Located right in the middle of the Ganges Valley in the northern part of India lies Varanasi City, one of the oldest inhabited locations not only in India but also on earth. This is one location you need to visit for sure. The city lies in the Uttar Pradesh and is home to the district headquarters. At times referred to as Banares, the city also happens to be India’s spiritual capital and cultural center although most of its temples were destroyed around 12th century.
Geography and Climate
Varanasi aka Banares is located right in the Indo-Gangetic Plains that rarely experience flooding during the rainy season. It generally experiences humid sub-tropical type of climate characterized by extreme temperatures during winter and summer seasons. The summer period begins in early April to October and is usually long with intervening monsoon seasons. Temperatures do range between 22 and 45 degrees centigrade. Winter season begins in December and extends to February. Winter’s temperatures do go as below 5 degrees centigrade and the nights can be very cold.
How to Get There
There are several ways through which you can get to Varanasi. Being in other parts of India gives you the opportunity to reach the city either by train or bus. The city is well connected to cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Agra, Delhi and Lucknow (state capital) by daily passenger services. You may also opt to travel to the city by bus. Coming from an international destination means you have to travel by plane, in which case you are bound to arrive at the Varanasi International Airport located 25 kilometers from the city.
Getting around the city should not be a problem. Both cycle and auto rickshaws are readily available for local transport. You may also use the available taxis although heavy traffic jams are very common. You may also decide to rent a car from the many car rental company offices. Perhaps the best way to travel within and around the city is by foot. This will give you the best opportunity to sample of the city’s awesome features located within its alleys.
Things to Do
There is simply a lot that you will be able to indulge in when in the holy city. A dip in the sacred waters of the Ganges will perfectly be order. Although corpses floating on the water will certainly put you off, you will be surprised by the thousands of people (including tourists) who throng the waters edge just to bathe.
Another popular activity you will need to partake in will be to hike a boat ride from Dashashwamedh Ghat to Manikamika Ghat. The best times to ride is either early in the morning or late in the evening for a chance to witness cremations in progress. Note that Ghats are embankments along the river bank and are basically steps of stones. The city boats over eighty of such Ghats. Of these, Dashashwamedh located near Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the oldest. On the other hand, Manikamika Ghat is renowned for being the main cremation ground.
You may also opt to learn the Hindi language while in the city. This you can do from several locations including at the Hindi Language Center near Banaras Hindu University. A visit to Sanjeevani Booti will give you the opportunity to volunteer as a teacher and offer lessons about HIV/AIDS, sexual health and health education amongst other topics.
What to See
Unlike in other tourist locations you may have visited, Banares is not endowed with many tourist attractions. Lack of the same is however made up for by the spectacular life and death experiences you are bound to see on the river banks. Physically, there are notable buildings you will need to sample while meandering through the city’s alleys.
Although security can at times be tight, a visit to Vishwanath Temple will be worth your time. Otherwise referred to as the Golden Temple, this is one of the oldest temples in India that has been re-built several times after being destroyed. Note that you are not permitted to enter the precincts of the temple with pens, notebooks and cellphones amongst other gadgets.
The Kaal Bhairav Temple is a must visit location while on a visit to the city. It is hear that you will see the dreadful symbol of Lord Shiva that signifies death. You will be obligated to buy a black thread that you will keep in the shrine before wearing around your neck or arm to protect yourself against evil spirits.
Apart from temples, one place you will like to visit is Banaras Hindu University. Otherwise referred to as the Oxford of the East, the university was built several decades ago and is so far the largest residential university in Asia. Within the university is the Bharat Bhavan Museum that you will also need to visit.
Banaras boasts of varied accommodation facilities. Interestingly, most of hotels in Varanasi are located near the Ghats for the convenience of tourists.
India’s most holy city certainly awaits you for a spectacular life experience that you certainly cannot find anywhere else. Apart from the unique experiences, you are certainly bound to benefit from the low expenses when it comes to shopping. Note that it is in the city where you will find the finest silk.