Nestled along the sacred Ganges River in India, Varanasi beckons travelers with its enchanting beauty and rich cultural heritage. Known as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Varanasi is a captivating destination that immerses visitors in a tapestry of history, spirituality, and mysticism. The city’s ancient temples, bustling ghats, and narrow winding streets exude a unique charm that transports you to a bygone era.
Witnessing the mesmerizing Ganga Aarti ceremony, strolling through vibrant markets, and exploring the labyrinthine lanes are just a few of the experiences that await in this spiritual capital. Varanasi is a place where tradition and spirituality intertwine, offering a truly unforgettable journey into the heart and soul of India.
Here are the list of 8 best things to do in Varanasi in summer 2023
1. Take a boat ride on the Ganges River
As you glide across the tranquil waters, you become immersed in a spectacle of sights and sounds unique to this ancient city. The riverbanks come alive with activity as pilgrims perform rituals, locals engage in daily life, and colorful boats dot the horizon. The ghats, the steps leading to the river, showcase a tapestry of life, offering glimpses into the spiritual and cultural fabric of Varanasi. As the boat navigates through the gentle currents, you witness the timeless rituals and ceremonies taking place along the riverfront, creating an atmosphere of profound spirituality.
2. Witness the Ganga Aarti
Immerse yourself in the spiritual and mesmerizing Ganga Aarti ceremony in Varanasi, India. As dusk descends, the banks of the sacred Ganges River come alive with a symphony of chants, music, and incense-filled air. The Ganga Aarti is a ritualistic offering to the river goddess, performed by a group of priests adorned in traditional attire. Holding oil lamps and offering prayers, they create a mesmerizing choreography of movements, accompanied by rhythmic chants and hymns.
As the lamps are raised high, their warm glow illuminates the surroundings, creating an ethereal ambiance. Witnessing the Ganga Aarti is a deeply moving experience, evoking a sense of spirituality and connection to the divine. The ceremony’s mystical energy, combined with the backdrop of the flowing Ganges and the distant sound of temple bells, leaves an indelible impression, making it a highlight of any visit to Varanasi.
3. Visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Nestled in the heart of Varanasi, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple stands as a revered symbol of Hindu spirituality and devotion. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this ancient and sacred temple attracts countless pilgrims and visitors from all corners of the globe. As you approach the temple, you are greeted by intricate architecture, adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures that depict mythological stories and legends.
Upon entering, you are enveloped in an atmosphere of piety and reverence. The air is filled with the fragrance of incense, and the sound of temple bells echoes throughout. Inside the sanctum sanctorum, devotees offer prayers and seek blessings, creating a palpable sense of devotion and spirituality.
4. Take a heritage walk in the old city
The narrow, winding streets are steeped in history, with every corner revealing architectural gems, vibrant markets, and sacred sites. As you explore, you encounter intricately carved wooden doorways, ancient temples, and charming havelis that speak of a bygone era. The atmosphere is bustling and vibrant, with the aroma of street food wafting through the air. The walk takes you through vibrant bazaars, where artisans showcase their crafts and locals engage in daily rituals.
Along the way, you may witness traditional artisans at work, weaving silk sarees or crafting brassware. The old city’s rich tapestry of sights, sounds, and scents creates a sensory overload, immersing you in the city’s cultural and historical heritage. Walking through Varanasi’s old city is an unforgettable experience, where every step reveals a new chapter in the city’s captivating story.
5. Stroll along the Ghats
Embarking on a leisurely stroll along the ghats of Varanasi is to immerse oneself in a sensory journey of spirituality, culture, and daily life. As you walk along the riverbanks of the sacred Ganges, a vibrant tapestry unfolds before your eyes. The ghats, a series of steps leading to the water, are alive with activity. Devotees bathe in the holy waters, perform sacred rituals, and offer prayers. Locals engage in everyday tasks, vendors sell their wares, and sadhus (holy men) meditate along the riverbanks.
The atmosphere is filled with the sound of temple bells, the scent of incense, and the gentle lapping of the river. Each ghat carries its own unique charm, from the grandeur of Dashashwamedh Ghat to the tranquility of Assi Ghat. As you stroll, you can pause to admire the ancient architecture, engage in conversations with locals, and witness the interplay of life and divinity along the banks of the Ganges.
6. Visit the Sarnath Buddhist Temple
Situated just a short distance from Varanasi, the Sarnath Buddhist Temple holds immense significance as the place where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. Stepping into this sacred site, you are greeted by a serene and tranquil ambiance that radiates spirituality. The temple complex encompasses various structures, including the Dhamek Stupa, Mulagandhakuti Vihara, and the Ashoka Pillar. The Dhamek Stupa stands tall as a symbol of Buddhist architecture, while the Mulagandhakuti Vihara offers a space for prayer and meditation.
The Ashoka Pillar, with its inscriptions and intricate carvings, holds historical and archaeological significance. Within the temple grounds, visitors can explore the museum, which houses a remarkable collection of Buddhist artifacts and sculptures.
7. Shop for souvenirs
Exploring the vibrant markets of Varanasi is a delightful opportunity to shop for unique and meaningful souvenirs in summer. The city is renowned for its traditional crafts and artistic creations, offering a wide range of items that reflect its rich cultural heritage. As you meander through the bustling lanes, you’ll encounter a treasure trove of handcrafted goods.
From intricately woven silk sarees and embroidered textiles to exquisite brassware, wooden carvings, and traditional jewelry, the markets offer a diverse array of items to suit every taste. The aroma of incense fills the air as you browse through stalls adorned with vibrant fabrics, colorful bangles, and intricately painted pottery.
8. Learn about the history of Varanasi
Varanasi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, carries a captivating history that stretches back thousands of years. Steeped in legend and mythology, Varanasi finds mention in ancient texts and is considered a sacred site for Hindus. The city’s history dates back to at least the 11th century BCE, making it an epicenter of cultural, religious, and intellectual growth. It has witnessed the rise and fall of several empires, including the Maurya, Gupta, and Mughal dynasties.
Throughout history, Varanasi has been a melting pot of diverse cultures, attracting scholars, philosophers, poets, and artists. The city has served as a center for learning and spiritual enlightenment, with prominent figures such as Gautama Buddha and Adi Shankara making significant contributions to its legacy.
Varanasi continues to be a symbol of spirituality and tradition, drawing visitors from around the world. Its ancient temples, narrow winding lanes, and timeless rituals provide glimpses into its rich historical tapestry. Exploring the history of Varanasi is an exploration of the many layers of human civilization, cultural exchange, and religious devotion that have shaped this remarkable city over millennia.