23 Fun and Thrilling Things to Do in Varanasi, India| 2024 (with Photos)

Lara Mega

Lara Mega - Head of Content

Last Updated: March 12, 2024

Hey! How's it going? I'm Lara, and with my extensive experience in Varanasi, India, I've curated a list of 23 fun and thrilling things to do in this captivating city, complete with photos. Plan your trip in advance and make the most of your visit to Varanasi - I hope you have an unforgettable time!

Varanasi, India

One of the world's oldest cities and India's spiritual capital, Varanasi is a favorite of travelers looking for a true taste of Indian culture. Hindu pilgrims travel to this holy city in Uttar Pradesh. 

With its rich history and culture, there are many things to do in Varanasi that will leave you feeling exhilarated.

Everyone can find something to do in Varanasi, from discovering the local street food culture to visiting the most famous temples in Varanasi.

There are many tourist attractions and places to visit in this city to choose from, whether you're traveling alone or with family.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

Ganga Aarti.

Top Choice Hotel

Taj Nadesar Palace

Our Top Choice Restaurant


Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

Arambol Axe Bar.

Best Time to Visit

October to March - beautiful weather, festive atmosphere.

Average Temperature

Hot summer and mild winter in Varanasi, India.

Transportation Options

Rickshaws, boats, bicycles, taxis, buses - Varanasi India.

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

Varanasi is a city unlike any other, where spirituality and culture merge into an enchanting experience. One of my top recommendations for spending time in this incredible destination is to witness the mesmerizing Ganga Aarti ceremony at Dashashwamedh Ghat. As the sun begins to set, the riverbanks come alive with music, chants, and the flickering of countless oil lamps. The sight of priests gracefully performing rituals, the scent of incense filling the air, and the twinkling reflections on the sacred waters of the Ganges create a truly awe-inspiring atmosphere. It's a moment of tranquility that connects you to the ancient traditions and profound spirituality of India.

Another highlight of Varanasi is exploring the narrow winding lanes of the old city, known as the Kashi Vishwanath Temple area. Here, I recommend getting lost amidst the captivating chaos of vibrant shops, bustling markets, and exquisite local street food stalls. Surrendering to the maze-like streets, you'll stumble upon hidden gems like hidden courtyards, beautifully adorned temples, and interact with friendly locals embracing their everyday rituals. It's an adventure filled with vibrant colors, enticing aromas, and the genuine warmth of the people, allowing you to immerse yourself in the authentic lifestyle of Varanasi.

What You'll Need to Bring

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Lightweight and breathable clothing
  • Sunscreen and a hat
  • Insect repellent
  • Water bottle
  • Portable charger for your electronics
  • Cash (preferably in smaller denominations)
  • Camera or smartphone for capturing memories
  • Travel adapter for charging your devices
  • International travel insurance for peace of mind

What Not to Miss

  1. Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat
  2. Visiting the ancient Kashi Vishwanath Temple
  3. Boat ride on the holy Ganges River
  4. Exploring the narrow lanes of the Old City
  5. Witnessing the mesmerizing evening Ganga Aarti at Assi Ghat
  6. Sarnath, the place where Buddha gave his first sermon
  7. Taking part in a spiritual yoga or meditation session
  8. Trying local street food like kachori, lassi, and chaat
  9. Shopping for silk sarees and other handicrafts
  10. Visiting the ghats during sunrise or sunset for breathtaking views

What to Avoid

Scams, beggars, loud music, aggressive touts, street food sold by unhygienic vendors, overcrowded markets, and unlicensed tour guides.

1. Early Morning Boat Ride in the Ganges River

Early Morning Boat Ride in the Ganges River

Varanasi, located in the Uttar Pradesh state, is home to the holy river Ganges, or Gana in Hindi, which is considered sacred by Hindus worldwide. 

Book a sunrise boat ride if you want to fully appreciate this ancient city's spiritual and serene atmosphere.

As you sail along the Ganges, you'll see people bathing and praying at the Ghats, which are steps that lead to the river. You will also witness the stunning sunrise over the river - an experience that will stay with you forever.

A visit to the Holy Ganges River is one of the best things to do in Varanasi.

2. Discover the Varanasi Temples

Discover the Varanasi Temples

The most popular temples in India are found in Varanasi, the nation's spiritual capital, making it one of the things to do in Varanasi for anybody seeking enlightenment.

