Varanasi Travel Guide

  • Local Customs
    by illumina
  • Morning Bathing in the Ganga
    Morning Bathing in the Ganga
    by Donna_in_India
  • Varanasi
    by 8eight8

Varanasi Highlights

  • Pro
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    Rupanworld says…

      Very holy, peaceful and colourful place  

  • Con
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    Hmmmm says…

     Traffic is Frenetic 

  • In a nutshell
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    Rupanworld says…

      Come to Varanasi and discover YOURSELF  

Varanasi Things to Do

  • Evening Aarti on Dasaswamedh Ghat

    Each evening at dusk on the banks of the Ganges the Ganga aarti - a devotional ritual - is performed in three of India's hoilest cities: Varanasi, Rishikesh, & Haridwar. The aarti in Varanasi is performed facing the river from the Dasaswamedh Ghat. Although it seems very touristy and less spiritual (more so than in Haridwar or Rishikesh) it is a...

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  • Vishwanath Temple

    The most popular Hindu temple in Varanasi is the Shri Kashi Vishwanath Mandir (Vishwanath Temple). The temple is dedicated to lord of the universe, Shiva. Enshrined in the temple is a Jyotirlinga of Shiva (one of only twelve in all of India) where Shiva "is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam. 'Jyothi' means 'Radiance' and Lingam, the Shiva...

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  • Kshameshwar Ghat

    Kshameshwar Ghat is located south of Dasashvamedha Ghat. A small faded yellow temple/shrine sits on top of the steps.Kshameshwar Ghat is another ghat frequented by South Indians. Although it is a wide ghat, is it very overshadowed by neighboring Raja Ghat.

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Varanasi Hotels

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Varanasi Restaurants

  • REAL espresso - barista style!

    An oasis amidst the chaos! and they serve REAL coffee, the best I had in India! It is a quiet retreat with spotless clean western-style toilet! Freshly baked huge muffins, cheesecake, carrot cake and breadrolls as big as breadloaves. We enjoyed the boardgames & magazines and spent almost all our afternoons there. The staff is not in your face yet...

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  • Place to meet locals and have delish...

    The cafe is where locals come to eat cheap vegetarian food.It is situated not far away from the main Dasaswamedh Ghat, on the road with the same name.. If you are coming from the Ghat up the steps the Dasaswamedh Ghat Road is in front of you and it's curves on the left, the Milan Cafe is in the curve on the right side of the road.. You can not miss...

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  • A German Bakery in India!

    We came here for breakfast on our last day in Varanasi, and it proved a good choice, although not very local! Despite being in the middle of the busy backstreets of Varanasi, I had the feeling it would have been more at home in London's Soho or Covent Garden areas, with it's organic food, chic seating areas, and world/dance music. I had a pancake...

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Varanasi Nightlife

  • Musical Performance

    On the way to and from our hotel we regularly passed a tiny shop hidden in the alleys threading behind Manikarnika Ghat. We saw that it had a sign outside promising a concert in the evenings, so on our second evening in Varanasi we went along. It proved to be one of the best things we did. We were alone as the audience for a short time, while the...

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  • The silent Ganges by night

    For those who enjoy a serene silence interrupted by the sounds of the water of the river, its a great experience to sit by the side of river Ganga on any of his greater ghats and enjoy the darkness overpowering the world.

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  • Not much of a nightlife

    In Varanasi, I noticed that the morning starts earlier than other cities.... I saw a number of people rise early and head to the Ganges before sunrise to take a dip/bath whatever you call it. As I was in Varanasi, the sunrise was around 6:15 Am and I notices that the river banks were live with people well before 05:30 A.M, locals as well as...

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Varanasi Transportation

  • Not as quick as India Rail thats for...

    Travelling quickly and easily around India as we have already established is a dream with Government sponsored India Rail, the Air India and Jet Air airpasses, sleeper buses, express buses, bus buses, Ambassador cars and those munty, polluting Enfield Motorbikes. There are definately better ways to travel than mounting a slow slow slow donkey. Yet...

