Do you want to expand your travel destinations? Visit somewhere out of the norm? And really excite that inner travel bug? Then look no further than India. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi should be on the top of every traveller’s bucket list. Full of colour, life and culture, Varanasi is the spiritual city of India, and one of the most sacred cities in the world.
Here are my top 5 recommendations of things to explore on your trip.
1.Take a sunrise boat trip
Start your travels with a 5 am sunrise boat trip up the river Ganges. Immerse yourself in the culture as you watch the locals bathe in the river, wash their clothes and carry rice bags along the Ghats. Most likely having to negotiate a price, travellers hostel ‘Stops’, offer guests a trip for a price of 100 INR – bargain! (Approx 1.50 USD). Do not be tempted to join the bathers in the river as you may come across some unsightly things and become quite ill.
2. Walk along the Ghats
Spend hours strolling along the Ghats learning what each ones means and represents. Dashaswamedh and Asi are Varanasi’s most popular bathing Ghats. Here you can enchant yourself by catching a glimpse of Worshippers and bathers and maybe even bump into a cow or two! The Ghats can be visited at any time unless it’s monsoon season when the water level is too high.
3. Explore the back alleys
The older part of Varanasi is filled with small alleyways that you can guarantee getting lost in. Full of beautiful stores, jewellery makers and street food, the Galis, (which I prefer to call the maze) are sure to get you excited about embracing India. It can become quite claustrophobic so here’s hoping you do get lost and stumble across the famous ‘Blue Lassie’ for an indulgent treat.
4. View cremations on the Ghats
An unusual choice of activity, Indian cremations are an incredibly surreal experience that are hard to avoid in Varanasi. You will experience the most precious rituals of death so do be aware though that taking photos whilst on the Ghat are not permitted at any time and women must remain covered. Boat trips do run regularly for tourists to view cremations from a distance, (photos are acceptable if you are on the river), but of course It is important to remain respectful and be sensitive to local traditions.
Apprehensive about the smell? I can assure you it resembles more of a bonfire smell than anything else. It is a truly incredible part of Indian culture and definitely an insightful look into their beliefs that shouldn’t be missed.
5. Go in search of Sadhus
Sadhus are India’s Holy men and can often be found along the Ghats. Completely mesmerising to look at, you can be sure to see them meditating and bathing along the river. Taking photos of them is an obvious go to, but you must ask their permission first. It is also common to pop a bit of money down by their side as a thank you!
Varanasi Is Not To Be Missed
These 5 recommendations will surround you with culture and true Indian life. But rest assured Varanasi does not stray from the commotion that is India so I would definitely recommend this destination to ‘confident’ travellers. Embracing this unique country with a combination of boat trips and exploring on foot, Varanasi will bring out the true traveller in you in no time.
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