Ganga Aarti in Varanasi

Things To Do and Best Time to Visit Varanasi (2024)

Explore the vibrant cultural heritage with our guide to the things to do and the best time to visit Varanasi. From the sacred Ganges River to the enchanting Ghats, immerse yourself in the spiritual allure of Varanasi. Discover the bustling narrow streets adorned with temples, witness the mesmerizing Ganga Aarti ceremony, and savour the delectable local cuisine.

Varanasi, a city of unparalleled fascination, stands out as one of India’s most captivating destinations in my travels. Its streets pulsate with energy, and the kaleidoscope of colours creates an otherworldly atmosphere.

Revered in Hinduism, Varanasi is steeped in spiritual significance, offering sacred sites of pilgrimage that impart profound lessons on the cycle of life and death. As one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities, Varanasi resonates with the echoes of history, inviting visitors to delve into its timeless allure and embrace its enduring legacy.

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About Varanasi

Varanasi, also known as Benaras or Kashi, sits majestically on the banks of the sacred River Ganga in India’s Uttar Pradesh (UP) state. Its history traces back to a kingdom of the same name over 2500 years ago, lending the city an aura of ancient mystique. Revered as the spiritual capital of the world, Varanasi’s origins date back to the 11th century, adorned with a tapestry of ancient temples, serene ghats, insightful museums, and countless religious sanctuaries.

The city’s illustrious past is intricately woven into the fabric of Hindu mythology, with references found in the Rigveda. Varanasi derives its name from the Sanskrit verb root “kas,” meaning to shine, earning it the poetic moniker, the City of Light. According to Hindu beliefs, the act of bathing in the sacred waters of the River Ganga and performing rituals along its revered ghats absolves one of their sins. It leads to the attainment of moksha, or liberation from the cycle of reincarnation.

Also, Read One-Day Trip in Lucknow

Beyond its Hindu heritage, Varanasi boasts a rich Buddhist legacy, drawing pilgrims since the days of Buddha himself. The city’s spiritual ambience and historical significance continue to captivate visitors, offering a profound glimpse into the timeless traditions and enduring faith that have shaped Varanasi into a sanctuary of enlightenment and introspection.

Best Time to Visit Varanasi

The optimal time to experience the enchantment of Varanasi is during the winter season, spanning from December to February. Despite the chilly weather, this period offers ideal conditions for exploration and travel, free from the discomfort of excessive heat and humidity.

To truly immerse oneself in the city’s myriad attractions and cultural treasures, a minimum of 4 to 5 days is recommended. This allows ample time to meander through Varanasi’s labyrinthine streets, visit its renowned landmarks, partake in spiritual rituals along the sacred Ganges River, and savour the rich tapestry of its vibrant culture and traditions.

4 Things To Do in Varanasi

Visiting the Ancient Temples

Varanasi boasts approximately 2000 temples, each a testament to exquisite beauty and architectural splendour. Central to the city’s religious fervour is the worship of Lord Shiva, the primary deity revered throughout Varanasi.

Legend has it that Varanasi marks the sacred spot where the first Jyotirlinga, a manifestation of Lord Shiva, pierced through the Earth’s crust and ascended to the celestial realms. Exploring these sacred temples is an undeniable highlight of any visit to Varanasi, offering a profound glimpse into the city’s spiritual essence and timeless devotion.

Temples of Varanasi

Sree Kashi Vishwanath Temple

The primary shrine in Varanasi, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is the esteemed Sree Kashi Vishwanath Temple, also renowned as the Golden Temple and counted among the twelve Jyotirlingas. This sacred site serves as the epicentre of devotion for countless devotees.

Translated as “Ruler of the Universe,” Vishwanatha epitomizes the grandeur and supremacy of the deity.

  • Open daily from 3 AM to 11 PM, the temple welcomes pilgrims and visitors alike to experience its sanctity.
  • For a seamless experience, special darshan passes are available for purchase, allowing devotees to quickly bypass the queues and delve into spiritual communion.
  • Expect the darshan to span approximately 2 to 3 hours, ensuring ample time for reflection and reverence.
  • Be forewarned of substantial crowds, particularly on Mondays, as devotees flock to pay homage to Lord Shiva.

