16 Incredible Places To Visit In Varanasi And What To Do There
The spiritual capital of India, Varanasi is also known by two other names – Kashi and Benaras. The ancient city is home to mythological temples, picturesque Ghats, old buildings, narrow streets, lip-smacking cuisine, and sacred Hindu rituals. The prominent pilgrimage destination is also home to many Aghori Sadhus who renounce the norms of society and indulge in worshiping Lord Shiva through post-mortem rituals and other staggering practices. The holy city ornamenting the tranquil banks of the divine River Ganges is the land where life meets death. Being prominent as the holiest spot for the Hindu cremation ceremony, Varanasi receives visitors from all over the world and definitely, throughout the year!
Famed as the ‘City of Lights’, the beauty of Benaras has been praised by many poets and philosophers. The strong spiritual aroma that lingers in the soothing breeze at the picture-perfect Ghats is enough to put any troubled soul to rest. The small city is perfect for those looking to relax amidst the fairytale-like surroundings and can be explored in a day or two. Along with the unique experiences of Varanasi, visit other popular tourist places near Varanasi to make your holiday more memorable. The best time to visit Varanasi is during festivals such as Shivratri and Kumbh Mela and the region also experiences the best climatic conditions during winters.
Top 16 Places to Visit in Varanasi and what to Do There
- River Ganges
- Ghats of Varanasi
- Dashashwamedh Ghat
- Manikarnika Ghat
- Man Mahal Ghat
- Assi Ghat
- Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple
- Saray Mohana Village
- Tibetan Temple
- Ramnagar Fort
- Benaras Hindu University
- Alamgir Mosque
- Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum
- Chunar Fort
- Vindham Waterfall
- Yoga training centers
1. River Ganges
Bathing in River Ganges is considered as one of the holiest rituals in Hindu Religion and the devotees’ lives are believed to be incomplete without the touch of this holy water. The sacred river is also said to liberate one of their many sins and grant salvation. As a result, thousands of devotees visit Varanasi every year mainly for this purpose. The river is also in the news for being highly polluted. As a popular cremation site, the ashes of hundreds of bodies that burn in Manikarnika and other Ghats and the scared items such as flowers used in the post-mortem rituals flow into the river and merge with the water. Taking a dip in the Holy River is surely not for the fainthearted.
2. Ghats of Varanasi
The scenic banks of River Ganges are lined up with ancient buildings and monuments that have stood, witnessing history, for a long time. These structures are bordered with spectacular Ghats (a flight of steps that leads down to a river). As one rocks on the boat ride along the river, they will get to witness the marvellous architectural beauty of this ancient town in all its glory. The beautiful Ghats that dot the banks of the river reveals the unique culture of this picture-perfect destination. One can witness various activities that go about in the Ghats and occasionally indulge in a conversation or spontaneous jamming session to admire how music and intellect perfectly blends with nature. There are about 88 Ghats in Varanasi, and some of the prominent ones are Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Assi Ghat, Munshi Ghat, Darbhanga Ghat, and others. The Ghats must be at the top of your best places to see in Varanasi list.
The boat rides are popularly taken during the morning and evening aarti ceremonies when the scenic Dashashwamedh Ghat lights up with priests singing, dancing, and worshiping the holy river. One can hire a row boat at around INR 200 or go on a motor boat at around INR 1,500.
3. Dashashwamedh Ghat
One of the most prominent and legendary Ghats of Varanasi – Dashashwamedh Ghat is believed to have been created by Lord Brahma to welcome Lord Shiva. Another legend suggests that it is the place where Brahma sacrificed ten horses as a part of performing the ritual, Dasa-Ashwamedha Yajna. The world-renowned aarti ceremonies of Varanasi are performed in this Ghat that’s situated very close to Kashi Vishwanatha Temple. Ganga Aarti are rituals performed by a number of priests that carry a range of Deepams, or lamps, and swing them in rhythm while singing and moving to the prayer or Bhajans offered to Goddess Ganga. The Aarti ceremonies are conducted twice a day, during dusk and dawn.
4. Manikarnika Ghat
Among the prominent places to see in Varanasi, Manikarnika Ghat is one of the oldest and the holiest Ghats of the region. The legendary Ghat derives its name from the mythological story that speaks of the time when Lord Shiva came to bathe here and lost a jewel from his earnings. Mani means Jewel and Karnika means an ear ornament. Most of the cremation rituals in Varanasi are conducted in this Ghat. Hundreds of human bodies burn on the lined-up funeral pyres as their families pray that their souls secure a place in the cycle of reincarnation. The people cremated in this place are believed to attain salvation. Many priests that conduct post-mortem ceremonies crowd the region.
