Are you planning a trip to Varanasi for the first time? and no idea what places to visit in Varanasi. That’s wonderful!! at least you are doing some research work before coming to a destination. A smart traveler always does smart research before embarking on a journey. I am sure if you are a foreign national you will fall in love with this colorful city.
The majority of the foreigners are just clueless about its colorful offering and unimaginable scenes except for the river and temple, hence just to help you zeroing down your itinerary let dive deep into this holy town.
Why Varanasi is so famous?
It is said the day when there is no pyre at the ghat, that day would be the last day of earth. It’s famous because it is not like any other city in this world.
As per Hindu mythology, Varanasi was founded by Lord Shiva. The Pandavas are said to have visited the city in search of Lord Shiva to atone the sin of Brahman hatya (Killing of Brahmans) which they have committed during the biggest battle called MAHABHARATA (held at KURUKSHETRA). It is one of the seven holy cities called Puris (the other six are Mathura, Haridwar, Ayodhya, Ujjain, Dwarka & Kanchipuram) which every Indian should visit at least once in their life.
At the confluence of two tributaries to the Mother Ganges, the Varuna and the Asi, lies Varanasi. A city is known by many names, which have many meanings, it is in fact one of the oldest cities to thrive continuously for over 3000 years and rose to its height in the 7th century BC.
Varanasi is a great place to capture photographs of people at work – weavers, tailors, milkmen, herdsmen, boatmen, yogis, priests, and boat builders at work make great photographs.
What’s in the Name?
Varanasi: The name originates from the name of two rivers Varuna + Assi (tributaries of the holy river the Ganges or Ganga)
Kashi: In Rigveda (Hindu Holy book) the city is referred to as Kashi which means to shine making Varanasi known as the “city of light”.
Banaras: The later avatar as Banaras, the Banaras Hindu University established itself as a pre-eminent center of Sanskrit language, culture, philosophy, and learning, leading to great scholarship.
At least once in your life, you must visit Varanasi to feel the connection with all mighty. Let’s focus on beautiful places to visit in Varanasi & Activities available there
1. Morning Boat Ride at river Ganges
Before going to places to visit in Varanasi we recommend beginning your day early as the sun begins its ascent into the sky. Join a boatman on a delightful sojourn down the Gange (The best time is 5:00 AM to 8 AM). Generally starts from Dasawamedh Ghat, and goes to the Harishchandra Ghat and then back.
You will be surprised to see that the city is awake and cheerful even at 5 in the morning. The boat ride will leave a permanent imprint on your heart, especially because you will get to see the faith that people have in River Ganga.
It will take you through different Ghats and former palaces situated near the banks of the River Ganga, giving a stunning view of this River and the area around it. Your guide will point out the different ghats to you and you will see a host of early morning pilgrims, pilgrims bathing and performing prayers in front of you, priests and scholars beginning the day with fervor, ascetics performing yoga asanas, people taking a holy dip, and many more
Meander down the waters until you reach the perfect spot from which you can watch the early morning Grand Aarti.
2. Evening Aarti Ceremony
If you even want to witness the connection with God, this dusk will be the time. As the sun starts to set, reach to the Dasashwamedha Ghat again to witness the Grand Aarti Ceremony, the pm ritual performed on the ghats’ steps
It will be a lifetime experience. These prayers are said by Hindu priests and are offered to the Mother Ganga. It is singularly beautiful to see oil lamps lit, a tribute to this city of light, while bells ring and the priests invoke their mantras to a symphonic crescendo.
Brass lamps of enormous sizes are utilized during this occasion, which is joined by chants and hordes of individuals holding back to pray. Beware of pickpockets (remember you are in India)
The individuals who wish to click pictures from their cameras should visit the Ghats in later afternoon boats, as this will permit one to effortlessly catch everything and avoid the hassle.
The standard schedule of Aarti is 6:45 PM. Similar sort of Aarti ceremonies take place every day at Har ki Pauri (Haridwar) and at Brahma Sarovar (Kurukshetra) but those look very tiny if you have seen aarti in Varanasi.
