This charming city in India is several thousand years old and has been popular among tourists since time immemorial. There are many things to do in Varanasi for tourists and pilgrims alike in order to explore the city's landscape and culture. It is known by different names such as Benaras, Varanasi and Kashi to different people but the magic in its spectacles, sites and rituals hold the same meaning to one and all.
Varanasi is a city which is awake before dawn and does not sleep till late in the night. Tourists typically start the day with a cruise along the holy Ganges as the first light of the dawn kisses the ghat-s, as early as 5:30 AM before the palaces, temples and the morning bathers rise from slumber. Pilgrims climb down the steps of the many ghat-s here to take a holy dip in the sacred water of the Ganga river in the eternal belief that it could wash away their past sins. Likewise, at dusk too, the cruise along the river is a sight to behold with the 88 ghat-s awakening to the rhythm of the evening aarti or prayers offered with beautiful brass lamps. Viewing the spectacular aarti ceremony at the Dashashwamedh Ghat is the most important of the things to do in Varanasi at night, without which a trip to the city is rendered incomplete.
The allure of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is known not just to the Indians but to tourists from all over the world who step into this magnanimous temple to experience the aura of religiosity and power of belief. In spite of being home to more than 23000 temples, seeking divine blessings is not the only thing that this city has to offer. There are many fun things to do in Varanasi as well which appeal both to the religious and the not-so-religious tourists. The gastronomic cruise in Varanasi is an experience of a lifetime. From mouth-watering crusty kachori-s, jalebi-s, thandaai, chaat-s, rabri to the famous Benaraasi paan, the list is endless.
The Sarai Mohana village in Varanasi is where the weavers spin out the masterpieces that make the sarees so special and a quick trip to this versatile centre is a must in the Varanasi itinerary. Just 12 kms from Varanasi is the Buddhist site of Sarnath where lies the famous Dharmekh stupa, Ashoka pillar, Mulagandhakuti Vihara and the Archeological museum which are worth exploring.
Things to Do in Varanasi
People Also Ask About Varanasi Things To Do
What are the things to do in Varanasi?
1. Visiting the Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Also known as the Golden temple, this temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is one of the 12 prolific Jyotirlingas in the country. Tourists can visit this temple to witness the holy grand Shivling and to worship Lord Shiva. It is one of the most prominent things to do here in Varanasi. Also, the dome of this temple which is said to be made from pure gold and constitute as one of the finest architecture of the city is a gem to the eyes.
Location: Lahori Tola, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001
Timings: 3 am – 11 am, 12:30 pm – 08 pm, & 09 pm – 11 pm
2. Exploring Manikarnika Ghat: Considered as the holiest place in the city, Manikarnika ghat is the prime location for the cremation of bodies as per Hindu traditions. One can visit the Manikarnika ghat at any hour of the day and observe the whole cremation process which takes place here. People travel all the way especially to witness the cremation process which apparently provides peace to both dead and alive.
Location: Near Rajendra Prasad Ghat, Garawasi, Jugul Tola, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001
Timings: Open 24 hours
3. Strolling on the Assi Ghat: One of the most important things to do in Varanasi is visiting this ghat which is located in the south of the city. Assi ghat is the heart of Varanasi and the locals. Famous for its Shiva Lingam under a tree, Assi Ghat is one of the most lively places around the city. People also travel all the way to this ghat to witness the amazing sunrise and sunset.
Location: Assi Ghat, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Timings: Can visit anytime
4. Outing at Sarnath: It is believed that Lord Buddha preached his first sermon here. Situated 13kms to the north of the city, Sarnath is the perfect location for a one-day outing outside the city. The place is surrounded by lush green gardens and lawns which serve as the best place for a small picnic and also you can visit the famous Buddhist monasteries around and the Jain temples. It's the best place to visit near Varanasi for those who seek interest in the history of Buddhism and India.
Location: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221007
Timings: 24 Hours
5. Witnessing the Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat: What a spectacle it is to witness the Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat! Ganga Aarti is one true example of the rich cultural and traditional history of this place. It is what makes this ghat one of the few best things to do in Varanasi at night. Watching this Aarti is a truly phenomenal experience in itself.
Location: Dashashwamedh Ghat Rd, Ghats of Varanasi, Godowlia, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001
Timings: 24 Hours
6. Beholding the miracle at Panchganga Ghat: Varanasi is known to be the place for the Sangam(meeting) of the five holy rivers namely Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Dhutpapa and Kirana. At Panchganga Ghat the travellers can witness the place where these five rivers meet and can also explore the various small temples nearby the ghat.