5. Man Mahal Ghat
Situated very close to Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple and Dashashwamedh Ghat, Man Mahal Ghat is among the popular tourist attractions in Varanasi for housing the majestic Man Singh Observatory. The observatory that was built by Savai Jai Singh II in 1710 honours the Maharaja of Amer – Man Singh who built the Man Mahal Ghat and the stunning palace at the edge of it in the 1600s. The palace now houses an exquisite collection of instruments that were used to study the planetary bodies and are made in stone. The architectural beauty of the Ghat is accentuated with the beautiful Jantar Mantar, which is similar to those found in parts of Delhi, Jaipur, and other places. The excellent architecture of the palace also allows lavish balconies to stand on and witness the beauty of life and death on both the sides of the legendary River Ganges.
6. Assi Ghat
Situated at the southern-most part of River Ganga, Assi Ghat marks the point where River Assi confluences with River Ganga. Assi Ghat is important among both locals and tourists. The Ghat is currently well-known as the dwelling centre of foreign and local students who settle in the city to continue their education at Banaras Hindu University and other prominent institutions. Naturally, the Ghat is dotted with plenty of eateries and shopping corners that will provide tourists a sneak peek at the cultural heritage of the beautiful town – Varanasi. The religious spot, which is said to be the place where the famous saint and poet Tulasidas took his last breath has been mentioned in Puranas. The sacred Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple and a holy Shiva Linga placed under the peepal tree are the most visited attractions of Assi Ghat. The most frequented Ghat has the ability to accommodate over 22,500 people during festivals like Kumbh Mela and Shivratri. Visitors can either take boat rides or hot-air balloon rides to catch a bird’s eye view of this scenic Ghat or just sit by the tranquil waters and enjoy the graceful sunrise and sunsets at Varanasi.
7. Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple
The prominent Hindu pilgrimage destination – Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the legendary shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Temple that has been mentioned in a number of puranas and has been destroyed and reconstructed multiple times over centuries, is one out of the twelve places that worship jyothirlingas, a manifestation of Lord Shiva. A significant destination in the practice of Shiva philosophy, the temple is among the most popular tourist attractions in Varanasi and a Hindu devotee’s journey in life is considered incomplete without taking a dip in River Ganges and visiting this temple. The architecturally unique temple is particularly famous for the gold-plated domes that ornament the shrine. Beware of the priests and luggage holders who try to scam you on the way to the temple by performing small rituals and demanding large sums of money.
8. Saray Mohana Village
Located at hardly 9 kilometres from Varanasi and situated in the Chiraigaon Tehsil, Saray Mohana Village is popularly known as the Weavers’ Village of Varanasi, is home to a small population of individuals and families that practice the art of silk weaving depending on their ancestral techniques. The craftsmanship of these talented individuals and their forefathers has made Varanasi synonymous with the lavish Banarasi sarees that are widely known for the big, gold and silver borders and intriguing embroidery. In this Weaver’s Village, you can watch the artisans carefully weave sarees and interact with them about the interesting aspects of the practice. The sarees that accessorize the beautiful Indian brides take about 15 days to one month to manufacture each. Even though the artisan village isn’t as popular or well visited as other tourist attractions of Varanasi, for art lovers and curious souls who love to connect with locals, it is definitely among the best tourist places to see in Varanasi.
9. Tibetan Temple
One of the most visited tourist places in Varanasi, Tibetan Temple is at about 13 kilometres from the city center and is located in Sarnath. The temple houses the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, which showcases the spiritual lord in his resting position. The temple that’s built-in classic Tibetan Buddhist architectural style is looked after many Buddhist monks who have come from countries such as China and Japan. Another prominent feature of the temple is Thangksa, a form of Tibetan Buddhist paintings that adorn the temple’s walls and ceilings. Similar to other Buddhist temples, the Tibetan Temple has many prayer wheels that revels paper scrolls with sacred chants when spun in a clockwise direction. The Holy Buddhist Pilgrimage destination provides a contrast from other major tourist attractions of Varanasi and is a great option for those looking to relish the tranquility of the divine destination.
10. Ramnagar Fort
The present dwelling place of the Royal Family of Varanasi, Ramnagar Fort that is situated opposite to Tulsi Ghat on the eastern bank of River Ganga is a crumbling 17-century old monument. The architecturally brilliant Fort features the combination of Indian and Islamic style of architecture. It is built with red sandstone and ornamented with marble and glassy stones. The majestic fort consists of a temple shrine dedicated to Saint Ved Vyasa, the author of the great epic Mahabharata who is said to have resided in the fort for a short period of time. The palace complex also consists of one of the most beautiful Darbar Halls in the Indian sub-continent. Among the prominent attractions of the fort, a museum that houses a large collection of ancient artifacts used by the Maharajas of Banaras in the bygone era and a huge clock that displays complex astronomical facts along with information such as Time, date, week and month are the most popular ones.
11. Benaras Hindu University
BHU, as the university is popularly known, is one of the most important centers of learning in Eastern India. It was established in 1916 by Madan Mohan Malviya and the 5.3 square kilometer campus is a sight to behold. It is also the largest residential university in the continent of Asia and has accommodation facilities for over 30,000 students. The University has an impressive list of alumni and faculty and there is a section in the university which portrays their deeds and achievements which is worth visiting. The Indo- Gothic architecture of the University would be the perfect example to study for any student of architecture. The lawns are huge and are very well maintained and it is clearly discernable why the university provides such a splendid ambience for education. Walking through the shaded pavilions of the university from one building to another is a real pleasure. The university is open from 10 am to 6 pm and no entry fee is required.
