29 Jaw-Dropping Photos Of Holy Places Around The Globe, From Tantric Temples To Cliffside Monasteries

Published December 9, 2022
Updated December 12, 2022

From Greece to Bali, these breathtaking sites around the world have attracted spiritual seekers for centuries — and they're still bringing in countless visitors today.

Have you ever found yourself somewhere that evoked a feeling of transcendence? Maybe it sent shivers down your spine or quickly moved you to tears. Perhaps it even made you feel enlightened in some way. The following sites and holy places from around the world tend to draw out these feelings in visitors.

Para Ulun Danu Bratan
Adams Peak View
Angkor Wat Temple
Boudhanath Stupa
29 Jaw-Dropping Photos Of Holy Places Around The Globe, From Tantric Temples To Cliffside Monasteries
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What is it, exactly, that causes this phenomenon? According to The Guardian, the Celtic Christians called these specific sites thin places — "rare locales where the distance between heaven and Earth collapses."

It's fairly easy to understand how someone may have a visceral reaction to certain religious sites. Traditionally, holy places are already hotbeds of heightened emotions: love, elation, guilt, fear. However, people with no religious affiliation also report that certain sites bring about that feeling of mysterious energy.

So what about those who visit the Andes or some ruins in Mexico and feel as though they could cross over into another plane of existence? Are thin places real, or are there other forces at play?

What If The Earth Itself Creates The Holy Place?

Perhaps it's an energy vortex that's weakening the walls at these sites. As explained by Dwight Garner for The New York Times, these are "spots where the earth's energy is supposedly increased." Furthermore, this could lead to a greater sense of awareness of the world and your place in it.

Many thin places happen to be outdoors, or at least in more remote areas. From as far back as Hippocrates, who claimed that "nature itself is the best physician," according to Harvard University, we've known about the restorative effects of simply being outside.

Why are certain sites or holy places more prone to these effects, though? Perhaps it's less of a vortex and more of a direct force: electromagnetism.

Temple Adams Peak

Vyacheslav Argenberg/Wikimedia CommonsA Buddhist temple at the base of Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka. Every morning at sunrise, hundreds of people climb to the top of the mountain to witness the magical view.

"We're electrical beings living in a magnetic environment," scientist Louis Slesin told Psychology Today. "Because we're finely tuned to subtle energy fields, when they vary, as they would on top of a mountain, we change biologically and psychologically too".

Beneath the surface of the Earth, geophysical forces interact and can cause shifts, the most violent of which cause earthquakes and increased seismic pressure. This can spread electrical fields across large landscapes and through the atmosphere.

"The resulting electromagnetic fields can directly stimulate some observers' brains, provoking psychological phenomena reinforced by their own personal histories," notes Michael Persinger, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario.

Radiation anomalies also exist throughout the universe. It is a natural part of the network of geological forces and at some level could deliver homeopathic doses that could be considered "healing."

How 'Emotional Residue' May Cause A Shift In Perspective

Like other types of energy, emotional residue is the idea that emotions can hang around a physical environment, oftentimes long after the original people who experienced those emotions are gone.

Those of Indian descent are more apt to declare their belief in the power of emotional residue. However, research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that when asked in subtle ways, most of the population agrees. Moreover, they do so intuitively, without being taught the concept.

Blue Mosque Exterior

David Spender/Wikimedia Commons
Some visitors report that the Blue Mosque in Istanbul has such high levels of positive energy that they feel at peace even when amidst the crowd of tourists.

Neuroscience also proves that our actions and thoughts can easily be influenced not only by our genes and history but also by our environment. We readily accept that our development influences our behaviors and thought patterns but somehow discount that where we are in physical space plays into the mix.

Holy Spaces And Thin Places Are Exactly Where You Think They Are

There's also the simple power of suggestion — that a place is as mystical, spiritual, or meaningful as you think it is. If you go in expecting you'll be moved in some way, you probably will be.

Furthermore, Homo sapiens have always craved emotional stimulation, from our earliest artworks to our efforts to understand symbolism.

Going way back in history, most of us made our homes in dark huts with little stimulation surrounding us. Imagine what it would be like to walk into Armenia's 100-foot-long, 65-foot-tall Etchmiadzin Cathedral in 303 C.E., when it was built.

To say it would "blow your mind" is likely an understatement. Today, we can still be incredibly humbled by the sheer size or perceived importance of a place. However, now it takes visiting the peak of a tall mountain or a revered piece of architecture to achieve that same sense of awe.


After learning about these holy places around the world, check out these photos of Okinawa's amazing Shuri Castle. Then, read about the legend of Yggdrasil, the sacred World Tree of Viking lore.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
Cara Johnson
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.