Location: 7/111, Sonarpura Rd, Ghats of Varanasi, Bangali Tola, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001
Timings: 24 hours
7. A peek into the history at Tulsi Manas Temple: Just as the Bible is to Christianity and the Quran is to Muslims, Ramayana is to the Hindus. This epic holy book of the Hindus was written by Tulsidas here in the Tulsi Manas Temple. The most important thing to do at this beautiful white marble temple apart from gazing at its beauty is to capture the greatness of the original verses and scriptures of Ramayana which are engraved on its walls and which give you literal peek into the history.
Location: Sankat Mochan Rd, Durgakund Rd, Near Jalan, Varanasi, 221005
Timings: 5 am – 12 pm & 04 pm – 09 pm
8. Visiting the Durga Kund Temple: Built-in the honour of Goddess Durga, this temple is popularly known as the monkey temple. It is also one of the major highlights of the city. The main attraction here is the temple itself which is completely painted in red and draws tourists who love its architecture and strolling in and around the temple feeding the monkeys eatables.
Location: 27, Durgakund Rd, Durgakund, Anandbagh, Bhelupur, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221005
Timings: 5 am – 11 pm
What are the things to do in Varanasi at night?
The city is full of surprises at night. Even though it's restless and overwhelming during the day, it's full of magic at night. In the evening rituals and Aarti's takes place alongside many river ghats which not only attract the locals but also the foreign tourists. Here are a few things to do in Varanasi at Night.
1. Experiencing the famous Ganga Aarti : One of the most famous things to do in Varanasi is experiencing the Ganga aarti that takes place every night from 7 PM to 8 PM on the Dashashwamedh Ghat. Watching this Arti is a true blessing in itself.
2. Taking boat rides alongside the ghats: During the dusk time, the aura of Varanasi is something that everyone who travels to this city in the first place should encounter. This time of the day is perfect to ride a boat alongside the ghats and see the beautiful sun setting from the boat.
3. Going shopping in the local markets: Varanasi is also famous for some of its local products such as silk saree, wooden handmade toys, pearls and stones etc, which are a must-buy for everyone. The street vendors start setting up their shops near the ghats as soon as the Ganga aarti gets over so that the people can directly head towards the market after the aarti.
4. Trying the famous Banarasi Pan at night after the dinner is true bliss.
5. Witnessing the breathtaking view of the city of lights from a rooftop restaurant like B4 Cafe & Rooftop Restaurant(Assi Ghat), Hotel Heritage Inn Rooftop Restaurant etc.
6. Experiencing traditional classical music and dance on the ghats at night: The city sleeps in sinking silence during the night and has an atmosphere that makes it worth stepping out of the houses and staying up late for it.
What is Varanasi Famous For?
Also known as the spiritual capital of India, Varanasi is not just famous for mere one or two things but a lot of things that make the city so special.
Varanasi is known to be the city of Ghats and Temples, one can find a temple at almost every corner of the road here. This city situated on a riverbank has several ghats, from Manikarnika ghat to Assi ghat and many more, each being different and special in its way. The city also has a rich culture and history to look out for.
What is famous in Varanasi for Shopping?
The trip to this holy place is incomplete without stepping into the local markets and making your way into buying these local things.
Varanasi has a huge local market where you can find traditional hand made things for international products. Some of these famous things to buy in Varanasi are:
1. Famous Banarasi Silk saree
2. Wooden handmade toys
3. Crystals and Stone Shivling
4. Glass Beads
5. Hand-knotted Carpets
6. Bangles and other glass accessories
7. The holy water of river Ganga
8. Rudraksha Malas
9. Wooden flutes
10. Ramnami cloth
11. Mouth-Watering Sweets
12. Stone Carved Curios
13. Ancient Books related to Hindu Mythology
Which are the famous Ghats to visit in Varanasi?
Situated on a riverbank, Varanasi is also known as the city of Ghats and has miles of Ghats in and around the city. Each outshining the other differently.
Here are the most famous Ghats to visit in Varanasi:
1. Assi Ghat:
Assi Ghat is one of the most vibrant and lively ghats of all. Lord Shiva is worshipped here on the ghat through a Shiva Lingam which is under a giant pipal tree. It's spacious and is usually less crowded than the other ghats during the daytime. Recently, the Ghat started having Aarti in the morning which is a must-watch if you want to experience the true feel of Varanasi.
