Varanasi

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Eco-friendly travel guide to Varanasi advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Varanasi, India.


  • Air quality: 4/5
  • Exploring by foot: 2.5/5
  • Exploring by bicycle: 3/5
  • Public transportation: 3.5/5
  • Parks: 4.5/5
  • Locals English level: 2/5
  • Outdoor activities: 4.5/5
  • Safety: 3.5/5
  • Accomodation: $35- $300

Responsible Travel

Varanasi is called the heart of India. It is known for its glory. The city came into existence in the 11th century. It is said that Ganga (A river that Hindus consider to be sacred) comes to the dharti or the earth from the hair of Lord Shiva (One of hindu gods), and the first destination in Varanasi. It is said that all your sins will be washed away once you bath in the Ganges river.

Varanasi is not only famous for its history, but it is also renowned for its silk cloth, beautiful sculptures, morning and evening parties by the priest on the ghats and mandirs. The mandirs are designed with beautiful artwork on its walls to attract people.

Varanasi is the spiritual capital and has many other names like Banaras, Benaras, or Kashi. The city is established on the banks of the holy river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh.

Varanasi is named for its religious and beautiful scenes in the morning during poojas (ritual prayer) at different temples.


Air Quality and Pollution

As Varanasi is a tourist spot, people from different parts of the world visit to see its sites and witness Indian traditions. So it is understandable that the pollution level will not be ideal and so will be the air quality.

The Air Quality in Varanasi is not great especially during the winter time and on the Air Quality Index it ranges from 85-300 which means that sensitive groups should ideally wear a mask in Varanasi. The best time to visit will be spring as summer will be too hot and in winter there will be the problem of Smog.


Respect the Culture

Varanasi is one of India's oldest cities and is well known for its culture and art. Many festivals are celebrated in the traditional folk style of Varanasi by the immigrants.

Varanasi is called India's cultural capital due to its most prosperous cultural tradition, outstanding combination of archaeology, natural features, various religions, old history, and sculptures. The art of Varanasi includes many things like handicrafts, banarasi sarees, metal works, ornaments, clay, textiles, woodwork, and numerous more and is famous worldwide for these. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism are the three major religions. Due to the presence of the holy river Ganga, Varanasi has become a source of natural heritage.


Top 10 Places to Visit

Varanasi is a significant place for tourist attraction and is one of the most crowded cities in India. Below are stated the top 10 places to visit in Varanasi.

  • Dasaswamedh Ghat - There is a “Ganga Aarti” every night at 7 pm at the Dasaswamedh Ghat. To signal the starting of aarti, the priests blow a conch shell. This spiritual ceremony is a magical scene to watch. It is near Kashi Vishwanath Temple and Jantar Mantar.
  • Manikarnika Ghat - The Manikarnika Ghat is majorly known for its cremation ceremony, which runs 24x7. If you visit the place for the first time, you must keep some things in mind like being respectful and no photo clicking allowed for the cremation or mourning. It is located in between Dasaswamedh Ghat and Scindia Ghat.
  • Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple - This temple is located 4 km away from the Varanasi Railway Station. The temple is based on the Hindu lord “Shiva,” Because of its excellent structure and gold plating of around 800 kgs, it is named “The Golden Temple.” It is also famous for its Shiva Lingam, which is 60 centimeters tall and is known to absorb your sins.
  • Nepali Mandir - The Mahadev temple is also known as Nepali Mandir as the Nepali king created it in the 19th century. It is situated near Lalita ghat, Varanasi. It is near Varanasi railway station. And the other location to reach is almost 100 meters from Manikarnika ghat. The temple is a copy of the Pashupatinath Mahadev temple situated in Kathmandu.
  • Tulsi Manas temple - The temple was made to give a tribute to the Hindu god Rama and was named after the very famous writer, poet Tulsi Das. The temple was created in 1964. The mandir is situated at the Sankat Mochan road and 250 Meters Durga Kund, bhelpuri. The best time to visit the temple is from July to August
  • Sankat Mochan Hanuman Mandir - The temple is made to tribute the God of monkeys- Hanuman. The temple was created in 1990 by Madan Mohan, who was a freedom fighter. The temple is established by the river Assi.
  • Gyanvapi mosque - Gyanvapi mosque is situated in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Aurangzeb built the monument around the period of the 1660s. The mosque was named after a well called 'Gyan Vapi, ' which means "The well of comprehension." It is located in the city's heart, north of Dasaswamedh Ghat, and near Lalita Ghat along the river Ganga.
  • Tibetan temple - The Tibetan temple is located at Sarnath, Varanasi. It is a temple of Buddha and his devotees. If you want to visit the temple, morning and evening would be the best time to visit. Shoes are not allowed in the temple, so you better keep it at a safe place. The best thing is that unlike other temples, cameras are allowed.
  • Kaal Bhairava Mandir - Kaal Bhairav Mandir is said to be the oldest mandir (Temple) in Kashi. Kaal Bhairav is said to be the Avatar of Lord Shiva.
Dasaswamedh Ghat


