After visiting the small but flirtatious city of Bundi, we spent the night in Jaipur, in order to catch a flight to Varanasi in the early morning of the next day. We had many Looking forward to visits and see Benares, the oldest city in the world for Hinduists. That city where the dead are cremated in the Ganges River in view of tourists and family, where Yoga merges with stress, and scammers mingle with the most religious.
We got up very soon since we had the flight to Varanasi at 06:30 a.m. At that time there was no one through the bustling streets of the capital of Rajasthan, so we soon arrived at the airport. After 5 hours of delay our plane took off (here you can learn more about: internal flights in India) to the "other world", to the world of the god Shiva.
Finally we arrived to the airport where there was a man waiting for us with a sign that said "Miguel." Without barely speaking, we headed to his car, I imagine that he would not have liked the 5 hours of delay and waiting.
Varanasi received us with 2 hours of traffic lights, beeps and cars, motorcycles, tuk-tuks and cows that collapsed the city. The driver dropped us off at our hotel (Hotel Heritage Inn), around 2pm.
2 days in Varanasi
First of all, I'm going to tell you what it is what we did in Varanasi in 2 days, in case it helps you to plan your trip.
- Stroll around Varanasi.
- Try a thali, typical Indian dish.
- Visit Assi Ghant and his ceremony.
- Boat trip on the Ganges river.
- Visit the University of Varanasi.
- Get to know stores and buy textiles.
- Eat overlooking the city.
- Visit the ghat of Dasaswamedh.
- Snack at the Blue Lassi.
Stroll around Varanasi
Once we left our bags at the hotel, we changed and we went out to the street for a "reconnaissance lap". Typically when you arrive at a completely new place and "you don't know what to do."
With the difference that we did know what to do, see the ceremony or bid on the river known as “ganga aarti”. But first of all we stopped to eat in an alley that overlooked the Assi ghat .
We ate a thali and a plate of pasta, spicy, of course. I have to admit that I am not a fan of thalis, too sour, intense and spicy flavors. Of course, it is worth trying, at least for the photo.
With a somewhat fuller belly, and with a mind to arrive at 19:00 pm at the ceremony, we decided to wander. Go from one place to another, aimlessly, and meaningless. Just watching the locals, tourists (mostly Indians), and of course, the ghats, the city's main attraction.
To consider: to wander around it is best to do it for the ghats and not inside the city, which doesn't have much to see or do. Life is centered on that kind of "promenade" that communicates the ghats and runs along the riverbank.
Time to sit on the stairs of one of the ghats, and take pictures. Observe how the locals bathe in the river, the monkeys roam freely next to the cows by the stairs of the ghats, or as the pollution and smoke of the cremations prevents to see more than 200 meters.
The ghats ceremony
At 7:00 p.m. we approach one of the most famous ghats in all of Varanasi: Assi ghat. We sat back, but the person in charge of directing the ceremony put us in the front row, so as not to lose detail of the (free) show on the banks of the Ganges River.
It lasts 1 hour and consists of a ceremony where several men, Hindus, get on a kind of pedestals, and begin to make a kind of dance and movements with fire, incense and songs to mother Ganga.
While they make this offering, the master of ceremonies controls the times, and even goes to the spectators, sitting just behind to ask for their collaboration. From ringing a small bell, to clapping and motivating them.
At the end of the show, people go to the river, to leave candles and flowers. This is when you have to be careful because vendors (usually children) come into play to scam you and sell this "offering" to the river.
Boat trip on the ghats
Is the most tourist you can do in Varanasi, but it's really worth it, really.
We had already hired this excursion with the initial package of Mahendra Tour, our private driver in India, but if you haggle well, the boat ride will not be more than 100 rupees per person.
We got up early, to be at 09:00 am on the way to the boat, where we would go with a family of North Americans, and another family of Indian tourists. Trip does not last more than 1 hour, and it is usually done early in the morning to avoid fog and hustle.