Highlight: Shivalingam under the pipal tree.
2. Chet Singh Ghat:
Built-in front of the Chet Singh fort, this ghat has quite an importance from the historical view. Maharaja Chet Singh, who ruled Varanasi, fought the 18th century battle with the British on this Ghat.
Highlight: History of the Fort
3. Darbhanga Ghat:
Darbhanga Ghat has quite an appealing view and an architecture that just makes then that more appealing to the eyes. It also features the luxury Brijrama Palace Hotel beside the ghat. Famous for its photogenic view, this ghat attracts a lot of tourists who love to capture pictures on the steps of this ghat and are driven off by its beauty.
Highlight: Palace alongside the ghat
4. Dashashwamedh Ghat:
The enchanting famous Ganga Aarti takes place on the steps of this ghat every evening. It is one of the oldest ghats in Varanasi. Hundreds of priests and pandits come together every evening to perform this Arti in unison. The prayers and mantras are being sung by each of them simultaneously and there are diyas and lamps flowing everywhere.
Highlight: Ganga Arti
5. Manikarnika Ghat:
Also known as the burning ghat, Manikarnika ghat is one of the prime locations for cremation as per Hindu traditions. It's believed that getting cremated here will free them from the never-ending circle of life and death and will bring peace to the dead.
Highlight: Witnessing how the whole process of cremation takes place
6. Panchganga Ghat:
One of the most sacred ghats of Varanasi, Panchganga Ghat is the point of the meeting of the five holy rivers, namely Ganga, Yamuna, Dhutpapa and Kirana. The water of this ghat is considered holy and pure. People also come to worship the meeting point of these rivers here, as they consider it a miracle.
Highlight: The point of Sangam(Meeting) of rivers.
Which are the famous temples to visit in Varanasi?
Varanasi is believed to be one of the most important cities according to the Hindu religion. Mark Twain recognized the historical importance of this city when he wrote, "Varanasi is older than history,older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together". Varanasi is the epicentre of temples which are spread all across the city. Few of those famous temples are:
1. Vishwanath Temple -
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple has one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in the country. It is one of the oldest temples in the city. The domes of this temple are said to be made of pure gold and its considered as one of the most important temples in the country.
2. Sankat Mochan Temple-
Said to have been established by Saint Tulsidas, this temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman as the name itself suggests. People come to this temple chanting verses related to the lord in the most problematic situations because of their firm belief in Lord Hanuman
3. Tulsi Manas Temple-
The epic Hindu Mythology read 'Ramayana' was written at this place by Saint Tulsidas. Ramayana is a very precious book of Hindu mythology. Verses of Ramayana are also engraved on the walls of this temple
4. Durga Kund Temple-
Also known as the monkey temple, this temple dedicated to Goddess Durga is one the main highlights of the city. The temple is painted red which represents the colour of the goddess Durga
5. Kaal Bhairav Temple-
It is considered to be one of the oldest temples in Varanasi. Kaal Bhairav is believed to be the guardian of the city. Fun fact is, unlike other temples, alcohol is served to the lord of the temple.
Where can I find the best street food in Varanasi?
Varanasi is also famous for its spicy mouth splashing traditional street food which might turn out to be the best food you've ever had in your life. Few of this famous street food is -
1. Chacha ki Dukan in Lanka:
Chacha ki Dukan is a very famous shop in Varanasi which serves the most delicious Kachori Sabji. There are a lot of places that serve the same dish but this one’s the best.
2. Deena Chat Bhandar, Dashashwamedha ghat:
This chat bhandar has it all. It serves a variety of dishes that are famous in Varanasi such as Chana Dahi vada, Laaiya Chana, Chooda Matar etc. It is the one-stop destination for everything that you want to try.
3. Godowlia Chowk:
This place serves the best Malayyio of Varanasi, which is a famous masala malai drink.
4. Rabri Malai Lassi -
The best-known lassi in Varanasi is the Blue lassi, of the Kachori Gali Chowk, served in smallkuldefinitelys.
5. Deepak Tambul Bhandar, Dashashwamedh Ghat-
There’s no point coming to Varanasi if you go without trying the famous Banarasi Pan. There is one thing that is a must-try out when you visit this place and that is having a Banarasi Pan here at this shop which is again the best in the city.
One can also find several small street food vendors across each ghat having some special delicacies of its own.
Where Can I go for Ganga Aarti?
