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Best Time: October - March Read More

Ideal duration: 2-3 days

Nearest Airport: Varanasi Check Flights

"The Spiritual Capital of India"

Varanasi Tourism

World's oldest living city, Varanasi - also known as Kashi (City of Life) and Benaras, is the spiritual capital of India. It is one of Hinduism's seven holy cities. The old city of Varanasi lies along the western banks of the Ganges, spread across a labyrinth of narrow galis. Be prepared to walk on foot and encounter some holy cows! Temples at almost every turn engulf Varanasi but the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the most visited and the oldest of the lot. Benaras is known as the city of Lord Shiva for a reason, and rightfully so.

Varanasi is considered an auspicious place to die, as it is believed to grant moksha or liberation from the cycle of life and death. Spiritually enlightening, the heart of the city pulsates around the ghats, about 80 of which border the Ganges. Be prepared for the sights, sounds and smells! Don't miss out on the hot chaat and cool lassi. Though, all chaos and noise on the ghats take a pause before dusk when the Ganga Aarti begins to take place, a ceremony of immense grandeur.

This divine city is also an important destination for Buddhists. Gautam Buddha preached his first sermon in Benaras, a part which is now in Sarnath.

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Ganga, the backbone of Varanasi

Varanasi has evolved over centuries as a major hub because of its location by the banks of the Ganges. Trade, commerce, worship, living quarters and daily routines in this city have been heavily influenced by the ways of the river Ganga. Even today, it is the main source of water for the city. It is also the focus of cultural life. Large daily congregations at the Ghats, parks and mosques at the banks of the river are at the centre of Varanasi's social life. Since it attracts a large number of tourists, the Ganga is also responsible for a large part of the city's tourism revenue. However, due to the industries located near the Ganga, the river is getting increasingly polluted and the quality of water is rapidly declining and is not safe for human consumption.

Ganga Aarti

Every evening, Ganga Aarti is performed on the ghats of Varanasi, the most magnificent one at Dashashwamedh Ghat. The aarti commences as dusk descends around 6 pm in winters or 7 pm in summers. Devotees usually gather 90 minutes in advance to find a suitable spot. The spectacle is viewed from the ghat steps, the rooftops of the nearby houses, shops and boats loaded at the riverbanks. It can also be viewed from the rooftop of the organizing committee's office- Ganga Seva Nidhi. The aarti takes place on seven wooden planks, each decorated with saffron clothes and Pooja items like incense sticks, conch shells, brass lamps, etc. The pooja is performed by seven pandits, involving rhythmic chanting of mantras, hymns and prayers in the praise of river Ganges. Millions of spectators gather to witness the most mesmerising and glorious event of Varanasi. The assembly is a confluence of faith, cultures and traditions coming from all parts of India and even abroad. The aarti ends with the blowing of conch shells and lighting of camphor lamps. The whole aarti takes around 45 minutes.

History of Varanasi

Popularly known as Kashi or Benaras, the charming land of Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world. It is a centre of Hindu culture, mythology, literature and art. Its origin dates back to 2500 years ago, when Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati and chose to make the city their abode. Later the Aryans came and inhabited the city and thus began the trade of silk, muslin, ivory and perfumes. During the Afghan invasion and Muslim rule, Varanasi suffered a destructive phase which involved the demolition and destruction of temples. Its glory was restored during the rule of Mughal emperor, Akbar.

Culture in Varanasi

Varanasi seems to have been a part of the Indian civilisation since the beginning of time. Successive empires have made this city their trading and cultural hub, connecting the city with a broad range of cultures. From early dynasties like Mauryas and Guptas to the medieval Mughals and the British Empire, Varanasi has been subject to Greek, Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist, Christian and Jain ways of life. A large number of monuments in and near the city are a testament to this diverse past. Varanasi was a very wealthy city for a long time as evidenced by the grandeur of the Ghats, public spaces and places of worship.

Boating in Varanasi

Boat rides on the majestic river Ganges are a must-have experience if in Varanasi. There are numerous boats - big and small - readily available for hire every morning, until sunset. The rides can be customised but are generally costlier during the mornings popularly known as the Subah-e-Banaras or at sunset, during the time of Ganga Aarti.