3. Walk around the Ghats and old Town
The city has approximately more than 84 ghats, the steps of each leading the banks of the River Ganges. There are some bathing ghats, a few praying ghats, and a few cremation ghats for Hindus from all over the world to me these all ghats are the important places to see in Varanasi to understand life of this colorful city.
You will be shocked to see the ritual of birth at a ghat, a ritual of life at another ghat, and the ritual of death at some other ghat simultaneously. There will be open-air massage on some ghat (men to men), if you are adventurous do try this.
Taking a dip in the heavenly waters of the Ganges is one of the significant activities in Varanasi. Indeed, the strict writings of Hinduism generally recommend that one ought to get salvation by taking bath in River Ganges to clean all wrongdoings aggregated inflow or past births. Legends recommend that taking a dip in the blessed waters here will help you get rid of sins and purification of the particular soul. You might see foreigners also taking the holy dip.
A few famous ghats you should visit are Mata Anandamai Ghat, Assi Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Munshi Ghat, Raj Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat (popular one as being close to Vishwanath shrine), Scindia Ghat, and Raj Ghat.
Walk through the narrow, busy streets of old town Varanasi, witnessing the daily routine of the locals, old structures of houses with some indo-Islamic architecture.
There are many Havelis which you can cover i.e. Raja Munshi Madholkal ki Kothi, Bagaali Dyodhi, Bhartendu Bhawan, Sher Wali Kothi, etc. One famous haveli has an extremely beautiful Barandari, a large room with an ornamental canopy with all sides open, and French fountains made of Italian Marble.
4. Must-see Temples of Varanasi
There are 12 Jyotirlingas in India and this is one of them. After crossing the narrow street (named after the temple), spellbound with the simplicity and the holiness in the environment you will find your way to this beautiful holy place. This is the most important and visited temple in Varanasi (also known as the Golden temple). It was built in 1780 by Queen Ahilyabai Holker of Indore.
The idol is referred to as Shri Vishwanath or Vishweshwara. Literally means Lord of the Universe. Vishva means Universe, Ishvara means lord, one who has dominion.
It had been demolished by many Muslim rulers many times, lastly, it was demolished by Aurangzeb who constructed the Gyan Vapi mosque on its site.
Don’t worry tight security is normal, you will just 1 sec to witness the deity if you are lucky
Annapurna Devi Mandir
While in transit to the main shrine you will likewise see the temple committed to Goddess Annapurna, a manifestation of Goddess Parvati and the symbol of food and sustenance. The shrine has a golden image of Maa Annapurna who is said to shield the whole Kashi from food emergencies.
Bharat Mata Mandir
Temple (Mandir) is committed to Mother India and is treated as one of the best and most acclaimed strict locales in Varanasi. The spot is a flawlessly sacred retreat for every one of its enthusiasts. It was made by one of the political dissidents, Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta in 1936, and doesn’t have any divinity, however includes a country map carved in marble.
Kaal Bhairav Temple
Devoted to Lord Kaal Bhairav, who is known as the ‘Kotwal of Varanasi’, it is said that without his authorization nobody can stay in Kashi. Bhairav is viewed as a fearsome appearance of Shiva who wears a wreath of skulls and conveys a club of peacock feathers. The name Kaal Bhairav implies Kaal=Death and Fate. It is accepted that even death is afraid of Kaal bhairav.
Other Important Temples (Mandir or shrine)
There are around 23000 Mandirs in Varanasi. Some of which you can include in your sightseeing are Sankat Mochan Temple, Lalita Gauri Temple, Kanaka Durga Mandir, Sankata Devi Mandir, Tulsi Manas Shrine, Tridev Temple, etc
5. Try Blue Lassi Café
I can recall the taste of it, delicious. The well-known lassi shops in Varanasi, offer something remarkable for every cuisine lover. Here, you can get lassi with a twist as it is offered being injected with various flavors like apple, banana, custard apple, and so forth
It is also a great spot to spend hours with friends and family and appreciate a glass that will have a fabulous time of flavors in your mouth. You can pick among different garnishes like mango, papaya, frozen yogurt, or rose syrup to add to the flavors.
