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Varanasi (also known as Benares), spread along the banks of the sacred Ganges River, is one of the holiest places in India for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. Hindu pilgrims flock to the city in huge numbers to wash away their sins in the holy river, and to be cremated. It's a magical place teeming with temples and intimate religious and cultural rituals taking place in public along the famous city ghats. And that's what makes the city so special — visitors can wander the ghats and observe the intimate ceremonies associated with an ancient religion. At any time pilgrims packed along the waterfront are bathing, washing and performing complex ...

Varanasi (also known as Benares), spread along the banks of the sacred Ganges River, is one of the holiest places in India for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. Hindu pilgrims flock to the city in huge numbers to wash away their sins in the holy river, and to be cremated. It's a magical place teeming with temples and intimate religious and cultural rituals taking place in public along the famous city ghats. And that's what makes the city so special — visitors can wander the ghats and observe the intimate ceremonies associated with an ancient religion. At any time pilgrims packed along the waterfront are bathing, washing and performing complex rituals in worship of their gods. The city itself comprises an atmospheric old town which is a jumble of alleys and lanes filled with tiny shops — perfect for getting well and truly lost in its fascinating labyrinth, and finding your way back again with a little help. The best way to experience Benares is to take a boat ride in the early morning when the soft light brings a special glow to one of India's most captivating cities.

Alan Murphy
About the Expert

Alan Murphy is coauthor of Lonely Planet's Britain, Scotland, India and North India. He has been writing and updating travel guidebooks for the past 12 years.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Varanasi is a city situated on the left (west) bank of the river Ganga (Ganges) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, regarded as holy by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, and one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.
  • Language: Hindi, Urdu, English
  • Currency: Rupee
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    October to March