Cemeteries hardly seem like “destination-worthy” tourist attractions. But, some are so beautiful, strange, or downright fascinating that visitors flock to them by the tens or hundreds of thousands each year. It’s not surprising when you consider it’s a lot more fun to visit a cemetery as a “tombstone tourist” when you’re actually, you know, alive. With that in mind, here are four of the world’s best cemeteries worth traveling to see.
Charleston aside, few cities nail the spooky-beautiful-charming Southern vibe like Savannah, Georgia. Nowhere is this more evident than in the city’s Bonaventure Cemetery. Stands of massive, centuries-old live oak trees draped in Spanish moss canopy the historic burial grounds which are perched on a scenic bluff overlooking the Wilmington River. The 100 acres here include significant tombstones, sculpture gardens, and Southern Gothic monuments. Plus, the cemetery has appeared in numerous Hollywood flicks including Clint Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. If you’re into that sort of thing …
My concentration is completely focused on footfalls, specifically where my feet are landing among the cedar roots that form a natural staircase. I’m ascending Mount Tsurugi, on the Kii Peninsula, from the Takijiri-oji Shrine, on an 11-day trip thats covers the famous Kumano Kodo trail.
When I first set out on this pilgrimage, my goal was to escape the inescapable — a never-ending stream of U.S. political updates and urban clatter. The first Japanese emperor to hike the trail did so in the 11th century, after his retirement — possibly to seek absolution for his courtly life and imperial decisions.
I was invited by REI Adventures to hike the Kumano Kodo and Nakasendo trails with five other hikers, to experience this new trip. It’s part of their level-two offerings, which are designed for leisurely hikers — those who prefer no pre-trip calisthenics and like to conclude a few mellow hours on the trail with a soft bed and warm, multicourse meal.
These powerful images show both struggle and strength.
A daring sea rescue saved the lives of more than 100 refugees and migrants off the coast of Libya. Hawaii residents watched molten lava overtake their cars and homes. And flooding in Kenya killed more than 40 people. Meanwhile, signs of hope popped up in Iraq, India, and Turkey, as people celebrated the return of nice weather.
Global Citizen is bringing you these photos, and more, from around the world this week.
1. Migrant Crisis: Refugees and migrants were rescued by members of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms on May 6, after leaving Libya trying to reach European soil aboard an overcrowded rubber boat. In total, 105 refugees and migrants from various countries — including Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, Ghana, Pakistan, Sudan, Libya, Eritrea, and Senegal — were rescued north of the Libyan coast.
2. Hawaii Volcano: This photo, provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, shows a lava lake at the summit of Kilauea near Pahoa, Hawaii, on May 6.
From a Norwegian shrine for a Viking king to the healing waters of mystical lagoons in Peru, these sacred paths will have you lacing up your boots and strapping on a pack.
Ready for your next big slow-travel adventure? Try these pilgrimages on for size. These ancient routes are a literal trek through history and cultural heritage, with stunning natural and architectural wonders along the way. And don’t worry: You won’t need a month of vacation time or marathon-level fitness to tackle these famous paths, either.
Mystical Healing and Sacred Lagoons Lagunas de las Huaringas, Peru
Hidden in the misty mountains near Huancabamba, this complex of 14 sacred lagoons sits at an altitude of over 13,000 feet above sea level. Too far from Lima or Cusco to be on the beaten path for most visitors to Peru, locals come here to be healed in the holy but ice-cold lagoons with the help of curanderos, or medicine men. Start your route in Salalá.
Cherry blossom season is rapidly approaching and it will soon be time for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) across the country. Hanami is a tradition that is hundreds of years old and is enormously popular to this day. Here are 20 spots The Japan Times recommends for viewing sakura (cherry blossoms) across Japan in 2018, starting in Hokkaido in the far north of the country, and moving through Honshu and onward to Kyushu in the south.
We’ve provided the forecasted blossoming times for each spot, but for more detailed and up-to-date predictions, visit the map on the Tenki Navigator website.
Goryokaku Park (Hokkaido Prefecture)
Goryokaku Park is iconic not only for its unusual star shape, but also for the 1,600 cherry trees that bloom during spring. Visitors can rent a boat and row the moat surrounding the park to see the cherry blossoms from below.
