Travel to Varanasi: Visiting Varanasi means discovering a still little-known India. Located on the banks of the Ganges, this ancient city attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. But Varanasi is also an essential destination for lovers of culture, history, and photography.
In our article, we present to you the must-sees not to be missed during your visit to Varanasi, from famous Ghats to traditional activities. You will see that it is a fantastic city that leaves no one indifferent. Let’s go !
- Visiting Varanasi, the main attractions
- Stroll through the streets of Varanasi
- Visit Varanasi by going to discover the ghats
- See the cremation ceremonies in Varanasi
- Attend the Aarti ceremony in Varanasi
- Take a boat ride on the Ganges in Varanasi
- Where to sleep
Visit Varanasi, the main attractions
Travel to Varanasi, previously named Benares, is a city founded in the 7th century BCE, which gives it the status of one of the oldest cities in our world. Known as the bastion of Hinduism in India, Varanasi is one of the 7 most sacred cities in this country. It is famous all over the world because it mixes all the cultures and literatures of the world. It is a city very popular with pilgrims, who come from all over the world to pray there. But above all, what makes it unique is this special relationship that the locals have with death. In Varanasi, death is a celebration and is celebrated through several rituals performed on the banks of the Ganges. But Varanasi is above all an indescribable atmosphere, a unique atmosphere in the world and a feeling of total change of scenery. Nothing can prepare you for what happens in this city. It is both a privilege to be here and to witness everything that is happening there but also the strange feeling of being a stranger who will never be able to understand what is around him.
Stroll through the streets of Varanasi
The greatest attraction of Varanasi lies in the city itself. Indeed, Varanasi cannot be planned in advance, you have to agree to let yourself be carried away by what you will discover there.
Travel to Varansi has nothing to do with what you can see in other cities in India. For what ? Because here, the city and its premises are punctuated by Hinduism and their numerous rituals present on the banks of the Ganges. Their way of life is totally different from ours.
Varanasi never sleeps because there is always something to do or see. The streets are magnificent and it is sometimes difficult to see the sky as the buildings are so crowded. In addition, the locals are dressed in a traditional way and some are covered in paintings which give them an impressive style. The chaos is permanent there but it has never been so beautiful.
Varanasi is not a dangerous city but it is best to be accompanied by a guide. The city is a real labyrinth and some neighborhoods are not mapped on GPS.
Visit Varanasi by going to discover the ghats
Varanasi is known in India because this city is crossed by the Ganges, the most sacred river of the 7 in this country. The banks of the Ganges are called the ghats which are a set of steps which covers part of the river.
This allows locals and pilgrims to access water in order to come and perform ablutions and prayers in the river. They also do not hesitate to use this water to purify themselves and even to wash themselves. It is a very important ritual in Varanasi because the Ganges is an integral part of their way of life and religion. It is entirely possible to attend these rituals and we recommend it.
The ghats are often stormed by locals and the scenes of life there are magnificent and very impressive. Nothing better than a visit to the ghats to immerse yourself in Indian life and its customs. It is a must-see when visiting Varanasi.
There are several ghats in Varanasi and not all of them are worth doing. The most important ones are Manikarnika Ghat and Dashashwamedh Ghat. We talk about this in more detail just below.
See cremation ceremonies in Varanasi
We told you, Varanasi is unique in the world and it is in this part that you will understand why… Indeed, there are a bunch of rituals that are carried out in the city but one caught our attention. Indeed, it was the ritual of cremation of the dead that made us want to come and learn more.
Indians have a relationship with death that is different from what we know in the West and around the world. In Hinduism, a cremation done in Varanasi stops the cycle of reincarnations, Samsara. This therefore gives them the right to access Moksha, their nirvana. The uncremated bones are kept by the families and the ashes are then thrown into the Ganges, where the Indians bathe and wash their belongings.