Types of Boat Rides
  • A traditional rowing boat is the most common type of boat and a 90-120 minutes ride can cost around 250 INR per person.
  • Rides during sunset, at the time of Ganga aarti and at dawn, are the most famous of all.
  • Kashi Darshan- Ride to Kashi is a popular attraction which takes four hours to complete.
  • Ram Nagar Fort- Another popular ride is the palace of Banaras. It involves a walk on foot and sightseeing of the market.
  • There are also Motorboats to ride around. The cost usually 1500 INR per person
  • The rowing boat usually carries 6 people at once. If there already are 6 people in a boat, do not try to fit in as an extra person might risk the chances of your boat losing balance.
  • Make sure to carry mosquito repellents as the river is polluted and disease-causing flies and mosquitoes are abundant.

Restaurants and Local Food in Varanasi

Varanasi has a distinct tint to its cuisine with a certain influence of dishes and styles of Bihar added to its platter. The popular delicacies of the area are Dum Aloo, Bati Chokha, Aloo-Tikki, Pani Puri, Kachori, Tamatar chaat as well as sweets such as Jalebis, Rabri and Banarasi Kalakand. Another essential relish of the town is its Paan, a delicacy of betel leaf. Other than these, do try out the Butter Toast with hot milk, typically almond flavoured. Also, try out the local drinks like Lassi and Badam Sharbat. Varanasi is also famous for its Thandai, which is a milk based drink with Bhang added in it, which is a form of cannabis legal in India. Apart from the traditional and local flavors here, one will find numerous options for Continental and typical Indian food. When in Varanasi, you can explore the variety of food from the delicious street food to the numerous cafes at Assi. The city really has it all!
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Suggested Itinerary

Day 1: Culture & Hindu Traditions
You can start your visit by visiting the religious edifices of Benaras. Begin by going to New Vishwanath Temple located in the premises of Benaras Hindu University, also stealing a glimpse of the world-renowned university.
Renowned for its rich collection of Indian paintings, Bharat Kala Bhawan Museum is located inside the premises as well. Spend the rest of the day visiting other temples- Kathwala Temple is famous for architecture and woodwork. The oldest and most famous one is Kashi Vishwanath Temple. You can end the day by witnessing the most important event of Varanasi- the Ganga Aarti, preferably on the Dashashwamedh ghats.

Day 2: Boating & Nature
A trip to Varanasi is incomplete without a ride on the boats. You can begin day 2 a little early and go boating to witness the mesmerising sunrise, for an enthralling experience. Dedicate the latter half of the day to Ramnagar Fort. It is the most popular monument of historic importance in Varanasi. Although a little in ruins and out of maintenance, you can still awe at the beautiful paintings and decorations in the Darbar Hall inside the fort.

Day 3: Sarnath & Buddhist Traditions
Visit the famous Sarnath, located 10 km away from Varanasi. It is the place where Buddha gave his first sermon. The place has a number of Buddhist temples, deer park complex, a museum, dhamek stupa and ruins of Buddhist monasteries. You can reach there early to avoid the crowd and appreciate the tranquillity of the place and the beauty of the Buddha relics.

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Holidify's Opinion

What's Great?

Very easy to reach. Has a wide selection of hotels for every budget. A thriving religious, cultural and historical community. Great food.

What's Not So Great?

Can get very crowded during tourist season. Poor public hygiene. Travel scams are very common.

For Whom?

Varanasi is the ideal destination for religious tourism, for people who want to experience the intermixed Indian society at its best, for connoisseurs of food and photographers. It is also a good spot for a family vacation.

How To Reach Varanasi

Varanasi is well connected by train, road as well as by air. It has two major railway stations, Varanasi Junction and the Mughal Sarai Junction. The city has its own airport with daily flights to Mumbai and Delhi. Buses are also available.

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Varanasi Reviews

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varanasi is oldest temple in the world, good god good temple and tourism place and nice temples sakshi ganapathi temple varahi maa temple hanuman temple kala bairav temple visalakshi maa temple and Annapoorneswari maa temples are seen in life time once..
Bharat Taxi 4 weeks ago
Ganga Aarti of Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi is world-famous. The focal point of Varanasi is Dashashwamedh Ghat. Evening view is even more attractive when sparkling with the light of lamps. At Dashashwamedh Ghat, the world-famous Ganga Aarti begins with the scent of sandalwood and the chanting of havan mantras.
Bharat Taxi 6 months ago
I started to visit the city with my friends. The inputs and stimuli the city offers are so many things. Varanasi is actually the holiest place in all of Hinduism. Ganges river is an important part of Varanasi. It is the oldest city in the world, so many stories and secrets are hidden in the city. I am really happy to visit here, I had the opportunity to understand the culture and the life of Varanasi. For a cultural trip Varanasi is good city there have so many temples and evening Ganga Aarti is my favorite view in Varanasi. For a city tour, cab service is very helpful for us.
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