15 Things To Do In Varanasi - 2023 (Starting from ₹500 Only)

Activities to do in Varanasi 

Witness Grandeur Evening Aarti Ceremony, Explore Varanasi Temples, Take a Holy Bath in the Ganges, Morning Boat Ride in Ganges River, Go for a Sightseeing Tour of Sarnath, Stroll Along the Ghats, Savour Local Street Food, Visit Dashashwamedh Ghat and many more.

Colourful and spiritual are the two words best describe the charm of Varanasi. This Indian travel destination is famous for its bathing Ghats that line River Ganges. Considered to be one of the holiest places around the world, it is visited by millions of Hindus and travellers each year. While some come for spiritual enlightenment, others come for salvation of their sins. With a number of things to do in Varanasi, travellers are increasingly being enchanted by this beautiful destination.

Varanasi was once known as Kashi, the city of lights. Renamed after the Varuna and Asi Rivers, it shimmers and shines with millions of lights, candles, floating diyas and large Jyotis (items used for lighting during Hindu Prayers). The city is known for being an auspicious place to die, but still has a beating heart of its own. It is where physical and spiritual worlds beautifully combine. River Ganges here is the river of salvation, which offers Moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death. The magical Indian destination will captivate you with its Ghats and endless lines of Sadhus and Saints.

Best Time to Visit: October and March

Approx Distance From Delhi: 863 kms

Here are some of the best things to do in Varanasi:


Witness Grandeur Evening Aarti Ceremony

Watching Evening Aarti Ceremony is certainly once in a lifetime experience. The spectacular event must be viewed from the Dasawamedh Ghat, where beautiful rituals unfold themselves in front of your eyes. Brass lamps of large sizes are used during this event, which is accompanied by chants and crowds of people waiting to pray.

Visit at least an hour before the Aarti if you want to gather the experience at its best. At this time, you can witness how five elevated planks are placed at the edge of the steps of the Ghats and brass lamps are cleaned and readied for the occasion.

It is also interesting to watch how priests don identical dhotis and kurta for prayer and Aarti ceremony. Those who wish to click pictures from their cameras should visit the Ghats in evening boats, as this will allow one to easily capture everything in attention.

These brass lamps are quite heavy, almost four and half kilograms in weight. Therefore, make sure you carry one only if you are able to hold it in the crowds. As soon as they are lit, spectacular images are formed. The night sky shines with radiance of these lamps while incense sticks will fill the atmosphere with aroma of different types. The Aarti ceremony is performed every night and a 45 minute ritual is held for the same. The usual time it is 6: 45 in the evening.


Morning Boat Ride in Ganges River

Rowing boat rides during the dawn is perhaps one of the best things to do in Varanasi. The ride along Ganges River offers the quintessential Varanasi experience. It takes one through different Ghats and former palaces situated close to the banks of Ganges, giving a panoramic view of this River and the region.

The best time to enjoy boat ride of the Ganges River is from 5:30 AM to 8 AM. This is when the colour and clamour of the place will enthral you. Travellers will be surprised to see that the city is awake and cheery even during 5 in the morning.

Morning experience of the boat ride will leave an indelible imprint on your heart, especially because you will get to see the faith that people have in River Ganges. During the ride, don’t be surprised to see Sadhus and pilgrims bathing and performing prayers in front of you. This entire ride will unfold the religious significance of Varanasi and why River Ganges is revered all over the world.

Mostly, an hour long boat ride is ideal to give the traveller a taste of what this city has to offer. It usually starts from Dasawamedh Ghat, goes to the Harishchandra Ghat and then back. In the evening, you can see how women from all over the world light lotus flower candles and set it adrift in water. You can also opt for Ganges Aarti ceremony at the Dasawamedh Ghat. Travellers can access boats from Manmandir area.


Explore Varanasi Temples

Best known for its Ghats and Temples, a visit to Varanasi is incomplete without the best temples of this city. There is one on almost every road and road crossing in Varanasi. While the small temples are used for daily local prayers and rituals, larger ones are associated with Hindu history and mythology. These places of worships are regularly visited by travellers in large numbers. They also reflect the architecture in India.

The most popular temple here is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Also called the Golden Temple, this place of interest was built in 1780 by Queen Ahilyabai Holker of Indore. The Vishwanath or the Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva is enshrined in here. The place of worship is also popular because Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh donated huge amounts of gold. Using the same gold, two domes of temples were constructed.