The most famous crematorium in Varanasi is the Manikarnika Ghat. We were able to go there with our guide. To get there, we went through alleys sometimes blocked by stretchers transporting the deceased to the fires. After several minutes of walking, we arrived there and learned that there were more than 300 dead bodies burning there 7/7, 24/7.
The atmosphere is heavy, the crematorium releases thick smoke which covers the city. The cremation process is long and so the bodies pile up while waiting for a place on the pyres. Visiting Varanasi has something unreal where it is difficult to put into words what you have seen. It is undoubtedly the most significant and at the same time the most beautiful experience that we have had so far.
Tourists are welcome during these ceremonies. The locals are even happy that we are interested in their traditions. Don’t be afraid to go there with a guide who will be there to explain to you what’s going on.
Photos are perfectly permitted outside the crematorium but prohibited.
Attend the Aarti ceremony in Varanasi
The Aarti ceremony, more generally called the fire ceremony, is very famous in Varanasi. It takes place at Dashashwamedh Ghat at first light of the moon. Indians pay homage to the Ganges and their gods. It is a moment of strong purification and blessings where the priests sing, dance and throw several offerings into the Ganges.
It is a moment of unity between all the locals of Varanasi. We had the opportunity to participate from a boat that our guide had rented for us. Unfortunately, it is a place that brings together a lot of tourists and this spoils the authenticity of the moment because the river side finds itself invaded by boats which wage war over who will have the best place.
You do not have to participate in this ceremony from a boat. The ghat is accessible on foot. You should know that children will come and ask you to pay to make offerings. Please note that nothing is obligatory. But it will be better if you wish to buy the flowers and sweet, it is increase their wages.
Take a boat ride on the Ganges in Varanasi
The best way to enjoy a breathtaking view of Varanasi and its famous ghats is to rent a small boat at sunrise. It is the best time of the day to have a little peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and to observe the life of the Indians along the Ganges. It is on the boat that we realize the size of Varanasi and its beauty.
You will find different prices depending on the boat you take, the time and the route. We advise you not to be afraid to negotiate because boat tours are expensive and Indians will have no qualms about offering you inflated prices.
On certain days of low tide, boats do not sail on the banks of the Ganges. So you have to choose your day carefully.
Where to sleep in Varanasi?
Here at Varanasi a plenty of hotel, but we suggest to you choose a hotel a bit far from the city, due to overcrowd & chaos of the day time, at least you can spent a quite night. Near by Ghat there are good hotel, in cantt area all 4* & 5* hotels. So choose as per your budget and choice.
Where to eat in Varanasi?
Varanasi is so huge and dense that it’s difficult to know where to eat well. You should avoid certain restaurants to avoid getting sick. We were lucky enough to be accompanied by our hotel guide who took us to the best addresses.
Our best restaurants
Poshtel VNS: The restaurant is excellent and their breakfast is a buffet. It’s perfect for eating well before heading out to visit the city. The prices are fair but be aware that it is more expensive than in the city center.
Kashi Chat Bhandar: this is one of the most famous restaurants in the city and we quickly understand why. All products are fresh and local. We tasted a lot of Indian specialties and honestly every dish was excellent. The prices are affordable so don’t deprive yourself.
1916 Café and Restaurant: located next to the previous one, Travel to Varanasi is a more gourmet restaurant so the prices are not the same. But the food is very good and the service is impeccable. Special mention for their soup which is very original.
It’s complicated to summarize a visit to the city of Varanasi because everything seems so different from the world we know. Travel to Varanasi in The locals, the city, the Ganges, the rituals and traditions specific to this region took us on a journey into the unknown. This stop in India made us aware of many things and of course, did not leave us indifferent. This is, by far, the most memorable place we visited in India. A few months later, Varanasi is still in our minds and will remain there for the rest of our lives.
Thank you for taking the time to read us, We hope that our article will make you want to visit Varanasi and for more information check our page Varanasi Travel Guide & Tourism . If you have any questions, do not hesitate to leave us a comment or send us a message by email. We will be happy to help you.
See you soon on the website !