One of the best things to do in Varanasi, whether you're a Hindu or a tourist trying to learn about the local culture, is to visit well-known temples.

Check out the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the Tulsi Manas Temple, and the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple. Each temple has its unique history and significance.

3. Explore the Ghats and Learn About Lord Brahma

Explore the Ghats and Learn About Lord Brahma

Exploring the Ghats, multiple sets of stairs leading to the River Ganges, is one of the most traditional things to do in Varanasi.

A notable Ghat is the Manikarnika Maha Shamshan Ghat, which according to folklore, received the blessing of everlasting peace from Lord Shiva.

You can also visit the Munshi Ghat, which was named after the former Finance Minister of Nagpur, Sridhara Narayana Munshi.

Or, visit Dashashwamedh Ghat (Dasaswamedh Ghat). According to legend, Lord Brahma built this Ghat to welcome Lord Shiva, making it an important place of spiritual and religious significance.

The famous Ghats are the ideal location for absorbing the local culture and traditions while taking in stunning views of the river and the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

4. Attend The Evening Aarti Ceremony at the Ganges River

Attend The Evening Aarti Ceremony at the Ganges River

Every day at dusk, the Ganga Aarti ceremony is performed at the river. Visitors are welcome to observe this powerful spectacle. You can observe locals chanting prayers to appease the River Goddess.

Attending the evening Aarti ceremony along the Ganges River is one of the things to do in Varanasi, the holy city of India.

The celebration, which takes place at Varanasi's main Ghats, is a stunning sight, as worshippers chant prayers, light lamps, and float flowers in the sacred river. There is a sense of spiritual energy and commitment in the air.

The Ganges River is truly one of the most mesmerizing places to visit in Varanasi and a must-see experience for anyone seeking a glimpse into the cultural and religious aspects of the holy city.

5. Visit The Tulsi Ghat

Visit The Tulsi Ghat

One of Varanasi's most tranquil and calm ghats, Tulsi Ghat is located along the Ganges River. It bears the name of the eminent poet Tulsidas, the author of the Ramcharitmanas.

For anyone looking to spend some quiet time away from the bustle of the city, this ghat is ideal. A boat ride is for touring the Tulsi Ghat, and it is advised to do so in order to see the area.

Visitors can take a swim in the revered river, see the spellbinding Ganga Aarti, and see the historic temple architecture in the area.

6. Go to See the Raj Ghat

Go to See the Raj Ghat

A lesser-known destination called Raj Ghat is close to Varanasi and can be reached by car in around 30 minutes.

Both the enormous fort and the temple at the location provide a window into the region's rich history and culture.

For those who want to explore Varanasi and its surroundings' lesser-known historical places, it is the perfect spot to go.

7. Stroll Around The Manikarnika Ghat

Stroll Around The Manikarnika Ghat

You should make sure to stop at the Manikarnika Ghat when you are in Varanasi. This Ghat is noteworthy to many Hindus since it is one of the major cremation sites in the holy city.

The Dashashwamedh Ghat and the Scindia Ghat surround this Ghat, which is situated next to the Ganges River.

Visitors will gain insight into Hindu traditions and beliefs around death and the afterlife by taking a tour around this Ghat.

Visitors can see the funeral rites of their loved ones being performed in the gloomy yet spiritual environment

8. Visit The Mata Anandamai Ghat

Visit The Mata Anandamai Ghat

One of the popular ghats in India's Varanasi is named Mata Anandamayi or Mata Anandamai.

This Ghat bears Mata Anandamai's name, a revered saint. It is regarded as one of Varanasi's calmest and most spiritual ghats.

Devotees come to the ghat to pray to the goddess Ganga and take a bath in the Ganges River. Additionally, it is a fantastic location to view the river Ganges at sunrise and sunset.

9. Take a Holy Bath in The Divine River Ganges

Take a Holy Bath in The Divine River Ganges

In Varanasi, one of the most important spiritual experiences is taking a holy bath in the Ganges River.

It is thought that the river's holy waters can cleanse one's soul and wash away sins.

To take a bath in the Ganges, many pilgrims from all over the world travel to Varanasi. The experience is truly transformative and is a must-do when in Varanasi.

As one of the places to visit in Varanasi, the city has many Ghats, such as Assi Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat, and Dashashwamedh Ghat, where one can take a holy bath in the Ganges.

