If one of the advantages of group travel is being able to share the experience with people who have similar interests, then the special interest at the top of that list has to be religion. Religious tour options go far beyond pilgrimages to the Middle East. If there is a site considered holy just about anywhere in the world, it is a good bet there is a group tour that can get you there.
The largest segment of the religious group tour industry centers on Christians. This can be further broken down into denominations and sects. For example, there are a number of group tour companies that specialize in tours to Catholic holy sites. While the Middle East accounts for the largest portion of these, tours also can be arranged to holy sites across Europe and Central and South America.
Other companies specialize in tours to Mormon, Jewish or Islamic holy sites. With the Middle East being the Holy Land to several of the world’s major religions, some companies offer cross-cultural tour packages. Others combine tours of the religious sites with trips featuring classical historical sites of the Greek and Roman period.
As with any international travel, safety is a special concern when visiting to the Middle East. Booking a group tour package is a step to easing that worry. While traveling in a group might make travelers more visible, you can be assured that the travel companies keep an eye on the political climate and will keep you informed of risks.
Guides for these group tours also are knowledgeable about the customs and expectations of the host country and can help steer you away from trouble. Guides can let you know what to say and do, or–more importantly–what not to say or do in a particular country. This can be a saving grace for inexperienced travelers who might find it hard to master all the local customs.
Other Religious Tour Options
Pilgrimages to holy sites account for only a portion of religious tours. Faith-based groups also go hiking, canoeing and mountain skiing. The idea here is not where to go but who to go with. These tours take the old idea of a church retreat to a new level. Many of these group packages are offered by religious organizations and denominations, but there also are a large number of commercial tour operators in the market.
Those looking into religious tour packages should be especially careful. Just because a commercial tour company espouses its religious convictions does not mean it is reputable. Lots of scams are perpetrated by those claiming the best of motives. It is a good idea, as with all tour offers, to check out such companies with someone you trust. In this case, a church’s national office would be a good place to start since many of the tour group companies identify themselves with a particular denomination.