If you are in India, or travelling to India, Varanasi is the must see travel destination. It is the one of the oldest cities on earth, continuously inhabited since 11th century BCE. It was called Kashi in the ancient times and Benares in the recent past. Varanasi is in the state of Utter Pradesh, in northern India.
Air Fares to Varanasi
Fares to Varanasi (Approximate rates in USD)
How to Travel to Varanasi
Companies such as Jet Airways and Indian Airlines operate daily flights to Varanasi from Delhi, India’s capital city, Mumbai, financial city of India, and Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. The airport in Varanasi is almost 25 km away from the city center. From the airport, you can hire a taxi or auto-rickshaw to the city.
You can travel to Varanasi from Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow and Agra by train. There are two train stations in Varanasi: Varanasi Junction, which is inside the city; and Sarai Junction, which is about 15 km away from the city. If you are traveling to Varanasi from New Delhi or Lucknow, board Rajdhani Express or Shivganga Express. You have to take Vibhuti Express from Kolkata and Marudhar Express from Jaipur and Agra.
State government and private companies operate bus services to Varanasi from Indian cities. State government bus service is very cheap, however, if you want to travel comfortable, take AC bus run by private companies. If you are in Nepal, and want to visit Varanasi, travel to Nepali border at Sunauli (7 hours in bus from Kathmandu), and then to Indian city of Gorakhpur (3 hours on bus). You can reach Varanasi on bus from Gorakhpur in 6 hours.
There are regular bus services (AC and non-AC buses) to Varanasi from Indian city of Allahabad, Agra, Gorakhpur, and Lucknow.
Varanasi and the Ganges Travel Itinerary
Delhi, the capital city of India, is one of the noisiest places in India, however, it also brims with vivid color. After you enjoy the hustle and bustle in Delhi for a day or two, you can head off to the Varanasi for spiritual upliftment. You can board overnight train sleeper to Varanais from Delhi, or take a flight. Vanarasi is famous for religious and cultural sightseeing, the most important places are Vishonath Temple, the Ganges and the Ghats. Every day approximately 60 thousand people go to the Ghats in Varanasi. Ghats are open-air Hindu crematoriums and places for ablutions. Varanasi Ghat stretch 7 km along the banks of the Ganges.
If you are a foreigner in India, you can begin your travel from Delhi. After staying a week in Vanarasi, you can visit Sarnath, where the Buddha gave his first sermon, and Agra, the city of Taj Mahal
Varanasi and the Ganges Travel Itinerary
|Delhi||Day 1-2||Old Delhi, New Delhi, bazaars, Mosque, Sikh Temple|
|Varanasi||Day 3-7||Boat Trip on the Ganges; camping on the river banks; visit to the Ghats, temples and museums, walking tours.|
|Sarnath||Day 8||Ancient Buddhist shrine, Buddhist temples, Museums|
|Bodhgaya||Day 9||Hindu and Buddhist temples|
|Agra||Day 10||Taj Mahal|
Things to Do in Varanasi
- Boat rides on the Ganges at sunrise and sunset
- Visit Ghats and watch people worshiping the Ganges
- Visit ancient temples such as Vishonath Temple, Kaal Bhairav Temple etc.
- Walk through the winding alleys
- Shop silk items
- Eat and drink local delicacies
- Visit Jantar Mantar museum and Bharat Kala Bhavan museum (in Banaras Hindu University premises)
- Go to Man Mandir Observatory
- Sightsee Ganj-e-Shaheedan, Alamagir, Gyanvapi and Chaukhamba Mosque
- Visit historical site of Ram Nagar Fort
Hotels and Restaurants in Varanasi
You can find budget and star hotels in Varanasi. You can find many restaurants, which specially cater to foreigners. You can also try local delicacies. If you are in Varanasi, you should definitely try Banarasi Paan, which is a mixture of betel leaf, betel nuts and numerous spices. If you have never chewed tobacco, ask for tobacco free paan. Tobacco free paan (Mittha paan) is sweet that gives a tingling taste on your tongue.
If you want to experience local flavor, try lassi in street food stalls. Lassi is sweet yoghurt drink. You can try Bhang, which is made from seeds of hemp, sugar and milk. However, if you have never tried Bhang, don’t drink too much, it is highly intoxicant. Varanasi is also famous for sweetmeats and sweet drinks.
- Indian summer can be excruciatingly painful, fall is the best time to visit Varanasi. Don’t forget to take a touch light when you are walking through the alleys in the dark.
- If you have never travelled to India, be aware of dirty and overcrowded trains and buses.
- Most of the sights in Varanasi are in the narrow and winding alleys, so it is advisable to take cycle-rickshaw or auto-rickshaw, or hire a bike, for city tours. Walking is another option, but you must be aware that roads are crowded.
- Don’t take pictures of burning corpses in the Ghats, bereaved people might get offended.
- When you are in Varanasi, or any Indian cities, be ready to bargain for service and shopping.
- Women should dress moderately. Scantily dressed women are more prone to harassment.
- There are many Indian banks and money exchanges, where you can exchange currencies. However, you will get better exchange rates from money exchange.
- If you are willing to live and work in Varanasi, teaching English as a foreign language is the best job available to the native speakers.
- Home stay is the best option to live in Varanasi for a long time. You can find home stay at USD 300 per week, which includes language lessons, meals and lodging.
- Swindlers are very common in Varanasi. Take precaution when someone approaches you. Don’t carry or wear valuables. Cheaters come in different avatars such as taxi/Rickshaw drivers, guides, or even priests.
3 thoughts on “Visiting India: Travel to Varanasi and the Ganges”
I have not been to India, however, I have heard about the holy city of Varanasi. I will love to visit the Hindu temples. The itinerary you have shared here that includes visit to Delhi, Taj Mahal, Sarnath and Bodh Gaya will let us see almost half of India.
A detailed article on Varanasi. I have never been there but I want to visit the Kashi Vishwanath temple once. And the boat ride & arti on the banks of ganges is so amazing!
Incredible that Varanasi is a recommended travel destination but Americans seldom mention going to this location. I think if I ever traveled there I would like to take the train.