Varanasi, also called Benares, Banaras, or Kashi, is existed at least 3,000 years ago (and possibly much earlier). It is one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism and according to legend was founded by God Shiva. At the same time, it’s a tiring, liberating, and unfettered experience. Varanasi’s colossal temples and ghats, as well as other prominent tourist attractions, attract millions of visitors each year. It is a popular tourist site not only among Indians but also among foreigners.
Although Varanasi is famed for its ghats, temples, and music, there are many more notable places to see and enjoy during your visit. Varanasi is India’s oldest city, and its surroundings have an old-world charm to them. The city is rich in culture and is one of India’s holiest cities. Tulsidas, a well-known Indian writer, composed Ram Charit Manas here. Here’s my detailed guide to Varanasi or Kashi ( Whatever name you want to call it) with all the key points you need to know before visiting the spiritual city.
Mark Twain, the great World traveller, who was enthralled by the legend and purity of Varanasi, once wrote: “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”.
Varanasi, also known as Benaras or Kashi, is one of the world’s oldest living cities. Varanasi’s importance in Hindu mythology is mostly unknown. Hindus believe that dying in the holy land of Varanasi will grant salvation and liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Varanasi’s beginnings are unknown. It is the home of Lord Shiva and Parvati. If anyone washes his or her sin in the river Ganges and dies here at the time of death then that person would gain Moksha.
Varanasi is best visited between October and March. Every year in November, Varanasi hosts the Ganga Mahotsav, a five-day grand celebration that is a highlight of the city. The tourist attractions in Varanasi during this period will allow you to see the finest of the city!
Point – If you are a budget traveller I would suggest you visit Varanasi in the month of Jan or Feb as, at the time of the festival, Varanasi becomes one of the costlier cities in terms of everything.
There are 84 Ghats are exist in Varanasi and one can easily complete the Ghats one by one as all the ghats are connected to each other. The first Ghat is Assi Ghat and the last ghat is Adi Keshava Ghat.
The Assi ghat has mythological significance apart from the first ghat. Having said that the two demons ‘Shumbh-Nishumbh, was slain here by Goddess Durga after that, Durga, threw her sword, into the Assi river. The place of her meeting with the Ganga forms the Assi Ghat.
Point– You can find the famous Lemon Tea here. Also, this ghat is famous for Yoga and Pranayama.
The Ghat is named after Tulsidas who lived there while he composed the Ramcharitmanas.
Harish Chandra Ghat is one of Varanasi’s oldest Ghats. It is named after the fabled King Harish Chandra, who once toiled at the cremation ground here for the truth and kindness to endure. The Gods are said to have rewarded him for his resolve, kindness, and honesty by restoring his lost throne and dead son to him. You can see the famous Kalu Dom’s house here. Harischandra ghat is also called the second-largest Cremation ghat in Varanasi.
On the Ganga River in Varanasi, Dashashwamedh Ghat is the main ghat and the most magnificent ghat located close to Vishwanath Temple. It is related to two Hindu legends: Lord Brahma, according to legend, built to welcome Lord Shiva. According to another tradition, at the Dasa-Ashwamedha yajna performed here, Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses.
Point– The famous Ganga Arati occurs here.
Manikarnika is one of the holiest and the largest cremation ghats among the Varanasi Ghats. It is believed that a soul finds moksha when cremated here. Thus, scores of the elderly across the whole country seek to walk up to its edges and spend their last days enchanting the death prayer here.
Points – Hire a boat for 2 to 3 hours and take a tour of all 84 ghats while listening to the stories of the ghats from the boatman.
It is said that you would see more temples than houses in Varanasi. There are 10,000 plus temples in Varanasi established in the Galis (streets), in the houses and everywhere. I would suggest you take a Rikshaw and start covering the famous temples listed below.
(Don’t forget to maintain the below sequences)
The famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple would be incomplete without including it in any list of attractions to visit in Varanasi. This temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas and has been mentioned in the holy scriptures.
It is said that if you would not visit and have prasad from Annapurna Temple after visiting Kashi Vishwanath Temple, your worship would not be successful. So, make sure after visiting the shiva temple, you should visit Annapurna temple next and have the prasad there.
After Annapurna Temple goes for a visit to Vishalakshi Temple. It is one of the famous Shakti Pithas in India where Devi Sati’s earrings had fallen.