Durga Temple, built during the 18th century is also a popular in this city. According to legends, the statue of Goddess Durga in here was made by the Goddess herself. Every year, devotees visit this revered place during auspicious occasions, particularly Navratri.

It is popular among architecture students who visit it to see the Nagara Style of architecture, wherein the temple is layered in multi-tiered spires and has a rectangular tank of water. Among other shrines, Baba Keenaram Sthal, is regularly visited by researchers, tourists, documentary makers and writers.


Take a Holy Bath in Ganges

River Ganges is considered to the holiest Hindu River. Legends suggest that taking a dip in the holy waters here will offer salvation of sins and purification of the soul. In fact, the religious texts of Hinduism widely suggest that one should get a salvation by bathing in River Ganges to purify all sins accumulated in current or previous births.

Taking a dip or bathing in the holy waters of Ganges is one of the major things to do in Varanasi. The river’s personification is Ganga, the elder sister of Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva.

It is said that Ganga came to earth for giving salvation to 60000 ancestors. She came to earth as human, but her falling force is said to be so enormous that Lord Shiva had to hold her in his matted hair and he was the one who ultimately released her in the form of river.

The river, associated to Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh is therefore revered by Hindus. Varanasi has 84 Ghats and their steps lead to the River Ganges. The Ghats can be accessed easily and used for dipping or taking bath in Ganga. To complement this, travellers are recommended to opt for boat rides, which will help you gain insight into the culture and historical significance of the mystical river.


Stroll Along the Ghats

Exploring the Ghats is one of the best things to do in Varanasi. The city has almost a hundred Ghats, the steps of each leading the banks of River Ganges. These are bathing Ghats, praying Ghats and cremation sites for Hindus from all over the world. It makes them alluring and enthralling for a traveller as it is associated with some legend or mythologies.

The privately owned ones here are known for morning boat rides which provide impeccable, panoramic views of the place. Some of the major Ghats that one can visit during their trip to Varanasi includes the Mata Anandamai Ghat, Assi Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Munshi Ghat, Raj Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Scindia Ghat and Raj Ghat.

Of these, Dashashwamedh Ghat is perhaps the most popular. It is located close to Vishwanath Temple and therefore, its spectacular appearance makes it an enchanting place to visit in Varanasi. The Ghat is associated with two Hindu mythologies.

One of these suggests that this where Lord Brahma welcomed Lord Shiva. The other states the place where Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses during a Yajna. Every day, saints here perform Worship to Fire or Agni Pooja, which is a charismatic and spectacular event to watch.

Apart from this, Lalita Ghat is a destination worth visiting. Built by King of Nepal, it is the site of Keshav Temple and a number of local festivals are organized at this place. For cremating electrically, a crematorium has been set in Harishchandra Ghat.  


Go for a Sightseeing Tour of Sarnath

Just a few kilometres away from Varanasi, is the sleepy village of Singhpur. While Varanasi is a Hindu religious centre, Singhpur’s Sarnath is a Buddhist centre of religion. Visit to this village, which is known for its Buddhist monuments, is one of the best things to do in Varanasi and nearby areas. Sarnath is also referred to a deer park, which is the place where Gautama Buddha first came and taught about the concept of Dharma.

This is where Buddhist Sangha received enlightenment. It is located in Singhpur, known as the birthplace of Shreyansanath, the eleventh Tirthankara in Jainism. Sarnath is certainly one of the best places near Varanasi, especially for those who are keen to learn more about history and religion in India.

It is where Emperor Ashoka erected a number of stupas and monuments for spreading Buddhism. The crumbling stupas here are a house of relics, manuscripts and fascinating inscriptions that can teach one a lot of Indian history, development of Buddhism and provide alternative theories such as Aliens and how they visited the earth.

A tour to Sarnath is usually for half a day and starts early in the morning. During the morning, one can revel in the beauty of Chaukhandi Stupa, which is one of the main stupas built by Ashoka after he converted into Buddhism.

Another main attraction is the Dhammek Stupa, made from a blend of stone and bricks. The stupa is 28 meters in diameter and has a height of 43.6 meters. Alternate theorist and historians from other countries suggest that the dome of this stupa indirectly refers to aliens and UFOs.

