Top attractions in Varanasi
Varanasi, also known as Banaras or Kashi, is a holy city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and holds immense religious and cultural significance for Hindus. Here are some of the top attractions in Varanasi:
This ghat (a series of steps leading to the river) is one of the most prominent and popular ghats in Varanasi. It is known for its grand evening aarti (religious ceremony) that takes place every day, where priests perform rituals and offer prayers to the River Ganges.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most sacred temples in India. It attracts thousands of devotees every day. The temple’s architecture and spiritual atmosphere make it a must-visit place for both religious and cultural reasons.
This is one of the main cremation ghats in Varanasi, where Hindus believe that cremation at this ghat leads to liberation from the cycle of birth and death. While it may not be suitable for everyone, witnessing the cremation rituals from a distance can offer a unique and profound cultural experience.
Located just a few kilometers away from Varanasi, Sarnath is a significant Buddhist pilgrimage site. It is where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. The site has several ancient Buddhist stupas, monasteries, and a museum showcasing artifacts related to Buddhism.
Situated on the eastern bank of the River Ganges, the Ramnagar Fort is a magnificent structure built in the 18th century. It serves as the residence of the Maharaja of Varanasi and houses a museum displaying vintage cars, royal costumes, and antique weaponry.
Banaras Hindu University (BHU)
Spread over a sprawling campus, BHU is one of India’s premier educational institutions. It also houses the Bharat Kala Bhavan, an art and archaeological museum that exhibits a vast collection of paintings, sculptures, and archaeological artifacts.
Boat Ride on the Ganges
A boat ride on the River Ganges is an essential experience in Varanasi. It allows you to witness the daily rituals, rituals, and activities that take place along the ghats. The serene views of the ancient cityscape and the beautiful sunrise or sunset make the boat ride even more enchanting.
Walk through the narrow lanes of Varanasi
Exploring the labyrinthine lanes of Varanasi’s old city is an adventure in itself. Known as “galis,” these narrow alleys are filled with bustling markets, traditional shops, street food stalls, and hidden temples. It’s a great way to experience the local culture and interact with the friendly residents.
These are just a few of the many attractions that Varanasi has to offer. The city’s rich history, spiritual ambiance, and cultural heritage make it a unique destination for travelers seeking an authentic Indian experience.
Things to do in Varanasi
There are plenty of things to do in Varanasi to immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant culture, spirituality, and history. Here are some popular activities and experiences you can enjoy:
Attend the Ganga Aarti
Witness the grand Ganga Aarti ceremony held every evening at Dashashwamedh Ghat. Watch as priests perform intricate rituals, wave incense, and lit lamps, accompanied by devotional songs. It’s a mesmerizing and spiritual experience.
Take a Boat Ride on the Ganges
Hop on a boat and cruise along the sacred River Ganges. Witness the ghats, temples, and rituals from a unique perspective. You can opt for a sunrise or sunset boat ride to capture the breathtaking views and tranquil atmosphere.
Explore the Ghats
Stroll along the ghats of Varanasi to experience the city’s vibrant life. Each ghat has its own significance and charm. Take time to visit popular ones like Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Assi Ghat, and more.
Varanasi is known for its numerous temples. Besides the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, explore other important temples like Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, Durga Temple, Tulsi Manas Temple, and more. Each temple has its unique architecture and spiritual significance.
Experience a Yoga Session
Varanasi is a hub for yoga and spirituality. Join a yoga class or meditation session offered by various ashrams and centers. It’s an excellent opportunity to rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul.
Witness Sunrise at the River Ganges
Wake up early to witness the stunning sunrise over the River Ganges. Head to any of the ghats and observe the city gradually coming to life with morning rituals, devotees taking dips in the holy river, and the soft glow of the rising sun.
Explore the Old City
Wander through the narrow lanes of Varanasi’s old city, known as “galis.” Discover hidden temples, local markets, and traditional shops selling silk sarees, handicrafts, and souvenirs. Don’t forget to savor the local street food along the way.
Take a Day Trip to Sarnath
Visit the nearby town of Sarnath, where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon. Explore the ruins of ancient Buddhist monasteries, visit the Dhamek Stupa, and the Sarnath Museum to delve into the history and teachings of Buddhism.
Enjoy a Music and Dance Performance
Varanasi is renowned for its classical music and dance traditions. Catch a live performance of Indian classical music, sitar, tabla, or classical dance forms like Kathak. Several cultural centers and music schools host such performances.
Experience Ayurvedic Therapies
Pamper yourself with Ayurvedic massages and therapies available in Varanasi. Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of medicine, offers rejuvenating treatments to relax and revitalize your body.
Remember, Varanasi is a deeply spiritual city, and it’s important to respect local customs and traditions while exploring and participating in various activities.
FAQs on Varanasi Tourism
The best time to visit Varanasi is during the winter season, from November to February, when the weather is pleasant and comfortable for sightseeing. Avoid visiting during the summer months (April to June) as it can get extremely hot. Varanasi also experiences a significant influx of tourists during festivals like Diwali and Holi.
Varanasi has good connectivity by air, rail, and road. The Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport in Varanasi operates regular flights from major Indian cities. Varanasi Junction is a well-connected railway station with trains running from various parts of the country. If you prefer road travel, you can reach Varanasi via state and national highways.
It is recommended to spend at least two to three days in Varanasi to explore the city and experience its essence. This will give you enough time to visit the important temples, witness the Ganga Aarti, take a boat ride, and explore the old city. If you plan to take day trips to nearby attractions like Sarnath, you may consider adding an extra day or two.
Varanasi is generally a safe city for tourists. However, like any other destination, it is advisable to take basic precautions. Be cautious of your belongings, especially in crowded areas, and avoid walking alone late at night. It’s recommended to use licensed guides and reliable transportation services to ensure a safe and hassle-free experience.
Varanasi is a holy city with a strong religious and cultural atmosphere. It is recommended to dress modestly and respectfully, especially when visiting temples and religious sites. Both men and women should avoid wearing revealing or skimpy clothing. It’s also a good idea to cover your head with a scarf or wear appropriate attire while participating in religious ceremonies.
Yes, photography is allowed during the Ganga Aarti. However, it’s important to be respectful and mindful of the atmosphere and the religious significance of the ceremony. Avoid using flash photography or causing any disturbance to the rituals or fellow devotees.
Varanasi is known for its delicious vegetarian cuisine. There are plenty of options available, ranging from street food stalls to restaurants. Don’t miss trying local specialties like kachori-sabzi, chaat, lassi, and the famous Banarasi paan (betel leaf preparation). It’s advisable to choose clean and hygienic food establishments.
Yes, you can take a dip in the River Ganges in Varanasi. The ghats are open to devotees and visitors for bathing purposes. However, it’s important to note that the water quality of the Ganges can be questionable, so it’s recommended to exercise caution and consider your own comfort and safety while doing so.
Yes, it is possible to attend a traditional Indian wedding ceremony in Varanasi. However, attending a wedding as a guest typically requires personal connections or invitations from the families involved. It’s not a common tourist activity, but if you have friends or acquaintances in Varanasi, they might be able to provide you with such an opportunity.
Varanasi is known for its vibrant festivals and events. Some of the prominent ones include Diwali (Festival of Lights), Holi (Festival of Colors), Mahashivaratri (dedicated to Lord Shiva), and Dev Deepawali (celebrated on the full moon of Kartik month). Attending these festivals can offer a unique and culturally immersive experience, but it’s advisable to plan your trip well in advance as they attract large crowds.