Fodor's Expert Review Grotte de Massabielle
Lourdes wouldn't even be on the map if it weren't for this deep grotto near the Gave de Pau where 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous first claimed to see visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858. Church authorities initially reacted with skepticism: it took four years for the miracle to be authenticated by Rome and a sanctuary erected over the grotto. In 1864 the first organized procession was held, and now there are six official annual pilgrimages between Easter and All Saints' Day, the most important being on August 15. In fall and winter there are far fewer visitors—a plus for those seeking tranquility.