India is magical and mystical. From a quiet town of Pushkar to the hustling and bustling town of Banaras now known as Varanasi. No trip to India is complete without visiting Banaras. Banaras gives you that extreme Indian feel.
One of the oldest cities in the world. Banaras will definitely take you back in time. It is compared with old towns like Rome, Jerusalem. But it has not lost the old city charm.
As Mark Twain quoted about the city, “It is older than History, older than tradition, older even than Legend, And looks as old as twice as old as all of them put together.
Boarded from New Delhi ( Anand Vihar Railway station) to Banaras for an overnight journey by train. After deboarding at Banaras, I straight went to the BHU ( Banaras Hindu University) to see the new Kashi Vishwanath Temple as it was still early morning and the hostels check- in are generally around 1 PM.
Banaras Hindu University
BHU has a vast campus and is one of the oldest universities of India. It is home to the new Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Temple is beautiful, clean and a must see place. Now after having a good breakfast just outside the temple where one can get good South Indian Food. I took a shared Auto to my Hostel where I am going to stay for the next couple of days – GO Stops!!
I came to know about this Hostel from a Swedish girl whom I met in Amritsar. She landed straight to Banaras in India and stayed in this Hostel too. Rooms were spacious and the Beds were comfy and really a nice welcoming staff. But the Tea they make was not good at all.
The Best way to travel is on the foot if you are not pressed for time. And if you are pressed for time, then you are not out there to travel. After a good rest of few hours and a Bad Tea, I am out of my own without asking much straight to explore the Ghats of Ganges.
It wasn’t too far away from the Hostel. You can easily walk to it by passing through the colorful Bazaars and small gullies or alleys in which you can see strange signs of Korean Cafes. People from Korea have come here and settled ( I don’t know why ). Weather was not at all Bad in the month of March which made walking little easier.
I began from Harishchandra ghat and started exploring ghats of the Ganges one after the another. Like Pushkar which has around 50 ghats, Varanasi has more than 80 Ghats. Travel makes you feel alive that is the most important. You are not dead while you are traveling. Another way to explore the ghats is by a boat ride. I would recommend Boat ride in the evening which ends up at the Dashahwamedha Ghat where the main Arti takes place. You can watch it from the Boat itself. And also take the Boat ride in the morning as well for a beautiful sunrise along the Ganges. And trust me on that the view would be amazing.
Next up is Ganga Arti which I attended with a couple of fellow travelers from Germany. I think that Arti at the Ganges will be one of my finest experiences of my lifetime. First time in my Life I go spiritual. Moments like these are something which you can’t get anywhere else. It was an hour-long Arti in the evening which I truly enjoyed.
After this, I continue my own journey and my next stop is Manikarnika Ghat ( the most awaited) where the fire never stops. People from different parts of the country come here to die. Life is about death here in Banaras.
Some of the few important ghats in Banaras.
- Assi Ghat
- Narad Ghat
- Ahilyabai Ghat
- Gostops Hostel
- Hostel LaVie
I prefer staying in Hostels because of traveling solo and in Budget. Gostops is my first choice as I stayed there and it was excellent. And the other Hostels have good reviews also which I came to know about from fellow Travelers.
Places to Eat
Banarasi Pan or Banaras ki Chai – these are the most famous ones. Rest there are a lot of other options to eat in Banaras ( but mostly vegetarian) .
I really enjoyed eating at Kerela Café which wasn’t too far away from the Hostel. I ate there at least a couple of times. The food was amazing and cheap.
Tip: – Don’t forget to drink Bhang Lassi from Blue Lassi Shop.
Tour the Temples
Banaras has a lot of beautiful Temples almost in every nook and corner of the city. The Famous ones are the two Kashi Vishwanath Temple and Kaal Bhairo Mandir. GO STOPS, where I was staying, have their own tour which you can easily take or you can go of your own as well by hiring a Tuk- Tuk. Other important temples are Annapurna Temple, Ankatha Temple, Bharat Mata Temple & Durga Temple.
Banaras is also known for fine silk & clothing. Banaras or Kashi or Varanasi has always been in my list of top travel places in India when I wanted to explore different parts of the country. It should be on your list too.
Banaras is spiritual and magical. Whether you come first here to get a culture shock straight away or last ( it would be little easier after traveling other parts of India, you will get used to it), but it should be in your itinerary for sure when you are backpacking for India.