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Varanasi

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Travel Guide Asia India Varanasi

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Introduction

Varanasi (also known as Benares and Kashi) is one of the oldest surviving cities of the world. According to Hindu mythology, Varanasi is considered to be one of the holiest cities in India. It lies along the banks of the sacred Ganges River, and it's believed that taking a dip in it washes away all the sins and purify the soul. Millions of devotees and worshipers throng this place to take a dip in the sacred Ganges River and pray in the famous temples of Varanasi. Mark Twain, the famous American writer, was so enthralled by the city that he once wrote: "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”

Visiting this holy town can be an experience in itself. The site of the Ghats full of activity can refresh the mind and soul of an individual. One can see the devotees taking a dip in the holy river, priests chanting the hymns and mantras and religious customs and traditions in full swing all over the place from morning to dusk.

Varanasi is also famous for its rich heritage of music, art, culture and its traditional art of silk weaving, the Banarsi silk Saris are famous all over the world. Banarsi ‘Pan’ is also famous all over India and is chewed by people across India.

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Sights and Activities

River front, known as 'Ghats'

The Banaras Ghats

The Banaras Ghats

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The city of Varanasi lies along the sacred Ganges River. The river front is about 4 kilometres long and it has universal appeal with hordes of devotees performing various rituals on the Ghats from morning to night. The Ghats are best viewed at dawn and are best approached by the ‘Dashashwamedha’ ghats, from where boats can also be hired at reasonable rates.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple (also known as Golden Temple) is dedicated to Hindu God Shiva, who is considered one of the most powerful Gods according to Hindu religious belief. ‘Shivlinga’ installed in this temple is considered to be sacred and attracts people from all parts of the country to this historic city.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies - This institute was established by Dalai Lama in 1971 and it is amongst the few institutes of world which imparts education in Tibetan language. This institute has a rare collection of Buddhist test and Tibetan manuscripts.
  • Bharat Kala Bhawan has a rare collection of miniature paintings of various schools of art, like the Rajasthani style, Pahari style, Nepalese and Tibetan style of painting.
  • Banaras Hindu University - This university was established in 1916 and it has grown into one of the most reputed universities of India.

Further afield

  • Sarnath is just 10 kilometres from Varanasi. It is the place where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon after he attained enlightenment. Sarnath has a rich tradition of Buddhist culture and its history dates back to the 2nd century BC when the great Indian Emperor Ashoka, who has embraced Buddhism, built a grand ‘Stupa’ here and he also erected a pillar which was adorned by four lions, which incidentally has become the national emblem of India. Apart from the imposing stupa, there is also an archaeological museum in Sarnath, which has a rich collection of ancient Buddhist literature and manuscripts. The ancient ruins of stupas and monasteries can also be seen in the vicinity.
  • Ramnager is a for that is 14 kilometres from the city of Varanasi has a museum which contains items ranging from the medieval kings to the period during which India was under British rule.
  • Chunar Fort is an imposing fort that gives a splendid view of the Ganga river is about 40 kilometres from Varanasi. This fort has been witness to many great battles fought especially the battle of Sher Shah Suri, when he challenged the might of the Mughal empire. An ancient well and a sun clock are the other attractions of this fort.
  • Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the forests of Chandra Prabha is around 70 kilometres from Varanasi. This is a must visit for nature lovers for a relaxing day in forests which also has a couple of beautiful waterfalls.

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Events and Festivals

Bharat Milap, usually held in the month of October/November is an important festival typical to the city of Kashi or Varanasi. Bharat Milap is celebrated to mark the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after spending 14 years in exile and his subsequent reunion with his brother, Bharat. The essence of this festival is the victory of truth over evil. The Bharat Milap festival is held in Nati Imli area of the city, on the day following Dussehra and is one of the the greatest attractions of Varanasi city. Thousands of people gather in the streets to see the procession of Lord Ram and his reunion with younger brother, Bharat. Another interesting part of the Bharat Milap celebrations is the presence of the royal family of Varanasi.

