Kati and I are always seeking different types of travel and exploring. Though Kati is much more in tune with spiritual travel than I, we both find it a great way to experience an area and relax.
We find any time we are out in a forest, or a canyon we find it spiritual. And feel we almost need it. Our senses seem more alive. We dream more vividly. Ideas seem to flow more readily. Reasons abound for spiritual travel.
For people already living a lifestyle filled with yoga and meditation, a trip to someplace like Sedona or Manitou Springs maybe something they’ve dreamt of for years, and just another step on their spiritual path. For the novice, they may be looking for inspiration, personal growth, or just that spark of something more. With these five small-town spiritual destinations, no matter what someone hopes to get out of their trip, they are bound to find something, even if that’s just a once-in-a-lifetime view.
The good news is, not everyone needs to fly into India or Tibet for a New Age retreat. Scattered across the United States, it’s possible to find spiritual wellness retreats, towns full of mediums, and even famed energy vortex centers in breathtaking scenic landscapes. Whether a stop in one of these towns is the destination in itself or a few-hour stop on a long road trip, each offers a truly unique experience.
For the skeptics, and those fearing con artists and snake oil salesmen, luckily most of these towns have historic sites, hiking, and majestic landscapes that make the flight or the drive-in worth it alone.
Going into each of these destinations, and any spiritual center with an open mind is an absolute necessity. Even if someone is completely in the dark when it comes to chakras, yoga, and New Age energy healing, there are experts at each of these locales that will be willing and happy to share their experience and their love for the area they call home.
Kati and I loved Sedona and want to get back. Sedona ranks first on most lists of spiritual destinations in the U.S. Even from pictures of the area, it’s clear why. The small desert resort town rests between wide arrays of red sandstone formations. In the rising and setting sun, the formations are said to glow and create an otherworldly experience. The Arizona town is just 30 miles south of Flagstaff but still feels well off the beaten path. Sedona offers a great spiritual destination for New Age retreats, or simply exploring the landscape.
The aesthetic beauty of the area may be enough for some travelers, but spiritual seekers from around the world flock to Sedona due to the many energy vortexes in the area. The town itself is often said to be a vortex, but it’s widely accepted that there are four key energy centers in and around Sedona: Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Boynton Canyon. It’s said that each of these centers emits its own particular energy, and while some radiate the energy outward and upward, others emit it into the earth.
When visiting an energy Vortex in Sedona, it’s common to see other spiritual travelers engaging in yoga, meditation, or a variety of healing ceremonies. Many visit them for their spiritual healing qualities, and most people report feeling uplifted, recharged, and even inspired after visiting an energy vortex in Sedona.
There are a number of Vortex tours available in and near Sedona from individual guides, yoga instructors, and healers, but they are free to visit and open to the public as well. Luckily for the skeptics, each of the four vortexes is a unique geological formation in a stunning landscape full of hiking trails. Visitors can marvel at the landscape filled with red rocks, desert flora, and wildflowers.
In addition to the Vortexes, Sedona is home to a number of spas, wellness boutiques, spiritual retreats, and metaphysical healers. Moreover, due to dark sky ordinances and it’s location, the stars in Sedona can be as awe-inspiring as the landscape. If you’re in need of an energy boost that your morning Yerba Matte isn’t providing, maybe Sedona is the place to go.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe, also known as The Land of Enchantment, is another spiritual southwest destination. While not as ubiquitous as Sedona, the New Mexico city, which is located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, has its own reputation for being a spiritual center. The city is noted as the oldest state capital in the United States and one of the country’s great art centers as well. Even with only around 70,000 people living there, Santa Fe ranks as a UNESCO Creative City alongside Cape Town, South Africa and Bogota, Columbia.
The city was originally founded in 1607 and is laid out in the style you would expect from a historic Spanish settlement. The entire city is built around the central plaza, where the old pueblo-style buildings are on display. In the central plaza, visitors will find the Palace of the Governors, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, and a wide assortment of small shops, galleries, and restaurants.
Today, Santa Fe is home to a disproportionate number of artists, yogis, bodyworkers, shamans, psychics, and poets. The local business community is certainly used to tourists, and booking a retreat or healing session should come with ease.
Nearby, just 30 miles north, travelers can also visit El Santuario De Chimayo, a historic Catholic Church, and national historic landmark. The church is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the United States. The site is popular due to the curing powers of the “holy dirt” or “Tierra Bendita,” that is held in the church near the altar and said to have miraculous healing powers. The small church hosts over 300,000 visitors each year. It’s traditional for even modern-day pilgrims to walk to the church, and many will even walk the 90 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Lily Dale, New York
Lily Dale is a small hamlet located in Cassadaga, New York, about an hour outside of Buffalo. The small community only has around 300 full-time residents but attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year due to its famed community of mediums and psychics.
Walking through, visitors will be struck by the quaint timelessness of the town. Each home seems like it could be a Bed and Breakfast (and many are), they regularly have ceremonial flag raisings in the town, and the small town has a sense of connectedness and community that would be hard to find elsewhere in the modern era.
