Prepare to be overwhelmed -- Varanasi sits on the Ganges, one of the cradles of Hindu civilization, offering travelers the best of India. Infused with religious passion, this is a city of great beauty, where ceremonies of life and death are the main attractions. It is impossible for Varanasi not to make an impression. Some leave astonished, others overawed, but all agree -- this is a city essential to any understanding of India. Do not fear Varanasi -- it welcomes travelers with open arms and some of the most hospitable Indian hostels.
The main attractions of Varanasi centre around the Ghats, so you’ll want to make sure your Varanasi hostel is located within walking distance to the main Ghats. Make sure to ask at your Varanasi hostel for Ghat recommendations, but most of your days will be filled simply exploring the backstreets and Ghats of Varanasi. Assi Ghat, one of the city’s largest Ghats, overflows with pilgrims worshiping the Hindu deity Shiva. In the evenings, this Ghat comes to life with pilgrims, music, and markets. The backstreets connecting the Ghats are an invaluable insight into the everyday life of Varanasi. While you will almost certainly have to avoid a passing cow, the backstreets offer markets selling every Hindu accessory available, Sadhus chanting Hindu prayers, and the aroma of tasty curries.
No doubt a highlight of Varanasi will be an early-morning river cruise. Almost all Varanasi hostels will be able to link you up with a boat driver. The dawn wake-up is soon forgotten, as you watch Varanasi come to life. With the sun rising over the Ganges, countless pilgrims come to immerse themselves in the holy waters of the Ganges. Others sit on her banks, engaging in yoga or offering prayers. Your Varanasi hostel will also be able to link you up with a driver to take you to some of the city’s outlying sights, including the elegant Vishwanath Temple and the Benares Hindu University. Also, your Varanasi hostel will likely have a contact to arrange transport to Sarnath, a nearby city where the Buddha preached thousands of years ago.
Varanasi dorms are usually available most of the year, but should your visit coincide with a key Hindu festival, early bookings are certainly recommended. Varanasi is a city where days can easily become weeks and your Varanasi hostel will soon become your own personal pilgrim home.
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