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Weather

Varanasi is very hot in the summer months (April-June) when the heat can be unbearable at times with temperatures reaching up to 45 °C. The rainy season is from July to October, and Varanasi receives a good amount of rainfall. The winter months (November-February) are the best time to be in Varanasi when the temperature drops down and there is very little rainfall and skies are generally blue. Temperatures are mostly well above 20 °C still during this time.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max23.1 °C26.7 °C33.1 °C38.9 °C40.8 °C38.7 °C33.8 °C32.9 °C32.8 °C32.7 °C29.4 °C24.6 °C
Avg Min8.8 °C11.4 °C16.3 °C21.9 °C26 °C27.7 °C26.3 °C25.9 °C25 °C20.7 °C14.1 °C9.6 °C
Rainfall16.9 mm17.4 mm8.2 mm5.5 mm12.2 mm102.1 mm305.8 mm267.9 mm236.6 mm35.6 mm9.4 mm5.7 mm
Rain Days2.531.811.66.517.217.412.13.20.61.2

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Getting There

By Plane

Varanasi Airport (VNS) can be reached by Indian Airlines from Delhi and Mumbai. Recently some of the budget carriers have also started flights from Delhi/Mumbai to Varanasi. These include
Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines and Spice Jet. Khajuraho can be reached with Indian Airlines, Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines, Lucknow with Indian Airlines and Chennai with Kingfisher Airlines. International connections include Kathmandu with Indian Airlines, Bangkok with Thai Airways International and Jet Airways, and Colombo with Mihin Lanka.

By Train

Varanasi has good train connections with rest of India. Varanasi Junction is the main train station, however the station of Mughal Sarai which is on the main Delhi-Kolkata line can also be easily reached by Auto Rickshaw. Mughal Sarai lies on the other bank of the Ganges river.

By Car

Taxis can be hired for traveling to Varanasi from nearby cities.

By Bus

State Transport Corporation has regular bus service from other major cities of Uttar Pradesh to Varanasi. Frequent express buses run to Allahabad (three hours), Faizabad (seven hours), Gorakhpur (seven hours) and Lucknow (8½ hours). Two buses run daily to Khajuraho (12 hours) departing at 4:30am, while one AC bus goes to Bodhgaya (seven hours). Buses to Sarnath (40 minutes) leave from outside the Varanasi Junction train station.

By Boat

Although Varanasi is located along the Ganges River, there is no useful public transport along the river, as alternatives are much better and faster.

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Getting Around

Plenty of Taxis/Auto/Cycle Rickshaw is available to explore the city. It is better to fix the rate before boarding any vehicle as most of the meters in auto are not working. You can also get early in the morning and walk to the Ghats to catch a glimpse of the daily chores at the Ghats.

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Eat

Varanasi has a wide range of cuisines to offer starting from Indian local food to Korean, Japanese, Italian etc. For people who would like to indulge in rich fried North Indian Poori-Subzi the halwai's (sweetmeat sellers) of Dashaswmedha Ghat is a perfect place it won't even cost half a dollar (USD) around 15-20 INR. Sitting by the ghats one can relish a small cup of masala tea. Accompanied by some Kachoori's.

In case you want to experience something more international walk down the bylanes and it's full of restaurants serving cheesy italians food, Japanese, Korean, Israeli food. the may not be in the most authentic form but to get the flavour of home at such a distant place is fun in itself.

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Drink

One can drink the famous Thandai (a mix of creamy milk with nuts and spices) at Gadolia Chowk.
Outside Ramnagar Fort you can take a sip of the most outstanding lassi

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Sleep

Budget

Sai Kripa Guest House, B.3 / 226 Shivala Varanasi. 0 93051 31250 / 0 99361 83101 is a good clean place close to the Ganges with free railway pickup, and free Ghat tour with a nice restaurant on the roof. Rooms 300-350 Rps.