Keep in mind, it has almost no seating space. So make a point to pick a chance to stay away from the groups and capitalize on your cuisine trail in Varanasi.
6. Street Food
You will find different-different places to explore in Varanasi for local food and snacks and you can start with a sip of local tea from a few Hygenic tea stalls. Especially the Tea (Kulhad wali chai). Savoring the local bite on the roads is recommended if you can tolerate Indian roadside snacks, perhaps the best thing to do in Varanasi.
Here you can begin with a rich breakfast of Kachori Sabzi at Ram Bhandar or at Thatheri Bazaar or relish a plate of Baati Chokha. We tasted Kachori at Shri Ram Bhandar it was so delicious hence highly recommended
For the sweet tooth, there is the well-known Makhan Malaiyoo or Nimish that is offered throughout the colder season of the year.
Cuisine or drink infused with a ground cannabis paste is called bhang which is loved by Lord Shiva (according to Hindu mythology), One must try it in Varanasi if you have even consumed it.
Tempting thandai in Varanasi with some bhang is quite possibly the most prescribed activity in Varanasi. Bhang is fundamentally dried cannabis that is served in a chilling glass of thandai at numerous shops in Godowlia Crossing in Varanasi.
It is perhaps the most mainstream sporting medication in Varanasi that guarantees to get you high. The invigorating beverage is a piece of the way of life in Varanasi and ought to be consumed when you are in the place that is known for Shiva. It is surely a stress buster.
8. Visit Sarnath
Located only 12 km from the sacred city of Varanasi. The Sarnath Archeological Museum houses the well-known Ashokan lion capital, which miraculously survived its 45-foot drop to the ground (from the top of the Ashokan Pillar), and became the National Emblem of India and national symbol on the Indian flag.
It has always been and continues to be a great center of learning. The Buddha preached his first sermon on his Dharmachakra, his code of conduct based on the philosophy of The Middle Path, to a group of five disbelievers, who heard him in the Deer Park at Sarnath, and immediately became his first disciples.
Chinese scholars, travelers, and philosophers came here to imbibe wisdom from its monastic tradition. Ashoka, the Emperor of the Mauryan Empire and a great believer of Buddhism, built several stupas.
It is one of four blessed Buddhist destinations endorsed by the Buddha himself for the journey. The other three are Lumbini (birthplace); Bodh Gaya (enlightenment); and Kushinagar (death).
Many of the structures here were damaged by the Turks. Nonetheless, among the remains, the Dharmekh Stupa is noteworthy at 128 feet high, and 93 in width. This dates from around 200 BC and is where the Buddha is said to have lectured his first message.
The Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath endured the Turkish intrusion however was broken during excavations.
There is likewise a Bodhi tree planted by Anagarika Dharmapala which was developed from a cutting of the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya. It is situated close to a Sri Lankan religious community. There are a few other unknown places to visit in Varanasi and in Sarnath which we can share with you in private.
9. Weaver’s Village
Kaashi silks and brocades have achieved wide acclaim over several generations. The art of cotton and silk weaving of this holy town’s craftsmen who used gold and silver threads caught the fancy of Mughal emperors in the 16th Century, and they soon started being produced in a variety of distinctive motifs. Floral motifs in varying shades of thread and esoteric cloud and flame motifs specially woven for Tibetan monasteries are just some of the beautiful designs that come from Kaashi.
In contemporary India, the weavers’ trade languished as they were unable to compete with the price and scale of machine-made fabrics, but in recent years, patrons of the arts and crafts have infused funds, encouragement, and spirit back into these weaving communities, adopting entire villages to ensure that the art remains alive with generations to come.