Seeing the Ganga Aarti

After exploring Varanasi’s ancient temples, immerse yourself in the city’s mesmerizing spectacle: the Ganga Aarti at the ghats. This enchanting ritual captivates visitors as priests gracefully wield lamps, performing puja to the rhythmic chants of bhajans.

With approximately 88 ghats lining the sacred Ganges River, numerous locations host the captivating Ganga Aarti, offering diverse experiences of this spiritual ceremony. Ensure that witnessing this awe-inspiring event at one of Varanasi’s iconic ghats remains a top priority on your itinerary.

Ganga Aarti in Varanasi
Ganga Aarti in Varanasi

Trying the Banarasi Paan and Baati Choka

It’s widely understood in India that departing from Banaras without indulging in paan is akin to leaving a vital chapter of your journey untold—a culinary sin. Indeed, no trip to the city is genuinely fulfilled without savouring this quintessential delicacy.

Paan, a delectable concoction of betel leaves, areca nuts, slaked lime, fragrant rose petals, and an array of other flavourful ingredients, embodies the essence of Banaras’s culinary heritage. With numerous paan shops adorning the city, offering many variations, satisfying your palate with this iconic treat is an essential rite of passage for every visitor.

Baati Choka reigns as Varanasi’s culinary crown jewel, celebrated far and wide for its delectable flavours and cultural significance. Baati, a rustic Indian bread, encases a savoury filling. In contrast, Choka, a delightful medley of mashed potatoes, tomatoes, brinjal, and aromatic Indian spices, adds flavour to every bite. This iconic dish embodies the essence of Varanasi’s rich culinary heritage, delighting taste buds and captivating hearts with its wholesome goodness and irresistible aroma.

Visit Sarnath

Varanasi profoundly influences Buddhism, evidenced by its many monasteries and temples dedicated to Lord Buddha. A mere 10 kilometres from the city’s heart lies Sarnath, a revered pilgrimage site near the confluence of the sacred Rivers Ganga and Yamuna.

Formerly known as Mrigadaya, Sarnath holds immense significance in the Buddhist tradition. In 528 BCE, the Buddha delivered his inaugural sermon, “The Settling in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma“, marking the commencement of his teachings. The tranquil deer park in Sarnath served as the hallowed ground where the Buddha imparted the essence of his teachings, the Dharma, to his first disciples, laying the foundation for Buddhism’s dissemination worldwide.

Sarnath at Varanasi

Important Information

  • Despite its cultural richness, Varanasi faces challenges in basic infrastructure and services due to economic constraints.
  • Navigating the city’s labyrinthine lanes often entails extensive walking and climbing numerous steps due to the narrowness of the streets.
  • Accommodations in Varanasi primarily consist of modest and compact guest houses, providing basic amenities to visitors.
  • The cleanliness of the city streets can be lacking, underscoring the need for heightened awareness of sanitation.
  • When visiting Varanasi, it’s essential to dress appropriately and show respect for the religious sentiments of the local populace.
  • Before entering any religious site, it’s customary to remove footwear as a sign of reverence.
  • Engaging in haggling is common when shopping or negotiating fares with auto-rickshaw drivers.
  • Exercise caution against potential scams, which unfortunately occur frequently in the area. Remaining vigilant can help safeguard against falling prey to such schemes.

How to Get to Varanasi?

By Air

Varanasi boasts five airports, including the prominent Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport, which is approximately 20 kilometres from the city centre. Travelers can easily access the city via taxi services readily available at the airport. With ten domestic flights, budget-conscious passengers can opt for affordable airline carriers such as Indigo and Go Air to reach their desired destinations.

By Public Transport

  • Train – Varanasi boasts a well-connected train station offering services to major cities and towns nationwide. Stay updated on train schedules and bookings via the IRCTC website for seamless travel arrangements.
  • Bus – Travelers can also rely on frequent services linking Varanasi with major cities and towns. For route details and convenient bookings, refer to the Redbus website to ensure smooth and hassle-free journeys.

Auto Driver Details in Varanasi

In Varanasi, travellers can have two types of rickshaws for local commuting. The cycle rickshaw stands out as the preferred mode of transport for navigating the temple area, as motorized auto rickshaws are restricted in this zone. Alternatively, auto rickshaws offer convenient transportation throughout the city.