The spectacular Ganga Aarti takes place at the Dashashwamedh ghat every evening. The Arti ceremony is performed in the evening for 45-minutes, this ritual is held at sharp 6: 45 PM every day. It is truly mesmerising to watch the whole ritual taking place in commotion, the priests and pandits chanting together and circling the heavy brass lamps together in motion. Watching this Arti and listening to the mantras automatically makes you feel more positive and energized. During the Aarti people also put lit diya’s into the river on a leaf which in turn makes the whole place more bright and alive by adding this to its beauty.
One can also observe the astonishing beauty of this ritual on a boat ride alongside the same ghat surrounded by hundreds of Diya's and Flowers flowing in the river.
Where can I do Boating in Varanasi?
One of the best things to do in Varanasi is going on a boat ride which takes you across the different ghats in the city. All the ghats in Varanasi have boats standing across them which will take you to a beautiful ride in the holy Ganges for a mesmerising tour. The best time to enjoy a boat ride of the Ganges River is the dawn hour as well as the dusk hour. Early morning from 5:30 AM to 8 AM is the best time to witness the sunrise on a boat.
Which are the best Ancient Alleys and Streets of Varanasi to visit?
Along with exploring the ghats and rivers across the city, equally as interesting, it is to get lost in the narrow alleys of this ancient city.
There are no names of these Alleys as such but you can find these alongside every ghat. Within the lanes, you'll find guest houses, restaurants, street stalls, stores and all sorts of other businesses.
The best ancient lanes are the ones across the Manikarnika ghat, Assi Ghat and other prominent holy ghats.
Strolling through these narrow alleys is also one of the best things to do in Varanasi at night. The nights here are much more peaceful than the days.
You might see some things that will make you squeamish, but at the same time, you'll just be amazed at what goes on and what takes place inside these alleys.
You might also end up finding local weavers, carpenters, bangle makers carrying on their businesses in their small houses.
Varanasi safe for tourists?
The city and its people offer warm hospitality to everyone travelling in and around the city. Varanasi is quite very safe and sound for all the tourists coming here. Being of the oldest city, the city caters beautifully to those who come to visit the place. The people here are a bit keen on serving the tourists and taking care of their safety by even going out of their way.
Even though the place is safe, night time calls for special precautions no matter where you are.
This is one of the most famous ghats in Varanasi that is located on the banks of the holy river Ganga. The long stretch from Raj Rajeshwari Ghat to Vishnu Ghat is known as Lalita Ghat, and it is dotted with some of the most famous temples in the world. It has been named after the Hindu Goddess Lalita and is revered to be the center of spiritual belief and enlightenment. Nepalese king Rana Bahadur Singh built it in the 19th century, and it is known to be one of the most venerated Ghats of Varanasi. The ghat houses Lalita Gauri Mandir, Lord Vishnu’s Ganga Keshava shrine, and a Nepali Mandir. The Nepali Mandir is a typical Kathmandu-style temple that houses the image of Pashupateshvara and also sports an intricate selection of erotic carvings. Devotees from different parts of the world throng into this ghat to take the holy dip in river Ganga. Distance from Varanasi: 5.9 kmBest Time to Visit: Morning
This is also known as burning ghat, as this is the spot where most of the dead bodies are cremated in the holy land of Varanasi. It is believed that if the last rituals of those who have died are performed here then it will liberate them from the neverending cycle of rebirth and death. The shore of the ghat is lined by piles of firewood and you can even see the fires burning here with the cremation of the dead bodies. If you’re an enthusiastic and curious soul, then you can watch the cremation taking place over here for free. The doms who’re believed to be the cast of untouchables are known to supervise the burning ghat. Many priests are also present on this ghat to carry out the cremation ritual of those who have died and wish to seek salvation. Distance from Varanasi: 5.4 kmBest Time to Visit: Morning
Located on the southern end of Dashaswamedh Ghat Rana Mahal Ghat was built in 1970 by a Rajput Chieftain and Maharana of Udaipur. It is known to be the home to some of the most grandiose palaces that exhibit the splendid form of Rajputana architecture. These palaces started losing their charm with time, and therefore, the Rana Jagat Singh ordered to renovate these palaces to restore their ethereal beauty. This ghat is believed to be a haunted site, and therefore, the devotees refrain from visiting this ghat during the night. During the morning, the ghat is in its full splendor, and you can see here the saints praying and the people meditating to attain peace. Distance from Varanasi: 5.4 kmBest Time to Visit: 5.6 km