10. Witness The Entire Life-Death Cycle on Ghats

Witness The Entire Life-Death Cycle on Ghats

One of the unique things to do in Varanasi is to witness the entire life-death cycle on the major Ghats, which are a series of steps leading down to the Ganges River.

Most Varanasi Ghats, from the Assi Ghat to the Dasaswamedh Ghat, are places for both the living and the dead.

Numerous rituals, such as morning yoga, religious offerings, and cremations, are visible to visitors. One of the most moving things to do in Varanasi is to watch life and death play out on the Ghats.

It's a surreal experience to witness the circle of life and death happening simultaneously. When you visit Varanasi, explore its Ghats because you can see the cycle of life and death.

11. Attend The Maha Shivaratri

The Maha Shivaratri

The Maha Shivaratri is an annual Hindu event held between February and March to commemorate the god Shiva.

This day is known as the "Dark Night" and it is held on the fourteenth day of the dark (waning) half of the Hindu lunar month of Phalguna or Magha.

To celebrate this event and take a bath in the sacred Ganges, many believers travel to Varanasi. The city is renowned for hosting a lavish Maha Shivaratri event.

12. Visit The Mrityunjay Mahadev Temple

Mrityunjay Mahadev Temple

One of the most widely recognized temples in the state of Uttar Pradesh is the holy city of Varanasi called the Mrityunjay Mahadev Temple.

This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, also known as the Lord Mahadev, meaning the god triumphant over death.

Visitors to Varanasi can enjoy the complex architecture of the temple, as well as the extensive rituals and spiritual significance of the place.

The temple offers a calm and serene setting that enables devotees and guests to communicate with the divine and encounter India's cultural and spiritual essence.

13. Visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Lord Shiva

Visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Lord Shiva

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple or the Golden Temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

The temple is renowned for its magnificence, fine sculptures, and spiritual significance.

This shrine was lavishly endowed with gold by Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, which only served to enhance its charm and splendor.

Tourists in Varanasi should visit this temple because it is one of the best things to do in Varanasi.

This Temple is a cultural and architectural wonder as well as a spiritual and religious destination that is well worth visiting.

14. Learn The Ramayana Teachings at Tulsi Manas Mandir

Learn The Ramayana Teachings at Tulsi Manas Mandir

Lord Rama is honored at the Tulsi Manas Temple in Varanasi.

It is thought that the temple was erected on the spot where the great Indian epic Ramcharitmanas, written by Tulsidas, was originally authored.

The temple is renowned for its stunning marble construction, and via its numerous inscriptions and murals, visitors can learn about the Ramayana's philosophical lessons.

It is among the places to visit for both visitors and residents and is a must-see location for anyone interested in the Hindu religion and mythology.

15. Spend Some Time at Banaras Hindu University (BHU)

Banaras Hindu University (BHU)

The Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Varanasi is a place to visit because of its lovely gardens and magnificent buildings.

The Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum, which has a sizable collection of Indian art, and the New Vishwanath Temple, a duplicate of the original Kashi Vishwanath Temple, are two of the university's prominent attractions.

Visitors at BHU can take advantage of the university's cultural activities, workshops, and lectures to learn more about Indian heritage and culture.

BHU is a must-visit location for everyone interested in learning about education, culture, and history while exploring the things to do in Varanasi.

16. Satiate Your Taste Buds with Authentic Banarasi Street Food and Drinks

Authentic Varanasi Street Food

Don't pass up the opportunity to sample the city's delectable and authentic street food when you visit Varanasi.

There are many options to please your palate, from chaat to lassi, kachori, and jalebi.

One of the things to do in Varanasi is to try street food, which provides a chance to learn about the local way of life and cuisine.

17. Visit The Dhamek Stupa

Dhamek Stupa

For Buddhists, the Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath, Varanasi, is a magnificent building of tremendous significance.

This enormous stupa is situated at the Sarnath archaeological site, northeast of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

It is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites, as it is believed to be the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment.

Numerous scenes from the Buddha's life are depicted in the intricate carvings and sculptures that adorn the stupa.

Visitors can explore the ancient stupas and monasteries' remains to learn more about the area's rich Buddhist heritage.

18. Cross the Ganges River via the Malviya Bridge

Cross the Ganges River via the Malviya Bridge

The Malviya Bridge is an iconic landmark to see when you visit Varanasi. It links the cities of Varanasi and Ramnagar by crossing the Ganges River.

