Why Mexico is a World Leader in Religious Tourism

Image: The Ex Convent of San Francisco in Tlaxcala City, Mexico, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Photo courtesy of Municipio Tlaxcala Capital).
Image: The Ex Convent of San Francisco in Tlaxcala City, Mexico, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Photo courtesy of Municipio Tlaxcala Capital).
by Valentín Fuentes
Last updated: 9:35 AM ET, Tue August 1, 2023

Mexico has the most visited Catholic sanctuary on the planet, above the Vatican and Jerusalem. Every December 12, the Basilica of Guadalupe welcomes millions of visitors worldwide.

Other landmarks follow along its vast territory where parishioners gather yearly to worship the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.

These are the most important, after the Basilica of Guadalupe:

Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción (Virgin of the Immaculate Conception), San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco

This is the second most visited place of worship in Mexico to celebrate La Candelaria in the months of January and February. Most of the pilgrims arrive by bicycle or walking for many weeks to celebrate the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In August, the Virgin of the Assumption feast is also celebrated.

This sanctuary has become the leading tourism promoter in the region because every year, it receives millions of pilgrims on February at the feast of the Candelaria (Day of Candles). It is worth noting that in 1904 the Vatican awarded the Golden Crown to the Virgin, entrusted to the Pontifical Institute of Christian Arts of Benzinger Brothers in New York.

Basilica de Guadalupe

The Basilica of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic sanctuary in the world. (Photo Credit: atosan/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary), Jalisco

Pilgrims from all over Mexico and abroad gather every October 7 to celebrate the Virgin of the Rosary feast in Talpa, Jalisco. The veneration includes the traditional Bath of the Virgin that is carried out with the participation of thousands of people, which generates a significant economic spill for the community.

On the other hand, this sacred site of Catholics celebrates, every February 2, the Candelaria (Day of Candles), in addition to the festivity to the Lord San José (Saint Joseph) from March 11 to 19, and in Holy Week, the Coronation to Virgen del Rosario (Lady of the Rosary).

Señor de Chalma, (Lord of Chalma), State of Mexico

The pilgrimage to this sacred place is one of the most important in the American Continent and takes place in the community of Culhuacán, in the State of Mexico. In addition to being part of the celebration, visitors can go to exhibition rooms where the town presents a museum assembly with information about the history of the Lord of Chalma in which the villagers contribute photographs and historical objects from their personal archives.

More than a million people visit the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Virgin of Juquila every year

More than a million people visit the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Virgin of Juquila every year. (Photo Credit: Ministry of Tourism of Mexico)

During the month of August of each year, a huge number of pilgrims are called to take on foot or on horseback the image of the Lord of Chalma along the neighborhoods of Culhuacán to the shrine dedicated to his memory. In addition to this festivity, this community celebrates more than 60 religious festivities throughout the year.

Nuestra Señora de Juquila (Our Lady of Juquila), Oaxaca

More than a million people visit the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Virgin of Juquila, venerated since 1719. This rural site is highly appreciated for its splendid colonial architecture, religious buildings and extraordinary gastronomy.

Every 8th of December this important feast is celebrated and an Octava (eight days of prayer) is dedicated to the Virgin of Juquila in which thousands of people from the states of Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Mexico, Guerrero, and Veracruz participate, who, for the most part, come to this sanctuary after walking several days or cycling long journeys of road.

Other popular places of devotion such as Santo Niño de Atocha, in Zacatecas, Cristo Rey, in Guanajuato, and Virgen de Zapopan, in Jalisco, to name a few, are added to these sites. 

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Valentín Fuentes

Co Editor - Mexico & Latin America

Valentín Fuentes is a journalist who, over three decades of professional work, has ventured into various areas of communication...

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