Forget sun and sand — search for your spirit


The combined spending of British travellers seeking a religious holiday abroad has topped £2.2bn, new research reveals today.

More than 2.2 million people spent an average of £1,000 on trips seeking spiritual awakening at sites in Israel, India and Malaysia last year.

European religious sites were the most visited with the sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in south-west France topping the list of top-10 locations.

Spring from a grotto at the small market town in the foothills of the Pyrenees is believed by some to possess healing properties. It has a population of around 15,000 but is visited by five million pilgrims and tourists a year.

After Paris, Lourdes has the second highest number of hotels per square kilometre in France.

According to the research by Sainsbury's Travel Insurance, 12 per cent of the total number of religious holidays were made by Londoners and 11 per cent by those in Northern Ireland.

"Whether it is a religious pilgrimage, or simply to see a church or site of architectural interest, millions of Britons are taking faith-orientated holidays," said Jo Nola, of Sainsbury's Travel Insurance.