Are you planning a visit to Varanasi, one of the oldest and holiest cities in India? While Varanasi itself offers a plethora of cultural and spiritual experiences, there are several enchanting places to explore in the vicinity. In this article, we will take you on a virtual journey to discover the top 25 places to visit near Varanasi. From ancient temples to serene lakes, each destination has its unique charm and historical significance. So, let’s dive in and uncover these hidden gems!
1. Sarnath: The Birthplace of Buddhism
Sarnath, located just 10 kilometers from Varanasi, holds immense importance in the Buddhist religion. It is the place where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. As you walk through the ruins of ancient monasteries and stupas, you can feel the spiritual aura that pervades the air. Don’t miss the Dhamek Stupa, Mulagandha Kuti Vihar, and the Ashoka Pillar with its lion capital.
2. Allahabad: The Confluence of Rivers
Located about 125 kilometers from Varanasi, Allahabad is a sacred city where the Ganges, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati rivers meet. The Sangam, the point of confluence, is believed to possess great spiritual power. It is also the site of the Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest religious gathering, which takes place every twelve years. Explore the Allahabad Fort, Anand Bhavan, and the famous Khusro Bagh during your visit.
3. Chunar Fort: A Testament to History
Situated around 40 kilometers from Varanasi, Chunar Fort stands tall on the banks of the River Ganges. This ancient fort has witnessed the rise and fall of numerous dynasties, including the Mauryas, Guptas, Mughals, and British. With its magnificent architecture and panoramic views of the river, Chunar Fort offers a glimpse into the region’s rich historical past. Don’t forget to explore the secret passages and dungeons within the fort.
4. Vindhyachal: The Abode of Goddess Durga
Vindhyachal, located approximately 65 kilometers from Varanasi, is a revered pilgrimage site dedicated to Goddess Durga. The town is nestled amidst the Vindhyachal Mountain Range and is believed to be one of the Shakti Peethas, where the body parts of the goddess fell. Visit the Vindhyavasini Devi Temple, Ramgaya Ghat, and the Ashtabhuja Devi Temple to experience the divine energy that permeates this place.
5. Kaushambi: Tracing Ancient Buddhist Heritage
Venture about 60 kilometers from Varanasi, and you will reach Kaushambi, an ancient city closely associated with Lord Buddha. It is said that Buddha visited Kaushambi several times during his lifetime. Explore the Ghositaram Monastery, excavated ruins of Ashokan Pillars, and the famous Anand Prabhu Kuti Vihar. Kaushambi offers a serene and contemplative atmosphere, perfect for introspection and spiritual growth.
6. Jaunpur: A Historical Gem
Jaunpur, situated around 60 kilometers from Varanasi, is a city steeped in history and architectural splendor. It was established by the Sultan of Delhi in the 14th century and served as an important center of art, culture, and education. Visit the iconic Atala Masjid, Jama Masjid, and Shahi Bridge, which stand as a testimony to the grandeur of the bygone era. The intricate craftsmanship and exquisite designs will leave you awestruck.
7. Ramnagar: A Glimpse of Royalty
Located just across the Ganges River from Varanasi, Ramnagar is a quaint town that offers a peek into the royal heritage of the Kashi Naresh (King of Varanasi). The Ramnagar Fort, built with red sandstone, houses a museum that showcases a vast collection of vintage cars, weapons, and antique artifacts. Don’t miss the chance to witness the grand Ram Lila procession during the festive season.
8. Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary: Nature’s Paradise
Nature enthusiasts should not miss a visit to the Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary, located about 70 kilometers from Varanasi. Spread over an area of 78 square kilometers, this sanctuary is home to a variety of flora and fauna. Embark on a thrilling trek to the Rajdari and Devdari waterfalls, which are the major attractions within the sanctuary. Spotting leopards, peafowls, and langurs in their natural habitat is an experience to cherish.
9. Bhadohi: The Carpet City
Bhadohi, also known as the “Carpet City,” is located around 55 kilometers from Varanasi. It is renowned for its hand-knotted carpets, which are exported all over the world. Take a tour of the carpet-weaving factories to witness the intricate craftsmanship and learn about the age-old techniques passed down through generations. Don’t miss the opportunity to purchase a unique piece of art as a souvenir of your visit.
10. Chandraprabha Dam: A Serene Reservoir
The Chandraprabha Dam, located approximately 70 kilometers from Varanasi, is a picturesque reservoir surrounded by lush greenery. It is an ideal spot for a peaceful picnic amidst nature’s tranquility. The dam offers boating facilities, and you can also indulge in birdwatching, as the place is frequented by a variety of avian species. Spend a day rejuvenating your senses in this scenic getaway.