While other communities are listed here for their natural energy vortexes or mystical mountain landscapes, Lily Dale made the list solely based on the continued tradition of mediumship in their community. The small hamlet truly exists based on the belief that the dead are still with us, and spirits are ever-present. Every medium in the community must pass a rigorous test in order to practice there.
The community was founded in 1879 as a religious commune, with the intent of only housing spiritualists. It was formed at a point when spiritualism was thought to be at an all time high in the United States, and the Chautauqua movement was popular nationwide. The town has a museum dedicated to its history of spiritualism and, still today, the visitor’s come in droves to see the town and hire one of the many mediums in town.
Manitou Springs, Colorado
Manitou Springs is located just outside of Colorado Springs at the base of Pike’s Peak. This southwest mountain town has been a resort destination for over a century. On its surface, the small spiritual community resembles most other small resort towns, with a main street lined with historic buildings from the old west, restaurants, and gift shops. On closer inspection though, there is something just special about Manitou.
The name itself, Manitou, is an Algonquin Indian word that means, “spirit.” The small town was founded in 1871 and served the function of a scenic “health” resort. It largely attracted people seeking a cure for tuberculosis and other ailments.
It’s most famous for Pike’s Peak, also known as “America’s Mountain,” ”the highest summit on the Rocky Mountain’s southern Front Range. The Mountain dominates the skyline at 14,115-feet, and is an accessible hike or drive for those comfortable with the quick altitude change.
The most unique aspect of Manitou has to be the eight natural mineral springs scattered around. Even before the founding of the town, Ute Indians would reportedly stop in the area to rest and heal near the natural mineral springs. However, most of the existing springs were created in the 20th century.
Differing from mountain hot spring destinations, the springs in Manitou flow with cold, effervescent drinking water. The eight springs are naturally carbonated due to the limestone caverns the water sits in underground. The water erodes the limestone, creating CO2, and making it mineral-rich and effervescent. The spring water is naturally potable, and each of the eight natural springs has it’s own mineral profile and amount of natural carbonation. Historically, local doctors would prescribe water from the springs to aid their patients in ailments like digestive disorders, kidney issues, and liver disease.
The natural springs are scattered throughout the small downtown area, and evident from the historic housings that have been built around them over town’s 150-year-old history. Walking maps are available at the visitor center and online, all showing the specific mineral content of each spring.
In addition to the unique springs and Pike’s Peak, visitors can marvel at the natural beauty of Garden of the Gods, a free-to-access area outside of Manitou Springs with impressive red-rock formations, or visit other historic sites like the Manitou Cliff Dwellings and the historic Pike’s Peak cog railway.
Mount Shasta, California
Like Sedona, Arizona, Mount Shasta is said to be an energy center in the United States. The standalone stratovolcano is located in Northern California, just 60 miles south of the Oregon border, and it absolutely dominates the skyline. Visitors to the area often report that the energy is immediately apparent, and the volcano has an almost magnetic aspect to it, drawing travelers to it and making it hard to leave the area.
In 1874, famed naturalist John Muir reportedly said, “When I first caught sight of Mount Shasta over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.” Still today, many visitors flock to Mount Shasta for enlightenment, rejuvenation, and transcendence.
In addition to the widely acclaimed energy in the area, the other legends surrounding the mountain easily make it a point of interest as well.
One legend is that of Telos, a crystal city located inside the stratovolcano, where otherworldly beings called Lemurians live. As the legend states, the 7-foot –tall Lemurian population dates back to the time of Atlantis, when Lemuria was an ancient lost city located in the North Pacific. The Lemurian civilization and Atlantis reportedly engaged in thermonuclear war and sank both of their continents into the ocean.
After the war and destruction of their homeland, the Lemurians sought refuge inside of Mount Shasta, and have lived in the crystal city of Telos since then. As the legend goes, in the 1940s gold rush era, Lemurians could be seen in the town of Shasta, standing 7-feet tall, and wearing long white robes and sandals.
Another legend surrounding Mount Shasta is that of the “ascended master,” or a being who has been on the planet for lifetimes and conquered the birth-death cycle of the physical plane.
In the 1930s, Guy Ballard allegedly encountered one of these “ascended masters,” who then took Ballard on a cosmic journey, passing on his knowledge. Following the encounter, Ballard and his wife founded a religious movement called “I AM Activity,” which blended American nationalism, Christianity, and theosophy. At the height of its following, the movement had over one million followers. While the movement has fallen into obscurity, it continues to exist in Mount Shasta today, and tourists can stop by their reading room to learn more.
Just be aware that you do not need to fly to the other side of the globe for some enlightenment and spiritual relief. While these are some of the most well-known communities for soul tourism in the U.S., there are countless other areas with natural beauty, eastern-inspired traditions, and a deep sense of spirituality.
For all spiritual seekers and travel junkies, each of the destinations on this list has something unique and special to offer. Whether they’re into small-town historic destinations or soul-awakening spiritual retreats, a visit to one of these towns will no doubt offer an eye-opening experience that will leave you driving out a bit different than you drove in.
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