There is plenty of winter travel still to do, but today I want to jump ways ahead and tell you about where I want to go for Easter in 2014. Why think about Easter, almost six months from now, when there are Norwegian hot water procedures to be had and lots of skiing feats yet to perform? Two reasons. Number one, reserving your plane tickets, ground transportation, accommodation, etc. now will ensure you can still get a good deal; waiting until after Christmas and New Year’s may be too late if you are a low- to medium-budget traveler.
Reason number two kind of reinforces reason number one. Easter next year is on the same date for the entire Christian world, which means that there will be a lot more people on the road than usual. Of the world’s 2.2 billion Christians, at least some will opt to spend Easter away from home. So if I were you, I’d start planning ASAP, especially if you are planning a pilgrimage to some of Christianity’s holy places, such as Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, etc. Something tells me that you may even be slightly late to get reasonable rates for these destinations; all the good cheap flights and hotels may have already sold out.
With all this in mind, I have decided to stay away from the “obvious” Easter destinations. We will be sending the relatives a postcard from one of the places on my Easter 2014 travel wish list. If you want to find which place that will be, you can follow our blog or Facebook page.
If you are after a true religious experience, you must visit Greece’s spectacular complex of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in the locality of Meteora, in Central Greece. The temples seem to hover in the air but are actually supported by enormous natural rock pillar-like formations. The views from the monasteries themselves are sure to take your breath away. Meteora is an hour and a half’s drive away from Thessaloniki, which has flight connections to most European capitals.
Cyprus’s history is intimately connected with the evolution of the Christian faith. The apostles Paul and Barnabas, the latter a Cyprus native, chose the Mediterranean island for their first foreign mission. This is a source of enormous pride for Cypriots, who are among Europe’s most devout Christians. Visitors can explore the island’s many temples, Christian monuments and religious routes. Moreover, you can combine your pilgrimage with some recreational activities at Cyprus’s many sea resorts for a truly amazing April holiday. LowCostRoutes.com lists all the low-fare airlines that fly to and from Larnaca, Paphos and Ercan.
The Virgin Mary occupies a special place in Croatians’ brand of Roman Catholicism, which is why some of the most splendid temples in the country are dedicated to the Holy Mother. Some of the better-known shrines are located in Rijeka, Marija Bistrica and Sinj. If you choose to spend most of your holidays in the capital city, Zagreb, though, visit the Stone Gate and the Zagreb Cathedral. Not too far away from Zagreb lies the town of Ludbreg, famous mainly for the eucharistic miracle that is supposed to have occurred there in 1411 when a priest serving mass noticed blood in the chalice. The blood has been preserved in a reliquary to this day and has converted the church into a yearound pilgrimage site. EU citizens can use their national IDs to enter Croatia, as the country became a full member of the European Union this year.
Malaga’s Holy Week processions are famous throughout Spain but are surprisingly little-known outside the country. The malagueño processions are full of cheering, singing and dancing in contrast to the subdued, meditative tones of most other Holy Week festivities in Spain. This is only part of the reason I find this destination so appealing. The other part has to do with the numerous celebrity sightings of actor Antonio Banderas, who hails from Malaga and reportedly goes home for Holy Week every year – and whose fan I’ve been ever since I can remember. If you do head for Andalusia for Easter, make space in your itinerary for some of the major Islamic sites in the region as well.
In Andalusia, the Islamic and Christian cultures are too closely intertwined for you to miss out on such a big part of the region’s way of life. Last, if you are not into spiritual tourism, Andalusia offers many hedonistic pleasures as well and Marbella’s beaches are a half hour’s drive from Malaga.
Yes, Istanbul, Turkey – the capital of the erstwhile Ottoman Empire and (also former) heart of Islamic civilization. But before it became a Muslim city, Istanbul bore the name of the first Christian Roman emperor – Constantine the Great – for a millennium and later became the cradle of Eastern (Orthodox) Christianity. Today, visitors can see some great examples of Roman and Byzantine church architecture. Foremost among them is the basilica Hagia Sophia, which was converted into a mosque in the fifteenth century (it probably owes its preservation to this conversion) and today functions as a museum.
To find the cheapest flight to any of these places, run a search on www.lowcostroutes.com with the city you live in as origin and one of the above as destination. If neither your hometown, nor your destination has an airport, use our Nearest Airport Finder service to locate the most convenient airport you can use. We also recommend reviewing all lowcost options on your route by visiting our Lowcost Flights by Country page.
I realize this list includes only European sites and represents Orthodox and Catholic destinations only. This has nothing to do with prejudice and everything to do with practical considerations and my limited knowledge of the rest of the Christian world.