On an extraordinary 2-night tour of Varanasi, discover the spiritual pilgrimage sites along the Ghats of this fascinating city and the neighboring Sarnath. Fly from New Delhi and join your guide for a tour by water and land, including airport arrival and departure transfers. Enjoy two nights' accommodation at a hotel in Varanasi with breakfast.
Day 1: New Dehli – Varanasi
After morning pickup from your hotel in New Delhi, you’ll be transferred to the airport for your flight to Varanasi. Upon arrival, your friendly driver will greet you and transport you to your Varanasi hotel.
In the evening, before touring the Ghats of Varanasi, receive a tour briefing from your expert guide, who will inform you about the days ahead. Then, get acquainted with this ancient city, which has been a magnet for enlightened beings and spiritual seekers for millennia. Begin with a guided tour of the Ghats -- a series of steps leading to the holy river -- and observe sages of the Hindu and Jain faiths as they meditate and teach on the banks of the Ganges.
Hear the legends of Lord Shiva, one of the three great gods of the Hindu tradition, who chose Varanasi to be his home. You’ll see devotees bathing in the Ganges, considered one of the most auspicious experiences of the Hindu faith, and learn about the dead who receive salvation as they are cremated on the sacred steps leading to the riverbank.
Overnight: Rivitas Hotel in Varanasi
Day 2: Varanasi (B)
In the early morning, embark on a boat ride on the Ganges River and witness a magnificent scene as hundreds of devout Varanasi pilgrims wade into the cool waters, just as they have every morning since ancient times. Watch devotees chant and pray while others offer the holy water of the river to the rising sun – an unforgettable experience!
After taking in these rituals, disembark for a short walk through the buzzing lanes of Varanasi’s old city. Along narrow passageways, pass bazaars that cater to the millions of pilgrims who come here to worship Kashi Vishwanath, the patron deity of Varanasi. The gold-covered temple where the deity resides is closed to non-Hindus, but the streets surrounding it are a fascinating mix of commerce and faith.
After returning to the hotel for breakfast, take a guided excursion to Sarnath, located just 6 miles (10 km) from Varanasi. Travel to Deer Park, where the Buddha preached his first sermon to five disciples, and witness some of the thousands of annual Buddhist pilgrims who travel from around the world to pay their respects at the ancient monuments.
Visit the towering Dhamek Stupa, which marks the location of a once-resplendent monastery, and see a newer monastery that was built by the Buddhist Maha Bodhi Society. Your guide will accompany your group to the archaeological museum in which the famous Sarnath pillar, whose capital forms India's national emblem, stands intact. Here, learn about the first Buddhist monks who settled the area in approximately the 3rd century BC.
In the afternoon, head back to Varanasi for a city sightseeing tour of this longtime center for classical learning and culture. Visit south of the city for Banaras Hindu University. It’s perhaps the most prestigious university in India, known for philosophy and liberal arts. See the Bharat Mata temple, consecrated to Mother India, where a marble relief map of the Indian subcontinent is the focus of worship and a testament to India’s freedom movement.
Spend your evening on a boat along Varanasi’s riverbank, which lights up as thousands congregate to witness the aarti ceremony – one of the most popular and important rituals of the Hindu faith. Hear temple bells ring out as pilgrims chant and pray before a row of young Brahman priests who wave flaming oil lamps in worship of the Ganges. Watching this scene from the river is unforgettable!
Overnight: Rivitas Hotel in Varanasi
Day 3: Varanasi – New Delhi (B)
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel and spend your morning at leisure. After noon checkout, you’ll be transferred to the airport for your return flight (own expense) to New Delhi, arriving at Indira Gandhi International Airport. You also get the option of staying in Varanasi.