Varanasi is an important tourist destination with more than 3000 religious sites, 88 ghats, and much more. This attraction-abundant destination attracts millions of tourists and pilgrims every year. Here are some of the top tourist places to visit in Varanasi :
1. Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Kashi Vishwanath Temple is located on River Ganges’ western bank. There is no concrete proof to when the temple was built. However, it was first destroyed in 12th century, later in 17th century. The structure you see today was built in the end of 18th century. This is one of the sacred Jyotirlinga temples of the world. The temple is famous for the 800 kg gold-platted tower, intricate carvings, architectural beauty, and rituals. The alley that leads to the temple is called Vishwanath Gali, which is famous for shopping religious items, jewelries, books, brass idols, textile, and more.
Note : Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple.
2. Dashashwamedh Ghat
Out of the 88 ghats of Varanasi, the Dashashawamedh Ghat is the most sacred and interesting one. There are numerous mythological stories that explain how and why the ghat was created. However, it is assumed that it was the first ghat of the river. The current structure of the ghat was built in 18th century. The ghat is famous for the Ganga Aarti, which takes place every evening. Apart from watching Ganga Aarti, the ghat is famous for photography, boating, watching rituals, and so on. Very close to the ghat, you can find the Jantar Mantar of Varanasi.
3. Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is a famous temple of Varanasi, dedicated to Lord Hanuman, the monkey god. The temple was built in 20th century by Madan Mohan Malviya, a freedom fighter. This temple is famous for laddoo, a delicacy served to the devotees. While visiting the temple, you will most certainly spot a few monkeys. The best time to visit the temple is April, during the Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh music festival. This 88 years old tradition focuses on music and dance art forms of the land.
4. Assi Ghat
The name ‘Varanasi’ was derived by the flourishing River Assi of Banaras. This is Varanasi’s southernmost ghat on River Ganges. The Assi Ghat is located at the spot where Assi and River Ganges meet. A large Shiva Linga is erected under a large peepal tree. This site is considered as a sacred one. Watching sunset and sunrise across Ganges from Assi Ghat is a beautiful photogenic experience. Aarti in Assi Ghat takes place every morning. The best time to visit the ghat is during Shivratri (February or March). During festival times, the ghat region is filled with numerous tourism activities including hot-air ballooning, boat rides, and others.
5. New Vishwanath Temple, BHU
Very close to Assi Ghat, you will find the famous Banaras Hindu University. Inside the university, you will find the New Vishwanath Temple. The temple holds 9 shrines inside and is famous for the serenity and complete relaxing ambience. After the destruction of Kashi Vishwanath Temple, this replica was built in the mid-20th century. The temple is famous for numerous sculptures, marble carvings, Shikhara (tallest temple tower in the world), manicured green lawns, and others.
6. Tulsi Manas Temple
Built in 1964, this Ram temple is famous for Shikhara architecture and inscriptions of Ram Charit Manas on the temple walls. In the upper storey of the temple, you will find carvings of scenes from the mythology, Ramayan. The best time to visit this temple is during Saawan month (mid of July to mid of August). You will find puppet displays and special rituals during this auspicious month.
7. Durga Temple, Varanasi
It is hard to miss this dark red colored structure. Located on the banks of River Ganges, close to Durga Ghat, this temple (also called Durga Kund Mandir) is a famous 18th century structure dedicated to Goddess Durga. The temple is famous for Nagara style architecture, engraved stones, and carvings. The best time to visit this temple is during Navratri. Each day, special rituals and other performances take place during the 9 days of the festival. In general, Tuesdays are sacred and special in this temple.
8. Tibetan Temple, Varanasi
The temple gets its name from the Tibetan styled monastery architecture. This Buddhist temple is famous for the golden colored Shakyamuni idol in meditating position. The walls of this temple is filled with Thangka, a traditional Buddhist styled painting form. The prayer wheels in this temple dispense a sheet of prayers for the visitors to take part in the rituals. This temple is famous for its architectural beauty. This 20th century temple is located in the main market region of Sarnath. This temple is built as a tribute to the freedom fighter of Tibet.
9. Manikarnika Ghat
This is the ghat were cremation rituals take place. Varanasi is the destination believed to possess the power to send soul to heaven. Thus, every year, thousands of people reach Varanasi to spend their last years, or request to be cremated in Varanasi. You can go past the ghat on a boat to watch the ceremonies. Do not take pictures and make a vacation out of it. After all, it is the final ritual of someone loved by his family.
10. Nepali temple
Nepal temple or Shri Samrajewar Pashupatinath Mahadev Mandir is famous for its unique structure. This Temple gets its name from the replicating architecture of Pashupatinath Temple of Nepal. This stone-and-wooden temple was built in 19th century by the King of Nepal. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and is famous for the wood carvings, terracotta structures, and others. The wood in this temple is termite-proof. This temple is also called as Mini-Khajuraho, as the sculptures in the temple resemble the sculptures of Khajuraho group of monuments.
11. Kedar Ghat
Kedar Ghat is famous for Kedareshwar Temple, located closer to the ghat. This ghat is one of the oldest formed ghats, and the place is reserved for cleansing bath. People take a holy dip in the river at this ghat to cleanse any worldly sins from their soul. The place is famous for a spiritual look and beautiful ambiance. Every evening, an aarti similar to Ganga Aarti takes place in this ghat.
