One of the holiest and oldest cities in India, Varanasi dates back to 5000 BC. It is a major site for Hindu pilgrimage. A Varanasi holiday will undoubtedly take you across this enigmatic holy centre sitting comfortably on the banks of the Holy River Ganga. The mystical fragrance of incense and the sweet scent of fresh flowers fill the air. The ghats and temples are ever teeming with people seeking divine intervention. If you are planning on visiting this ancient and sacred town, then here are places to visit in Varanasi that should not be missed.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Established in 1780 and dedicated to Lord Shiva, this divine temple is one of the best in Varanasi. It is home to three pure gold domes that rise up to a height of 15.5 m, and has 3,000 visitors a day. The temple is close to the banks of the River Ganga. It often sees well-known visitors such as saints and scholars from all over the world. These have incuded Adi Shankaracharya, Swami Vivekananda, Goswami Tulsidas and Gurunanak, amongst others.
- Cell phones, cameras, belts with metal buckles, cigarettes and lighters are not allowed inside the temple premises.
- Temple hours: 4 am to 11 am / 12 pm to 8:30 pm
Holy city Varanasi is home to a lively collection of ghats by the holy River Ganga. Dashashwamedh Ghat is one of the most magnificent ghats in this ancient town. This ghat was built by Peshwa Bajirao in 1748 and named for a time when Lord Brahma sacrificed 10 horses there. Devotees gather to perform different puja rituals and religious activities. In the evening it is the site for the glorious Ganga Aarti Hindu ceremony, which involves fire and adorns the entire bank of the river. Meanwhile, in the morning it is the site for rejuvenating walk or meditation.
- Refrain from littering this holy and sacred site.
- Aarti times: 7 pm to 7:45 pm (summer); 6 pm to 6:45 pm (winter)
This 17th century fort sits magnificently on the eastern bank of the Ganga. This is the perfect spot to get some peace from the ever-bustling streets, as well gazing at the setting sun. Moreover, the palace also houses a museum that displays a collection of vintage American cars, jeweled chairs, a magnificent weapon collection and a unique astrological clock. Visit this place during Ram Leela, when vibrant celebrations take place in the compound close to this fort palace.
- Fort hours: 10 am to 12 pm / 2 pm to 4:30 pm (all days of the week)
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Mandir
The famous Hindu preacher, poet and saint, Sri Goswami Tulsidas, established this temple in the early 16th century. Sited on the bank of River Assi, close to Banaras Hindu University, it is dedicated to the Hindu god Hanuman. The temple is said to be built on the exact spot where Tulsidas (the author of Ramcharitmanas) had a vision of Lord Hanuman himself. On an everyday basis thousands of devotees of Lord Rama and Lord Hanuman flock here to offer their prayer.
- Best time to visit: November to February
New Vishwanath Temple
This temple is situated inside the premises of Banaras Hindu University and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is one of the biggest local tourist places to visit in Varanasi. This temple took 35 years to build and has the tallest temple tower in the world. Furthermore, it actually comprises nine temples and welcomes people from all the different castes, religions and beliefs. The Kashi Vishwanath Mandir inspired this temple’s design.
- Temple timings: 4 am to 11 am / 12 pm to 7 pm
Tulsi Manas Mandir
This temple has a reputation for being one of the most popular places to visit in Varanasi. In fact, it holds immense importance and relevance in the hearts of devout Hindus. It is the exact place where the poet, saint, reformer and philosopher Goswami Tulsidas wrote the Hindu epic Ramcharitmanas in the 16th century. Paintings and sculptures depicting the events from Ramcharitmanas adorn the temple. Undoubtedly, a visit there will fill you with immense peace and calm.
- Temple hours: 5:30 am to 12 pm / 3:30 pm to 9 pm
This temple was constructed during the 18th century and dedicated to the goddess Durga. It holds immense religious importance for devout Hindus. The style of the architecture is the North Indian Nagara style, with the entire temple painted red. You can spot it from kilometers away. In addition, appealing and intricate carvings and engravings dedicated to the presiding deity fill the temple. There is also a Durga Kund (pond) present near the temple where various religious processions and rituals take place.
- Temple hours: 5 am to 12 pm / 12 pm to 4 pm
Finally, this is the southernmost ghat in the holy city Varanasi. It is one of the most favoured ghats for festivals and recreation activities. On a daily basis it sees almost 300 people, while during festival days it has up to 2,500 visitors each day. This vibrant ghat hosts numerous engaging activities including boat rides, daily talent shows, hot air balloon rides and numerous eating joints. In fact, Tulsidas is said to have passed on to his heavenly abode from this ghat.
- Ghat Aarti times: 5 am to 5:30 am (morning) / 7 pm to 7:30 m (evening)