10 great places to mark Christianity's holiest day

Celebrate the sacred Christian holiday of Easter with a journey to a religious site where faith and history come alive. Kevin J. Wright, president of the World Religious Travel Association and author of The Christian Travel Planner (Thomas Nelson, $16.99), shares his recommendations worldwide with Kathy Baruffi for USA TODAY.

St. Peter's Basilica Vatican City

"One of the most iconic and recognizable Christian destinations worldwide is the Vatican," Wright says. "Serving as the spiritual headquarters for more than 1 billion Catholics, Vatican City welcomes more than 4 million pilgrims and tourists annually. Visitors can explore St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, the catacombs, and even attend a General Audience with the pope." www.vatican.va; www.stpetersbasilica.org

Bethany Beyond the Jordan Jordan

"More than 1 million people come here every year to see where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Many get baptized themselves for the first time or simply wade in the same waters of the Jordan River as Jesus did 2,000 years ago," Wright says. "The Baptism Archaeological Park is also home to the area where the prophet Elijah ascended into heaven." baptismsite.com

St. Katherine Monastery Mount Sinai, Egypt

"The Old Testament comes alive in the southern Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. It is here on Mount Sinai where God appeared in a burning bush to Moses and delivered the Ten Commandments," Wright says. "Today, pilgrims can hike to the top of the summit (and witness the spectacular sunrise), explore St. Katherine Monastery at the mountain base, and visit the Chapel of the Burning Bush, built upon the site believed to be where God appeared to Moses." st-katherine.net

Great Theater Ephesus, Turkey

One of the most popular Christian trips is following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul through Greece and Turkey. "In Ephesus, one of the Seven Churches of Revelation in Scripture, pilgrims can stand in the very theater where the apostle delivered sermons to the local population," Wright says. "In addition, visitors can explore the House of the Virgin, the home where Mary, the mother of Jesus, is said to have spent her last days." sacred-destinations.com/turkey/ephesus-theater.htm

Church of the Holy Sepulcher Jerusalem

According to many Christian traditions, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was the site of Jesus' crucifixion and the empty tomb. But there's far more for the Christian traveler to see in this holiest of cities. "The Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, Via Dolorosa, Western Wall and Garden Tomb are among the other places here most often visited by the faithful," Wright says. goisrael.com

Cave of the Apocalypse Patmos Island, Greece

" 'Dear visitor, the place you have just entered is sacred.' These are the words that greet visitors at the entrance of the Cave of the Apocalypse," Wright says. "According to tradition, John the Evangelist wrote the Book of Revelation inside this grotto at the end of the first century. Today, the cave itself and the famed St. John the Divine monastery that lies atop the island are recognized as World Heritage Sites." travelinfo.gr/patmos/hsites.htm

The Grotto of Massabielle Lourdes, France

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