Stretching for 1,557 miles, the mighty Ganges River springs to life in the Himalaya and empties into the Bay of Bengal. This sacred river is one of the most fertile regions in India and is the lifeblood of the Indians who live alongside it. Rice and other crops provide essential food for the people of Bangladesh and India and on our River Ganges holidays you can watch people bathing in its waters, as they remember their ancestors and purify themselves. Seeing the swirl of colour along the River Ganges during morning prayers is a humbling experience and a sight to behold.
On our Ganges River trips we take a boat out on the water to witness the extraordinary spectacle on the ghats, the steps leading down to the river, as thousands of Hindu pilgrims bathe in the holy water. The river also flows through the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, Varanasi. The city has been a cultural and religious centre for Hinduism in northern India for thousands of years. As you explore the labyrinth of narrow streets and temples of the city, you’ll see religious elders, pilgrims and wandering holy men known as Sadhus.
Ganges River trips are a great way to delve deeper into the culture of South Asia and there’s plenty of time to visit the silk emporiums or try some authentic street food and sample the exotic and spicy flavours of a traditional Indian curry.
9 Daysfrom£ 1,095
Guided Group (Excl. Flights)
India's Golden Triangle plus the incredible city of Varanasi
Best Things to Do in Varanasi on River Ganges Holidays
Sunrise Boat Trip: Sailing out onto the River Ganges at dawn is a unique experience. As the morning sun casts a deep orange glow over the water and the morning mist rises, the ghats come alive with hundreds of pilgrims performing their religious rituals. As you watch people bathing, chanting, meditating and washing clothes, you begin to realise the importance of the Ganges. Cruise along the river and see of the most famous ghats such as Manikarnika, Dasaswamedh, Scindhia and Assi Ghat.
Shopping in Varanasi: The frenetic city of Varanasi, also known as Benares, runs along the banks of the River Ganges and is one of India’s most sacred cities in Hinduism. It’s believed that Varanasi was created by the Hindu God Shiva and it’s one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. But throughout the streets of Varanasi, you’ll also find a rich cultural centre and vibrant markets selling silk, muslin, perfumes and art. Some of the best markets for shopping are Thatheri Bazaar, Vishwanath Lane and Godowlia Market.
Visit the Temples: As a renowned pilgrimage site Varanasi is one of the most religious cities in India so visiting the temples should be high on your list of things to do here. Around every corner you’ll see an ancient temple with beautiful architecture. The most famous of all the temples is Kashi Vishwanath which was built in the mid-18th century and sits inside two golden domes. Other impressive temples worth seeing include Annapurna Temple, Durga Temple, Ankatha Temple and Bharat Mata Temple.
Watch Pilgrims Bathing in the Ganges: Providing the people of Varanasi with its vital lifeblood, the Ganges River is considered sacred in the Hindu religion. The holy waters attract pilgrims from across the globe who come and bathe here as it’s believed that by bathing in the water, you’ll purify your soul and wash away your sins. People also come to the Ganges to immerse their relative’s ashes in the water and end the cycle of reincarnation by sending the deceased to Moksha.
Attend an Evening Arti Ceremony: The Arti Ceremony takes place at the Ganges River in Varanasi and is a religious ceremony of light which is best witnessed from the Dasawamedh Ghat. This iconic performance features fire which is used as an offering to the goddess Maa Ganga. Hindu priests light large brass lamps as rituals comprising dance and religious chants take place and it’s believed that the lamps will absorb the blessing of Maa Ganga. This is one of the most spectacular and soul stirring ceremonies you’ll witness along the Ganges at Varanasi.
Try the Local Food: Varanasi is a dizzying maze of narrow lanes filled with traditional restaurants, street food stalls and tea stalls. Indian cuisine is vibrant and extremely diverse, and you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of choice there is here. Try varanasi Lassi, which is a sweet drink made with saffron, dried rose petals and pistachios and is a favourite with the locals in the city. But if you fancy something a little spicier to fill the hunger gap, try a choti kachori, a snack made with lentils and masala and wrapped inside a crispy outer layer.
This is the first time I had visited to India and gone solo on a group tour. It was life changing for me . The country was fantastic I felt if I went home on day 3 I would have been happy! Our group was fabulous and we have since met in London for a curry! The itinerary was busy but excellent covering the classic sights of northern India with the added extra of Varanasi which was so memorable riding down the Ganges at 6am, our guide Naveen was simply the best. Great company, funny, kind and kept up on track.
You have already seen that this is an excellent trip with a wide range of experiences that allow a real immersion in the local cultures. I will, therefore focus below on the optional elements of the excursion.
This trip far surpassed my expectations. Yes India is a noisy, crowded, chaotic and messy country but WOW it has so much to share. From historical sights to magical landscapes, alongside constant bombardment of exotic smells and people. I cannot recommend this trip enough. It has totally opened my eyes to how wonderful this country and its people are.