Varanasi (also known as Banaras) is a dirty place. I’m sorry, but the tiny higgledy-piggledy streets are filled with rubbish, dirty water and shits from various different animals.
This is not to mention all the other living creatures you have to dodge when trying to remember your way back to your hotel.
Monkeys, cows, dogs, cats, ferrets, donkeys and rats probably outnumber the people 2 to 1 and as with anywhere in India, there are a LOT of people. All this on top of heat that leaves you dripping with sweat within seconds of leaving your room, the rain that doesn’t cool you off but instead leaves the streets’ sewage running between your toes and the touts, beggars, shop keepers and more, who are constantly pestering you to buy something, anything. My friend and I even had one guy ask us if we needed a porter… when we were carrying nothing but very small handbags, eeerr no thanks
It is easy to say Varanasi was not one of my favourite stops!
I DO recommend you visit if in North India. It is a must see on every travellers’ India bucket list. Varanasi is said to be one of the most spiritual places on earth and thousands of Indians flock here every year to dip their feet in the river Ganges to emit sins or hope to die here to release their soul from the cycle of transmigrations.
It is worth stopping by at the late night fire Puja on each night, watching the priests chant and swing fire lanterns around as they pray to the River Ganges. However, it is up to you if you stay for the whole thing which takes about 1.5 hours… I did, but only because the priest dude was HOT! 😉
Walking along the river, stopping by at the different Ghats is a pleasurable way to while away the afternoon, though I am warned that further into monsoon season you can’t walk along them but have to wind your way through the streets to each individual Ghat entrance … I am sure this would be fun too. We awoke at
We awoke at 5 am to see the morning Puja and head for a boat ride down the Ganges. This is a good way of seeing all the Ghats if you can’t walk along them and if you get a decent boat guide they will tell you the history behind each Ghat and what it is used or famous for.
I stayed in Varanasi one night, arriving on a train early one morning and leaving on another the following afternoon. This was long enough for me, I didn’t like the food (even in the LP recommended restaurants), I thought the Ganges was dirty and unattractive, I didn’t feel any spiritual enlightenment and I don’t feel the need to return!
But don’t let me put you off… I think everyone should keep this on their list! 🙂