48 Hours in Varanasi, India

Situated on the banks of the Ganges, Varanasi is considered as the holiest of the seven sacred cities in India, and is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Our suggested itinerary is designed to show you the best the city has to offer and what are the things you can accomplish in 48 hours. If you plan to do the Golden Triangle Tour of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and you have a 2 days to spare, then a trip to Varanasi is a fantastic addition.

Things to consider before travelling to India:

Language – India is a vast country which resulted to a number of different languages spoken by its people. However, the official language in India is Hindi.  English is taught in schools and is widely used in the country, so do not worry about not knowing local phrases or words. It is, however, recommended to learn some Hindi or dialects specific to that region if you are heading towards rural areas.

Currency exchange – The official currency of India is the rupee (INR). Exchanging money in India is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Asia. Currency can be changed at banks, airports, authorized money changers and some hotels. Credit cards are accepted in major cities and ATMs are widely available. The best way to get local currency is to use the ATM and withdraw in rupees to get the best rate.

Indian Rupee bills
Indian Rupee bills

Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for India. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. It is safe to travel in the country. However, it requires special preparations, research and practices, especially for women. India is very traditional and the attitude towards women are not really the best in this side of the planet. When traveling to India, be cautious, use common sense but do not appear fearful.

Indian cuisine and food safety – Indian cuisine is very diverse. However, the staple diet in India consists of rice, atta or whole wheat flour, different pulses such as dals and vegetables. Regarding food safety, it is recommended not to eat salads and cut fresh fruits. Eat only unpeeled fruits. Only eat freshly cooked food from a restaurant with high turnover. Most importantly, do not eat from vendors on the street.

Clothing – There’s no need for a foreigner to feel obligated to dress in traditional Indian clothing. Modesty is the key in India. For women, avoid revealing clothes so you won’t get unwanted attention. Jeans and shorts not higher than mid calf, knee-length skirts partnered with T-shirts or blouse are acceptable. For men, loose cotton shirts, T-shirts and pants are okay. Lastly, while visiting places of worship, you should be fully clothed. Don’t forget to remove your footwear before entering a temple and mausoleum.

Getting to Varanasi – There are plenty of ways to get Varanasi from Agra, but the overnight trains are the most popular.   Remember to book well in advance to avoid disappointment and to get the best deal. For tickets and train schedule, visit www.indianrail.gov.in or www.erail.in.

Where to stay – Due to its popularity among visitors worldwide, India has heaps of accommodation to suit every pocket, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. To help you decide on the best place to stay, it is recommended to do a bit of prior research so you won’t land in the wrong part of this city. The areas of Daswasamedh Ghat or Gowdhulia Ghat offer many budget friendly guesthouses, whilst Cantonment area offers most of the high end hotels.

Hotels to consider in Varanasi:

Brijrama Palace (Near Dashaswamedh, Varanasi 221001, India)

The Gateway Hotel Ganges Varanasi (Nadesar Palace Grounds | Cantonment, Varanasi 221002, India)

Hotel Buddha (Ramkatora Lahurabir C – 26/35 | Near Lahurabir Crossing, Behind Lahurabir Petrol Pump, Varanasi 221001, India)

Hotel Ideal Tower (The Mall Road | Cantonment, Varanasi 221002, India)

Hotel Alka (Meer Ghat D 3/23 | Dashashwamedh, Varanasi 221001, India)

Day by Day Itinerary: 48 Hours in Varanasi, India

Day 1

On your first day, take in a few of Varanasi’s most famous attractions and get an introduction to Hindu culture and rituals. A tour of Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the most famous Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a great way to get acquainted with the city.  Located at the western bank of the holy river Ganges, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is considered to be the center of Hindu worship. We recommend joining a guided tour to get an insider’s look at the religious sites where thousands of devotees from all across the world make a pilgrimage to each year. On the way to the temple, you will pass by Vishwanath Gali (Lane), filled with stores and shops. Grab some lunch at The Great Kabab Factory in Radisson Hotel Varanasi. This Kabab restaurant is famous for its extensive selection of  kabab dishes for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Not to be missed are their signature kababs like the Burrah, Galauti and Biryani, with a fantastic addition of Indian breads and the best of seasonal vegetables and desserts.

Varanasi temples, India
View on old temples from a boat on the Ganges River in Varanasi.

In the afternoon, make your way to some of  Varanasi’s ghats. The Ghats are series of stone steps in Varanasi leading to the holy river of Ganges. The are almost 100 ghats in the city, most of them are used for bathing and puja ceremonies and some of them are used exclusively as cremation grounds.  Dashashwamedh Ghat  is considered as the main ghat in Varanasi. Manikarnika Ghat, on the other hand, is the biggest of Varanasi’s two cremation grounds. If you’re lucky, you would be able to watch the rituals carried out for the dead.

Varanasi ghats, India
View of the ghats from river Ganges

Day 2

Indian kachauri
Kachori or Kachauri or Kachodi or Katchuri is a spicy snack popular in india

Get set to experience the glories of Ganges on an early morning boat ride. Watch as hundreds of devotees come to the holy waters to offer their prayers. Listen to their chants as you wait for the sun to reveal its immense glory. Then, have a filling breakfast at one of the restaurants along the Ganges or head to Kachauri Gali for the delicious Kachauri. Make sure not to come too late before the Gali transforms to Vishwanath Gali. After breakfast, make your way to  the Ramnagar Fort and Museum ( Kila Road, Ramnagar Crossing, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221008, India), just  opposite of Tulsi Ghat. This 17th century Mughal-style fort was constructed to be the home of the Maharaja of Varanasi. Spend the afternoon at Sarnath, some 10 kilometers out of Vanaranasi and is a famous Buddhist pilgrim site.

Sarnath temples, India
Tourists, pilgrims and cyclists going past famous Buddhist temple Mulagandhakuti Vihara. Sarnath is where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma at 500 BC

This is the end of our 48-hour suggested itinerary. The sequence of activities and attractions above are just a guide and you can definitely change it to suit your interests. Enjoy Varanasi!

Have you been to Varanasi or anywhere else in India? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.

backpacking, City exploring, History, India

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