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  • Things to do in Varanasi 

    Witness Grandeur Evening Aarti Ceremony, Explore Varanasi Temples, Take a Holy Bath in Ganges, Morning Boat Ride in Ganges River, Go for a Sightseeing Tour of Sarnath, Stroll Along the Ghats 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: 816 kms

    Visiting Varanasi for the first time? These Guides are must read:

    1) Best Sightseeing Places in Varanasi

    2) BEST DEALS on Varanasi Tour Packages

  • Famous Things to do in Varanasi

  • 01Witness Grandeur Evening Aarti Ceremony

    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.


  • 02Explore Varanasi Temples

    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.

  • 03Take a Holy Bath in Ganges

    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.

  • 04Morning Boat Ride in Ganges River

    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.


  • Offbeat Things to do in Varanasi

  • 05Go for a Sightseeing Tour of Sarnath

    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.

  • 06Stroll Along the Ghats

    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.  

  • 07Visit Historical Ramnagar Fort

    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.

  • 08Shopping in Varanasi's Local Market

    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.


Attractions

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Kashi Vishwanath Temple

One of the oldest, richest, and holiest shrines of India is located in the sacred city of Varanasi and is known as Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Named Kashi, due to the ancient name of Varanasi, the glorious temple commemorates the mighty Lord Shiva and is a part of the 12 Jyotirlingas. Thousands of devotees travel from miles away to witness its soothing spiritual ambiance and seek blessings from their god. Sun glistens on the towering spires and domes made out of pure gold.

As you walk through the gates, you can hear the soft rushing sounds of river Ganges nearby. Miniature shrines of various Hindu deities encircle the main hall of Sabha Griha. And at the heart of this hall, standing on a silver platform is the magnificent brown stoned effigy of Lord Shiva. Having braved the ravages of cultural wars, this temple has been demolished and reconstructed many times. Hence, this temple is not only an eminent pilgrimage site but also a prominent historical landmark.

Distance from Varanasi: 5.3 km

Best Time to Visit: Shivratri and Rangabhari Ekadashi
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Dasaswamedh Ghat

Dashashwamedh Ghat is known for conducting the liveliest aartis along the holy river Ganga to immerse the visitors into divine bliss. A prominent member of the tourist attractions in Varanasi, Dashashwamedh Ghat, got its name due to the legend of Lord Brahma sacrificing 10 horses, or das Ashwamedh, in order to perform a yajna. Every sunset, the ghat gets illuminated by the light of diyas lit to commence the sacred rituals.

Priests gather and chant prayers in unison as they move the diyas in circles and pay their obeisance to the god. A huge crowd gathers to participate in this ceremony. The refreshing aura that sets in during the evening witnesses hundreds of tourists thronging the ghat to relax on the steps leading to the river waters. You can also spot many boats floating in the river. Due to the divine ambiance and religious significance, it is a must amongst the places to visit in Varanasi in 2 days.      

Distance from Varanasi: 5.5 km

Best Time to Visit: Kartik Purnima

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Assi Ghat

Another name amongst the unmissable places to visit in Varanasi is Assi Ghat. Frequented by college-goers and tourists alike, this ghat offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of Varanasi's chaotic lanes. Pilgrims bathe in the holy waters of River Assi and offer flowers to the Shivlinga before resting on the steps of the ghat.

Ancient texts claim it to be the place where the revered saint and poet, Tulsidas, retired before his death. You can relax under the shade of peepal trees lining the shore, or take a boat ride to witness the panoramic sunsets. Every day, at the break of the dawn, the ghat is crowded by devotees chanting prayers as the priests light the diyas and perform the ceremonial aarti.      

Distance from Varanasi: 7.2 km

Best Time to Visit: Shivratri
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Manikarnika Ghat

Many legends surround the etymology behind Manikarnika Ghat, the oldest riverfront and one of the most religious tourist attractions in Varanasi. Mentioned in many ancient scriptures and religious texts, Manikarnika ghat is said to be the place where Devi Sati set herself on fire and also the birthplace of the fearless queen of Jhansi, Rani Lakshmibai.

Temples of many Hindu deities surround its periphery while the holy waters of river Ganga flow peacefully alongside. Giving a peek into the traditional life of Varanasi, this place is visited every year by thousands of pilgrims performing the last rites of their departed loved ones. A holy well, believed to be dug by Lord Shiva to recover the fallen earring of Goddess Sati, is present at the top of the stairs. 

Distance from Varanasi: 5.5 km

Best Time to Visit: Summer season, from March to June

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Chunar Fort

This is a small fort located on the little diversion between Varanasi and Prayagraj, and it has played a significant role in shaping the history of India. The fort is situated on the banks of river Ganga and is also called Tilismi Quila or Magical Fort because it was featured in the novel “Chandrakanta”.

