, the Temple of Confucius, Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1994.

    Where to stay: Sofitel Silver Plaza Hotel Jinan

    Jinan City Guide

    Kandy

    More often than not the first place tourists visit outside of Colombo, Kandy is one of several cultural UNESCO World Heritage gems in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. The pilgrimage bona fides of the hill station city rest entirely with Sri Dalada Maligawa – or the Buddhist Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

    Where to stay: Amaya Hills Resort Kandy

    Kandy City Guide

    Kyoto

    Japan’s go-to UNESCO World Heritage city boasts a singular stash of historic and spiritual landmarks which, all together, make Kyoto wildly popular as a global tourism hub. From the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto to inordinate Michelin star restaurants, the city of 1.5 million people is one for the bucket list.

    Where to stay: Hyatt Regency Kyoto Hotel

    Kyoto City Guide

    Jaipur

    Rajasthan’s other big pilgrimage city is the capital and premier metropolis of the state. Jaipur, the Pink City, is a cornerstone of India’s Golden Triangle tourism circuit and figures prominently on the wish lists of spiritual tourists and architecture buffs alike.

    Where to stay: The Oberoi Rajvilas Resort Jaipur

    Jaipur City Guide

    Varanasi

    The oldest city in India sits on the Ganges and is virtually without rival in the country. The Buddha gave his first public talk close to the city and Hindus link the birth of Varanasi with the deity Shiva. Indeed, it is no surprise that the city in Uttar Pradesh is the “holy capital of India”.

    Where to stay: Ramada Plaza JHV Varanasi Hotel

    Varanasi City Guide

    Lumbini

    No list of this nature is complete without mention of Nepal. After all, the Buddha himself was born in Lumbini – a short trek from the beautiful city of Pokhara – in 563 BCE and spent the first three decades of his life there. As such, the official UNESCO inscription for the city is “Lumbini, Nepal the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha”.

    Where to stay: The Fulbari Resort & Spa Pokhara

    Pokhara City Guide

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