Varanasi Tourism 101: Everything You Need to Know

Varanasi ghat

Varanasi, one of the seven holy cities for Hindus, is an awe-inspiring experience that encompasses both exhaustion and liberation. Its monumental temples, vibrant ghats, and various other renowned attractions continually captivate millions of tourists annually.

This allure extends not only to Indian travelers but also to visitors from around the world. Beyond its famous ghats, temples, and music scene, Varanasi boasts a multitude of other captivating sites that warrant exploration during your visit.

As the oldest city in India, Varanasi exudes an irresistible old-world charm and is steeped in cultural significance as one of the holiest cities in the country.

The city is also renowned for its exquisite gold and silver threadwork, intricate wooden toys, expert carpet weaving, dazzling glass bangles, aromatic perfumes, a diverse array of handicrafts, and masterfully crafted brass ware.

Also read: Beyond Temples in Ujjain: Top 12 Places to Visit

Varanasi at glance

Varanasi at glance

Varanasi, nestled along the banks of the sacred Ganga River, is a city steeped in spiritual significance. Its famous ghats are revered for hosting mesmerizing Aarti ceremonies, offering visitors an enchanting experience.

The city is also home to a plethora of distinctive temples, each an architectural marvel and a sanctuary for a diverse array of deities. Varanasi's religious eminence is further underscored by its numerous temples, each a unique testament to faith and devotion. Beyond the spiritual realm, Varanasi offers a rich cultural tapestry, enticing travelers with its heritage sites and cultural landmarks.

For those seeking respite from exploration, the city boasts a selection of charming cafes, providing not only delectable cuisine but also panoramic views of the picturesque ghats.

Additionally, Varanasi offers a vibrant shopping experience, with bustling markets offering a diverse array of souvenirs and mementos to take home. Immerse yourself in the spiritual, cultural, and culinary delights of this divine city.

Best time to visit

Misty varanasi

Visiting Varanasi between October and March offers an optimal experience. This period aligns with the winter season, making it the prime time to explore the city.

Notably, November heralds the much-celebrated Ganga Mahotsav, a vibrant five-day festival that captivates visitors from far and wide. The event, a shining gem in Varanasi's cultural calendar, adds an extra layer of allure to the city during this season.

With the climate being pleasant and conducive for sightseeing, you'll have the opportunity to immerse yourself fully in Varanasi's myriad attractions.

This includes exploring the renowned tourist spots that truly showcase the city's essence. The combination of the festive fervor and the welcoming weather makes winter the quintessential time to uncover the best of what Varanasi has to offer.

How to reach Varanasi

By Air:

Varanasi is conveniently accessible by air through the Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport.

This airport boasts excellent connectivity with various major cities across India. Upon arrival at the airport, you'll find it well-equipped to cater to the needs of travelers, ensuring a smooth transition to your Varanasi adventure.

By Train:

For those preferring train travel, Varanasi offers excellent rail connectivity through the Varanasi Junction railway station.

This station links Varanasi to all major cities in India. The railway station is efficiently managed, ensuring a hassle-free experience for passengers arriving by train.

By Road:

Varanasi is well-connected by road, particularly from Delhi and adjacent cities in Uttar Pradesh. Buses ply regularly on this route, providing a convenient and comfortable option for travellers who enjoy road trips.

The road journey offers scenic views and the opportunity to witness the changing landscapes, route to Varanasi. Be sure to plan your road trip to make the most of this experience.

Historical marvel

Historical marvel in varanasi

Varanasi, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, is steeped in history and abounds with architectural marvels. The Ghats along the sacred Ganges River are a testament to centuries of cultural and spiritual significance.

Dashashwamedh Ghat

The mesmerizing Dashashwamedh Ghat, believed to be created by Lord Brahma, is a focal point for pilgrims and witnesses grand Aartis daily. Adjacent, the Manikarnika Ghat, evokes deep spiritual reverence, serving as a cremation site for Hindus seeking moksha.

Vishwanath Temple

The iconic Vishwanath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, boasts an impressive gold-plated spire and intricately carved marble. Another gem is the revered Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, believed to have been built by Tulsidas, offering solace to devotees.