12. Alamgir Mosque
While Varanasi is most known as a city of temples, the Alamgir Mosque has its own story to tell and is one of the most revered places in the city for the followers of Islam. Named after Aurangzeb, who ascended the throne with the name of Alamgir, the mosque stands at the site of a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva which the emperor destroyed. The mosque has stunning high minarets and has a very distinct Indo- Islamic style. The architecture is unique and area around the mosque makes for some lovely strolling ground. The mosque is open from 7 am to 7pm and entry is free.
13. Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum
This archeological and art museum is home to hundreds of sculptures, statues and artifacts from by gone eras. If you want to know how primitive jewelry looked liked or have an interest in the pottery and textiles of the native tribes, this a trip to this museum is no doubt going to be very educational for you. The items that are on display here belong mostly between the time periods of 1st ad 15th century, so there is a lot to explore. The total number of artifacts on display here easily crosses 100,000. There are also a number of miniature paintings from ancient and medieval and the museum has a most prized possession of ancient scrolls and manuscripts. The museum is open from 11 am to 4 pm and the entry fee is merely INR 5 for Indians and INR 40 for foreigners. Students and staff have to pay a fee of INR 2 only.
14. Chunar Fort
This 11th century fort located in the outskirts of Varanasi is an important historical site in the vicinity of the city. The architecture is simplistic yet unique. The fort is a great site for exploration because a section of the fort juts out into the rocky and uneven banks of the River Ganga. It is like entering a fortress of sorts and draws many tourists from time to time who love exploring the ancient rooms and dungeons. It is however, advisable to be careful as some parts of the fort are not in very good condition. The fort has been featured in the hit Bollywood gangster film, Gangs of Wasseypur. The fort can be visited between 10 am and 5 pm and entry is free.
15. Vindham Waterfalls
If you are looking forward to making a daytrip from Varanasi, then Vindham Waterfalls is the perfect destination. Not only is it a great picnic spot but it is also a wonderful place to explore. Varanasi is beautiful in its own way but no doubt it can get chaotic and crowded at times with its narrow lanes and teeming population. The waterfalls provide a great respite, which is located about 90 km from Varanasi, in the region of Mirzapur. From here, one can also visit other nearby tourist attractions like Tanda Fountains, and the caves and temples around the region. The waterfall itself is gorgeous and the weather is quite cool and pleasant round the year. Tourists are advised not to litter the place.
16. Yoga training centers
It cannot be denied that city of Varanasi is perhaps the one of the only few cities which still has a connection to the past of India, and it is also a place of spiritual confluence. Yoga, in ancient India, had been a way of life and today there are a number of Yoga training centers in the city which will help you connect with the spiritual aspects of life. Many Indians, as well as foreign nationals come to the city to learn yoga, and in its right way which involves the body, mind and spirit. One can learn directly under the highly accomplished Yoga Acharayas who not only teach the postures, but also the theory behind them and the science of Yoga. It will be one of the best things you could do for the betterment of your mind, body and soul. Find out about the centers here once in the city and the fee for most of them are very affordable.
Best Time to Visit Varanasi
Varanasi can be visited round the year, mostly because of its splendid weather and because the city will always offer some amazing sight to behold whenever you visit. The temples here are dedicated to various gods and goddesses and some other ritual or festival always comes up which will help you understand the spiritual nature of the city. The monsoons can get a bit difficult mostly because the narrow lanes often have puddles which can make it difficult to traverse the city on foot and the River Ganga also fills up to the brim, making boating somewhat risky. Other than that, the city of Varanasi can be visited round the year and during festivals like Sankranti, Dussehra or Diwali, the city simply lights up in the most spectacular way.
Where to Stay
Accommodation in Varanasi is fairly reasonable and there is no dearth of hotels and lodges here. In fact, some rooms can be got at less than INR 500 if you are visiting in the off season. Varanasi too has some luxury destinations but the true pulse of the city can be felt by staying how the locals do, gorging on local food like kachori and jalebis. The hotels here provide all the basic amenities but it is important to be careful of your belongings if you are staying in a hotel that is located by a temple which has monkeys! Other than that, your stay in Varanasi will be most interesting. You can also book hotels through Oyo app.
If not for anything else one must visit Varanasi at least for the food. The authentic street food and the amazing cuisines will make anyone want to hog up everything with greed. Varanasi is also a great destination to shop and as one of the most prominent and most visited tourist places in India, it is easy to find affordable stay in Varanasi.
P.s. You might like these related resources:
- 11 Must-Visit Popular Places near Varanasi.
- Best Time to Visit Varanasi – the holy city of River Ganga
Hey! I'm Gauri.Sagittarius by birth, clumsy by choice.An engineer turned writer.Loves animals tolerate humans.Has a thing for pizza and old books.Expertize in awkward conversations and creepy smiles.