Varanasi features in almost everyone's list of top must-visit places in India. Touted to be the most ancient city in the country, a trip to this tourist destination at the banks of the Ganges is no breezy experience. Making your way through the throng of tourists and pilgrims along the narrow streets is maddening, to say the least. But then again, there is a certain charm that the city holds that grows on you slowly. This is where, amidst all the noise and chaos, you can still come across remarkable findings like a gorgeous Banarasi handloom saree, intricately designed carpet, standout jewellery, melt-in-the-mouth treats like the malaiyyo, the legendary Banarasi paan or a surreal sunset by the holy river.
If you have been planning a trip to Varanasi, here are four things you need to include in your itinerary:
The holy city of Varanasi, also known as Kashi, is dotted with numerous temples in every nook and corner. There are certain temples, particularly those along the ghats of the Ganges, that hold historical and architectural significance too. The Nagara style of design is hard to miss. Of all the temples, the most important one is Kashi Vishwanath Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also known as the Golden Temple for its spectacular gold domes. Durga Temple is another important shrine that should be in your list.
The beauty of Varanasi is best experienced by strolling along the many ghats - 84 in total. The devotees believe that a dip in the holy water can help in washing away sins and attaining salvation. Even though the ghats are crowded, they still make for a memorable experience, particularly during early mornings. Make sure to make the morning boat ride along the Ganges and to attend the spectacular aarti ceremony in the evening at Dashashwamedh Ghat. Other popular ghats include Assi Ghat and Manikarnika Ghat.
If you are keen on getting away from the crowd for some peace and calm, make a trip to Sarnath. Located about 10 km away from Varanasi, the important Buddhist pilgrimage site is where Lord Buddha is said to have first taught Buddhism after attaining enlightenment. It is surrounded by many beautiful stupas and temples that are surely worth exploring.
The Mughal-style fort is probably the best place to catch breathtaking views of the river Ganga and its ghats. Built by Raja Balwant Singh in the 1750s, the sandstone structure still holds its charm though it bears a worn look. During Dussehra, it comes alive as it is beautified and various events are held there, particularly Ramlila. You can take a boat ride from the ghats to reach the fort and spend the morning. It is about 14 km away from the city by road.
Include these places in your to-do list and enjoy your Varanasi experience.