Do you want to explore one of the best Hindu pilgrimage spots? Well, Varanasi can give you one of the most relaxing and satisfying feelings. In this article, we will explore the top 10 tourist places to visit in Varanasi, each offering a unique blend of history, spirituality, and architectural grandeur.
Varanasi, also known as Kashi or Banaras, is a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Situated on the banks of the sacred Ganges River, Varanasi is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and holds immense cultural and religious significance.
It attracts millions of tourists and pilgrims from around the globe who seek spiritual enlightenment, cultural experiences, and a glimpse into the ancient traditions of India.
Let’s explore the places that will give you a sense of freedom in Varanasi.
- Assi Ghat
Located at the confluence of the Ganges and Assi rivers, Assi Ghat is one of the most prominent and spiritually significant places to visit in Varanasi. It is believed that Lord Shiva, after slaying the demon Shumbha-Nishumbha, had shed sweat at this very spot. Thus, Assi Ghat holds deep religious significance for Hindu devotees.
The ghat serves as a venue for various rituals, including the worship of Lord Shiva and the performing of aarti ceremonies. At Assi Ghat, one can witness the spectacle of devotees taking holy dips in the Ganges, performing yoga, and engaging in meditation practices.
Adjacent to Assi Ghat, you can explore the nearby Shri Durga Temple, which is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Durga.
- Dashashwamedh Ghat
Considered the main and oldest ghat in Varanasi, Dashashwamedh Ghat is a vibrant and bustling place that captures the essence of the city. Legend has it that Lord Brahma performed the Dashashwamedh Yajna (a ritual sacrifice) at this very ghat.
Every evening, a magnificent aarti ceremony takes place here. Priests clad in traditional attire perform synchronized rituals accompanied by the rhythmic sound of bells, conch shells, and chanting. The aarti attracts a large crowd of devotees and tourists who gather to witness this awe-inspiring spectacle. Taking a boat ride during the aarti allows you to experience the event from a unique perspective.
Dashashwamedh Ghat is a place with cultural and religious significance. It serves as an excellent starting point for exploring the labyrinthine lanes of Varanasi’s old city, making it a must-visit among the many tourist places to visit in Varanasi.
- Kashi Vishwanath Temple
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, also known as the Golden Temple, is not only one of the most revered and significant Hindu temples in India but also one of the top tourist places to visit in Varanasi. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is believed to be the abode of the Jyotirlinga, a manifestation of Lord Shiva.
The current structure of the temple, which was built in 1780 by the Maratha ruler Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, showcases its architectural splendor. Adorned with golden domes that glimmer in the sunlight, the temple’s grandeur and spiritual aura attract pilgrims and tourists from all over the world.
To pay a visit to this sacred site, you must dress modestly and respectfully follow the temple customs. Don’t forget to immerse yourself in the divine ambiance of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
Sarnath is just a short distance from Varanasi. Sarnath unveils its historical and religious significance, especially for Buddhists, making it one of the significant tourist places in Varanasi. It holds the distinction of being the place where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment.
Today, Sarnath gracefully preserves several essential Buddhist monuments, seamlessly blending history with spirituality. Among these, the Dhamek Stupa stands tall, subtly marking the spot where Buddha shared his teachings. Its presence lends an air of sacredness to the surroundings.
Another gem awaiting exploration in Sarnath is the Mulagandha Kuti Vihar, which captivates visitors with its exquisite frescoes and serene ambiance. As tourists delve into the ruins, they have the opportunity to expand their knowledge by visiting the Sarnath Museum, a treasure trove of Buddhist artifacts and historical insights.
The atmosphere in Sarnath fosters meditation and introspection, allowing visitors to experience a tranquil environment conducive to spiritual reflection and personal growth.
- Ramnagar Fort
Ramnagar Fort is on the eastern bank of the Ganges River. It is a magnificent structure that serves as the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Varanasi. Built in the 18th century, the fort exhibits a fusion of Indian and Islamic architectural styles.
It houses a museum that showcases a remarkable collection of vintage cars, royal artifacts, weaponry, and manuscripts. The museum provides insights into the rich history and royal lifestyle of the Kashi Naresh (King of Varanasi).
The fort is also known for its Ram Leela performances during the Hindu festival of Dussehra, attracting visitors with its grandeur and cultural significance.
- Manikarnika Ghat
Manikarnika Ghat, among the myriad of sacred sites in Varanasi, holds a special place as one of the most revered cremation ghats. Hindus firmly believe that the cremations performed at this ghat grant individuals liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
While not an obvious choice for the typical tourist itinerary, this unique location offers a profound insight into the circle of life and death deeply ingrained in Hindu culture. When venturing to this ghat, it is crucial to approach it with utmost respect and sensitivity. Fully embrace the customs and rituals entwined with the cremation process.