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Ganpati Guest HouseD 3 24 Meer GhatGUESTHOUSE81
Hare Rama Guest House (Varanasi)d 21 / 24 rana mahal ghatGuesthouse70
Hotel SonmonyB-6/91-A Harishchandra Ghat, VaranasiHotel72
Hotel SuryaS-20/51A-5, The Mall Road CantonmentHotel76
Maa Vaishno Guest HouseB5/188. Shivala GhatGuesthouse70
Maruti Guest HouseB1/86-K, SAHODARBIR Bridge Assi-Lanka RoadGuesthouse61
Monu Family Paying Guest HouseD8/4 Kalika Gali,Near Golden Temple DashashwamedhGuesthouse93
Pallavi International HotelHathwa Place ChetgunjHotel78
Puja Guest HouseD 1/45, LALITA GHATGuesthouse-
Radiant YMCA Tourist Hostel28A, Sampoornanand Nagar, Mahmoorgunj Sigra Road, 221010Hostel74
Rashmi Guest HouseD. 16/28-A , Manmandir DasaswamedhGuesthouse-
The Golden Buddha, SarnathSarangnath Colony SarnathHotel-
Ajay Guest HouseD 21/ 11 Rana Mahal GhatGuesthouse77
Rahul Guest HouseN1/15D10 gangotri vihar,nagwa LankaGuesthouse80
Sita Guest House22/16 Chausatthi Ghat (RANA GHAT) Near Dashaswamedh GhatGuesthouse82
Ganga Fuji HomeD7/21 Sakarkand Gali,Guesthouse73
Hotel Vaibhav56,Patel Nagar Cantt.Hotel-
Hotel ElenaD 21 \ 17 Rana Mahal Ghat Bengali TolaHotel75
Hotel BarahdariMaidagin near g.p.oHotel75
Shiva Ganges ViewB-14/24, Mansarovar Ghat ,Near Andhra AshramGUESTHOUSE75
Hotel New Temple Town53, Patel Nagar, Cantonment,Hotel-
Hotel India59 Patel Nagar CnattHotel-
Golden LodgeKalika Gali Besides Vishwanath GaliHostel-
Silver Ganges Paying Guest HouseB6、60 Harishchandra roadGUESTHOUSE-
Hotel OK InternationalD-47/188 Ramapura, LuxaHotel-
Suraj Guest HouseCK1037 Lalita Ghat Chowk Varanasi, Uttar PradeshGUESTHOUSE82
Ram Bhawan, Kautilya Society ResidenceD-20/21 Munshi GhatHOSTEL90
Sankatha Guest HouseCK.10/60-A Manikarnika Ghat ChowkGUESTHOUSE67
Hotel GaneshaB1/48 Opposite Abhay Cinema AssiHOSTEL74
Peace HomeD20/27, Munshi Ghat, Bengali TolaGUESTHOUSE-
Subh Laxmi Guest HouseD 35/13, Khari Kuwan, GodoliyaGUESTHOUSE-
Yogi LodgeD 8/29, Kalika GaliApartment77
HomestayD-61/16,Sidhgiri Bagh Sigra-Aurangabad RoadGUESTHOUSE-
Baba Lolark PG on GangesB3/4 Shivala Near Jain Ghat Mata Anandmayi AshramHOSTEL72
Old Yogi LodgeD53/62, Luxa Road, (Near Ramkrishna Mission Hospital) Main Ghat,GUESTHOUSE66
Somit Paying GuesthouseD.32/162, Devnathpura, bengalitola lane , near Golden Sporting ClubGuesthouse-
Sagar Guest HouseD 52/34 J-1 Luxmi Kund LuxaGUESTHOUSE74
Rudra Guest HouseD.17/71-1, Bansigali Bengalitola, DashaswamedhGUESTHOUSE-
VARANASI HOME STAYJ-1,ABHILASHA COLONY VARUNA BRIDGE NADESARGuesthouse-
Hotel City Inn VaranasiS 21/116, Parade Kothi, Opp. Cantt Rly. StationHOTEL-
Hotel Central ResidencyC 19/122 A-Ka, Sigra Thana Road,HOTEL-
Peace Home VaranasiD20/27 Munshi Ghat Bengali TolaGUESTHOUSE-
Scindhia Guest HouseSCINDHIA GHAT (Next to Manikarnika Burning G VARANASI-221001 (INDIA)Guesthouse-
Gupta InnS-19/122,P.W.D. Road (Behind UP Motor Petrol Pump) Varuna BridgeHOTEL-
Azure Family Paying Guest HousePlot number 30, Vijaya Nagaram Colony, Near Bhelu BhelupurGUESTHOUSE-
Prince Paying Guest House4/2A-4K Daulatpur PandeypurGUESTHOUSE-
Sri Sai Kripa Guest HouseB-3/226 Shivala, Near Chet Sing Fort, VaranasiGUESTHOUSE-
International Travellers' HostelR-5-2, C-32/4 Vidyapeeth RoadHOSTEL-
Marilyn GuesthouseB.3/306 ShivalaGUESTHOUSE-
Shiva Guest House VaranasiD20/14, Munshi GhatGUESTHOUSE-

