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  • 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

Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most popular places to visit in Varanasi, and all of India! It is amongst the most important temples of Lord Shiva, and graces the western flank of the Holy Ganges. Being one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the temple holds tremendous religious significance for Hindus who flock here every year as a mark of their devotion.

As a result of the ever-growing number of devotees visiting the temple, there’s now a Special Darshan booking system made available to ease the hassles of long queues. About 2 km away from heart of Varanasi city, the temple’s reigning deity is known as ‘Vishwanath’ or ‘Vishweshwara’.

Timings:
04:00 AM to 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM to 07:00 PM everyday

Location:
 Lahori Tola, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001

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Dasaswamedh Ghat

In close proximity to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Dashashwamedh Ghat is one of the oldest and most significant ghats in Varanasi. Lodged along the banks of the river Ganga, the name of the ghat literally translates to ’the place of 10 sacrificed horses’. Steeped in Hindu mythology, it is believed that Lord Brahma organised a sacrifice of ten horses here in order to welcome Lord Shiva.

The structure dates back several centuries, and had to undergo a couple of reconstructions during the 18th century. Another reason for the popularity of Dashashwamedh Ghat is the legendary Ganga aarti that takes place post sunset! You can also admire the aarti from a boat afloat the river. If you’re a devotee, you must visit the ghat on Kartik Purnima, when a grand Ganga aarti is hosted here.

Location: 
Dashashwamedh Ghat Road, Ghats of varanasi, Godowlia, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001

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Assi Ghat

Amongst the most fascinating tourist places in Varanasi, Assi river is believed to be the place where Maa Durga disposed of her sword after slaughtering the demon Shumbha-Nishumbha. Settled at the confluence point of the rivers Ganga and Assi, Assi Ghat is one of the holiest places for Hindus all over the country.

It is also said that taking a dip in the waters of the Assi river, one can wash away all the sins they’ve committed throughout their lives. A colossal Shiva Lingam can be found right under a Peepal tree, where worshippers offer their prayers and pay respects. Assi Ghat is tucked in a quiet little corner in Varanasi, and one can also enjoy a few undisturbed moments of peace by the river

Location: Shivala, Ghats of varanasi, Godowlia, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001
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Manikarnika Ghat

One of the most religious, yet underrated, places to visit in Varanasi, Manikarnika Ghat is the most sacred crematorium for Hindus. Social outcasts known as doms take care of the dead, who are draped in cloth and transferred to the waters of the Holy Ganges through the winding alleys of the Old City.

If you wish, you can witness the cremation process, but bear in mind that this is a sacred procedure, and you must act respectfully. Also keep in mind that photography is strictly not allowed here.

Location: Garawasi, Jugul Tola, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001

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Tulsi Manas Temple

One of the most popular places to visit in Varanasi, the Tulsi Manas Temple graces the sacred Durga Kund, in close proximity to the Monkey Temple. Close to the Durga Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple and the New Vishwanath Temple, this religious cluster is one of the most visited places in Kashi.

A religiously important monument, the temple is also said to be the very place where the eminent Goswami Tulsidas penned the Hindu epic Ramacharitamanasa, describing the life story of Lord Ram. Harbouring beautiful statues of Lord Rama, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, the temple is visited by thousands of devotees every year. 

Timings: 
05:30 AM to 12:00 PM, 04:00 PM to 09:00 PM everyday

Location: 
Sankat Mochan Rd, Durgakund Rd, Near Jalan, Varanasi, 221005

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Ramnagar Fort & Museum

Built in the 18th century by the king of Varanasi, Ramnagar Fort is a sandstone edifice overlooking the banks of the holy Ganges. It is presently home to the current king of Varanasi, Anant Narayan Singh. The structure is built in a typical Mughal architectural style, and houses several temples, huge pavilions and balconies, and a massive Darbar Hall.

Saraswati Bhavan is the museum centred in the fort, and exhibits a rare assortment of ivory works, medieval clothes, ornaments, palanquins and other vintage items. Although the fort lies in partially ruins, the unmistakable glory of its olden days is beautifully reflected in the walls.

Timings: 
10:00 AM to 05:00 PM

Entry Fee: 
Rs.15 per person

Location:
Mirzapur - Varanasi Road, Purana, Ramnagar, Uttar Pradesh 221008

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Alamgir Mosque

Reigning over the spot where a Vishnu Temple once stood, Alamgir Mosque was the skilful creation of Aurangzeb. The imposing structure beautifully dominates the Panchganga Ghat, while portraying the subtle nuances of the architecture born by the fusion of Indian and Mughal styles.

The Hindu style stands out in the lower reaches of the mosque, while the higher ends remain rooted in Mughal design. It is also of the most architecturally beautiful places to visit in Varanasi.

Timings: 
07:00 AM to 07:00 PM everyday

Entry Fee: 
No entry fee

Location:
 Panchganga Ghat, Ghasi Tola, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001

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Godowlia Market

One of the most go-to shopping destinations in Varanasi, the Godowlia Local Market is always buzzing with tourists and locals. Lined by several shops and street-vendors, the market carries everything, right from household items and decor materials to hardware, clothes, jewellery, and groceries.

It is the one-stop shop for all your shopping needs, literally. It is like a mini version of the city, crammed into a few street blocks!