It presents an extraordinary opportunity for contemplation, allowing visitors to comprehend the transient nature of life and to gain a profound understanding of the Hindu philosophy concerning the eternal cycle of reincarnation.
- Banaras Hindu University (BHU)
Banaras Hindu University (BHU) is a prestigious educational institution in Varanasi that dates back to 1916. The sprawling campus is home to numerous faculties, institutes, and colleges dedicated to various fields of study.
The university also has its own temple, the Vishwanath Temple, and a large prayer hall where daily prayers are held. BHU offers a vibrant and intellectually stimulating environment, and visitors can explore the campus, witness cultural events, and engage with students and scholars.
The Bharat Kala Bhavan, an art and cultural museum within BHU, is a must-visit for art enthusiasts.
- Bharat Kala Bhavan
Bharat Kala Bhavan, located within the premises of Banaras Hindu University, is a museum that showcases a vast collection of art, archaeological artifacts, and historical relics.
The museum exhibits paintings, sculptures, textiles, manuscripts, and other artifacts that highlight India’s rich artistic and cultural heritage. Visitors can admire the intricate details of ancient sculptures, marvel at exquisite miniature paintings, and gain insights into the various art forms that have flourished in different regions of India.
Bharat Kala Bhavan is a treasure trove for art connoisseurs and history buffs seeking to delve into the artistic legacy of the country.
- Chunar Fort
Situated on the banks of the Ganges River, about 40 kilometers from Varanasi, Chunar Fort is a medieval fort with a fascinating history. It dates back to the 11th century and has witnessed the reigns of several dynasties, including the Mauryas, Guptas, and Mughals.
The fort’s strategic location atop a rocky hill offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can explore the fort’s massive walls, visit the octagonal-shaped “Gujari Mahal” within the fort, and marvel at the intricate stone carvings and architecture.
Chunar Fort also offers opportunities for adventure enthusiasts, with activities such as rock climbing and rappelling available for those seeking an adrenaline rush.
- Ganges River Ghats
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, also known as the Golden Temple, is one of the most revered and significant Hindu temples in India, making it one of the top tourist places to visit in Varanasi. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is believed to be the abode of the Jyotirlinga, a manifestation of Lord Shiva.
The current structure of the temple was built in 1780 by the Maratha ruler Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore. Adorned with gold-covered domes that shimmer in the sunlight, the temple exudes a captivating beauty that draws pilgrims and tourists from all corners of the world.
Visitors flock to this sacred site to seek blessings and immerse themselves in its profound spiritual aura.
PS: We recommend that you dress modestly and respectfully adhere to the temple customs while visiting the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the must-visit tourist places in Varanasi.
Best Time to Visit Varanasi
Varanasi offers a diverse and enchanting experience to travelers throughout the year. However, choosing the best time to visit Varanasi can greatly enhance your trip and ensure a memorable stay.
Here are the details on the ideal seasons to plan your visit to this spiritual and cultural hub.
Winter (October to March):
The winter months in Varanasi, from October to March, are considered the best time to visit. The weather during this period is pleasant and comfortable, with temperatures ranging from 5°C to 25°C (41°F to 77°F).
The cooler climate allows tourists to explore the city’s attractions comfortably, whether it’s strolling along the ghats or visiting temples.
Additionally, major festivals like Diwali, Dev Deepawali, and Holi fall during this time, adding an extra layer of vibrancy to the city.
Summer (April to June)
Varanasi experiences scorching summers, with temperatures soaring as high as 45°C (113°F) in the peak months of May and June. The scorching heat can make outdoor activities challenging and exhausting.
However, if you don’t mind the heat and prefer fewer crowds, this can be a budget-friendly time to visit, as hotels and tourist attractions often offer discounted rates.
Monsoon (July to September)
Varanasi receives moderate to heavy rainfall during the monsoon season, which can bring relief from the intense summer heat.
The monsoon months of July to September witness lush greenery and a refreshing ambiance. However, it’s important to note that heavy rainfall can lead to flooding in some parts of the city, affecting transportation and causing inconvenience to visitors.
Considering the weather and festival atmosphere, the best time to visit Varanasi is during the winter months, from October to March. This period allows you to explore the city comfortably, witness vibrant festivals, and immerse yourself in the rich cultural tapestry of Varanasi.
Where to Stay in Varanasi?
When it comes to finding accommodation in Varanasi, visitors have a plethora of options that cater to various preferences and budgets. From budget-friendly guesthouses to luxurious hotels, the city offers a wide range of places to stay that ensure a comfortable and memorable experience.