A thrilling experience that offers breathtaking views over the river and the surroundings is crossing the bridge on foot or in a car.

Visitors have the option of taking a boat ride to view the bridge and its stunning design from the water.

One of the many amazing things to do in Varanasi, whether you cross the bridge or see it from a distance, is this must-see attraction.

19. Visit The Annapurna Temple

Annapurna Temple

In Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, there is a revered Hindu shrine called the Annapurna shrine. The goddess Annapurna, who is revered as the patroness of nourishing foods, is the focus of the temple.

One of the most well-known Hindu temples, it draws many devotees from all over the world.

The temple is a stunning example of traditional Indian architecture, and the detailed carvings and sculptures are a visual delight.

For anybody visiting Varanasi, the temple is a must-see because of the serene and tranquil aura that permeates the interior.

20. Go See Tibetan Temple

Tibetan Temple

For those who are interested in Buddhism, a must-visit location is the Tibetan temple, which is situated near Varanasi's historic city of Sarnath.

At this temple, it is thought that Buddha taught his followers the four fundamental truths of existence.

It is peaceful to visit this temple because of the vibrant prayer flags that flutter in the breeze and the calm surroundings.

Intricate carvings and murals that showcase Buddhist art and culture adorn the temple.

It is the ideal location for spiritual seekers because guests are welcome to attend the prayer and meditation sessions that are held here.

21. Take a Sunset Stroll Along The River Ganga

River Ganga

A soothing activity for anyone visiting the holy city of Varanasi is to stroll along the Holy River Ganga at sunset.

The experience is both calming and breathtaking due to the tranquil ambiance and breathtaking view of the setting sun.

You may watch the villagers' everyday routines and activities as you stroll down the riverbank and take in the captivating aarti ceremony that takes place at the several ghats each evening.

The mood is definitely unique because of the soft air of the river and the sound of the water.

22. Visit The Ramnagar Fort

Ramnagar Fort

King Raja Balwant Singh built the stunning Ramnagar Fort in Varanasi in the 18th century. The fort, which has a breathtaking view of the Ganges, is located on the river's eastern bank.

The red sandstone fort features a fusion of Indian and Mughal architectural designs. It is the ideal location for learning about Varanasi's past rulers.

Inside the fort is a museum where a variety of antique weapons, royal costumes, and cars are on show.

23. Visit the Durga Temple

Durga Temple

In Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India, there is a renowned Hindu temple called the Durga Temple that honors the goddess Durga.

It is thought that making a pilgrimage to this temple and praying to the goddess can enable followers to experience success, prosperity, and happiness in life.

The temple's walls are decorated with exquisite carvings and lovely murals that combine elements of North Indian and South Indian architecture.

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FAQs About Things to Do in Varanasi

Let's take a look at some frequently asked questions about places to visit in Varanasi.

What should we not miss in Varanasi?

When visiting Varanasi, there are several things to do that you should not miss, such as seeing the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, watching the evening Aarti ceremony, touring the renowned Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum, and admiring the Varanasi Ghats.

How can I spend 2 days in Varanasi?

To make the most out of 2 days in Varanasi, you can take a sunrise boat ride to make visiting temples in this ancient city faster and easier. In 2 days, you can visit the temples of several Hindu or Buddhist deities, and explore the sacred river to experience the spiritual atmosphere of India's spiritual capital.

What are the famous sites in Banaras?

Banaras is famous for the spectacular Banaras Hindu University, the River Ganges, and the Tulsi Manas Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Rama and an important pilgrimage site for Hindus.

What are some things Varanasi is famous for?

Varanasi is famous for its ancient history, spiritual significance, Buddhist monuments, the Ganga Aarti ceremony, Bathing Ghats, Praying Ghats, Cremation sites, exquisite silk fabrics, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Lord Shiva, the Holy Ganges River, and local street food.

Summing Up: Fun and Thrilling Things to Do in Varanasi, India

Varanasi is a city that never ceases to enchant you with its allure and personality. There are several things to do in Varanasi, India, so you'll never lack things to do.

For example, you can explore Varanasi to learn about Hindu mythology and visit holy cities where the physical and spiritual worlds meet.

Enjoy local street food and go on an early morning boat ride to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and visit Varanasi's most famous temples.

Why then wait? Make travel arrangements right away for a Varanasi trip.