During my visit to Varanasi, I encountered two autorickshaw drivers. The first driver tended to be greedy, prompting me to seek an alternative. Fortunately, the second auto rickshaw driver proved reliable and amiable. I felt entirely secure during our travels together as he demonstrated a deep knowledge of the city and its temples, providing insightful commentary. His friendly demeanour and wealth of information enriched my Varanasi experience, making for a memorable journey through the city’s vibrant streets and sacred sites.

  • Auto Driver Name: Dubbo.
  • Contact Numbers: +91 98893 56576 or +91 88588 07995.
Auto driver Dubbo in Varanasi
Auto driver Dubbo in Varanasi

Where to Stay in Varanasi?

When considering accommodations in Varanasi, it’s important to choose a location that aligns with your preferences and travel plans. Here are a few options to consider:

  1. Near the Ghats: Staying close to the Ghats offers an immersive experience, allowing you to witness the spiritual rituals and activities along the riverbanks. You’ll find a range of guesthouses, budget hotels, and boutique accommodations in this area.
  2. Old City: The Old City area of Varanasi is bustling with energy and offers convenient access to the main attractions, including temples, markets, and narrow lanes. This area is ideal for travellers exploring the city’s cultural heritage.
  3. Assi Ghat: Assi Ghat is known for its serene atmosphere and is a popular choice for those seeking a peaceful stay away from the hustle and bustle of the main Ghats. You’ll find a mix of budget-friendly guesthouses and mid-range hotels in this area.
  4. Sarnath: If you prefer a quieter retreat, consider staying in Sarnath, which is located a short distance from Varanasi. This area is known for its Buddhist sites and offers a tranquil setting away from the city centre.
  5. Luxury Hotels: Varanasi has several hotels offering upscale accommodations and modern amenities. These hotels are typically located in the newer parts of the city and provide high comfort and service.

Varanasi offers several luxury hotels that provide top-notch amenities and exceptional service. Here are a few notable options:

  1. Taj Nadesar Palace: Situated amidst lush gardens, Taj Nadesar Palace is a luxurious retreat offering spacious suites, fine dining options, and personalized service. Guests can enjoy royal experiences such as heritage walks and traditional music performances.
  2. Taj Ganges Varanasi: Managed by Taj, The Taj Ganges Varanasi offers elegant rooms with modern amenities, along with a swimming pool, spa, and multiple dining options. The hotel’s riverside location provides stunning views of the Ganges River.
  3. Radisson Hotel Varanasi: Located near the Varanasi Cantt Railway Station, Radisson Hotel Varanasi offers luxurious accommodations with contemporary decor and upscale facilities. Guests can enjoy dining at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant overlooking the city skyline.
  4. Clarks Varanasi: Situated on the banks of the Ganges River, Clarks Varanasi features well-appointed rooms, a swimming pool, a spa, and multiple dining options. The hotel also offers convenient access to the city’s main attractions.
  5. The Amayaa: The Amayaa is a boutique luxury hotel near the Varanasi Junction Railway Station. It offers beautifully designed rooms, a rooftop swimming pool, and a spa, making it an ideal choice for discerning travellers.

Is Varanasi Safe for Solo Female Travellers?

Varanasi, revered as a spiritual epicentre, offers a haven for solo female travellers. The locals are known for their friendly and devout nature, creating a welcoming environment for visitors. Thanks to the city’s hospitable atmosphere, I encountered no safety concerns throughout my journey. However, as with any destination, exercising caution, particularly during nighttime excursions, is advisable to ensure a secure and enjoyable experience.

Closing Notes

Varanasi stands as an unparalleled destination for devout individuals seeking spiritual fulfilment. The Hindu temples and the vibrant rituals performed at the Ghats are genuinely awe-inspiring, transforming every moment into a jubilant celebration of faith.

Witnessing the sincere devotion of the people and the lengths they go to catch a glimpse of the divine within the temple is a profoundly enriching and captivating experience. In Varanasi, the connection between people and the divine is palpable, offering a unique and fascinating insight into the depths of religious devotion.

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Things To Do and Best Time to Visit Varanasi (2024)
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    PIN for later reference – Things To Do and Best Time to Visit Varanasi

    PIN for later reference - Things To Do and Best Time to Visit Varanasi
    PIN for later reference – Things To Do and Best Time to Visit Varanasi