Explore

Varanasi is said to be the origin of the Buddha religion. It was the kingdom of Buddha once, and then many rulers ruled over Varanasi. If you visit Varanasi, you can see many destroyed temples because, after the Buddha rule, it was occupied by the Mughal and Muslim rulers. After the destruction period, Kashi was handed over to Akbar, and this gave some consolation to the Hindu people living there. But further again in the late 17th century, Mughals' rule came to Varanasi as Aurangzeb was the ruler this time. But in the 18th century, Varanasi finally fully got its freedom.

The city Varanasi or Kashi celebrats several festivals as the temples situated there are of different gods. The big night of Shiva is celebrated at the Kashi Vishwanath temple. The Pooja of Ganga is always done laboriously dedicated to the goddess Ganga. The most interesting and generous festivals celebrated here are the festival of Dhrupad, a five-day festival. The festival is celebrated in March at Tulsi Ghat.

The beautiful Tulsi Ghat


City Parks

There are several parks to visit in Varanasi. The gardens are enormous and beautifully designed. These parks here are well maintained. There are some parks listed as:-

  • Anand park - The park has a full space to walk around and is big enough for picnics. It is located on Hanuman road. The garden at some points are also a perfect place to have spiritual bliss.
  • Shaheed udyan Nagar Nigam - This park is located at Chittupur, Sigra, Varanasi. This park has a good and friendly environment. It has a garden, aquatic point, dog parking, etc. Also, you can visit this park with your friends or family daily and play various outdoor sports.


National Parks

There are several national parks in Varanasi.

  • Dudhwa National Park
  • National Chambal Sanctuary
  • Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary
Misty morning in Dudhwa National Park


Beaches

There are no beaches in Varanasi. The river Ganges is your only option. There are beaches near the city so it can always be a fun idea to go on a fun road trip.


Landmarks

Whenever you visit a place, you should know its landmarks to help you search for your destination. Some of the landmarks of Varanasi are:-

  • Bharat Mata Mandir - Bharat Mata Mandir is built at Mahatma Gandhi Vidyapeeth. The good thing about this mandir is that there are no sculptures or murtis of any god or goddess; preferably, it has India's structure, which was not carved on the marbles. This temple was made in 1936 by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta.
  • Shivala ghat - The Shivala ghat is near to assist ghat in Varanasi. Shivala ghat is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The ghat is kept pretty clean so that disabled people or elderly people do not find it difficult to go through the steps. Also, there are several hotels and restaurants near the ghat so you can enjoy the look of the ghat or the windy atmosphere at your room even if you get one nearby.
Bharat Mata Mandir


Museums

There are several museums in Varanasi that store old sculptures, books and memories of different people. One can visit some of them to know the history of the place.

