Varanasi (Banaras) is an ancient spiritual city whose history goes back to over 3000 years. Located in Uttar Pradesh, on the banks of the river Ganges, the city is one of the best places to visit in India. Varanasi is an important religious center for Hindus, who believe visiting this holy place once before death can provide salvation.
I spent three days in Varanasi, and it exceeded all my expectations. Whether it is an adventure, fun, lip-sucking food, or enlightenment, you will get everything here. So, today, I will inform you about the best things you should do in Varanasi to enhance your travel experience.
1. Boat Ride on the Ganga
One of the best things to do in Varanasi is a boat ride on the Ganga river. While being a thrilling experience, this 40-minute ride will let you see the beauty of all the ghats in the city. You will be mesmerized by the panoramic view of the river and the ancient buildings. This is no doubt once in a lifetime experience.
If you visit in winters, October to March, you will find many migratory birds like Siberian gulls, large cormorant, bar-headed geese, northern pintail, reddish shelduck, etc., flocking near the river. These birds make Varanasi a more heavenly place.
You will find numerous boats for a ride in various ghats, but I suggest Assi ghat or Dashashwamedh ghat. And as always, sunrise and sunsets are the best time for a boat ride.
2. Attending Evening Aarti
Evening aarti is a spectacular phenomenon performed to worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Ganga. It happens every day in the evening, at around 6:30 pm, and continues for 45 minutes. The waving of incense sticks and brash lamps, priests performing Hindu rituals, chanting of mantras, and sound of multiple bells make it an altogether different experience.
The best ghats to witness evening aarti are Dashashwamedh ghat and Assi ghat. The former can get crowdy, so try to visit one our before the aarti starts.
3. Walking on Ghats
Walking on beautiful ghats in Varanasi is another interesting thing you can do in this marvelous city. This is the best way to explore the important regions of Varanasi. You will enjoy seeing enormous staircases, glistening blue water of the Ganga, ancient architecture, numerous boats floating on the river, and people taking baths and offering prayer to the holy river.
While you can visit every ghat in Varanasi, I will suggest you especially visit Assi, Dashashwamedh, and Manikarnika ghat if you are short on time.
4. Visiting Holy Temples
Varanasi is sometimes referred to as the city of temples because of the almost uncountable number of temples in this holy place. Kashi Vishwanath, also known as the golden temple, is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas and one of the most sacred Shiva temples. It is the most popular one which attracts devotees throughout the world.
Other significant ones are- Kal Bhairav Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple, Maa Annapurna Temple, Tulsi Manas Temple, Mritunjay Mahadev Temple, etc. These are a great place to get a glimpse of the culture and traditions followed in Hinduism.
5. Bathing in Ganga
The Ganga is the holiest river in India. According to Hinduism, if you take a bath in this river, all your sins would be washed, your soul would be cleaned, and you would be free from the cycle of birth and death. In other words, you will attain moksha after death.
This is why you will find many locals and travelers taking baths and offering prayer in this holy river. Hence, if you visit Varanasi, taking a bath in Ganga must be on your to-do list. Who knows if some magic happens and you discover some hidden potential in yourself.
6. Tour to Sarnath
When you head 10 km northeast of Varanasi, you will reach a unique historical place, Sarnath. Unlike Varanasi, this is a Buddhist center where Gautam Budhha delivered his first sermon. Here you can visit the Dhamekh stupa, where you will find many stupas, Asoka Pillar, and remains of the monasteries.
Archaeological Museum is another place you can’t miss. The museum showcases the findings and excavations at Sarnath, which include more than 6,800 sculptures and artifacts. So, get prepared to travel back in time. Keep in mind that a tour to Sarnath will consume half of your day.
7. Visiting Spectacular Ghats
There are more than 80 ghats in Varanasi, but there are a few which will mesmerize you like nothing. The ghat which tops the list are Manikarnika and Harishchandra ghat, where dead bodies are burnt following the Hindu ritual.
Being a cremation ground, you will always see a few funeral pyre burning and relatives of the departed performing the final rituals. This can be an enlightening experience because you realize everybody will die one day and that death is inevitable.
Dashashwamedh ghat is the most popular, where evening aarti is performed. You can find holy temples, devoted priests, and enthusiastic visitors on this ghat. Other ghats you can visit in Varanasi are Assi ghat, Tulsi ghat, Darbhanga ghat, Chet Singh Ghat, Scindia ghat, etc.
8. Eating Street Foods
My personal favorite thing to do in Varanasi is eating mouth-watering foods. Seriously, your tour to this city is incomplete if you don’t try the delicious local dishes sold in various corners of Varanasi. Starting from the famous Banarasi paan, a combination of betel leaf, areca nut, and various other elements that is chewed for euphoric effects.
Other foods include Malaiyyo, Chena Dahi Vada, Tamatar Chaat, Baati Chokha, Dahi Chutney Gol Gappe, Thandai, Rabri Jalebi, Kachori Sabzi, etc. These are just a suggestion; you can explore and find your own favorite foods.
Related: Exploring Varanasi: My Experiences of the Spritual City
So, these are few of the best things you should do in Varanasi. I hope now you are excited about this ancient city. But don’t limit yourself only to this list; go out and keep exploring. You may find something interesting which very few know about. You can let me know in the comments which of the above are you most excited about. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel, where I post vlogs and travel videos. Thanks for reading.