People acquainted with the culture and history of India rarely need an introduction to the city of Varanasi. The city is not only the holiest city for the followers of Hinduism, it is also a very important art, textile, and educational hub. Varanasi tour packages may start with the humbling Ganga Aarti, but there is so much more to explore in this city in Uttar Pradesh.
A revered pilgrimage site not only for Hindus, but also for the Buddhists and the Jains, the city is quite crowded, and a holiday in Varanasi is the most comfortable during the winter months of November to February. The temperatures tend to be cooler, with the lowest dropping to around 11 degrees, making it easier to navigate through the throngs of devotees.
Another detail to be considered is that the city is quite pocket friendly. The range of budget accommodation and food options available make Varanasi local tour price affordable. However, a number of luxury hotels are also located in the city, ensuring that their guests can explore the bustling ghats blissfully.
Discussed below are the experiences one can expect from Varanasi India tours!
We must start by mentioning the spiritual side of the city. Located on the banks of the River Ganga, the ghats and streets of Varanasi are dotted with approximately 3000 temples, leading to its moniker of the City of Temples.
One of the most unique places in the city is the Bharat Mata Mandir, which deifies the spirit of Mother India. The temple features no idols, but a marble map of the pre-independence, undivided India. On Republic Day and Independence Day, the land part of the map is filled with flowers, and draws many visitors. The famous poet Maithili Sharan Gupt had written a poem for the temple on its inauguration, and it has been inscribed in the premises.
An important temple in the city is dedicated to Lord Hanuman, and is called the Sankat Mochan Mandir. Envisioned by the freedom fighter Madan Mohan Malviya, countless devotees make their way to this temple to pay their respects to the god. Sankata Devi Temple is another sacred temple, believed to be the only temple in India dedicated to Devi Sankata. Constructed in the 18th Century by the King of Baroda, the Goddess is worshipped with a lot of pomp on the 8th day of Navratri. Annapoorna Dev Mandir sees innumerable devotees each year, and the temple lights up during the Annakoot Festival. Coins given out to devotees during the festival are said to bring prosperity.
Kashi Vishwanath is one of the most venerated sites for devotees of Shiva, and is one of the 12 holy jyotirlingas. With mentions in the ancient texts of the Puranas, devotees visit the Vishwanath temple throughout the year. Tourists who witness the celebration here during Maha Shivratri are left stupefied at the grandness and vivacity of the occasion.
The city is located on the banks of the River Ganga, and the Ganga Aarti is the mesmerising way in which the devotees show their devotion to the River Goddess. The highly synchronised and musical prayers are stunning to witness, with priests blowing conch shells and singing holy hymns in chorus. The Aarti thalis with their burning wicks light up the banks and the waves of the river glow in their luminescence. The entire setting, along with the reverent look on the faces of the devotees is humbling and moving for any onlooker. Perhaps this is why attending the Ganga Aarti is a must on every Varanasi tour itinerary.
The holy city also draws followers of Buddhism in huge numbers. Sarnath, the place where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining nirvana, is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists, and it lies merely ten kilometres outside Varanasi.
The city is also holy for the Jains, as four of the Tirthankaras, including Parasnath, were born here. Temples dedicated to them are visited by followers frequently.
It is said that every lane in Varanasi has a temple, and it is no wonder that many Uttar Pradesh Tour packages are focused on religious tourism when it comes to this city. Believers flock to the pilgrim points to reconnect with their spirituality and non-believers are left in awe on witnessing the devotion that is almost palpable in the air.
Varanasi is said to be one of the oldest living cities in the world, and some reports say that it is as old as the Indus Valley Civilization. The ancient scriptures of Hinduism, like the Puranas, mention the city, and Varanasi is also featured in the epic poem Mahabharat. Tulsidas is said to have written the Ram Charit Manas on the banks of Varanasi.
The two forts of the princely state of Varanasi are popular attractions for history enthusiasts. The Ramnagar Fort is a striking edifice that still houses the Royal family of Kashi. A part of the fort has now been converted into a museum that is open to the public. The museum displays rare relics of the Maharajas, including a palanquin cast in gold, arms from Africa, and portraits of the royal family.
The other fort in the city is the Chunar Fort. The area of Chunar has been prized throughout history- from the Guptas, to the Mauryas to the Mughals and the British- because of the famous Chunar stone. The sturdy stone has been used to construct forts, palaces and idols throughout history, and this is why many clans fought over it. Interesting places to see in the fort are the step-wells, the Bawan Khambo ki Chattri and the residence of Warren Hastings. The Bawan Khambo Ki Chattri, is particularly famous, as it was set up by King Mahadeo in honour of his daughter Sonwa, who had defeated 52 rulers.
The area of Sarnath is replete with Buddhist monuments, primarily constructed by Ashoka. The Dharmachakra, which features on the Indian national flag today as the Ashoka Chakra, stands on a monolithic pillar set up by Ashoka in honour of the teachings of Buddha. The Dhamekh Stupa draws history lovers in large numbers, and the carvings of flowers, birds and human figures are interesting to look at. The Chaukhandi Stupa is a Mughal monument in Sarnath, which was built to celebrate the visit of Humayun to the city.
The number of important historical happenings in the city led Mark Twain to remark that “Banaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”
The Ramnagar Fort is a striking edifice that still houses the Royal family of Kashi. A part of the fort has now been converted into a museum that is open to the public. The museum displays rare relics of the Maharajas, including a palanquin cast in gold, arms from Africa, and portraits of the royal family.
