Varanasi is one of the sacred cities of India. Also known as the city of Lord Shiva, the god of creation and destruction, it is situated in the state of Uttar Pradesh about 300 kilometres from the capital Lucknow. Though many people know the colourful city as Banaras better, it was originally called Kashi during the Vedic times.

People visit Varanasi from all over India. Games of cricket, long evening walks, yoga and blessings are the rituals you’ll probably see being performed by the river's edge.

Things To Do In Varanasi

Are you planning a trip to Varanasi? While one of the best things to do there is just enjoying the atmosphere and observing the culture, we have listed down ten things you can do in Varanasi. Check it out!

1. Morning Boat Ride in Ganges River

Since we have already mentioned the Ganges river, let’s talk about a fun activity available there. Rowing boat rides during dusk and dawn are a must-have experience. And while the time preference depends on you, we recommend trying to get the panoramic view of Ganga and the religion during both times. You’ll notice the experience being different on both trips.

Travellers will be surprised to see that the city is awake and cheerful even during 5 in the morning but don’t be surprised to see Sadhus and pilgrims bathing and performing prayers in front of you. It’ll be a fun and adventurous affair, we promise!

2. Take Bath In The Ganges

And now that you’re at the Ghats of the river Ganges, might as well take a dip with everyone too. While it is believed that taking a bath in the holiest Hindu river salvages all sins. Not only that but the religious texts of Hinduism widely suggest that one should get salvation by bathing in River Ganges to purify all sins accumulated in current or previous births.

This entire event will unfold the religious significance of Varanasi and why the River Ganges is revered all over the world.

3. Attend The Evening Aarti Ceremony

Again, an activity to be a part of by the Ghats (the steps of the bank of the river), is filled with the chanting of the priests, the melody of bells and brass cymbals and the blowing conch shells that fill up the ambience with spirituality. 

Lasting for about 45 minutes in the evening, the scenery decked up by the illuminated diyas in the river is definitely a sight to behold. 

4. Visit The Tulsi Manas Temple

The Tulsi Manas Mandir was built in 1964 and is one of the most famous temples in Varanasi. With beautiful images of Lord Rama, Mother Sita, Lakshman and Lord Hanuman, the walls of this temple are adorned with verses from  Ramcharitmanas, the Hindi version of the epic Ramayana. 

5. Visit The Durgakund Temple

Durga temple is also known as the Monkey temple (because of the presence of a huge number of monkeys), situated in the Durga Kund, Varanasi. Dedicated to the Goddess Durga, the temple is made up of a square shape with the red colour stone representing the colour of the goddess. 

6. Visit The Alamgir Mosque

Located on the Panchganga ghat, the best way to reach here would be by walking through the ghats. The mosque is an architecturally stunning building built by the ​​Mughal emperor Aurangzeb with beautiful minarets and high domes.

Upon entering the vicinity you’ll notice the enormous structure with a tree on your right and a small pond with emerald green water, often used by pigeons for bathing and drinking.

7. Sightseeing Tour of Sarnath

In the nearby village of Singhpur, there lies a Buddhist centre of religion, Sarnath. Also referred to as a deer park, it is the place where Gautama Buddha first came and taught about the concept of Dharma. 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.

8. Visit The Ramnagar Fort

Ramnagar Fort is located on the eastern bank of River Ganges, opposite Tulsi Ghat, in Varanasi. Said to be the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras, the fort houses a temple dedicated to Ved Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata, along with a popular temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. A museum inside the compound showcases collectables belonging to the royal family.

9. Experience 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.

The architecture will surely keep you captivated.

10. Explore Weavers Village

The Weaver’s Village or the Sorai Mohana is one of the most undiscovered places by tourists in Varanasi. If you haven’t heard of a Banarasi silk saree in among other rich textiles of India, you must be living under a rock.

Woven with utmost dedication and patience, the craft locals require hefty time spanning from 15 days to even months to complete a single piece of art. Make sure to interact with these skilled craftspeople of Varanasi and you’ll surely get to know more about their zari work (gold and silver brocade) and even some spell bounding personal stories. The most authentic way to know more about the culture of the city, isn’t it?

11. Shopping In Varanasi

And now that you have a better insight into the things to do in Varanasi, let’s talk shopping.

Speaking of the textiles of Varanasi, make sure to get your hands on a few authentic Banarasi sarees for your friends and loved ones to get some brownie points. 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.

12. Try Out The Local Street Food

Just like its textiles, the food of Varanasi is no less fun and colourful. It is often said that if you visit Varanasi and not try its famous Bhang (a recreational drug-infused drink that’ll get you high) you haven’t been to Varanasi. Bhang has dried cannabis which is served in a chilling glass of ‘thandai’.

If you are in a mood for snacking, Kachori Sabzi, Baati Chokha, Choora Matar and Meethe Gol Gappe will send you into a food coma.

Best Time To Visit Varanasi

The best time to visit Varanasi is during the winter months (November to February). Although it gets fairly cold during the winters, this is the best time when you can explore the holy city without getting bothered by the heat you’ll otherwise experience.

And if the peak season when the city is packed with travellers is not your thing, another great time to visit Varanasi is during the Navratri. The ritual ceremonies in the temples and on the ghats will be something you wouldn’t have encountered before.

Travel Tips And Essentials

Here are a few things that’ll help you make better-informed decisions. 

  • Varanasi is rife with touts, and you’ll have to be careful of scams, especially on arrival.
  • Try and pre-book your living arrangements and not depend on the touts, they gain commission. And more often than not, the hotels they suggest will not be satisfactory.
  • Most of Varanasi’s better and more expensive hotels lie on its peripheries, though to experience the full ambience of the city, stay close to the ghats and the lanes of the Old City, where top-floor rooms, with views and more light, are generally the best. A balance is what you want here.
  • Since you would be doing a lot of walking around the city, it is better to choose walking shoes or flip-flops. You would be requested to leave your footwear outside the temples.
  • It is safe to travel to Varanasi as a solo female traveller as long as you take the right precautions like you would in any other place you travel alone. However, try to stay away from strange men trying to sell you drinks and offer directions.

And now that you have a profuse list of things to do in Varanasi, get ready to visit the endless ghats, famous temples, fascinating rituals, and vibrant religious festivals of the city of Varanasi.

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