Must-Do In Varanasi, India: Exploring The Ganges River

Must-Do In Varanasi, India: Exploring The Ganges River
Adelheid Bethanny
Adelheid Bethanny 
Published

Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest cities, is a very big pilgrimage site for people of the Hindu faith. One of the most visited sites in this city is the famous sacred river, Ganges River. A visit to this river can be said to be a life-changing experience because it offers sights that you might have never seen before.

The Ganges River in Varanasi, India

must-do in varanasi, india: exploring the ganges river | the ganges river in varanasi, india

Ganga was originally a goddess in the heavens, who took the form of a river. Long story short, after a long period of prayers generation after generation, she finally descended to earth and now cleans the souls of mankind. Until this very day, many believe that the waters of the Ganges can cleanse people from their sins. The Ganges is considered the most sacred river for the Hindus. Therefore, people bathe in her waters and perform rituals to honor her.

Strolling about the Ganges riverfront

must-do in varanasi, india: exploring the ganges river | strolling about the ganges riverfront

Afternoon walks about the Ganges’ riverfront is one of the top activities to do in Varanasi. Along this holy river of India, there are beautiful buildings with staircases that lead to the river’s waters. These staircases are known as the ghats. The Ganges has 87 ghats in total, with Assi Ghat the furthest south. Walking on the riverfront is the best way to observe the ghats up close, because you have the opportunity to appreciate the architecture of the buildings and also people-watch. Walking around the river is indeed free, but keep in mind that there can be quite a lot of vendors that will try to sell you items.

Night ceremony at the Ganges

must-do in varanasi, india: exploring the ganges river | night ceremony at the ganges

Being one of the holiest cities in India, there are many religious rituals that one can witness. One of the most famous rituals is the nightly evening prayer, known widely as Aarti, held on the riverbanks. The ceremony is a Hindu fire ceremony held to honor the river, and it takes place at 7 PM every night. The ceremony takes about 45 minutes to an hour and consists of chanting, singing, dancing, burning incense, lighting lamps, etc. Travelers can choose to watch the ceremony from the ghats (steps) or get a boat and watch from the river. When watching from the river, there are usually candles that you can light; people make a wish for each candle and send them off in the river.

Sunrise at the Ganges

must-do in varanasi, india: exploring the ganges river | sunrise at the ganges

Experiencing the Ganges by boat is completely different from just merely walking on the riverside, especially during sunrise. Therefore, travelers usually make time to wake up early in the morning to hire a boat and watch the sun show its first light. The view is quite magical, even more so when you realize that you are witnessing the sunrise in sacred waters in one of the oldest cities in the world. Turning to the ghats, you will see people giving their offerings and bathing in the waters; cremation ceremonies are usually held in the mornings as well. The sunrise at the Ganges is something worth experiencing, but bargain hard for the boat fare as it is a popular tourist attraction; prices can range from 300 - 1000 INR (approximately 4 - 15 USD).

Getting to the Ganges River

getting to the ganges river

Since the Ganges River is one of the most visited sites in Varanasi, you are less likely to have problems getting there. Most hotels are located a few hundred meters from the river; if you are staying nearby, be sure to ask the hotel staff for directions. If your accommodation is quite far, take a tuk-tuk (auto-rickshaw); it is an authentic experience that one should take once in India, so why not try it in Varanasi? How much you will spend on a tuk-tuk depends on how far away you are, so ask your hotel regarding the usual fare.

The Ganges River awaits!

The Ganges River in Varanasi is quite a magnificent sight, and is a definitely a must-visit on a traveler’s itinerary when visiting India. The experience you can have and the memories you can take home are magical and life-changing; the architecture, the people, the rituals, and the sunrise are definitely worth witnessing. So, if you are heading to India anytime soon, be sure to make plans to visit Varanasi and the Ganges River!

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Hi! I’m Beth. I’m a 22-year-old Indonesian student who loves to travel the world. I am currently studying Spanish in a language university in Taiwan, and I hope to graduate in 2016 with the...Read more

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