Pilgrimage Places: Walk Where Your Ancestors Walked

November 7, 2019  - by 

Pilgrimages come in many shapes and sizes, and each has its own unique story. Some are exclusive to members of a religious group, and others are open to visitors from outside the group. Although most pilgrimages are extensive and can span several weeks or even months, many are split into manageable sections that you can participate in.

If you want to go on a pilgrimage but don’t know where to start, consider learning more about your family history. By creating a family tree on FamilySearch.org, you can discover where your ancestors came from and choose a pilgrimage that they might have gone on or lived along.

The following are just a few of the more well-known pilgrimages that are currently open to anyone willing to participate.

Pilgrim’s Way

Inside of a cathedral

Location: Southeastern England, United Kingdom

Distance: 192 kilometers (119 miles)

This pilgrimage begins in Winchester, Hampshire England, and leads to the Canterbury Cathedral and the shrine where Archbishop Thomas Beckett was buried.

Abraham’s Path

Landscape on Abraham's Path pilgrimage

Location: Middle East

Distance: 1,078 kilometers (670 miles)

Abraham’s Path links ancient sites across the Middle East with the life events of the ancient biblical figure Abraham.

Via Francigena

A man walks down a pathway on a pilgrimage

Location: Rome, Italy

Distance: 1,700 kilometers (1,056 miles)

The Via Francigena follows the ancient trail taken by pilgrims centuries ago to visit the tombs of Peter and Paul. It takes visitors directly through the heart of Europe.

Camino de Santiago

A sign for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage

Location: Spain

Distance: 804 kilometers (500 miles)

Camino de Santiago has been a pilgrimage place for centuries. Many people travelled by land and even by sea to visit the shrine of Saint James the Great.

Kumano Kodo’s Seven Trails

A woman on a Japanese pilgrimage

Location: Japan

Distance: Trails range from 4.5–17 kilometers (3–10.5 miles)

These trails weave along beautiful landscape and ancient shrines. They have been traveled for over 1,000 years by pilgrims from all segments of society.

St. Olav’s Way

The outside of a Cathedral in Norway

Location: Norway

Distance: 640 kilometers (400 miles)

People have been walking this trail since the Iron Age. It leads to Niadros Cathedral and the tomb of Saint Olav and has been named “The King’s Road” because nearly every king of Norway has traveled it.

Lagunas de las Huaringas

A man looking out into a landscape

Location: Peru

Distance: 1,198 kilometers (1,929 miles)

This pilgrimage place is in the mountains of Huancabamba. There are a series of 14 lagoons that are believed since ancient times to bring healing and energy to visitors.

If you want to learn more about different cultures, geographies, and histories, visiting pilgrimage places is a very hands-on way to do it. A pilgrimage allows you to explore an area with the five senses rather than simply scrolling through online images or reading articles. You can experience the same climate and see the same sights that your ancestors may have experienced as part of their everyday lives. Whichever route you choose, we wish you happy travels!

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  1. In mid September I attended the wedding of a nephew I had never met in Wisconsin. While there for a week I visited the many small towns in which my parents resided in their early married years, had 3 of their 5 children, finished college, etc. It was definitely a pilgrimage for me now that my parents are gone, my siblings and I have scattered across the country and we lost our first sibling to cancer last year. Lots of walking down Memory Lane and reflecting on family, etc.
    I’ve also made a pilgrimage a couple years ago to the British Isles and walked the paths my Scottish ancestors would have walked. The first time I did this was in the Shenandoah Valley in my twenties. Everytime I return there I can almost feel the presence of my mother’s ancestors who resided there from 1740’s to the 1940’s. I’ve never referred to this trip as a pilgrimage but that is the feeling.