Varanasi is the India of your imagination. This is one of the world's oldest continually inhabited cities, and one of the holiest in Hinduism. Pilgrims come to the Ganges here to wash away sins in the sacred waters, to cremate their loved ones, or simply to die here, hoping for liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
Most visitors agree Varanasi is magical – but not for the faint-hearted. Intimate rituals of life and death take place in public, and the sights, sounds and smells of the mazelike old town can be intense. Still, the so-called City of Light is one of the most colorful and fascinating places on earth. Strolling the ghats or watching sunrise from a boat on the Ganges are a highlight, and confronting the reality and ritual of death can be a powerful experience.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Varanasi.
Manikarnika Ghat, the main burning ghat, is the most auspicious place for a Hindu to be cremated. Dead bodies are handled by outcasts known as doms, and…
Varanasi’s liveliest and most colourful ghat. The name indicates that Brahma sacrificed (medh) 10 (das) horses (aswa) here. In spite of the persistent…
The furthest south of the main ghats and one of the biggest, Assi Ghat is particularly important as the River Assi meets the Ganges near here and pilgrims…
Harishchandra Ghat is a cremation ghat – smaller and secondary in importance to Manikarnika, but one of the oldest ghats in Varanasi.
Hindu TempleVishwanath Temple
There are temples at almost every turn in Varanasi, but this is the most famous of the lot. It is dedicated to Vishveswara – Shiva as lord of the universe…
UniversityBanares Hindu University
Long regarded as a centre of learning, Varanasi’s tradition of top-quality education continues today at Banares Hindu University, established in 1916. The…
MuseumBharat Kala Bhavan
On the Banares Hindu University campus, this museum hosts a wonderful collection of miniature paintings, as well as 12th-century palm-leaf manuscripts,…
Munshi Ghat – also known as Darbhanga Ghat – is one of the more photogenic ghats along the old town stretch of the Ganges in Varanasi.
A colourful ghat with many steps and a small pool, where a fire aarti is held every evening at 6.30pm.
MuseumRamnagar Fort & Museum
This crumbling 17th-century fort and palace, on the eastern bank of the Ganges, isn't a prime attraction, but the eccentric museum has some interesting…
Hindu TempleDurga Temple
This temple, dedicated to the goddess Durga, was built in the 18th century by a Bengali maharani and is stained red with ochre. It's also known as the …
Named after a 16th-century Hindu poet, Tulsi Ghat has fallen down towards the river, but in the month of Kartika (October/November) a festival devoted to…
GhatMan Mandir Ghat
Just north of Dashashwamedh Ghat, Man Mandir Ghat was built in 1600 by Raja Man Singh and later housed an observatory. The northern corner of the ghat has…
Hindu TempleTulsi Manas Temple
The walls of this modern, marble, sikhara-style temple are engraved with verses and scenes from the Ram Charit Manas, the Hindi version of the Ramayana.
Dominating Panchganga Ghat, this small mosque was built by Aurangzeb on the site of a large Vishnu temple.
A small Shiva temple and a 19th-century mansion built by Nepali royalty sit back from Shivala Ghat, built by the local maharaja of Benares.
Scindhia Ghat was originally built in 1830, but was so huge and magnificent that it collapsed into the river and had to be rebuilt.
Popular with Rama devotees (Hanuman was Rama's stalwart ally in his quest to rescue Sita from the demon Ravana).
North from Scindhia Ghat, Ram Ghat was built by a maharaja of Jaipur.
Dattatreya takes its name from a Brahmin saint, whose footprint is preserved in a small temple nearby.
Whether it’s a guided tour of a historic landmark, private tasting of local delicacies, or an off-road adventure — explore the best experiences in Varanasi.