12. Batuk Bhairav Mandir
Varanasi is home to numerous religious cults and also the place for Aghoris and tantric followers. Batuk Bhairav temple is the main religious site for such worshippers. This temple holds a sacred Akhand Deep (a fire pit), which is said to be burning for centuries together. The oil of this lamp is believed to have healing powers. People lineup to get a drop of this oil for treating diseases, especially dog bite.There are no details about the era of construction of the temple but, it has been mentioned along with the history of Varanasi.
13. Banaras Hindu University
New Vishwanath Temple is not the only tourist attraction or beauty of BHU. This 20th century university was built by Madan Mohan Malviya, a freedom fighter. This is the largest university (residential campus) of Asia with more than 30,000 students inside the campus. The university is famous for the Indo-Gothic architecture, museums, art gallery, Kashi Kalash Foundation, temples, and many others inside it.
14. Bharat Mata Mandir
Varanasi is home to more than 3000 temples and the Bharat Mata Mandir is quite unique. This temple is dedicated to Mother India. The temple does not have any deities. The temple holds a large marble map with 3D features of landscape. This map has the boundaries of undivided India, as it was installed in 1936. The temple was inaugurated by the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. This is the only temple in the world, which is dedicated to a country.
15. Alamgir Mosque
Alamgir Mosque is one of the very few Islamic shrines in the city. This mosque was built in 17th century by Aurangzeb by destructing a Shiva Temple. This mosque is famous for the detailed carvings, and Indo-Islamic structure. This mosque has iconic Islamic features like high domes and minarets. This mosque is located on Panchganga Ghat.
Note : Only Islamic followers are allowed in this mosque
16. Shivala Ghat
The Shivala Ghat is famous for holding numerous monuments like Chet Singh Fortress, Sanjay Vikram mansion, and others. This ghat is famous for the grand view of River Ganges from the top of the stairs.
17. Ramnagar Fort
This is a 16th century historic fort built on the banks of River Ganges, right opposite to Tulsi Ghat. This fort was built with Mughal architecture by Raja Balwant Singh. This was the residence of the last king of Varanasi. Today, the descendants of the royal family, including the current king, Pelu Bhiru Singh live in this sandstone structure. If you visit during monsoon, you can enjoy a ferry ride to the fort from Dashashwamedh Ghat. It takes an hour to reach the fort from Varanasi via water.
The fort holds a small museum, Saraswati Bhawan in the place of the Durbar Hall of the fort. The museum holds collections like Vintage cars of USA, medieval dresses, ivory articles, palanquins, silver saddles for elephant, old guns from different parts of the world, swords, musical instruments, astronomical clock, and others.
18. Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum
This is an archeology and art museum with more than 10,000 artifacts of pottery, painting, sculptures, textile, and others. Most of the artifacts of this museum belong to the timeline between 1st century AD and 15th century AD. This museum is located inside BHU. Established in 1920, this museum is famous for holding many unique items like Pahari miniature painting, rare ivory collection, brocade textile, and others.
19. GyanVapi Well
This is a small well located inside the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The water in the well is said to be very holy, as it was the water from River Ganges, before it was polluted. When Aurangzeb attacked the temple, the head priest of the temple jumped into the well with the main deity to protect it. Today, this well is called as the well of knowledge.
20. Chunar Fort
This 11th century fort is famous for its architecture and history. This fort is located a little away from the main city of Varanasi. The fort is believed to be built before 56 BC, and reconstructed several times throughout the history. Today, you can spot large ramparts, citadel, quarries, engraved slabs, and others. Main structures to find in this fort are cannon mounted citadel, mansions, ancient hospital, state prison, underground dungeon, Sonwa Mandap pavilion, Bhartri Nath Samadhi, and others.
21. Vishwanath Gali
Vishwanath Gali is one of the busiest streets of Varanasi. This street is just 300 m from Dashashwamedh Ghat to Gyan Vapi Chowk. It was constructed in 18th century and today, it is an important shopping area in Varanasi. This is the right place to buy wooden toys, idols, books, religious items, incense, stone articles, copper articles, silk textile, and others.
22. Chinese Temple
The temple gets its name from the Chines architecture. This is a Buddhist temple famous for its colorful look. The temple has a large meditation hall, open to everyone. This temple is located, a little away from Varanasi, in Sarnath. The main idol of the temple is Lord Buddha in a sleeping posture. This idol is famous for its detailed beauty.
The ISKCON group has built Krishna temples around the country. The ISKCON temple of Varanasi was built in 1966, closer to BHU. Every Sunday, a feast is celebrated in the afternoon (winter) or evening (summer). Many religious programs will be conducted on Sunday evenings too. The temple is famous for its rituals, and beautiful architecture.
24. St. Mary's Church
This is one of the few churches of Varanasi. The St. Mary’s Church is more than 200 years old and is the oldest church of the city. This is also the oldest garrison church still in use in Southern Asia. Built by Reverend George Weatly, in 18th century, this church has a European styled architecture.
25. Sita Samahit Sthal
This is a Sita temple located, a little away from Varanasi. This temple is the place where Lord Sita was engulfed by Mother Earth. This temple was constructed in the end of 20th century. Today, it is an important pilgrimage and tourist site.
Apart from these, there are numerous other interesting tourist destinations in Varanasi like Scindia Ghat, Banaras Silk Emporium, Darbhanga Ghat, Chet Singh Ghat, Man Mandir, Annapurna Devi Mandir, Shri Kasi Vishalakshi Devi Temple, and others.