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  • Tuk-tuk

    To get from the train station into the town you'll need to take a taxi or auto-rickshaw - we chose the later, which even though smaller than a taxi could only take us as far as a roundabout 100yards or so from Dasaswamedh Ghat. This is because larger vehicles aren't allowed into the back alleys (only motorbikes can get through), and nothing at all...

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  • Where taxis won't go

    Varanasi is filled with narrow winding lanes and alleyways. Some hotels are only accessible by Autorickshaw. When booking an hotel, always check if they can be reached by taxi.Autorickshaws are able to navigate the narrow lanes, and are cheap as chips.Good for getting around if you tire from walking. Negotiate a fee before departure, and make sure...

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Varanasi Shopping

  • All things silk... and more

    Mehrotra Silk is rightfully recommended by Lonely Planet. They have two stores and both are a bit hard to find, and even though it is "straight from the factory," you will do well to negotiate prices. They have all things silk, like saaris, ties, men's kurtas/kaftans, raw silk fabrics, and more.But don't do it all from Mehrotra. Try the shops on...

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  • Beautiful range of Handicrafts

    Beautiful range of handicrafts in Curio Cottage. One can buy figures of deity and any god. They have very nice collection of paintings as well as jewelery Jewelery and Handicrafts

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  • Chai and Thandai

    You may also like to taste the fabulous ‘chai’ (tea) that is available in almost all street corners and is served in small earthen cups piping hot. It may taste too sweet but one sip and you’ll be asking for more. The other item is ‘thandai’, made of ‘malai’ (cream), milk and special liquid concoctions, the formula of which is as jealously...

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Varanasi Local Customs

  • Pass away in Varanasi

    They believe that once you die in Varanasi (Benares, Kashi), your soul gets free from the samsara - the reincarnation cycle, you can reach the nirvana and do not have to try and try all over again in the next life to get better. So that gives a religious Hindu a good reason to want to pass away in Varanasi. There are nearly 100 ghats - it means...

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  • Why are the priests so young? Are they...

    The main thing which you go to visit Varanasi for is it's spiritual feeling, the great hindu rituals and customs, cremations, prayers, the sunsets and sunrises at the bank of Mother Ganges welcoming the god of sun Surya or giving thanks to the river godess Ganges, praising all the different gods of hinduism... Surrounded by hundreds and thousands...

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  • Respecting life in all its forms

    We were walking back to our hotel late one afternoon, and saw a dead cow, which had fallen off a ghat. Now this is not so unusual, but what stopped us in our tracks was what was happening.....there was a crowd of Hindus, with a priest, and they were having funeral prayers for the cow....and preparing it for cremation. It was bedecked in flowers....

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Varanasi Warnings and Dangers

  • Women beggars

    Women with babies/small children begging.Are they in need - most likely.Are they genuine beggars - it is highly likely they are syndicated and all 'earnings' go to a boss to be distributed later minus a fee.It is impossible to know so it is up to you. Guides and local authorities advise you to ignore them as there are agencies available to them. It...

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  • The 'Not so Holy' men of Varanasi

    As with any religious site spurious holy men abound. Men dressed in colourful robes with painted faces are most likely to be fakes. Take their photos if you like but be prepared to pay. A good zoom lens works here. If you want your photo taken with them - and it is all part of the fun - then come to an agreement first. Beware of 'holy men' who walk...

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  • Say Marnikarnika Ghat to the Rickshaw...

    Don't say the name of your Hotel. It smacks of fresh arrival. Have you ever heard the Story of the Guy who wanted to go to Hotel Blah blah in the in in Old Varanasi by the Ganges..... The Rickshaw Wallahs will tell you outright blatant lies to make you change your plans and go with them. If you are not careful, before you know it, you will be...

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Varanasi Tourist Traps

  • Single female?

    If so, or just walking around on your own, be aware you may well attract unwanted attention from young men on the ghats. I dislike having to resort to such trickery, but I did find it rather amusing how well it worked: while walking back to my hotel on my own, I picked up a bit of a follower who said he just wanted to chat and practise his English,...

