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NatGeo: These sacred paths have attracted a new set of pilgrims: Fitness buffs

Claire Turrell

As our understanding of the health benefits of walking grows, fitness enthusiasts are turning to traditional pilgrimage routes to nurture their mind, body, and soul

Pilgrimages are no longer just for monks. These epic routes that wind their way through medieval villages and across rural landscapes have attracted a new set of fans.

Well-known trails have recently seen record footfalls, while new routes have launched in the United States, Ireland, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka. In 2023, nearly half a million people walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, one of the most well-known pilgrimages. Yet, the Camino de Santiago’s Bureau of Registration data revealed that only 40 percent of walkers hitting the trails were walking for purely religious reasons. 

As walking classes have grown in gyms and streaming platforms, and #softhiking and #hotgirlwalk lit up TikTok, it’s no surprise that these lengthy strolls in nature have caught people’s attention. Race platform Spacebib launched a World Pilgrimage Trails collection of moisture-wicking tees. The virtual challenge platform Conquerer has started a Camino de Santiago virtual challenge that allows you to track updates on your smartwatch. The power of the pilgrimage has grown so much that the Global Wellness Summit named pilgrimages as one of its wellness trends for 2024. 

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