|Varanasi- One of the oldest living cities in the world and one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus. Depending on who you speak with, the city is commonly referred to as Banaras as well as Kashi. Tourists come here to experience the rich history of music, arts, crafts, education, spiritualism and more. Visitors arrive expecting to stay a few days and leave 6 months later.My visit to Varanasi was on the tail end of my initial 3 week journey to India. With no knowledge, no background of any kind, I found myself immersed in this dirty, polluted, noisy and crowed city wide eyed and hungry to learn. My itinerary only allowed 2 days for sightseeing, and any layman will discover quickly that just is not enough time to do the Ghat city justice.
Coming from Jhansi/Orchha, my travel partner and I flew into the local airport. This mode of arrival is preferred over car and driver or bus given the sometimes volatile road conditions of Lucknow to Varanasi. We were met by a local agent and driver who seemed nervous for us to see much of the city heart doing their best to whisk us from the airport to the hotel. Fortunately my travel bud had done her research, finding a newer hotel near the banks of River Ganges. With the excellent location, we found ourselves with a terrific view of the river, nearby walking distance to STD, internet, tuk tuks/rickshaws, and boat travel via Assi Ghat.
How to Reach
Varanasi is easily accessible from all parts of the country by road, rail and air.
Auto: Car & driver, private taxis can easily navigate the good motorable, all weather roads. Major highways run from Delhi, Lucknow, Patna, Agra & Kolkata.
Bus: Daily UPSRTC service as well as Tour/Coach Operators
Rail/Train: Varanasi is an important and major rail junction. The city is served from all metros an cities across the country including: New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Gwailor, Indore, Guwahati, Allahabad, Lucknow & Dehradun.
Varanasi Junction (IR Station Code: BSB). Located in the heart of the city.
Mughal Sarai Junction (IR Station Code: MGS). Located 15kms from the city. Hire a rickshaw Rs 20, 45 minutes to the city.
Plane: Babatpur Airport. Located 22kms from Varanasi. Numerous taxi/ground transportation options are available for city transfer.
There are a few absolute, must do activities while in Varanasi which all center around the river front ghat area. There are more than 80 ghats encasing Varanasi but only a handful are considered noteworthy based on activities, services and places of interest.
Dashaswamedha Ghat, Manmandir Ghat, Harish Chandra Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Tulsi Ghat, Assi Ghat & Panchganga Ghat.
•Wake up early and find yourself on a boat before sun-up. Bring your camera to capture the magic of the daily sunrise. Watch how the city and river comes to life with locals performing life-long rituals, prayers, bathing and more. You’ll leave with some of the most amazing shots.
•Walk the Ghats. Many audio and book walking tours exist online. Do some quick research to find one that fits your budget. Listen along as you move through the city on the riverbanks following the instructions on important sights and landmarks to look for. If you head out early enough, you’ll see the many tourists completing their sunrise boat-rides, witness the laundry-wallahs beginning their services complete with laying out numerous beautiful sarees along the Ghat steps, and many other fascinating activities.
•Watch the evening Arti either in the audience on land or preferably by boat on the Ganges. Light a candle and make a wish as you set your flame down the river during the ceremony. So good.
Bharat Mata Temple- The Bharat Mata temple at Varanasi is the only temple dedicated to Mother India. It is located in the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth campus. The Bharat Mata temple was built by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupt and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. The statute of Bharat Mata is built in marble and is a model of undivided India, depicting the mountains, plains and oceans. The most peculiar thing about the Bharat Mata Temple is that instead of the customary gods and goddesses, it houses a relief map of India, carved out of marble.
Tulsi Manas Temple
You can find it all in Varanasi. Some of the finest handicrafts come from here, the best known being silk weaving. Banarsi Sarees are produced by local craftsmen and are sought out not only with India, but globally. Other crafts Varanasi is known for: Brassware, copperware, ivorywork, glass bangles, wood & clay toys and gold jewelry.
Main shopping areas include:
The Chowk, Vishwanath Gali, Gyanvapi, Thatheri Bazaar, Lahurabir, Godoulia, Dashashwamedh Road and Golghar. Many Government emporia shops exist. Befriend a trustworthy hotel clerk or foreigner for your best options.
Slightly off the main tourist drag, but near food, transportation, shopping and phone/internet, try this place for a mid-budget option.
Just up from Assi Ghat and Palace on Ganges, this “dive” fed us cheap, tasty food consistently for several meals.
Banks / Money Changers
State Bank of India
Indian Overseas Bank
Bank of Baroda-Godoulia
Central Bank of India
Banaras State Bank Ltd.
Chunar Fort 40kms
Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary 70kms
Fairs & Fesitvals
Check here for monthly celebrations in and around Varanasi
Places of Interest
Sadhus of Varanasi
Ghats of Varanasi