Travel Guide Asia India Varanasi



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.



Sights and Activities

River front, known as 'Ghats'

The Banaras Ghats

The Banaras Ghats

© sethx

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.



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.
  • Holi is quite popular in the Indian sub-continent and is traditionally celebrated on the day after the full moon in the month of Phalguna (early March), according to Hindu callendar. Holi is a thanksgiving festival, where people offer prayer to God for good harvest and fertility of the land. However it has a legend attached to it according to which an arrogant king resents his son Prahlada from worshipping Lord Vishnu. He attempts to kill his son but fails each time, finally he asks his sister Holika, who is said to be immune to burning, sits with Prahlada in fire. However Prahlada emerges alive and Holika is burnt to death. Holi commemorates this event from the Hindu mythology, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation. This festival is also associated with the immortal love story of Krishna and Radha, and hence celebrations are spread over a period of 2 weeks in Vrindavan and Mathura - the two cities associated with Krishna. Holi is a festival of freedom from social norms and caste inhibitions are shed for a day as people indulge in fun and merry-making. Colors and 'gulal' are showered on the people dressed up for the occasion and the whole community seems to merge into one big family under the guise of colors, without any distinction whatsoever. Children with face smeared with colors run around with 'pichkaris' (big syringes to splash colored water) and play amongst themselves. People exchange good wishes, sweets and gifts. Holi is also marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and drum beating. Parties are also organized where snacks and the traditional milk-based drink “Thandai” is served which is often intoxicated with “Bhang”. Of late, lots of foreigners have started taking interest in this festival and they even enjoy the colors and the intoxicating drink. It is advised to cover your hair with a cap and eyes with sunglasses to avoid the colors splashing the eyes and damaging the hair.
  • Republic Day - Republic Day is a national holiday in India every January 26 to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution in 1950 and the declaration of independence in 1930. The capital of New Delhi is the focus of the celebrations, including a flag raising ceremony, wreath laying, 21-gun salute, Presidential speech, and presentation of awards for selflessness and bravery. A massive military parade includes elephants ridden by children who have received national accolades.
  • Gandhi Jayanti - Gandhi Jayanti is a national public holiday commemorating the birth of the peaceful activist, Mohandas Gandhi on October 2, 1869. The celebration coincides with the United Nations’ International Day of Non-Violence. In India, Gandhi is remembered through statues, flower and candle offerings, prayers and singing the devotional hymn Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram. The Indian government issues special mint rupees and postage stamps bearing his picture.
  • Ganesh Chaturthi - The ten-day September festival of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the birthday of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh with culture, concerts and feasts. The biggest events take place in Maharashtra where people worship an idol for ten days before taking it to the river or sea and drowning it.
  • Navarathri, Dussehra Festival - This theatrical Hindu festival takes place over ten days in October. The first nine feature dancing to honor the Mother Goddess. The tenth day commemorates Lord Rama’s defeat of demon king Ravana and goddess Durga’s triumph over Mahishasura, the buffalo demon. The event is called Durga Puja in east India where the faithful create huge statues to immerse in the Ganges River.
  • Diwali - Diwali is the five-day festival of lights held in India in late October or early November each year. The widely celebrated Hindu event marks Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravan. Homes and streets are decorated with lights, candles and small clay lamps, and new clothes are worn and sweets are exchanged.




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.

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.



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.



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.




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.

Banarasi Khana, or local delicacies, are known for their flavours. Many dishes here are flavoured with asafoetida, ginger, bay leaves, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and/or dried fenugreek leaves.
Benares Dum Aloo is different from the dum aloo cooked elsewhere in India because the potatoes are stuffed with and cooked in a gravy that includes jaggery, fennel, and chili paste.
Varanasi is also known for its street food and chaat vendors. Aloo chaat is very common.
Varanasi Paan is famous all over India. Paan is an assortment of flavours wrapped in a betel leaf. There are two versions: One that includes tobacco, and one that includes only sweet flavours. The exact ingredients depend on how much you offer, which can be as little as ₹10 or as much as ₹300. To eat the sweet version, shove the entire leaf in your mouth at once and chew until you swallow!
Lassi from Pahalwan Lassi at Ravidas Gate in Lanka. Age old shop for delicacies like Lassi, Malaiyyo and Rabri.
Rabri Malai Balai is a popular dessert in Varanasi that includes milk, sugar, almonds, and pistachio nuts. You can find it served in hole-in-the-wall or sweet shops.

There are plenty of food outlets with a very dynamic range in quality. The restaurants closer to the ghats cater more to foreign tourists, with variable success.
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.




Bhang is a potent, powdered form of marijuana often mixed into "special" lassis, simply called bhang lassi. The drink is especially popular on holidays as Varanasi is a major centre of Shiva worship as it is offered to the lord in form of Prashad. Caution should be taken as it can be quite intoxicating and the effects last hours; tourists have been known to be robbed after consuming bhang.

Thandai is a cool, milk-based drink made with pistachios, almonds and saffron, topped off with a large dollop of malai (cream). Bhang is often added to thicken the concoction, though it can be made without it. Many Thandai stores are located near the main Godowlia, and most also serve lassi.

Outside Ramnagar Fort you can take a sip of the most outstanding lassi.