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Internet

There's good coverage over most of India for Internet cafes. However, following the recent terror attacks in Mumbai and some other cities, all internet cafes have been instructed by the authorities to maintain a register and note down the identification details of all persons using internet. Sify iWay is a reliable and cheap cafe with over 1,600 cafes over India. iWay also allows you to open a pre-paid account that you can use all over India. Whenever you have Internet access probably the best and cheapest way to call family and friends at home is software that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet such as Skype.

Wifi hotspots in India are, for most part, limited. The major airports and stations do offer paid wifi at around RS.60-100 an hour. Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai are the only cities with decent wifi coverage. At Mumbai airport, you get to use WiFi internet free, for an hour or so.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country code for India is 91. To dial outside the country from India, prefix the country code with 00.

The general emergency number is 100 (emergency response police & fire), while for ambulance you should dial 102 or 112, though some regions have 108 for this emergency. 108 is used in in the Indian states of Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Goa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha,Assam, Meghalaya, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. 108 can be called for medical, crime, fire, or any other emergency from any phone.

Local phone numbers can be anywhere from 5-8 digits long. But when the area code is included, all landline phone numbers in India are 10 digits long. Cellphone numbers usually start with '9', '8', or '7'. Toll-free numbers start with 1-800.

If staying longterm it is probably wise to think about investing in a mobile phone. You'll possibly need to provide a photocopy of your passport and itinerary, so come prepared. Make sure you arrange it upon arrival in a big city, as it can sometimes be difficult to organise with language barriers and such in more regional areas. You can buy a cheap nokia for about RS.1,200 with a pre-paid plan. Airtel is a good carrier to think about as they have great coverage, and constant offers for cheaper calling. To recharge, most shop vendors with phone carrier signs can do it via their own phone. You give them your mobile number, they put it in their phone and you'll both get messages as to whether or not the recharge has been successful. Also, if possible, buy the phone in the state where you do the most travelling as the charges are higher in the states where you did not originally buy the phone.

Over the entire country there are plenty of public phones, even in the middle of the countryside. Although most of the time these phones are not very well maintained and have horrible connections. Therefore remember when using one of these public phones one must be extremely patient.
For international calls from payphones, you'll have to visit a reputable internet cafe with a phone-booth. Mobile phones are usually a better and cheaper option.

Post

India Post is the national postal service of India, and on their website you find details about prices to send postcards, letters and parcels, both domestically and internationally. For most postcards to send internationally, it is better to visit the post office before writing on the card as you may need quite a few stamps. Parcels must be taken to a tailor, he will then sew it up in white linen. Make sure he seals it with red wax, otherwise the post office may refuse to send it or try to get you to pay them to do it. Sewing up a parcel should only cost RS.50 to 200. In general, post offices are open from 10:00am to 1:00pm and 1:30pm to 4:30pm in most bigger towns and cities, though there are regional variations and some might keep longer hours or be open during (part of) the weekend as well. Ask around.

If you want to send bigger packages/parcels, it might be better, faster and sometimes even cheaper, to contact a private company like DHL, TNT or UPS.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 25.282009
  • Longitude: 82.956337

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Varanasi Travel Helpers

  • Uttar Pradesh

    We are from the Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department.With its traditions,culture,edifices and festivities U.P is the perfect potpourri of India.This page would provide insightful and intriguing information for all travel enthusiasts and for those seeking to taste a slice of India.Uttar pradesh has some of the world's most spectacular tourist destinations including its crowning jewel 'THE TAJ MAHAL'.Uttar pradesh tourism department hopes that this page intended for tourism evangelism would give you a glimpse of this divine and pristine land of legacy,culture and traditions.Visit Uttar Pradesh and experience a travel salvation!

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