By Julia Austin, Planet Green
Religious, atheist, hippie or hard-core urbanite—everyone needs a little healing now and then. Whether you’re a serenity seeker who travels the world wherever myth and folklore take you, or you need to get out of the city for the first time in ages, these seven healing locations will feed your soul (or at least give you a good detox).
Matsuyama City, Shikoku, Japan
How would you like to bathe in some volcano fault lines? It’s safe, I promise, and Japan is covered in them. Locals often reap the mineral benefits from the springs in the fault lines called onsen. Many onsen sights are the seat of a number of baths, each with different healing properties. One onsen hotspot is Dogo, a luxury spa in Ehimekan on Shikoku Island. Here visitors are treated to hot tea, dumplings and a vast veranda draped in tatami mats for meditation and relaxation.
Shrine to Pele
Mount Kilauea, Hawaii
Sisters will be sisters. These two just happen to cause eruptions and storms. The Goddess Pele is known to preside over volcanoes, while her sister Poli’ahu causes snow storms. When the two fight, Poli’ahu usually wins, causing Pele to erupt and Poli’ahu to send flakes to cool down the situation. On the big island you’ll find the most active volcano—Kilauea—acting in mysterious ways. The volcano oozes lava along the ground rather than from the top, making the whole island appear to be glowing. Devotees of Pele leave bouquets, booze and berries here as offerings.
Lago de Atitlán
Hidden up in the Guatemalan highlands you’ll find the mystical village of San Marcos La Laguna. Some of the sites you’ll catch here are three active volcanoes, wild orchids, ancient Mayan communities and Lago de Atitlan, a 1,000-foot-deep collapsed volcano filled with water. The belief that San Marcos emits a healing energy could be why meditation and massage centers, as well as yoga studios, have sprung up all along the outskirts. Other activities you’ll find in this calm community: dawn meditation and relaxation yoga classes, tarot reading and energy-channeling classes.
Cape Town, South Africa
This flat-top mountain overlooks the city of Cape Town. African legend has it that upon creation of the earth, the earth goddess Djobela made four watchers to guard each of the respective directions on earth. When the watchers died, the goddess turned them into four mountains. Table Mountain representing the south watcher. Visitors have said that the rock formations within the mountain resemble ancient gods. Rock shrines on top of the mountain represent the chakras of the human bodies, so yogis and anyone seeking to balance a particular chakra leave offerings to the appropriate shrine.
Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico
Natural sinkholes in this pre-Columbian city lead to underground water sources that are said to be sacred to the Mayan gods and the site of sacrifices for better crops. The Mayans built a number of pyramids one of which—El Castillo—has become a popular tourist destination during the spring and fall equinoxes. During this time, the sun hitting the pyramids has been described as creating a serpent-like figure, meant to represent the Mayan god Kukulkan. Chichén Itzá is also home to healing stones that have become popular world wide, like quartz and jade. Local spas use the stones for massages and hot stone therapy, before returning the stones to the ground to regain energy from nature.
Photo Credit: Ramonbaile via Flickr
Mata Amritanandamayi Mission
Have you ever seen those people holding signs that say ‘free hugs”? Well, the hugging guru lives at this Hindu religious retreat—literally. Known as the “hugging mother,” this guru has hugged more than 24 million people in the past 30 years.
The study of homeopathy also originated in Kerala, the city where the mission is seated.
Try the signature treatment of sitting nude on a hot wooden bench as two therapists pour hot oil over your body and rub it on with broad strokes to eliminate toxins.
Photo Credit: Niyam via Flickr