Alamgir MosqueLastly, the Alamgir Mosque, a blend of Hindu and Mughal architecture, provides a glimpse into Varanasi's diverse heritage. These historical treasures weave a rich tapestry of Varanasi's past, drawing visitors from all corners of the globe.

Cultural Treasure

cultural treasure varanasi

The spiritual heart of India, Varanasi, is a reservoir of cultural treasures. Its vibrant tapestry is woven with age-old traditions, art forms, and rituals. The city resonates with classical music, especially the enchanting strains of the sitar and tabla.

The Banaras Gharana

The Banaras Gharana, a renowned school of Indian classical music, has flourished here for centuries. Varanasi is also a hub for classical dance forms like Kathak, where performers grace stages with grace and precision.

The city's handwoven silk saris, adorned with intricate designs, are a testament to the artistry of its weavers. The narrow lanes buzz with artisans crafting exquisite pieces of jewelry, woodwork, and metalware. The fragrance of incense and the echo of temple bells create an aura of spiritual devotion.

Ganga Aarti

The centuries-old ritual of Ganga Aarti, a mesmerizing spectacle of light and devotion, is a daily occurrence at the Ghats. Festivals like Diwali and Holi are celebrated with unmatched fervor, immersing the city in a kaleidoscope of colors and lights.

Varanasi, steeped in tradition, is a living museum of India's cultural heritage, captivating the senses and hearts of all who visit.

Outdoor adventure

Rafting in ganga

While Varanasi is known for its spiritual and cultural richness, it also offers outdoor adventures for the thrill-seekers. The mighty Ganges River presents opportunities for river rafting, providing an adrenaline rush against the backdrop of ancient temples and scenic landscapes.

Rajaji National Park

Additionally, the city is a gateway to nearby wildlife sanctuaries, where enthusiasts can embark on safaris to spot diverse flora and fauna. The nearby Rajaji National Park is home to elephants, tigers, and a myriad of bird species. For those seeking a more leisurely adventure, boat tours along the Ganges provide a unique perspective of Varanasi's ghats and architecture.

Exploring the winding streets and alleys on a bicycle or scooter unveils hidden gems and allows for a more intimate connection with the city.

Varanasi, beyond its spiritual allure, caters to the adventurous spirit, offering an array of outdoor experiences for every type of explorer.

Things to do in Varanasi

Morning Boat Ride on the Ganges:

Morning Boat Ride on the Ganges

Embarking on a rowing boat ride along the Ganges at dawn is a quintessential Varanasi experience.

As the first light graces the Ghats and former palaces, the river unfolds its mesmerizing beauty. This early-hour venture offers a unique perspective of the city, revealing its vibrancy even at the break of dawn.

Witness Sadhus and pilgrims immersing themselves in the sacred waters, a testament to the deep reverence for the Ganges.

A one-hour boat ride, commencing from Dasawamedh Ghat, encapsulates the essence of Varanasi's spiritual significance. In the evening, observe the poignant ritual of floating lotus flower candles.

Boats are readily available for hire from the Manmandir area.

Ramnagar Fort - A Majestic Marvel:

Ramnagar Fort - A Majestic Marvel

Located on the eastern bank of the Ganges, Ramnagar Fort stands as a testament to Mughal-style architecture. Built by Raja Balwant Singh in 1750, this cream-colored Chunar Sandstone fort exudes grandeur.

Its carved balconies, pavilions, and open courtyards evoke the essence of Mughal palaces.

Today, it houses a museum exhibiting a remarkable collection of vintage cars, ivory work, sedan chairs, and intricately designed palanquins.

The fort's history is interwoven with the legacy of the Maharaja and serves as a cinematic backdrop, adding to its allure.

Sarnath - A Spiritual Journey:

Sarnath, A Buddhist temple

Just a short distance from Varanasi lies Sarnath, a tranquil village steeped in Buddhist history.

Known as the place where Gautama Buddha first preached about Dharma, Sarnath holds profound significance for Buddhists.