This temple has a unique type of Shiva linga. The Shiva linga is very big and it is said that this linga increases every year the size of a til (sesame sid).
This temple also called the monkey temple painted red with an ochre. This Temple is among the sacred places to see in Varanasi. It is believed that the idol of Goddess Durga in the temple was not manmade or constructed, it appeared on its own.
The below temples you can visit if you want to visit the other most prominent temples are :
Tulsi Manas Temple
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple
Bharat Mata Temple
New Kashi Vishwanath Temple ( BHU)
Varanasi is not only famous for its Ghats and Temples but also famous for its rich history, culture and humanism. There are people from around the world who come here and established or ruined the place for their own benefit, love or fault. Let’s explore those places virtually and take a virtual tour.
This well-known Wisdom well located inside the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Aurangzeb during his time demolished the temple and created a mosque and this well there. To take revenge he threw the main shiva linga inside the well. Later on, a replica of the main jyotirlinga is established inside the temple and I believe the main shiva idol is still in the well.
One of the iconic spots for sunsets and this place is famous for the vintage collection of cars and old historical pieces of stuff of Varanasi.
One of the famous universities in India, BHU is famous for its subjects, classes and World-class teaching style.
When in Varanasi, do not forget to eat all the street famous lip-smacking delicacies like a local. These street foods of Varanasi represent the true essence of the city’s culture and food style. Banarsi Paan is the most recommended when in Varanasi. Also, Try Mallaiyo, Lassi, Kachori sabzi, Jalebi, Dahi Bhalla, Samosa, Tamatar Chatt, Laung-Lata and you’ll fall in love with the city again and again. There are a few shops I would like to recommend from my personal experience Pahelwan Lassi, Dadi Ki Kachori, Dina Chaat, Assi Ghat Lemon tea and the rest you can experiments and give other locals a fair chance.
Varanasi is for everyone and very reasonable in terms of food and stay. There are n numbers of Hostels, Guest Houses, Air BNB and hotels available as per the budget.
Point– Do not forget to check in near the ghat as it would be easy for you to catch crazy sunrise from the ghat in the morning.
Varanasi is well connected with India by air and roadways. There is a new airport in the city and frequent flights are available from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and other cities.
There are lots of trains that are available to connect Varanasi from other cities. Apart from that, Varanasi is well connected via road so anyone can reach Varanasi by road too.
Point– Inside of the city, the best way to explore Varanasi is by walking. The streets of Varanasi are very narrow so walking ao Rikshaw or Auto is the best option to hop in the busy streets.
Varanasi is very famous for its Pera and Varanasi Silk Saree. Godaulia road is a popular place for shopping. There are places where you can witness how the Varanasi silk is prepared and from there also you can purchase fabrics or sarees.
If you are a budget traveller then can find below the calculation for 3 day stay –
Stay – Hostel / Guest House – 500 x 3 = 1500
Food – (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack) – 1000 x 3= 3000
Commute – Boat, Walk, Rikshaw – 500 x 3 = 1500
Extra Spend – 1000 ( Gift, puja )
Total = INR 7000 / 3 Days
I personally recommend this city to visit once not only to worship the god or visit the temples ( if you are a believer) but also for yoga, pranayam or music ( If you are a non-believer then too). The city has a unique culture that reflects in its food, streets, house structures, people and cultures.
A lot of solo female travellers travel regularly in Varanasi. In consideration of its huge crowd, and narrow lanes I would rather advise you to take a few precautions while travelling in Varanasi like we do when travelling to other cities or countries.
For me, this is an absolutely safe city and you can travel solo here.
Varanasi is not always serene and holy for everyone. There are a few famous scams that are still going on and you should avoid these scams. There are fake sadhus, well-educated historians, and Priests of the temples the main ones who might cheat you, so beware of those extra friendly or extra enthusiastic people.
Avoid those people who directly approach you and start telling the history of the city or approach you to take you to a great puja place.
Few people can ask you to donate money for the poor’s cremation purposes. Avoid them.
You May read- 20 Ways To Save Money While Travelling The World
There are few places are very near to Varanasi that you can visit those places as a day trip
If you really want to visit real India and the place where people worship and celebrate death for salvation, then do visit Varanasi. This vivid colourful city would not only provide some excellent delicious cuisines but also give you the best lifetime memories of the streets, Ganga Arati, Boat rides and people.
Do you want to include anything? Do share in the comment section