Timings: 
10:00 AM to 09:00 PM

Location: 
Dashaswmedh Road, Ramapura Luxa, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, 221001

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Chowk & Vishwanath Gali

Another name that crops up when shopping in Varanasi, Vishwanath Lane is spread over a considerably smaller area than that of Godowlia Market, but is by no means any lesser in competition. Dotted with various shops either side of the street, Vishwanath Market is ideal for religious items, jewellery and accessories, fabrics, wooden toys, and classic Banarasi Silk sarees.

A favourite amongst travellers and locals alike, Vishwanath market is relatively less crowded than Godowlia, with more or less the same benefits as the latter.

Timings: 
10:00 AM to 09:00 PM

Location: 
Dashaswmedh Road, Ramapura Luxa, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, 221001

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Man Mandir Observatory

Resting on top of the famous Man Mandir Ghat, Jantar Mantar, or Man Mandir Observatory is one of the most popular places to visit in Varanasi. Established in the year 1737 by Jai Singh, the King of Jaipur and a patron of science, the observatory was built to measure and observe time and eclipses with reference to the position of the Sun and other celestial bodies.

Strikingly similar to the observatory of the same name in Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain and Mathura, the observatory was a huge success.

Timings:
08:00 AM to 05:30 PM everyday

Entry Fee:
INR 15 per person

Location:
Observatory, Man Mandir ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat Rd, Observatory, Man mandir, Godowlia, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001

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The Banaras Silk Emporium

The leading brand when it comes to manufacture of Banarasi and handloom sarees made from pure, top-quality silk, Banarasi Silk Emporium is the ultimate shopping destination. Their sarees come in a beautiful variety of colours, designs, fabrics and patterns in order to suit the taste of each buyer.

Placing the quality of fabric above everything else, each saree is unique, and marries Indian ethnicity with glamour. Irrespective of your taste or the occasion, Banarasi Silk Emporium is one place in Varanasi where you just cannot return empty-handed from!

Location
: Buddh Bihar Colony, Behind Hotel Clarks, Buddh Bihar Colony, Varanasi-221002, Uttar Pradesh

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Shivala Ghat

One of the many religious places to visit in Varanasi, Shivala Ghat, also known as Kali Ghat, is built right beside a colossal 19th century mansion. The early morning boat ride at Shivala Ghat is a must-have experience when visiting Varanasi. Besides the boat ride, the ghat is also celebrated for the Shiva temple and Brahmendra Math (spiritual centre) that watch over Shivala Ghat.

Built by the great king Balwant Singh, the ghat is named after its prevailing deity Lord Shiva. Buried waist-deep in mythology and Indian folklore, Shivala Ghat also offers stunning views of the ribboning Ganga, which roughly translates into ‘perfect photography spots’!

Location:
Near Rajguru Math, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001

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Tulsi Ghat

Believed to be the place where the great Tulsidas composed the Hindu epic Ramacharitamanasa, Tulsi Ghat is home to various relics of the great saint. One of the most important religious tourist places in Varanasi, Tulsi Ghat is brimming with spirituality and religion.

It is believed that when Tulsidas’s manuscript slipped and fell into the Ganga river, it stayed afloat instead of having sunk. Legend also has it that the very first rendition of Ram Leela, a visual portrayal of the life of Lord Rama, was performed at Tulsi Ghat. Corroborating this, a beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Rama stands here too.

Location:
Assi Rd, Assi ghat, Near, Shivala, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221010

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Manmandir Ghat

Erected in the 17th century by Raja Man Singh, and restructured during the mid 1900s, Man Mandir Ghat is located on the north of Dashashwamedh Ghat. Known as Someshwar Ghat in the earlier days, the ghat is presided over by a magnificent palace carrying intricate carvings and paintings.

Falling now under the purview of the Archaeological Survey of India, the palace offers unmatched views of the Ganga river and the rest of Varanasi from above. Another great tourist attraction here is the famous observatory called Jantar Mantar which sits atop the palace. It is one of the mot unmissable places to visit in Varanasi.

Location: 
Bangali Tola, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001

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Darbhanga Ghat

Sitting at a distance of 6 km from Varanasi, Darbhanga Ghat falls towards the southern flank of Dashashwamedh Ghat. Sandwiched between Causatthi Ghat and Babua Pandey Ghat, this is the most sought-after place for the performance of the final rites and rituals post death.

The structure is quite steep and narrow, but widens up noticeably as it approaches Babua Pandey Ghat. Resting at the foot of a massive building, the ghat affords great views of the ceremonies and rituals that it hosts. The ghat is also honoured with the presence of a stunning Shiva Lingam, along with an equally beautiful temple.

Location:
Near Ahilyabai Ghat, Uttar Pradesh 221010

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Scindia Ghat

Also known as Shinde Ghat, Scindia Ghat is one of the most interesting places to visit in Varanasi. The temple of Lord Shiva that stands guard over this ghat is partially submerged in the holy river Ganga! Rooted deeply in Hindu mythology, this place is also believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu God of fire, Agni.

Presently, the ghat is a famous medication spot, especially early in the morning, when heaps of people rush here to enjoy the peace and cleanliness of the place. This 150 year old structure is also known for its crematorium, one of the most sacred ones in Varanasi.

Location:
 Near Manikarnika Ghat, Ghats of varanasi, Ghasi Tola, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001

Most Popular Places Around Varanasi

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