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  • Masseurs

    If you're a man, you'll almost certainly be approached, probably several times a day, on Dasaswamedh Ghat by men who say hello and offer you their hand to shake. Once you shake hands, they'll start to give you a hand massage and will prove remarkably difficult to let go of! If you really really don't want a massage at all, the best thing to do is...

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  • Manikarnika Ghat

    This is thankfully something we heard about before it happened to us. Around Manikarnika Ghat, which is the main burning ghat, there are a few men, claiming to be priests, who will offer to take you to a better viewing spot. They will take you up to a platform, where there probably is a good view, but you'll be charged for the privilege, and if you...

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Varanasi What to Pack

  • Geographical Savoir Faire is a must for...

    Take a pack (Rucksack). Nothing more.Oh I take a large bumb bag (worm to the front with straps) that carries my Camera, lenses and books pens etc. (About 5 litres) Sandals (and a pair of sneakers if you visit the Himalaya) I bought everything I needed in India (but then I am a male) save insect repellant. AI bought with me, a small Canon ixus...

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  • Must brings

    Light clothes in summer, light woolens in winter,chappals in summer, chappals in winter, chappals in all weather some basic medicines like antiallergics, for stomach upsets, headaches and fevers If you believe in Hindu religion, or the sacredness of Ganga, a simple plastic bottle to carry home 'Ganga jal'

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  • Mosquito coil

    Bring nothing in particular, just something simple. I wear sandals You can buy medicines here anytime anywhere on the street, just look out for the red cross sign in shops. I bought the Lactovit capsules for my diarrhea in the medicine shops. Blackout more than 5 times daily, what to do? Mosquito coil is needed for the size of blood sucking...

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Varanasi Off The Beaten Path

  • Dedicated work by Somit at Saraswati...

    Somit is one of the genuinely nicest guys you could ever meet, and his dedication to his work is even nicer. The young man runs Saraswati Education Center, Yoga Training Center, and Somit P. Guesthouse. The education center is where a lot of underprivileged children, especially the abandoned ones, find shelter, camaraderie, and positive growth. You...

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  • Fun with saddhus !

    So, I spent 3 or 4 days with this bunch of saddhus out front of Daswadeneh ghat. They had virtually no english, but we hung out going over the sacred texts, traveling on the river and watching them in their daily alms collection and various activities, mostly involved with smoking hashish with the chillum.I'd advise you keep your wits about you,...

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  • Sarnath - Where Buddha preached his...

    Located 13km (8 miles) north-east of Varanasi, Sarnath is one of the four holy places associated with the life of Lord Buddha. It is the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharam, (the Way of the Higher Truths). At this time Sarnath, from Saranganath, meaning "Lord of the Deer", was called Isipatana which means "the place where holy...

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Varanasi Sports & Outdoors

  • Cricket on the terrace

    Cricket on the terraces of houses/guesthouses in Varanasi can be fun. Cricket is very popular in India and Varanasi is no exception

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  • Canoeing

    Look how I enjoy the canoeing activity on the Gangga. The boatman was very happy to sit relax when I took over his position. This sport activity is very tough for me, I can only do 20 minutes and already lose control unable to get the direction straight. Its a very good morning exercise for your hands especially, try it.

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  • Varanasi Hotels

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Varanasi Favorites

  • Monkeys!

    Scampering over rooftops and frequently loitering on hotel balconies, these macaque monkeys look quite cute, but have a bit of a reputation for making a nuisance of themselves - perpetrating random acts of vandalism and occasionally getting vicious. Worth watching out for, in more ways than one!

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  • Water buffalo

    The domestic water buffalo, prevalent almost everywhere in India, are omnipresent on the less populated ghats along the Ganges. Used for draft, dairy, and (at the end of their working lives) meat, their dung is also used for fuel. During the heat of the day, you'll often spot the buff cooling off in the river water, and at night you'll probably...

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  • Amazing Varanasi

    My favorite thing about Varanasi, is that there is just not another place like it!! One minute u love it, and the next thing u hate it!!! It is so spiritual, and there are so many unusual things happening everywhere that u actually feel like u had the most amazing experience and the memories will never fade!! I just loved sitting on the Ghats and...

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