  • Lal Bahadur Shastri family museum - Lal Bahadur Shastri played a vital part in framing India to what it is now. The government of India have tributed him by naming an airport by his name and his family members have given him tribute by opening a museum inside there own house and placed some stuff of him as his memories, you will come to know about some of the facts related to his life. The museum is in front of Ramnagar fort.
  • Man Singh Observatory - Also known as Mansory observatory. This observatory or museum is famous for its 3d paints and the thinking of astronomers that existed long ago. So you can visit the museum as to get knowledge of outer space.
The courtyard at Man Singh Observatory


Eat

Prasad is typically a vegetarian dish that is given as offering to God in Temples. Prasad in Varanasi is very famous as it makes people visit the temples more often. It is believed that pilgrims who visit the shrine can satisfy their hunger from god's offering. In Varanasi temple people gets some dry fruits (such as cashew, almonds, dry dates, almonds, raisins, walnuts, lotus seeds, pistachio, mishri, and dry apricots,) and a packet of sweets (including peda,motichoor laddu,and barfi) as a prasad. Indian cuisine is famous all around the world so you will have an amazing time in Varanasi if you are a true foodie. There are amazing vegetarian options and the flavours are just mouth watering.

A lady carrying the "prasad" or offering as part of a ritual


Traditional Local Restaurants

  • Kashi Chaat Bhandar - Chaat (savoury snack) is one of Varanasi's most treasured dishes and Kaashi Chaat Bhandar serves it to the people. It is a small shop in Godulia that always seems to be crowded,this place gives you some serious larger than life vibes of discovering the little things that truly make Varanasi.
  • Sri Annapurna Restaurant - It is one of the best restaurants to go for a family dinner. The restaurant's menu perfectly balances a palette of Indian and Continental cuisines which makes it one of the best restaurants near Sigra,Varanasi.


Vegetarian and Vegan

A vegetarian is someone who does not eat any meat, poultry, fish or any kind of animal flesh or by- product of animal slaughter.Varanasi is a holy place therefore mostly vegans are found in Varanasi.Vegans are vegetarians who avoid all animal and animal derived products.


Street Food

Street food is an essential part of the Indian culture and cuisine.There are a number of street food dishes from across the country that are famous, but nothing can beat the hot and crispy kachori (balls of fried dough with fillings) and samosa (stuffed deep fried snack) from Varanasi.

  • Kachori Sabzi - It is the most popular breakfast option in Varanasi. There are two different types of Kachoris- badi and choti kachori. Both of these kachoris are savoured with garam masala wali aloo ki sabzi and desi ghee jalebi.
  • Dahi Chutney Wale Gol Gappe - it is also known as Meethe Golgappe that offers both spicy and sweet flavours. This street snack is just like chaat papdi, the only difference is that it uses wafer thin dough balls.
Gol Gappe are bite sized crispy balls filled with different fillings. A staple street food


Drink

Lassi is a popular traditional yogurt based drink that originated in India.Lassi is the most popular drink found in Varanasi. There are plenty of places where you can find lassi on the menu in Varanasi.Some of the famous Lassi are-

  • Sweet Lassi - It is a form of lassi flavoured with sugar,rosewater or lemon,strawberry or other fruit juices.It is usually creamy like a milkshake.
  • Mango Lassi - Mango Lassi is made from yogurt ,milk and mango pulp and may contain added sugar. It is commonly served cold using sweetened kesar mango pulp mixed with yogurt,cream or ice cream.
Lassi seller in Varanasi


Tap-water

Tap water in the City of Varanasi, India, is supplied from Ganga. The city obtains 270 million liters of water per day from Ganga and pumping up groundwater, but approximately one-fifth of the population is still not supplied with potable water.


Organic Cafés

Varanasi is a place that has its glory that everyone loves. Varanasi is a spiritual place. It would be shocking for you to know that it has some fantastic cafes. Some of them are:-

  • Varanasi Cafe and Bakery - This one uses a super cute little cozy rooftop cafe to give you the river Ganga's view. This cafe serves Indian, Italian, Continental, and European food.
  • Ashish Cafe - A hilarious place that is near the famous Assi Ghat. It will provide you with an impressive menu of Italian, Indian, and cafe food served for all meals such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Breweries

Because Varanasi is a sacred city, many people wonder that there would not be any breweries, but this is not true. There are many breweries in the city. For example

  • The brew garden
  • United breweries limited


Activities

Different activities take place in Varanasi, such as morning and evening artis, people traveling across. Some of its significant activities are