The most interesting area to stay is around the ghats, which are the main attractions for foreigners and are close to the religious attractions. However, this area is extremely noisy and many accommodation choices here are subpar, so do some research before you book. An alternative to staying in Varanasi is to stay near the main train station (Varanasi Junction). This area has some very nice places and is about 10 minutes away on a tuk-tuk. Another alternative is the much quieter Sarnath, 10 km from Varanasi, but it takes more than 75 minutes each way to reach Varanasi by tuk-tuk (₹200).

Some budget accommodations advertise free morning and evening boat rides along the river. However, the boat will take you up the river and then let the passengers know that for the return trip, there is a fee of ₹60 per person. Those who do not want to pay can get out of the boat and walk back.

Varanasi, particularly during summer, is prone to many hours of power outages a day. It is best to double check that your fan or A/C is run from a backup generator, or you may not have it for much of the day.

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.
Ganges Nirvana Free Hostel (Ganges Nirvana Community & Homestay), Shashwat Shandilya House, Plot no. 175, Lane no.2, Shree Ram Nagar Colony (Near Manduadih Railway Station), ☏ +91 9999230102, +91 9235135611, +91 5422360331. The Ganges Nirvana Free Hostel a small hostel. It is very simple and work is underway to make it more homely. For example by painting the walls with graffiti. If you want to help out with any small thing, you are welcome to stay for free. You will stay with people from couchsurfing, workaway and other places, and the owner often arranges small free trips (just share the expenses for gas) around and outside of town. Great rooftop terrace in a noise-free area of Varanasi. Rooms range from free to ₹500 (double room) per day.
International Travellers' Hostel (ITH Varanasi), C-32/4, Vidyapeeth Road (5-min walk from Varanasi Junction station, opposite Gate #2 of Vidyapeeth University), ☏ +91-542-2220058, ✉ [email protected]. Check-in: noon, check-out: 11AM. A hostel run out of an ancestral family house. The owner lives in Germany and his staff manage the hostel. There are mixed and female dormitories available with 4-5 beds each. There is a cottage-style superior room with en-suite bathroom for the ones with a slightly higher budget, and a tent for the ones on extremely tight budget. Breakfast inclusive prices can be booked online. The rooms are cosy and silent with comfortable beds. The hostel also features a bistro that serves delicious vegetarian and vegan meals. Their menu also includes authentic Italian coffee. There are several pleasant common areas – including a garden and a first-floor terrace. It's a great place to be away from the chaos of Varanasi. Very good to socialise with other travellers, and for celebrating Indian festivals, especially Holi. Amenities include fast Wi-Fi, TV, bluetooth speakers, DVDs, books, card & board games, PC, lockers, washing machine, hair dryers, communal kitchen and purified drinking water. Free vegan toiletries' kit is provided with private rooms and vegan soap bar with other rooms. They also have dual power back-up (battery inverter and power generator), which can be very helpful during power outages in the scorching Indian summers. All-in-all a unique hostel and highly recommended. Dorm beds: ₹499 / ₹599; Tent: ₹999; Private rooms: ₹1,599 / ₹2,249 / ₹2,599.
Ram Bhawan / Kautilya Society Residence (कौटिल्य संघ), D-20/21 Munshi Ghat (on the banks of the River Ganga), ☏ +91 542-2452179, +91 542-2455139, ✉ [email protected]. This is the study centre of an NGO that supports responsible development through dialogue that also offers rooms for students and scholars. The residence is similar to an Indian home with simple comforts and colonial teak furniture. In accordance with Indian law, all guests must become members of the Society and pay membership dues of ₹300. These donations cover half board (₹200 per day for additional guests sharing the same room). In low season rates are approximately 20% lower. Long term guests can enjoy special discounts. Dorm bed: ₹400; Single: ₹1,000; Double: ₹1,700.
Stops Art Hostel, B 20/47, A-2, Vijayanagaram Colony, Bhelupur (1.1km east of Hanuman Ghat, near the water tower. In an alleyway behind the Dolphin Hotel), ☏ +91 9871360382. Check-in: noon, check-out: 11AM. Bright, airy, super modern hostel. Location in an alleyway makes it quieter. In a large, 3-floor house. Affordable organised activities all day including walking tours (₹100+transport), boat trips, cooking classes (₹200), yoga/mediation classes, movie nights, etc. The hostel is run by a very professional young Indian couple with superb English and a very keen understanding of what a hostel should be with full recommendations for eating, drinking, tourism etc. It has A/C, 24 hour security and a very happy relaxed vibe, especially out on the shaded balconies on the upper floor, complete with benches and sofas, great for meeting other travellers. Highly recommended. Tent on roof: ₹350; Dorm bed: ₹450-650; Double: ₹1900.
Zostel Varanasi, D-54/16-D, Jaddumandi, Aurangabad Luxa Road (near Mritunjai Mahadev Temple), ☏ +91 964 800 0010, ✉ [email protected]. Check-out: 10AM. A friendly hostel 20 minutes walk to the main ghat. Very noisy location, but a great place to meet people. Dorm bed: ₹390; Double: ₹990.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)





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.


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.


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.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 25.282009
  • Longitude: 82.956337

Accommodation in Varanasi

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