Welcome to Varanasi
The city is sacred to Hindus and Jains and also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with settlements dating back to the 11th century BC. Many Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi brings salvation/nirvana and so they make the trip to the city when they realize that they are close to death. For some, the culture shock of the burning corpses in plain view can be a bit overwhelming. However, the scene of pilgrims doing their devotions in the River Ganga at sunrise set against the backdrop of the centuries-old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world.
The city can be scorchingly hot in the summer months so, if possible, time your visit to fall between October and March, and bring something warm to wear for chilly days and nights.
Things to do in Varanasi
Hemmed to the side of the sacred Ganga, Varanasi is one of the top tourist destinations in India. The holiest of holy cities, it is also believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited ones. Known by many names like Kashi, Avimukta and Benaras, Varanasi has been, since ancient times, a seat of learning and spirituality. Pilgrims come here to wash away their sins in the Ganga, to be blessed at its many temples and to die here because that ensures you’re going straight to heaven! But there are many other things to do in Varanasi for visitors who are stupefied by its charm whether it’s their first visit or the umpteenth. Here’s our list of the top ten definitive things to do in Varanasi:
Mentioned in the Puranas, repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries, home a revered Jyotirlinga and believed to be the temple where praying would allow one to attain moksha, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the holiest places in the country. Visiting it to seek the Lord’s blessings is one of the top things to do in Varanasi.
The Ganga River or the Ganges, is one of the most revered rivers in the country and is in its most beautiful and serene form when passing through Varanasi. Waking up at the crack of dawn to take a boat ride across this ocean-like water body is definitely one of the unmissable things to do in Varanasi. Enjoy scenes of life unfolding on the river’s banks, the sonorous sounds of chants and bells emerging from the temples and the quiet, tranquil waters and don’t forget to snap an insta-worthy pic with the cityscape in the background.
Varanasi is a study in contrasts and nowhere is it more visible than in the pageant-like atmosphere of the daily evening prayers or aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat compared with the sombreness of the burning pyres on Manikarnika Ghat. But attending the aarti is one of the must-experience things to do in Varanasi because you get to see the grandeur of the event attended by hundreds of people, feel the strong positive vibes and accumulate a memorable experience.
Timing: Starts at 6.00 pm in winter and 7.00 pm in summer
Varanasi has been known as one of the most important centres of learning in India since ancient times and the Banaras Hindu University continues that tradition today. Established in 1916, BHU is an iconic institution. Visiting it to admire its hallowed interiors, architecture and its peaceful atmosphere is a popular thing to do in Varanasi. Also include in your visit, a trip to the Bharat Kala Bhavan, an inspiring museum with a wide collection of ancient manuscripts, sculptures and miniature paintings among other displays.
Legend says that a dip in the Ganga will absolve you of all your sins and thousands of pilgrims come here every year to do just that. And so should you, because this is one of the best things to do in Varanasi. Whether or not your sins are washed, you’d have gained a phenomenal experience of bathing in one of the most talked-about rivers in the world!
Constructed by the then King of Banaras, Raja Balwant Singh, in 1750 this impressive Chunar sandstone fortification was home to the royal family. Overlooking the Ganga, the fort is a good example of Mughal architecture with decorated pavilions, courtyards and balconies. A most rewarding thing to do in Varanasi, your fort visit must also include a trip to the Dakshin Mukhi temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman and an interesting museum that houses rare antiques and artefacts. Also, if you can coincide your trip with Dusshehra, you’re in for a treat with the special Ramlila organized at the fort. Read alos about trip to Varanasi
Didn’t know there was a Jantar Mantar at Varanasi? Well, there is and visiting it to be surprised at the accuracy of its instruments is one of the best off-beat things to do in Varanasi. The observatory built by Maharaj Jai Singh II in the mid-1800s includes many instruments like the Samrat Yantra, Digamsa Yantra, Chakra Yantra, Nadivalaya, and Daksinottara Bhitti Yantra. They measure local time, altitude and the movement of celestial bodies.