Some of the most popular movies, like Gangs of wasseypur were also shot here. The Fort has witnessed the reign of several dynasties such as the Mauryans, Gupta dynasty of the Mughals, etc. Chunar Fort is also known for stone trading as it is located in Kaimur Hills, which is the only place in this region that is known to produce good quality stones.

Distance from Varanasi: 32 km

Best Time to Visit: Anytime between 9 am to 5
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Tulsi Manas Temple

Pearly white facade greets the eyes as one walks through the lush green gardens of Tulsi Manas Temple. Constructed in 1964 by the Thakur Surekha Das family, the marble structure of this temple is renowned for its mesmerizing architecture. Believed to be the site where the ancient poet Tulsidas sat to pen down the holy epic of Ramcharitmanas, this temple is now one of the most revered religious places to visit in Varanasi.

Symbolizing the grace and simplicity of the Hindu religion, Tulsi Manas Temple celebrates the glorious journey of Lord Rama and his wife, Goddess Sita. Intricate carvings depicting the scenes from Ramayan form the colorful murals lining the inner walls. During auspicious festivals, tales from Ramcharitmanas are narrated through puppets by local performers. 

Distance from Varanasi: 6.7 km

Best Time to Visit: Monsoon season, from June to August
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Ramnagar Fort & Museum

Resting near the quiet shores of River Ganges is the majestic historical monument of Ramnagar Fort. Chunar sandstone forms the foundation of this creamy colored structure, which was built as the residential fort of Raja Balwant Singh. Even today, it houses the present Maharaja of Varanasi, whose residential quarters are separated from the rest of the fort. Two temples worshipping Lord Hanuman and Veda Vyasa are present inside the complex.

Verdant gardens, fountains, elaborate halls, carved balconies, and decorated courtyards mark the beautiful features of its Mughal architecture. The Durbar Hall was converted into a museum which is now known as Saraswati Bhawan. The museum houses an intriguing collection like an armory, vintage cars, royal palanquins, and multicolored murals of Maharajas. Situated opposite the Tulsi Ghat, Ramnagar Fort is one of the best places to visit in Varanasi and can be accessed by pontoons.      

Distance from Varanasi: 14 km

Best Time to Visit: October to March, during the festivals of Raj Mangal and Dussehra
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Alamgir Mosque

Humans have eventually provided their reverence, a new richer meaning, simpler and more precise language in the forms of shrines. This has enabled every single being to have the accessibility of that divine source. With such words, we can aptly describe the exquisite shrine named Alamgir Mosque. This mosque is located near Panchganga Ghat and is amongst the top religious attractions of Varanasi. On the bank of the Ganges, this 17th-century monument stands tall and glorious.

This mosque is also known as “Beni Madha Ka Darera” and “Aurangzeb’s Mosque” from the fact that Emperor Aurangzeb built it. It has 2 minarets and 3 domes that gives its structure a distinguishable and magnificent outlook. But a tragedy in 1948 demolished a few portions of the mosque, which is now being guarded and preserved by our government. A perfect amalgamation of evening sunset near the giant mosque and the water gushing out from the fountains in the garden, one can absorb the best of nature at this site.

Distance from Varanasi: 5.6 km

Best Time to Visit: October
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Godowlia Market

The favorite stop of shopaholics visiting Varanasi is the bustling lanes of Godowlia Market. Stretching at a distance of about 3 km, this market is present in the vicinity of Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple and is one of the oldest local bazaars of the city. With old buildings forming the boundaries of its lanes, the narrow street is lined with shops and stalls of local vendors selling all kinds of commodities. Frequented by locals who visit the market to purchase groceries, hardware, and household items, this market is famous for its silk embroidery.

From Bhadohi carpets and zari work to wooden carvings and fine silk fabrics, high-quality goods are sold at reasonable prices. Skilled craftsmen also sell their exquisite handicrafts that work as excellent decoration items. You can also buy beads, bracelets, shoes, shawls, and jewelry. Not only is it the perfect place to purchase traditional items, but it is also a nice place to acquaint yourself with daily city life and culture.

Distance from Varanasi: 5.6 km

Best Time to Visit: October to March
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Chowk & Vishwanath Gali

Another beloved stop of shopping lovers is the crowded market of Vishwanath Gali. Packed with excited tourists and localities, this market is smaller compared to Godowlia Market but has a wide variety to satisfy its customers. From tailored and readymade fabrics to wooden handicrafts, you can find anything and everything over here.

