World's oldest living city, Varanasi enchants and surprises its visitors in the same breath. Also known as Kashi (City of Life) and Benaras, this spiritual capital of India is one of Hinduism's seven holy cities. The old city of Varanasi sits along the western banks of the Ganges, spread across a labyrinth of alleys called galis which are too narrow for the traffic to pass through - be prepared to walk on foot and encounter some holy cows! There are temples at almost every turn in 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 and spectacularly photogenic, the heart of the city pulsates around the ghats, about 80 of which border the Ganges - be prepared for the sights, sounds and smells! All chaos and noise on the ghats take a pause when the Ganga Aarti takes place after dusk, a ceremony of immense grandeur. This divine city is also an important destination for Buddhists. Gautam Buddha preached his first sermon in Banaras, a part which is now in Sarnath. Typical of any Indian city, the food here is a delicious repertoire of dishes - don't miss out on the hot chaat and cool lassi.
Soulful, Sacred, Spectacular - Kashi is one of the most blindingly colourful and frustratingly chaotic cities you will ever come across. However, if you are ready for it, the journey through Banaras will blaze in your memory, long after you've left its shore! Varanasi is India in all her glory, as it has been for thousands of years, and as it will be for a thousand more.
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Very easy to reach. Has a wide selection of hotels for every budget. A thriving religious, cultural and historical community. Great food.
Can get very crowded during tourist season. Poor public hygiene. Travel scams are very common.
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