Till now, we have travelled to many historical cities in Maharashtra and Karnataka, this year’s goal was to visit some old cities in India. The very first list we came up with was Lucknow, Varanasi/Banaras and Prayagraj/Allahabad.
All three cities are not very far from each other, so we made a travel plan in the month of Feb which is the best time to visit northern India. In this blog, I am going to cover Banaras/Varanasi. This city is known to be the oldest living city in the world, believe me, this city has some magical vibes. We had heard a lot of things for Banaras and we were so excited to experience the life of this city.
There are many hostels and hotels available in Banaras. There are quite nice hostels available in 2-3 km radius of Dashashwamedh ghat or between Dashashwamedh to Assi ghat so finding a place is not an issue until you are going on some auspicious day. So without any further adieu, let’s get on to the best things to do and see in Varanasi.
1. Go on a boat ride:
The very first thing we did after reaching ghat is to get on a boat ride. In my opinion, do not take the motorboat, take the manually driven boat. Because as the boat sails slowly, you will be able to observe different ghats and appreciate the beauty of the place. If you are lucky, your boatman will also tell you the history and other details about the famous ghats. The mornings and evenings are the best times for boating and to enjoy the scenic beauty of Banaras.
You should be doing good bargaining for boating, we paid 600 rs for our ride.
2. Know the History Behind Ghats:
All the ghats are different, built by different people in different years; sometime eras! All of them are named after some important person or carry some unique significance. A boat gives you a great view of how architecture is. The famous ones are Assi ghat where river Assi meets Ganga river, Dashashwamedh ghat is famous for evening aarti and it is said that Lord Brahma created it to welcome Lord Shiva. Manikarnika ghat is one of the most famous, sacred and oldest ghat in the Varanasi. It is said that if you get cremated here, you will achieve Nirvana.
3. Watch Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat and Assi Ghat:
In the evening, do not miss the evening Ganga aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat. It is one of the best memorable experience in Varanasi. You can either see the live aarti by sitting in a boat or reach early by 5:45 and get a place in the open area. According to me, reaching early and getting a place is better than seeing it from the boats. Evenings are very beautiful at Dashashwamedh ghat, you will find a lot of sadhus there, lots of people come here to be the part of live Aarti. Once the Aarti is over, do not miss to take a boat ride. It is beautiful to see all the ghats lit up to its glory. Sight cannot be missed.
For morning aarti, goto Assi ghat; there is early morning yoga as well at Assi ghat. You will get a different experience at both the Ghats. Although, the aarti process is the same but the beauty of both the Ghats makes it different. Assi ghat is also famous for the different events happen here every day during morning and evening.
4. Take a Dip in the Ganges:
It’s been said that once you take a dip in the Ganga at Banaras, your soul and body gets pure. I think anyone visiting Varanasi will not miss taking a dip in the holy river. The actual ritual is to take a dip in the morning and then goto Kashi Vishwanath temple. The situation is water is almost good but at some ghats, it might not be that clean. A lot of people go to the other side of the river too via boat to take a holy dip.
5. Take a Long Walk Across the Ghats:
After the boat ride, we walked from Dashashwamedh ghat to Assi ghat via different ghats. During the walk, we met many sadhus; few were making breakfast/tea, few were bathing, few were meditating, and few were busy with their daily rituals. It’s a long stretch from Dashashwamedh to Assi but the landscape and beauty of each ghat will keep you fascinated.
6. Eat Your Heart Out:
In our three days stay in Varanasi, we just survived and thrived on the street food. I have a whole list of food and the places here to explore, I need to do a separate post only on food, will update the link here. For breakfast near Godowlia chowk, go to Kachauri (or Khoya) galli or Thateri bazar and find “Shri Ram Bhandar” shop for an early breakfast of kachori served with aloo sabzi. Kachori Sabzi is the most popular breakfast in Varanasi. And, how can you forgot dahi jalebi, yum!
There is another famous shop for breakfast who serves toast butter with white butter and Amul butter with Tea. Stop for mithai at Shree Rajbandhu, one of the oldest sweet shops in Varanasi. Have the strawberry pomegranate lassi at the Blue Lassi Shop. I will do a detailed post for all the must eating places in Varanasi.
7. Go on a Temple Visiting Trail:
There a lot of temples in Varanasi and it will be difficult to cover all of them if you there just for a few days. The most famous one is, Kashi Vishwanath temple! The best trick to experience this great temple is to reach as early as you can. That’s the time when you will find this place to be less crowded compared to the day time. So we reach at the entrance by 5 am and within 30 minutes we completed the darshan. We have done a complete round-up all famous temples of Varanasi in a separate post all famous temples of Varanasi in a separate post here. But to name the famous ones: BHU Vishwanath temple, Shri Durga temple, Bharat Mata temple, Satya Narayan temple, Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple.
8. Shop for Banarasi Saree:
When you are in Banaras, you ought to buy a banarasi silk saree. That is traditionally the most famous clothing that you can buy from here. Alternatively, you can buy banarasi silk dress material or a scarf too.
9. Learn Yoga:
Learn Yoga from the most spiritual city of India. If you are planning to spend a few weeks in Varanasi, opting for a Yoga class is a great idea. There are a lot of Yoga centres in Varanasi for morning or evening classes. There are Yoga classes conducted at Assi ghat too. There are all classical Indian music classes too if you are interested.
Overall, as expected; I found Varanasi to be a very magical place. With all the chaos of residents and tourists and others who are here to see knowledge and truth; we found peace and tranquillity which is enough to lead us back to it someday very soon.