- For those seeking a true Varanasi experience, staying near the ghats is highly recommended. There are numerous guesthouses and hotels nestled along the riverfront, providing easy access to the vibrant activities and rituals taking place at the ghats. These accommodations offer stunning views of the Ganges River and a chance to witness the city’s spiritual aura firsthand.
- If you prefer a more serene atmosphere, away from the hustle and bustle of the ghats, there are several hotels and resorts located slightly farther from the riverfront. These establishments provide tranquility and a peaceful environment, ideal for relaxation after a day of exploring the city.
- The Cantonment area and the vicinity of Varanasi Junction railway station are also popular areas for accommodation. Here, you will find a mix of budget and mid-range hotels that offer convenient access to transportation and other amenities.
- For luxury seekers, Varanasi boasts a selection of high-end hotels and resorts that provide top-notch facilities and impeccable service. These establishments offer luxurious rooms, exquisite dining options, spa facilities, and often feature breathtaking views of the Ganges River.
Regardless of the area you choose to stay in, Varanasi offers warm and welcoming hospitality that is characteristic of Indian culture. It is advisable to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons or festival periods, to ensure availability and secure the best rates.
10 Essential Travel Tips for Varanasi
- Respect Local Customs and Traditions: Varanasi is a city deeply rooted in tradition and spirituality. As a visitor, it’s important to respect the local customs and traditions. Be mindful of dress codes while visiting temples and sacred sites, and follow the instructions given by the priests or guides.
- Watch Out for Scams: Like any other popular tourist destination, Varanasi has its share of scams. Be cautious of touts offering “special” services or inflated prices. Use authorized guides and reputable tour operators to ensure a safe and authentic experience.
- Purify Water and Eat Hygienic Food: To avoid water-borne illnesses, it’s advisable to drink bottled or purified water. Be cautious with street food and opt for hygienic eateries to minimize the risk of food-related issues. Wash your hands regularly and carry hand sanitizer for added hygiene.
- Be Mindful of Photography: Varanasi is a visually stunning city, but it’s important to be respectful when taking photographs. Seek permission before photographing people, especially during religious ceremonies. Some areas may have restrictions on photography, so it’s best to ask for guidance.
- Transportation and Traffic: Varanasi can be bustling and chaotic, particularly in the old city area. Be cautious while crossing roads, as traffic can be intense. Consider hiring local transportation services or using authorized taxis for a hassle-free experience.
- Bargaining in Markets: Bargaining is common in the markets of Varanasi. However, approach it with politeness and a friendly attitude. Remember to negotiate fair prices without undervaluing the hard work of artisans and vendors.
- Stay Hydrated and Carry Essentials: Varanasi’s weather can be hot, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle and sunscreen with you. Additionally, keep a map, emergency contact numbers, and a copy of your identification for convenience and safety.
- Embrace the Spirituality: Varanasi is renowned for its spiritual ambiance. Embrace the tranquility and immerse yourself in the spiritual practices. Participate in evening Aarti ceremonies and boat rides along the Ganges River to truly experience the city’s essence.
- Be Aware of Cow Etiquette: Cows are considered sacred in Varanasi. While they roam freely in the streets, be respectful and avoid causing any harm or disturbance to them. Maintain a safe distance and refrain from feeding them without proper guidance.
- Practice Responsible Tourism: Varanasi is a city with a rich cultural heritage. Help preserve its beauty by being a responsible traveler. Avoid littering, respect historical sites, and support local artisans and businesses to contribute positively to the local economy.
Varanasi, with its rich historical and cultural heritage, offers a multitude of experiences to travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the spiritual and traditional aspects of India.
From the serene ghats and temples to the grandeur of the forts and museums, the city presents a tapestry of sights and sounds that leave a lasting impression.
Exploring the top 10 tourist places in Varanasi will not only provide a glimpse into the city’s glorious past but also offer a deeper understanding of the spiritual and cultural tapestry of India.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the best time to visit Varanasi?
The months of October to March offer pleasant weather for exploring Varanasi, with cooler temperatures and clear skies.
Are there any specific dress codes to follow while visiting temples in Varanasi?
It is advisable to dress modestly and avoid wearing revealing clothes while visiting temples in Varanasi as a sign of respect.
Can non-Hindus visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple?
Yes, non-Hindus are allowed to visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. However, it is important to adhere to the temple customs and regulations.
Are there any specific customs to observe while visiting Manikarnika Ghat?
Manikarnika Ghat is a cremation ghat, and visitors should approach it with respect and sensitivity. It is advisable to maintain silence and avoid photography.
How can one reach Chunar Fort from Varanasi?
Chunar Fort is located approximately 40 kilometers from Varanasi. It can be reached by road via private taxis or hired vehicles.