Intoxicating, intense and occasionally overwhelming, Varanasi is one of India’s holiest cities, ‘older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend’ as Mark Twain put it. For thousands of years, Hindu pilgrims have come to this spot on the banks of the sacred Ganges to take part in rituals of life and death, hoping to be released from the eternal cycle of rebirth.
The main focus of activity is the ghats, the steep steps down to the water’s edge that line the banks for several miles. Here, in the designated section, you’ll find crowds of people washing away their sins, sadhus in saffron-coloured robes meditating, priests performing pujas and families cremating their dead. In the warren of narrow lanes behind, amid a jumble of temples and peeling palaces, there’s a constant coming and going. The scent of sandalwood, jasmine and incense hangs in the air, along with the sound of chanted mantras, clanging temple bells and the eerie cry of conch shell horns, broken by the occasional screech of monkeys stealing from the food stalls.
Make sense of this extraordinary ancient city with the help of our Varanasi gurus who can arrange immersive tours led by local guides.
Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Malcolm, who's travelled extensively in India. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember.
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