Varanasi is the land of 88 ghats, more than 3000 Hindu religious sites, and numerous other interesting structures. Is it possible to experience Varanasi in just 24 hours? If you have a perfect itinerary, it is possible to enjoy Varanasi in 24 hours without running from one destination to another.
Start your day every early. Reach Assi Ghat before 5:30 am to witness the iconic Assi Ghat Ganga Aarti. The ritual would be scenic and mesmerizing. The moment when sun rises up, the rituals get more synchronized, and heavenly.
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Once the Aarti ends, hire a boat from Assi Ghat to explore a few nearby ghats. Start the boat ride by 7 or 7:30 am to watch sadhu and locals performing rituals along the ghats or in the river. You can also spot many temples and structures as you sail through them.
Reach any local market to enjoy a traditional street-side breakfast. Top dishes to try for breakfast are aloo kachori, jalebi, and others. The best place to enjoy a traditional breakfast is the Thatheri Bazaar.
After breakfast, reach Tulsi Ghat around 9 am to watch young athletes taking part in mud-wrestling. If you are not a sports fan, you can stick with exploring temples in the region.
There are numerous temples in Varanasi and it is not practically possible to explore every single temple. However, it is important to visit iconic sites and Kashi Vishwanath Temple should be the first in your list. Mid morning is best time to the visit the temple as the crowd will be substantially smaller.
After exploring the temple, walk through Vishwanath Gali street to enjoy a traditional lunch and shopping. The Gali is the right place to buy souvenirs like brass articles, copper articles, silver articles, statues, religious items, textile, and others.
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The main souvenir of the land is Banaras Silk articles, an heirloom for locals. Visit the Badalalpur region of Varanasi to find traditional handicraft shops and chowks to buy Banaras Silk. If desired, you can visit the Weavers’ region to watch them weave the sarees. If not, visit any interesting temples in Varanasi like Nepali Temple, Mahamrityunjay Temple, and others. Return back to Dashashwamedh Ghat right in time for evening aarti.
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The evening aarti starts by sunset. This is the iconic tourist attraction of Varanasi. Watch young sadhus perform synchronized rituals by twirling large lamps, chanting mantras in chorus and many others for 45 minutes. At the end of the aarti, many small lamps are let to float on the river. Do not forget to carry your camera for this ritual.
Walk through the Gali to enjoy snacks like lassi, kulfi, and others. If you have the stomach for it, visit Manikarnika Ghat to watch cremation process. Or, explore other temples and attractions like BHU, Bharat Mata Mandir, Sankat Mochan Temple, and others. Remember that the evening will be quite crowded in many temples.
If desired, you can dine at Brijrama Palace or, dine closer to any ghat to watch the local colorful chaotic life. After dinner, if you feel energetic, catch any cultural show, if any. Cultural performances are more common during religious celebrations. If not, you can retire back to your hotel.
Last but not least, it is never about the number of monuments and attractions you visit during your trip. It is about how well you experienced Varanasi. Do not plan on gliding from one destination to another without enjoying it. Take your time and experience the place before moving on to the next destination.