Portugal: Bom Jesus do Monte

Bom Jesus do Monte is one of the most impressive religious sanctuaries in Europe. It lies on top Monte Espinho east of Braga and is a famous pilgrimage site. From the bottom of the mountain, it is 116m/381ft going up the zigzagging Baroque staircase that’s full of religious symbolism – 577 vertical steps that a true pilgrim is supposed to make on the knees! Along the 17 flights of stairs – there are statues and fountains and chapels with the scene of the Passion of Christ (a pre-Mel Gibson production). The top section of the zigzags of the staircase is know as the Staircase of Three Virtues and is most photographed. On every turn, you get panoramic view of the valley and the city of Braga far down below. After having completing the gruesome ascent (without having to carry a cross luckily), I realized there was a funicular tramway that I could have used on the way up (in fact the oldest water-operated funicular in the world). At the top of the mountain, a spectacular whitewashed church, Temple of God, stands on a panoramic platform full of statues and more fountains. Here, you can ponder about Christ or take a breather from walking up the stairs, or both.