The intricate floral carvings of this stupa are reflective of early Gupta style of architecture.  The other highlight of Sarnath is Mulagandha Kuti Vihar, which is a monument that showcases beautiful frescoes made a Japanese painter. This area is a rich repository of the culture and heritage of Buddhism. To gain more insight into Buddhism and to be enthralled by this history of this place, you can visit Sarnath Museum.

It is said to be the home of large number of relics that were excavated from Sarnath. The lion capital of Ashoka Pillar, which features on Indian emblem, is also showcased here.


Shopping in Varanasi's Local Market

Image Credit : Arnab Datta - Flickr

Shopping in Varanasi is the best thing to do on a free afternoon or evening. The city is widely famous for its silk saris and ornate jewels. Visit the local market to buy different items of interest. The intricate pattern of floral designs and elaborate zari or thread work saris must be purchased from this beautiful place.

The local market here is filled with illustrious fine silk and apart from saris, one can buy shawls, carpets, stone inlay work, bangles and idols of Hindu or Buddhist deities. The main shopping areas to explore in this city include Vishwanath Lane, Thateri Bazaar, Chowk and Godowilia.


Visit Historical Ramnagar Fort

A popular fortification, Ramnagar Fort is located in Varanasi. It is one of the best places to see on a monotonous afternoon. The fortification on the eastern bank of River Ganges is known for its cream coloured Chunar Sandstone, which gives it a strong, sophisticated appearance.

Although, it isn’t as old as usual forts in the country, it is popular around the world for its strong, lavish appearance. The fascinating structure is one of the best places for tourists and history buffs. Built by Raja Balwant Singh in 1750, this castle is the best representation of Mughal style of architecture.

It features carved balconies, pavilions and open courtyards, which is associated with summer resorts, palaces and forts of Mughal. The fort has been the home of the Maharaja and then his children. Currently, Anant Narayan Singh is the resident and occupies it despite the abolishing of Royal title in 1971.

The fort is often used for outdoor shooting locations of various films and has a museum, which showcases unusual and rare collection of vintage cars from America along with ivory work, sedan chairs, golden and silver palanquins in the shape of lotus and elephant saddles made of beautiful designs. It also features an armoury hall that displays swords and guns from around the world.


Visit Dashashwamedh Ghat

Well known for its dazzling celebration of Ganga Arti, it is one of the holiest Ghats in Varanasi. The spectacle in the evening is filled with chanting of the priests, the melody of bells and brass cymbals and the blowing conch shells that fill up the ambience with spirituality. The 45 minute arti here leaves everyone spellbound where the priests perform ancient rituals derived from the Vedas and Upanishads. 

This ghat is thronged by the devotees and believed to be the place where Lord Brahma had a sacrificial ceremony done of 10 horses. The ghat decked up by the illuminated diyas in the river is surely a sight not to be missed. 


Savour Local Street Food

If you are a gastronome, relishing the local food on the streets is one of the best things to do in Varanasi. Here you can start with a sumptuous breakfast of Kachori Sabzi at Ram Bhandar or Thatheri Bazaar or relish a plate of Baati Chokha.

If you are in a mood for snacking, Choora Matar and Meethe Gol Gappe will send you into a food coma. For your sweet tooth, there is the popular Makhan Malaiyoo or Nimish that is offered during the winter season in Varanasi. 
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Have Lassi at Blue Lassi Cafe

One of the most famous lassi shops in Varanasi, this place offers something unique for all the foodies. Here, you can get lassi with a twist as it is offered being infused with different flavors like apple, banana, custard apple etc. 

This humble shop in Varanasi is  a wonderful place to hang out with loved ones and savor a glass that will have a blast of flavors in your mouth. You can choose among various toppings like mango, papaya, ice cream or rose syrup to add to the flavors. Remember, it has very little seating space. So make sure to choose a time to avoid the crowds and make the most of your food trail in Varanasi. 
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Visit Weaver’s Village

Sarai Mohana, or the weaver’s village is one of the best offbeat things to do in Varanasi. It is flocked with locals who have churned out the most amazing Banarasi silk sarees in India. Their work is well-known for many different characteristics like zari (gold and silver brocade), embroidery work et cans saris which are completed in time spanning from 15 days to months.