  • Boating
  • Worship
  • Tours
  • Shopping
Morning boat ride in Varanasi


Yoga and Retreats

As Varanasi is a spiritual place, it is evident that practices like yoga would be performed daily and yoga was the first source of workout for mental and physical health. Here are some yoga center if you want to learn yoga in the city:-

  • Yoga yoga Kendra
  • Fitness yoga Varanasi
  • Mind and soul


Accommodation

As you go on a trip to Varanasi, you should have an organized trip. Your hotels should be booked previously, your guide should be booked previously, places you want to travel should be booked earlier. But on an estimate, the average bill for one person would be around 2-3 thousand per day.


Green Hotels

Green hotels are the ones that have made some actions in their hotels to protect the environment. Some of the green hotels you can choose to stay in Varanasi are:-

  • Hotel Natraj inn
  • Hotel Haifa
  • Radisson Hotel Varanasi
  • Hotel Ganges grand


Hostels and Guest Houses

If you are traveling to any place, you ought to book a hotel to stay in. So here are some best hotels in Varanasi:-

  • The Taj Ganges hotel - The Taj Ganges will be a good option for you to stay near some of the landmarks. It is 4km from Kashi Vishwanath temple and 7 km from Ganga. It has A.C. rooms in it and also has a swimming pool.
  • Rivera palace - This palace has a free parking system, and it gives you access to free WiFi. The location is right of this hotel it is 27 km from the airport, and you have to walk for 4 min to reach Ganga and 5 min to the railway station


Apartments

If you are looking for apartments in Varanasi, you should go for one worth your money. You can search the area as per your needs. It would be best to go to places that do not have a problem with water or electricity supply. If you want a high-class society, you can search for one. Search according to your needs.


Couchsurfing

There are many sites on google for Couchsurfing. If you are a part of the deal, then you come to know many people similar to you searching for a place to hide the faces. However, this concept is introduced shortly, but it is a popular one and can help one.


Camping

There are different locations in Varanasi for camping. Like one can camp on the ghat of the Ganges river, many people set up their camps there to enjoy the beautiful weather. And also there are many parks for camping like Shivaji Nagar park. So there are plenty of options available for camping.


How to Get There

The city is located on the bank of the Ganges and the south part of Uttar Pradesh. It is situated in northern India.


Air

The sacred city consists of one major international airport named as Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport. One can fly there from all the domestic and international airports across India, but not only India, vice versa can be done.

Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport


Bus

Anyone can travel to Varanasi through buses from the nearby states as Varanasi is connected to major cities of Uttar Pradesh through state-run buses. You can even book private air-conditioned buses to Varanasi.

You can visit Varanasi from Kathmandu by bus. Varanasi has bus services from all the nearby major cities like Delhi and Lucknow.


Train

There are two main railheads situated in Varanasi named The Varanasi Railway Junction and Kashi Railway Station. These railway stations are well connected to the other Indian cities through the extensive railway network spread all across India.

Varanasi Railway Station


Hitchhiking

Yet it is possible to travel to Varanasi through hitchhiking, but one must be beware of robbers and carjackers. If possible, then don’t travel in this way as it is not recommended, but the people there are friendly, and you can find a way to hitchhike through trucks, buses, etc.


Others

Varanasi is a well-connected city, so there will be no problem for you to travel by car, except near the ghats or some other tourist places; vehicles are not allowed, so you have to travel on foot or by what the city offers you like rickshaw and other means.


Moving Around

Varanasi covers an area of 163.8 km square. Yet it is a small city; there are many means available to visit around.


Walk

You have to walk your way into Varanasi's main visiting sites as no private vehicles are allowed there. Still, fortunately, conveniences like auto-rickshaw, taxis, buses, etc. are available for you to travel around without worrying. The streets are also narrow in some parts of the city, which leave you with no choice other than walking your way.


Bicycle

How can one see a city on a bike? There are unique bicycle rides where you can hire a guide to show you around on a motorcycle. In Fact, in some places like the Assi Ghat, bicycles are a means of transport, and for moving around as no private vehicles are allowed there, you can either walk or hire a bike on rent.


