Located on the banks of the River Ganges and considered to be one of India's most holy of cities, Varanasi is an overwhelming melting pot of colour, chaos and spirituality. Believed to have been founded by Shiva as early as the 11th century, Varanasi - or Kashi and Benares as it has variously been known - is also one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities, serving as an important centre of learning and civilization for over 2,000 years. Today thousands of Hindu pilgrims from all over the country come to Varanasi to bathe in the waters of the sacred River Ganges to wash away their sins.Read More
It is thought that to die in Varanasi is to ensure release from the cycle of rebirths, an intrinsic part of Hindu belief in reincarnation with the added bonus of instant enlightenment. For this reason the city is popular with the elderly, especially female widows who often shave their heads and wear white after the death of their husbands. The Hindu rituals of life and death take place very publicly on the city’s famous riverside ‘ghats’, the name given to steps that lead down to holy waters. Here cremations on funeral pyres take place throughout the day with ceremonies held out in the open and the bodies simply wrapped in white cloth. Eventually the ashes will be scattered into the Ganges River.
It is this accessibility to the practices of ancient tradition, coupled with Varanasi’s labyrinthine streets and colour that draw people. The best vantage point is from aboard one of the dawn boat rides on the Ganges. Scores of people enter the water from the ghats to purify themselves before the rising sun. Providing the backdrop to this display of humanity is an incredible array of temples and ancient buildings.
Here are some popular itineraries that include a visit to Varanasi
If you are planning a Varanasi holiday, have a look at some of the accommodation that we recommend. 'Our Rating' indicates how we feel each property rates according to normal Western hotel standards. 'Local Rating' indicates how the property is categorised/rated locally:
Nadesar Palace Hotel Varanasi
Named after the celebrities who stayed here as the Maharaja's guests, each room and suite at the Nadesar Palace Hotel draws inspiration from the city with beautiful colour, original pieces of furniture and works of art. Set amidst verdant gardens, the property offers a swimming pool, the Jiva Spa, business centre and a 4 hole golf course currently in development. Owned by the Taj Group, dining at the Nadesar Palace Hotel is an indulgent experience with wonderful food and dining locations.
Palace on Ganges Varanasi
The Palace on Ganges is a traditional-style hotel drawing inspiration from Indian culture and its colonial heritage with smartly decorated and cosy guestrooms. Each room is individually themed and designed with common features including TV and mini bar. The property boasts an art gallery, library and roof top restaurant for views over the city.
Ramada Plaza JHV Varanasi
Elegant, sophisticated and luxurious, the Ramada Plaza is a peaceful city oasis set in manicured lawns. The stylish rooms feature plush beds, a work area and high speed internet access with muted tones and wood furniture as well as a well-equipped bathroom. Indian, Chinese, Thai and International cuisine is offered across an extensive menu in the hotel's three restaurants with a further two bars offering snacks and cocktails. The hotel also offers a fitness centre, spa and beauty salon as well as an outdoor pool.
Varanasi Tailor made suggestions
Here are some of the recent tailor made itineraries we have created for our clients which include a visit to Varanasi.