Organizing a religious retreat can be a stressful time, as religious planners must select a venue that accommodates all students’ needs. Fortunately, there are several sites that also offer convenient accommodations and guest guidelines to ensure visitors’ comfort and safety. Several locations offer places for meditation and prayer and prompt students to leave their troubles behind, rest and be present in the moment. With that, here are our top five travel locations for religious retreats.
Bring Birthright Trips to Israel
Jewish college students all around the world are excitedly gearing up for their long-awaited young adult retreat in Israel: Birthright. Maybe their older siblings have attended the retreat and told tales of life-altering experiences, and now these young adults are ready to make their own lasting memories. So what should you expect on your Birthright trip to Israel? Israel is geographically small, so trips allow you to truly engage in all of its beauty on nature walks and hiking excursions. Visit the big cities like Tel Aviv and the resort city of Eilat to soak up the rich culture and experience firsthand the famous sites and smells. Of course, you’ll have the chance to engage with your own spirituality and personal connections with those on your retreat. While strolling through the Old City of Jerusalem or experiencing Shabbat in the religion’s homeland, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about other Jewish participants on the trip and improve your own interpersonal relationships through meditation and discourse.
Journey to a Jesuit Retreat House
Located approximately 35 minutes from O’Hare International Airport in Barrington, Illinois, the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House generously extends hospitable services and cozy lodging to parochial schools, churches and other partners in ministry. According to their website, Bellarmine’s mission is “to foster the spiritual development of Catholics and other people of faith through a variety of retreats and contemporary programs that are grounded in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.” Bellarmine offers a variety of spiritual experiences, such as Kairos retreats for young adults and privately-led religious outings. Consisting of 80 acres of breathtaking meadows and wooded lands, Bellarmine’s first retreat occurred in 1948. Since then the religious home has been the sight of unforgettable spiritual memories that last a lifetime. The retreat house is furnished with several sacred spaces, meeting rooms and lodging areas and supplies a wide range of diverse menu options for its student guests. Bellarmine guarantees spaces of quiet reflection and meditation along with many spirituality programs that will surely fit the plans for your retreat.
Tour Sacred Tibetan Temples in Nepal
Enjoy a guided tour of the Kopan Monastery, a peaceful religious community located north of the historical Buddhist town of Boudhanath in Nepal. Students can revel in the spiritual, contemplative nature of the monastery and relish in the group and private retreats that the venue supplies annually as part of its course program. Whether you wish to book a day visit or retreat, the monastery provides visitors with specific and general course and retreat guidelines to maximize their time at the site while remaining respectful of those who live there. Kopan Monastery offers residential facilities situated in gorgeous garden areas to ensure comfortable, reasonably-priced accommodations. A dining room with a modern kitchen is also available. On the premises, there are several things for school groups to do, including praying at the morning puja with monks in the main prayer hall, meditating in the luscious gardens, walking around the stupas, spinning prayer wheels, browsing through books at the library, studying in the cyber cafe or just simply enjoying the view of the Kathmandu Valley. Don’t miss your chance to immerse your group in the thoughtful, relaxing atmosphere of the warm and welcoming Kopan Monastery.
A Pilgrimage to Mecca
Visit the holy city of Islam and find that the city isn’t just for those on this pilgrimage; Mecca in Saudi Arabia is a magnificent city for embarking on a spiritual journey. Students of all faiths have the chance to soak up the majestic edifices and moving points of interest on this trip, even if you’re not officially part of a Hajj—the annual pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site. Be amazed by the impressive architecture of the city and go sightseeing at the Kaaba, Black Stone or Station of Ibrahim. Revel in the spiritual atmosphere of these sites and clear your mind of your past troubles, allowing yourself to be present and mindful of the religious significance of these attractions. Learn more about the architectural development and advancement of the city and tour places like the Abraj Al-Bait Towers, which are filled with restaurants, malls, cafes and shops right next to the Grand Mosque. Here’s your chance to venture on a journey of spiritual awareness and growth in the awe-inspiring city of Mecca.
Host Holi Along the Holy Ganges
Have you ever considered teaching students about the festival of Holi or any other religious festival in Hinduism’s homeland? Here’s your chance to get up close and personal with the religion by traveling to the sacred banks of the Ganges River. A tour down the Ganges provides a paradox for India’s bustling streets and busy marketplaces, as its calming and tranquil atmosphere puts your mind at ease. Several of the historical monuments and sites that are of particular importance to Hinduism often go overlooked in guidebooks, as they may be small, hidden sights that only locals know of. Fortunately, with a docent-led tour of the river and its surroundings, you won’t miss a beat of the fun, festivities and religious hotspots right off the river. For instance, Murshidabad, home of the Hazarduari Palace and Katra Mosque, is a tiny village of the Bengali Nawabs and one of the many charming, compact townships along the river. In the hectic streets of India by yourself, you might not have the opportunity to fully appreciate important edifices of Hinduism such as these. However, a guided tour down the Ganges will surely allow you to soak up the spiritual relevance of the majestic river and its surroundings.