You may visit some of these communities and weaving workshops and learn about the intricacies of the warp and weft of these fabrics. You can also learn more about how these communities surmount competition from factory-made textiles and create a niche for themselves in current market conditions.
10. Mukti Bhawan (Salvation/Moksha House)
Have you heard of any hotel or building where people go to die? It is found in Varanasi. To attain salvation (get rid of birth and rebirth circle) these are the best places to visit in Varanasi but not for everyone. These are only for the people who want to die in Varanasi.
Guests show up in battered vehicles, on crutches, and sometimes on stretch hardly able to move – however Moksha is close for a large number of Hindus who go to the blessed city of Varanasi every year to pass on.
There are few Mukti Bhawan, which are only for those with a couple of days to live.
Bhairav Nath Shukla, who has been a Mukti Bhawan’s caretaker for 40 years, said the vast majority of his residents die inside in a couple of days. Ordinarily, fourteen days is the cutoff for utilizing a room.
Many have voyaged a huge number of kilometers (miles), some flying from a far-off country, or even being placed toward the rear of a vehicle in an isolated Indian town.
Varanasi is world-famous for its silk and gems. You must try your hand in buying some of the stuff. Shopping in Varanasi is the best thing to do on a free evening. The city is broadly acclaimed for its silk saris and elaborate gems. Visit the neighborhood market to purchase various things. The unpredictable example of botanical plans and elaborate zari or string work saris should be bought from this wonderful spot.
The local market is loaded with distinguished fine thread and saris, one can purchase shawls, floor coverings, stone inlay work, bangles, and icons of Hindu or Buddhist divinities.
The important shopping areas are Vishwanath Lane, Thatheri Bazaar, Chowk, and Godowilia.
12. Visit Akharas (wrestling area)
There are places to explore in Varanasi if you are in love with wrestling. There are a lot of Akharas in Varanasi (local wrestling areas) but without a professional guide, it would be difficult to explore them.
You need to have a guide, who can take you to a local Akhara or a school in the ancient Sanskrit tradition, where students are honed in the art of wrestling. In this ancient tradition, pupils train for several years under the guidance of a Guru, who serves not only as a teacher but a mentor. While there are several Akharas, the Tulsi Akhara is commonly held to be the most traditional and authentic.
One of the oldest akharas in the city, the Tulsi akhara is believed to have been established over 5,000 years ago by poet Tulsidas. Encircled by a white boundary wall, its muddy rink still draws young men at daybreak who train with fierce determination. Like everything else in Varanasi, there is a strong spirituality attached to this tradition. A prayer is offered up to Hanuman before the acrobatics begin
FAQ about best places to visit in Varanasi
How to reach Varanasi?
By Road: Well connected by National Highways 2, 7, 29, and 56. Connected with Kolkata, Kanpur, Agra, New Delhi, Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Jaunpur, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Salem, Madurai, Kanyakumari, etc.
By Train: Well connected by trains. Varanasi junction (BSB), Varanasi City (BCY) & Varanasi Cant station
What are the best hotels in Varanasi? (Get the top deals here)
Mid Range Hotels: Hotel Madin, Clarks, Radisson
Budget Hotels: Hindustan International (HHI), Palace on the Ganges
What is the best time to visit Varanasi?
What modes of transport are available at Varanasi?
It is said that every Indian should visit Varanasi at least once in this lifetime. It’s really heaven on this earth. There are so many other places to visit in Varanasi like Ramgarh fort, so many other temples, BHU (Banaras Hindu Vishwavidyalya/University), and many more. Words are not enough to describe the magical power and beauty one has to visit to distinguish it from another destination.
We can organize special experiences like music (flute/tabla) during the boat ride, meeting with musical Gharana gurus/students, visiting charitable schools, visiting an Ashram, or whatever you need for a flawless itinerary coupled with TOP guides from Varanasi at your service. We recommend taking the help of a travel agent so that you don’t fall into trap of touts or other bad elements, and have a full exploration of this magical city.