The boat trip, as I said, is worth it. Know the ghats from another perspective, with a much wider view to see the dimension and scope of them. The little boat He took us north, going through several ghats where they were doing cremations, standing at a distance, so we could see it, but without taking pictures. We watched as the older people cleaned themselves in the river, from lathering, to brushing their teeth, while the younger ones had fun with the water.
Do you see the dead in Ganges river?
The million dollar question.
If you want to see them, you will find them. Whether you are looking for ghats where they are doing cremations, as if you have the chance to find a "poor cremation" where they directly throw the dead into the sea, unable to afford an incineration.
We did not directly see the body of any dead, but neither did we intend. Yes, we saw enough dead people wrapped and covered with flowers. Both in the ghats themselves being cremated while we were taking a boat ride, as well as in the streets of Vanarasi where relatives take the dead, wrapped in flowers, singing, to the river.
University of Varanasi
We had a visit to the University of Varanasi, a reference in the country, and with a temple to the god Shiva inside. Well then not worth this visit. Do not waste your time.
The temple on the outside is beautiful, on the inside There's nothing to see. And the University, little thing. Very quiet streets, located in an upper class area, far from the true life of Varanasi. In addition, you will have to go by car.
We left, heading to the ghats, for a walk.
Get to know stores and buy textiles
Another tourist, but how well exploited it can be interesting and useful. I explain. Taking a walk through the ghats, an Indian merchant approached us Talking with a perfect Andalusian. As they do there, so as not to be too direct with the sale, they start to be interested in your life, travel, etc., with the aim that you end up buying something.
We knew it, but since we had nothing to do, we gave ball. We take this opportunity to ask you absolutely everything that occurred to us or we didn't understand, while we were taking a walk through the ghats.
For example, did you know that 700 grams of the flesh of the dead are not thrown into the river without burning it? that bodies float, and it is possible to find them if you take a boat ride on the river, or that more than 70% of the population do not take the Hindu religion seriously, but instead do it by tradition, hence there are many scams .
In the end, for price, curiosity and gratitude we agreed to go to your textile store, located in the Mongolian neighborhood of Varanasi. The prices were great, so we bought the odd thing.
Eat with city views
On the way back, looking for a place to eat, We met 3 very nice Spaniards, in our same situation. Their names: Nani, Edu Y Ruben, this last successful Youtuber, better known as Lethal Crisis.
We decided to go to eat together at a restaurant with a terrace with incredible views of the city and the ghats. By the way, you can see the views in Ruben's video at 06:20, and then see me, in the background, at 07:05 on the way to Dasaswamedh's ghat, I'm famous! 😛
After eating, we went through this ghat to see the show. Is Varanasi's second most famous ghat, much bigger and spectacular than the ghat of Assi.
Personally, I liked Assi's much more, being more "familiar" and intimate. Matter of tastes. We, as we had already lived, and in the foreground, take the opportunity to take pictures, and be more aware of the environment, than the ceremony.
Snack at the Blue Lassi
It is another tourist, but very fun. A small place in the middle of the streets, full of young people, and with a delicious milkshake selection made by hand, in front of you. A show.
To keep in mind: Blue Lassi has become very fashionable by tourists, so there are many imitations. You have to make sure you go to the original, the authentic one, which is here: CK 12/1 Kunj Gali, Kachaudi Gali, Near Rajbandhu, Govindpura, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001, India.
We take advantage to rest, sing and dance the Gangnam Style with some Korean tourists, and dance the Little with what looked like the son of the owner of the premises. While we savored a handmade product, and never better.
Where to dine in Varanasi
The dinner was still missing. Our choice was: Brown Bread Bakery, a local very cool and with a lot of roll, where you had to take off your shoes to sit and eat in the padded armchairs.
Live music, a very international environment where giant tables were shared among all tourists and allows disconnecting from the noise and stress of the streets of Varanasi.
Our hours in the sacred city of the Ganges River were running out, we played one last walk before say goodbye to Varanasi, since the next day in the morning we had flight to Delhi.