These sarees are famous all over the world and represent an integral part of the culture of the city. So, when you are in Varanasi, don’t forget to buy a dazzling silk sari to wear on your next festival celebration or marriage party from Sarai Mohana as a souvenir of vacation in Varanasi.
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Visit Jantar Mantar

Inviting all science lovers, visiting Jantar Mantar is one of the most intriguing things to do in Varanasi for all the curious souls. The historical attraction was built in 1737 by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amber and in earlier times used to measure things like local time, altitude, the position of sun, planets and stars. It is one of the solar observatories in India, the other being in Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain and Mathura. 

All history buffs here will be enticed to see various instruments used in ancient astronomy like DishaYantra, DiganshaYantra, Dhruva Yantra, Prakash Yantra, Ram Yantra, KrantivrittaYantra, and SamratYantra. 
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Ramayana Lesson at Tulsi Manas Temple

With its walls elegantly carved with the verses of Ramayana in Hindi, this temple is dedicated to Lord Rama in Varanasi. Built in white marble, it is encompassed by scenic surroundings of lush green gardens. The temple which was built in 1964 has a special place in hearts of the devotees who wish to learn about the famous Hindu epic that was written by Tulsidas. 

It also has a museum where you can see a stunning collection of manuscripts that pertain to the Ramayana and other artefacts. Visiting the temple is one of the most refreshing things to do in Varanasi if you want to indulge in prayers and meditation as well. 
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Try Bhang from Godowlia

Served in a kulhad, trying thandai in Varanasi with some bhang is one of the most recommended things to do in Varanasi. Bhang is basically dried cannabis which is served in a chilling glass of thandai at many shops in Godowlia Crossing in Varanasi. 

It is one of the most popular recreational drugs in Varanasi that assures to get you high. The refreshing drink is a part of the culture in Varanasi and should be consumed when you are in the land of Shiva. 

People Also Ask About Varanasi

  1. What should we not miss in Varanasi?

    1) Boating in the Ganges: Offering an unbeatable experience, boating in the Ganges will leave you with spectacular memories of Ganga Ghats. It is an unmissable activity during the sunset and offers a gorgeous view during the Ganga Aarti.

    2) Visiting the Temples: Varanasi is hailed for its spiritual ambience and it is best seen in the temples which bring in devotees from far and wide. The most popular temples to see here are Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Durga Temple, Annapurna Temple, Tulsi Manas Temple, Sankatmochan Temple etc.

    3) Take a Stroll on the Ghats: Varanasi enchants everyone during the sunsets if you are in a mood for a casual stroll. Here, you can see people indulged in many Hindu rites and offering prayers. The must-visit Ghats in Varanasi are Assi Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat etc.

    4) Buy a Banarasi Silk Saree: Varanasi is known for its weavers’ community and it is recommended that you must buy a saree known for its finest silk and embroidery. You can take a tour of Sarai Mohana to watch the weavers working brilliantly on their craft and take a glance at the culture of Varanasi.
  2. What should I wear in Varanasi?

    Varanasi is hailed as one of the most spiritual cities in India and deeply embedded with the beliefs and customs of Indian culture. Therefore, it is imperative that when you are visiting Varanasi you wear modest clothes so as not to attract unnecessary attention and any unwarranted trouble.

    Women should wear clothes that cover their shoulders and legs and men should try to wear full clothes, especially while visiting temples and other religious places.
  3. How many days are enough in Varanasi?

    A vacation of about 2 days and 2 nights is ideal to spend time in Varanasi and plan a good itinerary to see all the places.
  4. Is Varanasi and Kashi the same?

    Yes, Varanasi and Kashi are the same. Kashi is one of the names of Varanasi as it was used during the ancient times.

    The word Kashi is derived from the Hindi word ‘Kasha’ which means brightness.
  5. How old is Varanasi?

    It is said that Varanasi is about 5000 years old which dates according to Hindu mythology. It is said it was founded by Lord Shiva. Although, modern scholars have excavated artefacts which date back to 800 BCE.

    Varanasi has its mention in many ancient texts and was believed to be a prosperous city during the time of Buddha and thereon. Modern civilization in Varanasi started during the 15th century.
  6. What is the best time to visit Varanasi?

    The most favorable time to visit Varanasi is from the month of November to February. This is when the weather is cold and you can indulge in sightseeing of the outdoor places without any hassle.

    The temperature at this time usually ranges between 5 to 15 degrees Celsius.
  7. How far is Sarnath from Varanasi?

    Sarnath is located at a distance of about 10 kms from Varanasi and easily accessible by auto, cabs, buses etc.
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