The area of Chunar has been prized throughout history- from the Guptas, to the Mauryas to the Mughals and the British- because of the famous Chunar stone. The sturdy stone has been used to construct forts, palaces and idols throughout history, and this is why many clans fought over it. Interesting places to see in the fort are the step-wells, the Bawan Khamboki Chattri and the residence of Warren Hastings. The Bawan Khambo Ki Chattri, is particularly famous, as it was set up by King Mahadeo in honour of his daughter Sonwa, who had defeated 52 rulers.
Shopping: With so many specialities sold in Varanasi, no tourist leaves the city empty-handed. The most famous product here is the Benarasi Saree, which is valued throughout the country. Made of fine silk, Benarasi sarees feature gold or silver zari work and stunningly detailed embroidery. Glass beads jewellery are also famous, and can be found throughout the city. Another speciality of Varanasi, a city famed for its music, is its musical instruments including the veena, sarod and the flute. Moreover, visitors pick up Ganga Jal, the water of the holy River Ganga from the city too.
Food: The best way to start a day in Varanasi is with a plate of piping hot kachoris served with spicy potato sabzi. Baati Chokha is another savoury dish served with mashed potato, and can be found everywhere, from street stalls to lavish restaurants. Malaiyyo is a local favourite, a sweet dish made of milk and seasoned with spices like cardamom and saffron. The gooey textured dessert is served in earthen pots, and Godowlia Chowk serves some of the best ones in the city. For a unique twist to the widely loved gol-gappas, Varanasi sellers add sweet yoghurt to the shells. The sweet, tangy bite-sized snacks are addictive! End your meals with the legendary Benarasi Paan. Here, in Varanasi, paan sellers add fillings like rose petals, slaked lime and barakh ( silver foil) to the betel leaf, making it a flavourful, delicious bite!
People Watching: Given the huge crowds of people who visit Varanasi regularly, and the dedicated and passionate spirituality evident on their faces, Varanasi is a great place to indulge in people-watching. If photography is your interest, there are many sights waiting to be clicked in the city. The Ghats, with their daily evening aartis, are a favourite of shutterbugs. However, even street photography, with throngs of people filling the streets, is fascinating. To spot something enchanting in Varanasi, all a person needs to d is keep their eyes open!
It is one of the most popular Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is adorned with intricate carvings and beautiful architecture. It also houses small temples like Vishnu, Vinayaka, Kaalbhairav, and Virupaksh Gauri.
This is the place where Lord Brahma performed the Dasa Ashwamedha sacrifice. Visit this religious spot at the time of Kartik Purnima to witnesss the beautiful city of lights. Watching the Ganga Aarti will be a wonderful experience.
Situated by the river Assi and built in the 1900s, this temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and Hanuman. People visit this place to seek blessings and have laddoo that is the main highlight of this place.
Placed at the confluence of river Assi and Ganga and is famous for the large Shiva Lingam installed under a peepal tree. This place is of immense religious importance and has been mentioned as the legends as well.
(Please note that the following are sample itineraries. Flying Squirrel Holidays works with your requirements to tailor make your dream Varanasi tour itinerary for you)
Benaras and Allahabad Tour Package: 4 Days, 3 Nights
Spiritual holiday in Varanasi: 7 Nights 6 Days
Highlights of Varanasi: 3 Nights, 2 Days
Benaras and Allahabad Tour Package (This is only a sample itinerary)
DAY 1Arrive at Varanasi and check in to your hotel. Day 1 is for visiting places in the city itself. Head to the Vishwanath Temple, Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple and the Birla Temple. Visit the Benaras Hindu University after lunch, and as evening falls, head to the ghats to watch the spectacle of the grand Ganga Aarti. After dinner at the hotel, get a good nights sleep.
DAY 2Wake up early in the morning to enjoy a boat ride on the River Ganga as the sun rises. The experience is unforgettable and moving. Following this, head to the hotel for breakfast. You are free to explore the shops in the city till lunch, after which you will head to Sarnath to visit the revered Buddhist site of the Dhamekh Stupa. Explore Sarnath, its temples including the Thai Temple. Head back to the hotel for dinner.
DAY 3After breakfast, start on a day trip to Allahabad. Visit the Triveni Sangam, the place of confluence of the three holy rivers of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. Another place to visit in Allahabad is the Anand Bhawan, the erstwhile home of the Nehru Family, which has now been converted into a museum displaying artefacts from the era of struggle for Independence. Head to Allahabad Fort, the largest fort built by Akbar and notice the Allahabad Pillar, which features inscriptions from Ashoka, Chandragupta and Jahangir. Head back to your hotel in Varanasi for dinner.
DAY 4After breakfast, leave for the airport to go back home.
Please email me a copy of the sample itinerary
Cost of a trip depends on places you plan to visit, the duration of the stay, the class of travel and accommodation and the inclusions you seek.
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Which are some of the must-visit places in Varanasi?
Assi Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, and Dashwamedha Ghat are some of the must-visit places in Varanasi.
What to wear in Varanasi?
It is advised to dress modestly in Varanasi. If you plan to visit the Kashi Vishwanath, then there is a strict dress code of wearing a saree for women.
What street foods are popular in Varanasi?
Several street foods are popular in Varanasi, such as Kachori Sabzi, Chena Dahi Vada, Malaiyyo, Choora Matar, and Dahi Chutney Wale Gol Gappe. When in Varanasi do not forget to try these street foods.
The ancient city of Varanasi is a sacred pilgrimage site for worshippers, and its many pious temples are visited in staggering numbers every year and neighbouring places like Sarnath and Allahabad are usually clubbed together with Varanasi Tour Packages. However, one does not need to be a believer to stand in awe of the city- its vibrancy, devotion, spirituality, history and energy are things to witness by themselves. Visitors leave the city with bags full of Varanasi special items like silk, glass beads and woodwork, and memories that remain unforgettable.
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