Blossoms from late April to early May
Sakura Festival: none
Map link: https://goo.gl/maps/5bysNe73KxD2
Hirosaki Park (Aomori Prefecture)
Hirosaki Park in Aomori Prefecture has 2,600 cherry trees, comprised of 50 different varieties.
The Kii Peninsula is a land of ancient spiritual paths and holy mountains. Until the Meiji Era (1868-1912), the peninsula was the site of the Kii Province. Now, a part of Wakayama Prefecture, the area is famous for onsen (hot springs), fish and produce like mikan (mandarin oranges) and ume (plums), and is home to temperate rainforests, mountains and a beautiful coastline. The prefecture is known as a place of rich cultural heritage, in part because of its connection to the Kii Province and the Kumano Kodo trail, but also because of the many traditional arts that are practiced there, including aikido, which was founded by Morihei Ueshiba in Wakayama.
For thousands of years, the Kii Peninsula was a site of worship for both Buddhism and Shintoism, thanks to shinbutsu shūgō, the pre-Meiji Era syncretic practice of the two beliefs. Though Shintoism and Buddhism are now separated into their present-day, distinct forms, the peninsula is considered to be holy by members of both religions.
An ancient pilgrimage trail winds through the mountains of Japan’s Kii Peninsula, a densely forested region south of Osaka and Kyoto. It is the Kumano Kodo, a sacred passage of immense natural beauty that has been in use since the 10th century and yet is remote enough that it stays off the beaten path.
That is one of the reasons the trek feels otherworldly—you might walk through the woods for an entire day without seeing another person. It is a stark contrast from the crowds of tourists hiking Mount Fuji, nearly 300 miles away.
It’s impossible to forget the Shinto origins of this route when every couple hundred yards is another crumbling stone deity or Oji shrine. From moss-covered stones forming makeshift stairs on the mountainside to wooden bridges smooth with decades of use, not much has changed on the trail. There are early recorded visits to this region by Emperor Uda (907) and Emperor Kazan (986 and 987) but the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage became more broadly popular in the 11th century.
“Your eyes should be neither open nor closed,” explained the monk at the front of the room. “They should be sort of sleepy — like a Buddha.” It was my first time meditating, and I was anxious about making some sort of conspicuous misstep. I squinted, then tried to relax my eyelids, but inadvertently began to focus on the bright orange cushion of the person in front of me. I closed my eyes with an inward sigh of exasperation at having such a difficult time following instructions. The monk leading the session told us cheerfully that it might help to rest our vision on the tips of our noses.
I was sitting in the carpeted meditation hall of an 1,100-year-old Buddhist temple in Koyasan, in a mountainous region of southeastern Japan.
One of Japan’s most remote and rewarding journeys, the Kumano Kodō hiking route weaves through the mountainous Kii Peninsula, south of Osaka. Once a sacred pilgrimage reserved for emperors and samurai, the ‘Kumano Old Road’ is today open to all modern-day seekers and wanderers.
From old road to World Heritage Site
Even before organised religion existed in Japan, locals worshipped nature in the mystical landscape of the Kii Peninsula. Towering trees, the nation’s tallest waterfall, and the mountains in between were themselves considered kami (gods), and a walk among them became a sacred act. Emperors and samurai kept detailed diaries of their pilgrimages here; one of the earliest was by Fujiwara-no-Munetada (1062–1141), an aristocrat who travelled to Kumano in 1109.
I’ll admit it. I usually celebrate my birthday with a boozy dinner or a long lunch followed by a loosening of the belt notch and a lazy afternoon nap. This year it’s different. I’m spending my birthday hiking the World Heritage Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail through remote mountains and tiny villages in Wakayama Prefecture in Japan.
For at least 1000 years people from all levels of Japanese society, from emperors and aristocrats through to peasants, have made the arduous pilgrimage to Kumano, one of Japan’s oldest sacred sites blessed with verdant mountains, awe-inspiring waterfalls, soothing hot springs and a rich traditional culture.
The pilgrims used a network of routes, now called the Kumano Kodo, which stretches across the mountainous Kii Peninsula and was an integral part of the pilgrimage process as trekkers undertook rigorous religious rites of worship and purification.