Emperor Ashoka erected stupas and monuments here, which now house relics and manuscripts.

The Chaukhandi Stupa and Dhammek Stupa are key attractions, offering insights into early Gupta architecture and spiritual enlightenment.

Sarnath Museum provides a deeper understanding of Buddhism's cultural legacy, showcasing relics excavated from the site.

Weaver’s Village and Banarasi Silk Sarees:

Weaver’s Village and Banarasi saree

Sarai Mohana, the weaver’s village, is a hidden gem for those seeking authentic Banarasi silk sarees.

Local artisans craft these exquisite pieces known for their zari work and intricate embroidery. These sarees, representing the heart of the city's culture, are a prized souvenir.

The craftsmanship involves meticulous detailing, taking anywhere from 15 days to months to complete. A visit here promises a unique shopping experience, leaving you with a stunning memento of your time in Varanasi.

Witness Grandeur Evening Aarti Ceremony:

Aarti Ceremony

For those seeking an added spiritual dimension, the Ganges Aarti ceremony at Dasawamedh Ghat is not to be missed

It is a truly awe-inspiring experience. Brass lamps illuminate the scene as chants fill the air, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.

Arrive at least an hour early to witness the meticulous preparations, from the placement of elevated planks to the cleaning of brass lamps. The priests, clad in identical dhotis and kurtas, add to the ritual's splendor.

For photography enthusiasts, evening boat rides offer the perfect vantage point to capture this enchanting event.

Cuisine

Varanasi's culinary landscape

Varanasi's culinary landscape is a tantalizing journey through traditional North Indian flavors and unique local delicacies.

Varanasi street food

The city is renowned for its delectable street food, offering a wide array of chaats, samosas, and kachoris that explode with aromatic spices.

Benarasi Paan

The famed Benarasi Paan, a betel leaf preparation, is a must-try for an authentic local experience.

malaiyo and rabri

Varanasi is also celebrated for its rich dairy products, including creamy lassis and mouthwatering sweets like malaiyo and rabri.

Banarasi Langda Aam

The succulent Banarasi Langda Aam (mango) is a summer seasonal treat not to be missed.

Benarasi Thali

For a heartier meal, indulge in the city's famed Benarasi Thali, a wholesome platter featuring a variety of dishes ranging from puris to sabzis, showcasing the depth of Indian cuisine.

With its diverse and flavorful offerings, Varanasi's culinary scene is an integral part of its cultural tapestry, leaving every visitor craving for more.

Shopping in Varanasi

Shopping in Varanasi

One excellent method for acquiring knowledge about Varanasi's rich history and culture is through shopping.

Visitors can peruse the local market for exquisite zari saris and intricate floral motifs. The city is renowned for its silk saris and elaborate gems.

Shawls, carpets, bangles, stone inlay work, and idols of Hindu or Buddhist deities are among the additional goods.

The primary shopping locations of this city consist are:

  • Vishwanath Lane, 

  • Thateri Bazaar, 

  • Chowk and 

  • Godowilia

Also read: Top 20 Attractions in Lucknow You Can't Miss

In conclusion, Varanasi emerges as an extraordinary tapestry of history, culture, spirituality, and culinary delights. This ancient city, steeped in spirituality, offers an awe-inspiring experience through its monumental temples, vibrant ghats, and a plethora of renowned attractions. The city's enduring allure transcends borders, drawing millions of travelers from India and around the globe.

Varanasi's historical marvels, including the iconic ghats, temples, and architectural treasures, stand as testaments to centuries of cultural and spiritual significance.

The Banaras Gharana, silk saris, and intricate handicrafts weave a rich cultural tapestry that resonates with art, music, and tradition.

For the adventurous spirit, Varanasi offers outdoor experiences ranging from river rafting to wildlife safaris, revealing a different facet of this spiritual city.

Finally, the city's culinary delights, from street food to traditional Banarasi Thali, showcase a vibrant tapestry of flavors. Varanasi, with its multifaceted charm, ensures an experience that lingers in the hearts of all who have the privilege to explore its wonders.

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