In the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, on the banks of the River Ganges, is the historic city of Varanasi. It is regarded as India’s spiritual center and is one of the oldest continually inhabited towns in the world. Temples, holy ghats (steps leading to the river), and a thriving cultural scene are some of Varanasi’s most well-known attractions. Two outdoor activities, two must-visit places, and one unusual travel advice for Varanasi will all be covered in this guide.
Boat Ride on the Ganges
Taking a boat ride on the Ganges River is an unforgettable experience. The river is considered sacred by Hindus, and millions of people come to Varanasi to bathe in its waters and perform religious rituals. The boat ride starts early in the morning, before sunrise, and lasts for about an hour. You can hire a boat from one of the ghats, or arrange for a boat ride through your hotel. As you float down the river, you can witness the mesmerizing sunrise over the city, and observe the pilgrims taking a dip in the river.
Pedal Rickshaw Tour of Old Varanasi
Exploring the narrow lanes and alleys of the old city of Varanasi on a pedal rickshaw is a fun and immersive experience. The rickshaw can take you to places inaccessible to cars, and you can witness the city’s vibrant street life up close. The tour usually starts from the main ghat area and takes you through the chaotic streets of the old city, where you can see the locals going about their daily lives, and experience the colorful markets, food stalls, and temples.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Known as the Golden Temple, this sacred site is devoted to Lord Shiva, one of the most venerated Hindu deities. With an impressive history of over 2000 years, the temple has witnessed numerous destructions and reconstructions, which only adds to its enigmatic charm.
One of the temple’s most striking features is its gleaming gold-plated spire, soaring high into the sky as a testament to its spiritual significance. And as for the captivating sanctum sanctorum, words simply cannot do it justice. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple emanates a unique spiritual energy that draws people from all corners of the world, seeking to immerse themselves in its divine atmosphere.
Discover the serenity of Sarnath, a hidden gem in the bustling land of India. Unveil the mystery of the sacred Deer Park, where Buddha first shared his insights on the Four Noble Truths. Marvel at the breathtaking Dhamek Stupa, a testimony to centuries of history and spirituality. Embrace the tranquility of the Mulagandhakuti Vihara temple, adorned with colorful frescoes depicting Buddha’s life. Join us as we embark on a soulful journey to Sarnath – an enchanting oasis of peace and enlightenment.
Attend an Aarti Ceremony
Attending an aarti ceremony at one of Varanasi’s ghats is a one-of-a-kind and unforgettable experience. The aarti is a Hindu ceremony in which fire is offered to the deities as mantras are chanted and bells are rung. The aarti is performed every evening by priests and devotees. The most famous aarti ceremony in Varanasi is held at the Dashashwamedh Ghat, one of the city’s oldest and most revered ghats. Every day, thousands of people attend the ritual, which is a genuinely captivating spectacle.
Manikarnika Ghat is one of the most sacred and important ghats in Varanasi. It is the main cremation ghat, where the bodies of the deceased are brought to be cremated before being released into the River Ganges. The ghat is considered to be a gateway to the afterlife, and is a deeply spiritual and somber place. Visitors can observe the cremation ceremonies from a distance, but it is important to be respectful and mindful of the solemnity of the place.
Ramnagar Fort and Museum
Ramnagar Fort and Museum is a 17th-century fort located on the eastern bank of the River Ganges. The fort is the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Varanasi, and is known for its stunning architecture, intricate carvings, and beautiful paintings. The fort also houses a museum that showcases a vast collection of antique weapons, vintage cars, and other artifacts from the royal era. The museum is open to the public, and offers a fascinating glimpse into the history and culture of Varanasi.
Zostel Varanasi is a backpacker hostel in the center of the old city, just a short walk from the Ganges. The hostel provides dorm-style lodging with comfortable mattresses, clean toilets, and free Wi-Fi. The hostel also features a rooftop cafe with wonderful city and river views.
Hotel Ganges Grand is a nice mid-range hotel located in Varanasi’s Cantonment neighborhood, just a short drive from the city center. The hotel has spacious rooms with modern conveniences such as air conditioning, flat-screen televisions, and complimentary Wi-Fi. The hotel also includes a restaurant serving delectable Indian and international fare.
BrijRama Palace is a luxury heritage hotel located in the middle of the old city on the banks of the Ganges. The hotel is set in a stunning 18th-century palace that has been meticulously restored and rebuilt to provide modern facilities and comfort. The hotel has big, attractively appointed rooms with private balconies that overlook the river and the city. There is also a rooftop restaurant, a spa, and a swimming pool in the hotel.
Nadesar Palace is a beautiful boutique hotel located in a peaceful and secluded area of Varanasi, just a short drive from the city center. The hotel is housed in a charming 19th-century palace that has been meticulously restored and furnished with antiques and artwork. The hotel offers luxurious and spacious rooms with private balconies and garden views. The hotel also has a spa, a swimming pool, and a restaurant that serves delicious Indian and international cuisine.
Varanasi is a city that is steeped in history, culture, and spirituality and offers a unique travel experience to visitors. Whether you’re interested in exploring the ancient temples and holy ghats, experiencing the vibrant street life of the old city, or simply soaking up the spiritual atmosphere of the place, Varanasi has something to offer to everyone. Overall, Varanasi is a city that is sure to leave a lasting impression on visitors. Its rich history, vibrant culture, and spiritual significance make it a must-visit destination in India. So, whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, make sure to add Varanasi to your bucket list and experience the magic of this ancient and mystical city.