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International Top Ten

The dynamics of church groups present special opportunities, as well as special challenges, for group travel leaders. Church travel is often built around a specific purpose, such as outreach, fellowship or missions, and frequently has cost restraints that may not apply to other tour groups.

Many churches have a robust series of domestic trips every year but save their more expensive international excursions for destinations they deem truly special. For some groups, this means traveling to biblical lands or other countries with strong heritages of faith. For others, it means finding international destinations that are affordable or that offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

If you’re on the hunt for great new trips for your church group and your travelers are willing to go abroad, we want to inspire you. Here, in alphabetical order, are our recommendations for the top 10 international travel destinations for churches.


British Isles

In many respects, the British Isles are an ideal destination for church groups looking to make their first foray into international travel. Compared with other destinations in Europe and the Middle East, they can be reached quickly, often requiring as little as six hours of flying time from the East Coast. English is the native tongue, making logistics and communication easy. And many travelers have dreamed their whole lives of visiting Ireland, Scotland or London, so a group trip to the British Isles is often an easy sell.

In addition to the castles, museums and rolling green fields, there is plenty of religious heritage to be discovered throughout the British Isles. Ireland tells the story of St. Patrick and other figures central to Catholic tradition, and Protestants often follow the footsteps of John Wesley during their trips through England.



Canada is so close to the United States and so similar in culture that it’s easy to forget it is a foreign country. Like the British Isles, it is an ideal starting place for first-time international travelers, offering all the conveniences of a common language and nearby location. Canada is geographically larger than the United States and offers a wide array of religious, natural and cultural attractions for groups.

Of interest to Catholic groups, as well as others that enjoy religious history and gorgeous architecture, are the National Shrines of Quebec, five beautiful historic churches that include St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal and the Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. Traveling through French-speaking Quebec gives groups the feeling of visiting Europe without flying overseas. And the Canadian Rockies and British Columbia boast some of the most amazing scenery in North America.



A half-century of political upheaval and U.S. government sanctions have made Cuba something of a forbidden fruit for American tourists. It’s a shame because the island country, is a treasure trove of fascinating cultural, religious and natural experiences.

For the past few years, groups of American travelers have been allowed to visit Cuba on special “people-to-people” trips with tour operators that are licensed by the U.S. government. These trips shed light on the lifestyle of everyday Cubans, the storied history of the island and the unique cultural and religious expressions that have developed there. The U.S. government policies that allow these trips are not guaranteed to remain in place forever, though, so church groups should take advantage of the opportunity to travel to Cuba before political winds change.



Few places embody the traditions of the Old World like Germany, a country full of fairy-tale castles, medieval cities, storybook town squares and distinctive cuisine. Groups that want to discover the heart of Europe and immerse themselves in a country with its own language and customs will find plenty of attractive options in this country.

Most first-time visitors to Germany travel through Bavaria, the region with perhaps the most picturesque historic areas and a traditional culture that continues to thrive. Travelers interested in religious heritage can visit Martin Luther sites and other places related to the Reformation. And the Christmas markets that take place throughout December showcase the best of German traditions and are guaranteed to get visitors in the Christmas spirit.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.