Varanasi, the land of northern India bathed by the Ganges River, a place of veneration, where millions of people come every year to purify their souls or to venerate their deceased loved ones. A special place that leaves no one indifferent due to how different it is from the rest of the world, including India. And a site that we believe is a must if you travel to India. So today we bring you all the advice about visit Varanasi in India, what to see and do in Varanasi, how to get there, where to sleep …
Varanasi, between life and death
iStreets where the cows are regular strollers, street markets, people everywhere, alleys, ghats, cremations, ceremonies, baths … Varanasi is a place where life runs around the Ganges, in its ghats, where it is essential to see the dawn watching how a new day begins from the river.
There we are approaching to spend a couple of days on our 20-day route through India. We did not want to miss going through one of the places that most marks all the travelers who come to this country. And if you also want to come to this sacred place, we leave you below all our tips and essentials to enjoy Varanasi as we did.
How to get to Varanasi from New Delhi
Before telling you in detail what to see and do in Varanasi, we are going to explain how to get to this city.
Varanasi is a city that is somewhat removed from the typical route of North India and therefore many travelers. Who, if they have little time on their trip through the country, rule out a visit to this city.
Although we are among those who think It does not matter what it costs to get there. Because there are unique places in the world that deserve to be visited at least once in life, and this is the case of Varanasi. But how to get to Varanasi from New Delhi?
Well, you can get:
2. Private car
A train journey from Delhi to Varanasi takes about 20 hours, so we ruled out the option of going by train on this route. For a car trip, it is also very far and we preferred to invest the money in time to be able to see other cities in India during our route. So the best option to get to Varanasi from the capital of Delhi is by air.
The plane takes about an hour and a half and it is all the companies in India that make this journey. We did it with the Spice Jet and the price of the tickets for this route go from $ 30 to $ 60 per person.
How to get from Varanasi airport to the city center
It is important to know that the Varanasi airport is very far from the city center, there are approximately an hour and a half by car. To avoid having to negotiate or be scammed when leaving the airport, we recommend that you have to book the shuttle service before. Prices range from Rs 600 to Rs 800 per journey ($ 7 to $10).
We did so and avoided problems when leaving the airport. We manage it directly with our Varanasi hotel, Hotel Rivera Palace. But you can also do it by hiring a private car in advance from just over $ 20 for the journey. It is another option to consider.
What to see and do in Varanasi
Once we have told you how to get to Varanasi, it is time to explore and get to know this city. We are going to tell you in broad strokes what to see and do in Varanasi. Are you ready?
Walking on the ghats
We have walked the ghats at all hours, both day, afternoon and night. It is one of the must-sees in Varanasi. The ghats are those stairs that go down to the river. Varanasi’s star activity is walking up and down the ghats.
Start at the beginning and go all the way to see local life here. Cows bathing in the river, children having fun playing with each other, entire families bathing and purifying themselves, couples walking and chatting at sunset, cremations, sarhus … Even cricket matches on the banks of the Ganges river!
A life that you have never seen anywhere else in the world and that we can assure you does not leave anyone indifferent. Strolling, observing, sitting … And look, it is one of the most beautiful and rewarding things you can do in Varanasi.
It is something you can read, they can tell you, but until you live in the first person and see it with your own eyes, you cannot know what it feels like to walk there.
Night ceremony near the Ganges river – Aarti
Another thing that you cannot leave on your list of what to see and do in Varanasi is to go to one of its ghats to see the night ceremony or aarti, “absence of darkness.” We went to see the Assi Ghat, the ghat that was closest to our hotel. Fire, dance, music … A very nice show that you cannot miss. Another of the most popular and well-known is the one performed in the Dashashwamedh ghat.
These ceremonies usually last about an hour and is another one of the essentials that every traveler who visits Varanasi cannot miss.
Hours: 7:00 p.m. Duration: 1h. Entry: free
See the sunrise strolling along the Ganges
Another of the things that one has to do when visiting Varanasi is getting up with the first rays of the sun and taking a boat trip on the Ganges river, seeing how little by little the city awakens. We can assure you that the life that is at those hours of the morning by the river is really impressive. You can’t imagine it!
Any accommodation offers the service of a boat trip, tour portals and travel excursions, or if you prefer you can negotiate directly with any boatman strolling through the ghats. They will offer you an average of 10 times a day minimum.
We hired him directly with our hotel and it cost us 200 rupees per person ($ 2.50), plus later the tip we left for the boy who was very nice. The duration of the walk was approximately one and a half hours, which took us from Assi Ghat to Manikarnika Ghat and back. It is an experience that we recommend to any traveler. You cannot leave Varanasi without seeing one of its sunrises riding a boat on its river!
Hours: at 05:00 in the morning. Duration: walk of 1 hour and 30 minutes approximately. Price: 200 rupees per person ($ 2.50)
The liberation of the soul
One of the most impressive moments of walking through the ghats of the Ganges river is when you reach the end. Where is the ghat of the cremations.
It is a place where it is not allowed to take photographs or record videos out of respect for the deceased and their family and friends.
