Lourdes's Our Lady Sanctuary which encompasses the Catholic famous grottoes has long been a favorite among tourists in France. This is a place where people go to seek healing and to meet Our Lady of Lourdes, just as St. Bernadette did in one of the grottoes.

The story goes that Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year old French peasant girl, was able to see and converse with Mary, Jesus' mother, eighteen times in 1858. These visions occurred in a niche at the Massabielle grotto. Bernadette also said that the Virgin Mary directed her to a spring, a spring that did not exist before. She then asked Bernadette to take a drink from the spring. The Virgin Mary also asked Bernadette to tell the local priest to build a chapel for her.

Since then, this spring has been believed to contain healing water. And millions have lined up to get a taste of this water. Also, there are quite a number of those who have drank of this water who claimed healing from various sicknesses such as cancer, blindness and so much more. The grotto also has 17 pools where people can immerse themselves in. There are 11 pools for women and 6 for men.

St. Bernadette's visions marked the start of Lourdes becoming a pilgrimage site. Every year, some 5 million devout believers come here to worship and to get a taste of what St. Bernadette experienced.

The Massabielle Grotto is simple and unassuming. Massabielle means "old rock". The rock itself is 27 meters high, with the grotto inside only 9.85 meters wide, 3.8 meters high and 9.5 meters deep. It has three openings. There is also a crevice where St. Bernadette saw the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Today, the site is marked by a 95-foot tall bell tower topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary, our Lady of Lourdes. She is depicted with rosary beads on her arm, a yellow rose on each of her feet and is dressed in white with a blue belt. A stone plaque to the left of the Grotto marks the exact spot where Bernadette stood as she conversed with the Virgin Mary. There is also an altar with a box where people put their petitions and prayers.

There is also a National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, which is a place of prayer and healing. It is a sacred site that offers masses at different areas surrounding the grotto. There is even an International Mass, which gives visitors six translations (English, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and German). This is held in the awesome Underground Basilica, which in itself is an architectural marvel.

Also in the vicinity are museums that should be interest to the visitor. There is the Musee Grevin, where wax exhibitions display scenes from the lives of St. Bernadette and Jesus. Then there is Musee de Lourdes, which outlines the life of St. Bernadette, as well as the history of Lourdes. You can also visit Moulin de Boly and Maison Paternelle St. Bernadette, which features the birthplace and house of this famous saint.

The best time to visit is when it is close to nighttime, as there is a candlelight procession held here nightly. The experience is quite uplifting and definitely unforgettable. There is also a procession of the sick during the afternoons.