Electronic Vehicles

Electric vehicles such as E-Rickshaw are also an option for traveling around in Varanasi. This effective traveling does the job without polluting the air. Electric hasn't become common yet in India, but there is a high scope of it in the future, For instance, the government aims to produce 1 million E.V.’s including buses on Varanasi's roads by the year 2024. The government will invest Rs.40,000 crore into the manufacturing of electric vehicles.


Public Bus

Boarding buses is yet another way to roam around the city. There are many bus stands in the town so you can travel to the city pretty quickly. The buses are also air-conditioned so that you do not feel hot.


Tram, Train and Subway

If you want to reach Varanasi by bus, it is widely connected with a systematic train system. You can book a train ticket for yourself and get here. The station name for Varanasi is Kashi railway station.


Sustainable Shopping

Varanasi is very famous for silk cloths and designs. Specially Banarasi sarees with silk design. But if you have a guide that guides you to the shop, be aware that sometimes the guide keeps its commission with some shopkeepers. And if the rates are too low, there are possibilities that the quality of the cloth is not good. But here are some suggestions if you are visiting Varanasi and want to do reasonable shopping.

  • Baba black sheep - So there is a shopping emporium where you can get reasonable prices for clothes, and the quality is also good.
  • U.P. cottage emporium - The U.P. The cottage emporium is located at A Nawal Kishore market, Tripura bhairawi.


Food Markets

If you stay in a hotel and like to get some food for you and cook the food yourself. Here are some suggestions for food markets:-

  • Thatcher bazaar - It is a market situated in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. You can buy religious items, antiques, and copper products with a beautiful design on it
  • Vishwanath lane - you can go to this market to buy designer items such as bangles, dupatta, and home decorating items.


Flea Markets

Varanasi is a controlling and developed city with many flea markets; some are near ghats, others near some famous temples, and some near renowned monuments. Let's count down to some of them:-

  • Daalmandi market
  • Scrapshala
  • Dashashwamedh ghat market


Second Hand Stores

If you are sitting in Varanasi and want to have something from the second-Hand store, here are some suggestion:-

● Rani cycle store- Because cycling is a means of traveling, there is a cycle store lahartara that will help you get a bicycle.

● Arya CD gallery- If you care for a camera or not care for a camera, you can buy a second-hand CD to capture your memories.


Eco-Fashion

Varanasi is one of the most beautiful places on earth. m. Many fashion and trends have started from here and are followed by here. Like silk work, sculpture work, and embroidery. Some of the famous shops for eco-fashion in Varanasi are:-

  • Dhani
  • A.k collection
  • Atharva fashion


Recycling

The district government and the state government are taking virtuous action regarding recycling material to save the environment. Though the sources are a little less, the government is also taking necessary decisions on it.


Waste

Though the government has taken several steps towards cleanliness, Varanasi did not bother to follow them. The environment of Varanasi is unforgettable, so is the case with its chaotic environment. No garbage on this earth is not dumped on Varanasi's streets and in the holy river Ganga.


Work and Study Abroad

As Varanasi is a holy city, there is a lack of work and study opportunities here. However, schools and offices are opened for the locals but not worthy of any outsider. Rather people from Varanasi search places outside the country with a more significant opportunity.


Exchange Student

Though study in Varanasi is not so famous, some organizations arrange programs for the exchange of students. Some of the organization are:-

  • Kashi global service private limited
  • Universal trade
  • Radiant services


Au Pair

The abstraction of au pair is untouched yet in Varanasi. But if you are interested in the concept, you can talk to some local people about it. Today's generation would notice the idea. And you might find someone interested.


Volunteering

There are many volunteering programs in Varanasi dealing with different kinds of issues. For example, some work for poor children while some work for street dogs. And the volunteering in Varanasi does not end here; some volunteering groups outside in India work for Varanasi issues. Such as:-

  • Volunteering world: best volunteer abroad programs worldwide.
  • Volunteer- sanitation and water project campaign
  • Do meaningful volunteer work in India


See Also