It is easy to see what the ceremony consists of, observing it from afar. Upon reaching the Manikarnika ghat you will see hundreds of piles of wood that have burned continuously for 2,500 years. The cremations allow, according to Hinduism, to reach the moksha or liberation of the soul.
Strolling through the Chowk neighborhood
And beyond the Ganges river, there is also life. As soon as you leave the ghats and life near the water. Winding narrow alleys of one meter wide where getting lost through them is the easiest thing in the world. And almost a pending issue in Varanasi!
You should not miss the life that is in the market every day. The little stalls on the street, the shops full of suits and silk saris … Those streets in the center of Varanasi are the madness of India personified, this is India, this is it Varanasi.
Other activities that were left for us to do. But we believe should not be missing from this list of what to see and do in Varanasi.
Varanasi City Tour
We think that doing a city tour in a place as peculiar and unique as Varanasi is very interesting. It was highly recommended by us, but we finally didn’t have time to do it.
You can do this excursion if you are 3 days in Varanasi. Since it is a one day visit. Only 15 kilometers from Varanasi is this town, nest of the Buddhist religion and a very visited place of worship in the area. You can dedicate one of your days in the sacred city to visit Sarnath. Sarnath is one of the most popular destinations during your visit Varanasi in India.
Transport. How to get around Varanasi?
Varanasi has a small and accessible city center. So walking from one point to another is easy, or at least that’s how we did it.
Although if you are lazy or do not feel like walking. You can always take a tuk-tuk or a rickshaw to go to the points you want to visit.
Of course, do not forget to never haggle the price well. It will depend on how good you are in that art what the journey can cost you!
Accommodation. Where to stay in Varanasi?
To sleep in Varanasi we believe that it is best to stay near the ghats. Since that is the area where most activity takes place. The day to day of local life and where you can walk both day and night. If you want to live and feel the real Varanasi during your visit to India.
We stayed near Assi Ghat, one of the last ghats, in a hotel located a step away from the Ganges. An old palace made into a modern hotel. Our stay there was very good, it is a hotel that we recommend: the Hotel Rivera Palace. If you want to know more about this hotel and all the accommodations on our route through India, be sure to visit our special post Accommodations in India.
Gastronomy. Where to eat in Varanasi?
During our visit Varanasi in India, we have several foodies recommendations to make you very interesting. Since the experience was very good or excellent in all of them. And it is that in India you can eat very well. These are our recommendations for you to leave Varanasi with a good taste in your mouth:
Shree Cafe. If you are walking through the ghats and you want to eat local vegetarian food, we recommend you visit this vegetarian restaurant. A small place with a very good menu of Indian food. We tried the paneer aloo and some cheese naans, and it was delicious. They also have salads, western food, shakes, lassi. A varied menu and everything is very good. We recommend it!
Brown Bread Bakery. This is a much more frequented place by tourists. It is also a good option if you are strolling through the streets of the Chowk neighborhood.
Apart from super breakfasts, they have a very extensive menu of western food (sandwiches, hamburgers, salads …) as well as local food and smoothies and fresh juices.
The service is a little slow, but the attention was excellent. In addition, part of the money goes to a Varanasi school. It has wifi and air conditioning. And they have a rooftop terrace ideal for having a drink at sunset.
Street food in Varanasi
Pizzeria Vatika. If you are looking for a place to eat a good pizza to put aside some Indian food for a night, take note of the best pizzeria in Varanasi. It is located on the Assi Ghat and has a terrace overlooking the Ganges and the ceremonial spectacle that takes place here every night. The pizzas are thin and delicious, and be sure to try their star dessert: apple pie with ice cream. Spectacular! We liked it so much that we went two nights in a row.
Blue Lassi. Another stop that you must make if you are in the Chowk neighborhood is in the blue lassi, the most famous place in the city. Where to drink the well-known yogurt from India, there are all flavors. Don’t leave without trying it.
And up to here our Varanasi foodies recommendations. We hope you like them during your visit to Varanasi in India!
Tips on Varanasi
And as always, we end our posts with a series of final and general tips to keep in mind when you go to Varanasi:
How many days to be. We believe that you should dedicate at least 2 full days to this city in North India. To have time to arrive and get used to the site, since it is not easy to visit this place, it is different from everything you have seen so far! You have to have time to live sunrise and a night at least.
Forget the prejudices and let yourself go. Forget all that they have told you, clear your mind and soul, and let yourself be conquered by Varanasi.Clothes. Think that you are in India and especially women travelers always carry with you a foulard to cover shoulders and try if you can avoid showing your knees.
Money. There are ATMs in the most modern part of the city. Although we recommend arriving in this city with cash and local currency to be able to pay for food, transportation and excursions without having to change here.
So we end this mini-guide which is helping you during your visit Varanasi in India. A city that will never leave you indifferent and we recommend that you make an almost obligatory stop on your route through India. City of water, life, death, fire, strong smells and sensations, cows, chaos and spirituality, color and flavor. Enjoy a unique place in the world!