Six Spiritual Tourism Destinations

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The Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs
The Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs

Looking for a vacation that offers a deeper spiritual experience? While some seek spiritual tourism in the form of visiting churches, monasteries and temples, others find natural environments such as forests, lakes, rivers, gardens, and wildlife parks fulfill the need for being grateful to the almighty, forgiveness, and inner peace.

Here are six spiritual destinations in Arkansas that give you a little of both:

St. Elizabeth Church

Listed in "Ripley's Believe It or Not," this 1904 stone church is the only one that is entered through the bell tower. Saint Elizabeth’s Church has become a landmark in Eureka Springs and is listed on the National Historic Register. The church’s unique unattached bell tower has welcomed thousands of visitors each year from all over the world.

Subiaco Abbey

Subiaco Abbey is an American Benedictine abbey with a preparatory academy and retreat center. The abbey is comprised of impressive sandstone buildings, circa 1891, and a Romanesque-style Abbey Church. A self-guided walking tour is available with general information brochures on the Benedictine Order, Subiaco Abbey, Academy, and Coury House available free of charge at the front desk. For groups of 10 or more, a monk-led tour can be arranged if reserved before your visit. Retreat facilities include a chapel, meeting rooms, dining room, and 36 furnished guest rooms with private bath facilities.

Located at the historic Abbey, the monks sell monk sauce, handmade peanut brittle, candles, and brew amazing beer at County Monks Brewing

Thorncrown Chapel

This majestic glass and wood beam chapel nestled in the Ozark Mountains was designed by Arkansas native E. Fay Jones, a nationally-honored and recognized architect. The chapel was chosen in 2001 as one of the Top 10 Designs of the 20th Century by The American Institute of Architecture. It has also won the institute's Design of the Year for 1981 and Design of the Decade for the 1980s. Non-denominational services and weddings take place here.

Mildred B. Cooper Chapel

This non-denominational chapel of steel and glass designed by world-famous architect and Arkansas native E. Fay Jones and his partner Maurice Jennings is based on the pointed Gothic arch, a design repeated throughout the length of the structure. Situated on a wooded hilltop overlooking Lake Norwood in Bella Vista, it also has walking paths around it and benches for sitting and reflecting. It’s popular for weddings, vow renewals, concerts, cultural events, baptisms and memorial services.

The Great Passion Play

An hour-and-forty-five minute reenactment of the last week of the life of Jesus Christ, it’s staged in a 4,000 seat outdoor amphitheater in Eureka Springs. The multi-level set, special lighting and sound effects, live animals, and a cast of 170 biblically costumed actors come together to create a thrilling epic drama. Performed from May through October. Weekends in May and August. Tuesday, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in June and July. Performed on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays in September and October. (Special performances on the Sundays of Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends).

But there’s so much more to see on the Passion Play grounds:

Christ of the Ozarks 67-foot-tall statue; The Holy Land Tour where guests walk through a full-size replica of the biblical elements from Jerusalem; the Bible Museum with a collection of more than 6,000 Bible manuscripts in over 625 languages and dialects and fascinating artifacts; the Sacred Arts Museum showcasing hundreds of pieces of religious art dating as early as 9th century; the History Museum providing a brief snapshot of the history of creation and mankind; gift shops; Parables from the Potter ; The Sculptor; David the Shepherd; Noah's Ark Park Petting ZooGreat Hall Buffet; mission trips  and 20 miles of mountain bike and hiking trails.

Little Portion Hermitage and Monastery

The Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas are home to an awe-inspiring monastery, prayer gardens, a bakery and a welcoming monastic community at Little Portion Hermitage and Monastery in Berryville.

This spiritual retreat set on 450 acres is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can walk paths leading to benches set in various contemplative garden spots, some with flowers, arbors or shade trees. You can also pray in the Portiuncula Chapel, rest in the cloistered walkways, and buy tasty goods at the bakery. Individuals interested in a private spiritual conference and groups seeking guided tours should call in advance.