The sweet aroma of delectable dishes fills the lanes as you walk through the street, admiring the multihued fabrics at display in the stalls. Banarasi sarees, designer carpets, embroidered shawls, funky jewelry, and classic accessories are bought in huge numbers by travelers visiting Vishwanath Gali. Looking at the metal and wooden effigies of Hindu deities, you cannot help but admire the talent possessed by the local craftsmen.

Distance from Varanasi: 5.3 km

Best Time to Visit: All year
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Man Mandir Observatory

An outing to the revered Man Mandir Ghat is incomplete without a quick visit to the Man Mandir observatory. Commonly known as Jantar Mantar of Varanasi, it was built under the supervision of Maharaja Jai Singh, the king of Jaipur. His innate thirst for science led to the construction of this observatory, which is noticeably similar to a few observatories around the country with the same name.

This scientific marvel was created to observe the different positions of sun, stars, planets, and other celestial bodies concerning time and eclipses. The observatory is full of innumerable pieces of equipment used to record the speed and motion of such celestial bodies.

Distance from Varanasi: 5.3 km

Best Time to Visit: All year
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The Banaras Silk Emporium

Silk has been the legacy of India and has been used extensively for so many purposes. But the art and craft behind Banaras Silk Emporium came with the invasion of Mughal Emperors and the spread of their craftsmen as they came with this concept of weaving and integrating silk in a piece of cloth.

Today, it is a popular name to shop for authentic silk sarees and amongst the best places to visit in Varanasi. Currently, this Banaras Silk Emporium is in huge demand and has wide networking serving lakhs of customers per year. Traditional techniques are used by skilled craftsmen to tailor high-quality silk embroidery sarees, fabrics, and weavings. 

Distance from Varanasi: 4.4 km

Best Time to Visit: All year
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Shivala Ghat

Another prominent riverfront in this pilgrimage city is Shivala Ghat. Surrounded by historical landmarks and some of the most intriguing places to visit in Varanasi, this ghat is visited by photography lovers who wish to capture the captivating vistas of sunrise and sunset.

Also known as Kali Ghat, this site is often visited by localities who perform their morning prayers or take a dip in the holy water of River Ganga. On one side, you can spot the charming fortress of Oudh's Nawab's representative Chet Singh. While on the other side, you can spot the 19th-century exquisite mansion of Nepali royal, King Sanjay Vikram Singh. Tourists here enjoy resting peacefully near the banks and taking a boat ride in the tranquil river. 

Distance from Varanasi: 6.2 km

Best Time to Visit: Shivratri
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Tulsi Ghat

Tulsi Ghat is an important landmark where Tulsidas created the holy version of ramcharitmanas and it should be one of the must visit places in Varanasi in 2 days. Located on the banks of River Ganga, it is a member of the chain of ghats present in Varanasi. But what makes it stand apart amongst the other riverfronts is its historical legend and religious significance.

Named after the Hindu poet Tulsidas, stories claim this to be the place where he lived while he was working on the Awadhi version of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Pilgrims gather in thousands to wash away their sins by taking a dip in the blessed waters of Ganga. The waters are also said to have healing powers to cure skin diseases and leprosy. An annual festival called Lolark Sasthi sees huge masses gathered at the ghat to worship Lord Rama and pray to be blessed with a son. 

Distance from Varanasi: 6.7 km

Best Time to Visit: Lolark Sasthi, Kartik Month
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Manmandir Ghat

This ancient yet beautiful ghat was built more than 400 years ago by Maharaja Man Singh. He also constructed an enormous palace on banks of the ghat, which is admired by countless architects around the world. The Jantar Mantar on the top adds a scientific layer to the ghat, which makes it stand out. Jam-packed with Hindu mandirs, the ghat is known to be a heaven for Hindu deities’ worshippers.

The ravishing views, especially during dawn and dusk, will give you a reason to stick around longer than usual. Situated on the banks of river Ganga, it is one of the most beautiful places not only in Varanasi but in entire India.

Distance from Varanasi: 5.3 km

Best Time to Visit: Early morning
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Darbhanga Ghat

In a city brimful of ghats, the Darbhanga Ghat stands out due to its rich heritage and an amazing palace situated near the bank. A royal family from Darbhanga named the ghat on themselves and erected the magnificent palace with sandstone from Chunar. It is one of its kinds when it comes to architectural grandeur.

Set amongst other ghats such as Dashashwamedh ghat and Ranamahal ghat, it is a popular choice for many religious events. What makes Darbhanga Ghat the best place to visit in Varanasi is the gigantic Shivalinga which is known to fulfill your wishes.

Distance from Varanasi: 5.5 km

Best Time to Visit: All year

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