11. Mirzapur: Land of Carpet Weavers
Mirzapur, situated around 70 kilometers from Varanasi, is another town famous for its carpet-weaving industry. The exquisite carpets produced here are known for their intricate designs and vibrant colors. Explore the local markets to witness the weaving process and shop for beautiful handcrafted rugs and carpets. Mirzapur is also known for its scenic beauty, with attractions like Vindhyavasini Devi Temple and Wyndham Falls.
12. Vulture Conservation and Breeding Center: Preserving an Endangered Species
The Vulture Conservation and Breeding Center, located in Bhariyawa village near Varanasi, is dedicated to the preservation of endangered vulture species. These magnificent birds play a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance. Visit the center to learn about the conservation efforts and witness the majestic vultures up close. It is an enlightening experience that raises awareness about the importance of wildlife conservation.
13. Chunar Sandstone Mines: A Geological Wonder
Chunar Sandstone Mines, situated around 40 kilometers from Varanasi, are famous for their unique geological formations. The sandstone extracted from these mines is renowned for its durability and aesthetic appeal. Take a guided tour to witness the intricate process of sandstone extraction and learn about its various applications in architecture and construction. Marvel at the stunning rock formations that nature has sculpted over millions of years.
14. Varanasi Silk Weaving Center: Witnessing the Art of Banarasi Silk
No visit to Varanasi is complete without experiencing the art of Banarasi silk weaving. Visit the Varanasi Silk Weaving Center to witness the intricate process of creating the finest silk sarees and fabrics. From dyeing the silk threads to weaving intricate patterns using gold and silver threads, every step in the process is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans. Take home a piece of Banarasi silk as a cherished memento.
15. Sonepur: Unveiling Rural Traditions
Sonepur, located about 30 kilometers from Varanasi, is a small town known for its vibrant rural fairs. The Sonepur Cattle Fair, held annually in November, is the largest cattle fair in Asia. It attracts traders, farmers, and tourists from far and wide. Experience the rustic charm of rural India as you witness the trading of livestock, traditional performances, and various cultural activities. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the colorful tapestry of rural traditions.
16. Ghazipur: Exploring Historical Architecture
Ghazipur, situated approximately 80 kilometers from Varanasi, is a historical city renowned for its architectural marvels. The Ghazipur Fort, also known as the Akbarpur Fort, is a major attraction. Explore the intricate carvings and grandeur of the fort, which reflects the architectural brilliance of the Mughal era. Visit the nearby tomb of British soldier Lord Cornwallis, a significant historical site.
17. Bateshwar: A Tranquil Riverside Retreat
Bateshwar, located about 75 kilometers from Varanasi, is a serene riverside retreat known for its ancient temples and spiritual significance. The Shiva Temples complex, comprising more than a hundred temples, is a major attraction. The temples are adorned with intricate carvings and offer a tranquil ambiance for meditation and introspection. Enjoy a boat ride on the tranquil Yamuna River and witness the mesmerizing sunset.
18. Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary: A Biodiversity Hotspot
The Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary, situated near Ramnagar town across the Ganges River from Varanasi, is a biodiversity hotspot. Spanning an area of 820 square kilometers, it is home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Embark on a thrilling safari to spot tigers, leopards, deer, and various bird species. The sanctuary is a paradise for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, offering a glimpse into the diverse ecosystem of the region.
19. Robertsganj: Unraveling Nature’s Beauty
Robertsganj, located approximately 110 kilometers from Varanasi, is a scenic town nestled amidst the enchanting Vindhya Mountain Range. It serves as a gateway to the Sonbhadra district and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and dense forests. Visit the Vijaygarh Fort, Dudhwa Falls, and the Obra Dam for a memorable experience in the lap of nature. Robertsganj is a hidden gem waiting to be explored.
20. Kushinagar: The Final Resting Place of Lord Buddha
Kushinagar, situated around 250 kilometers from Varanasi, holds immense religious significance for Buddhists worldwide. It is the place where Lord Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana (enlightenment). Explore the Mahaparinirvana Temple, which houses a stunning reclining statue of Lord Buddha. Pay homage at the Rambhar Stupa, which marks the cremation site of Lord Buddha. Kushinagar is a pilgrimage destination that invokes a sense of serenity and spiritual awakening.
21. Naimisharanya: A Sacred Grove
Naimisharanya, located approximately 100 kilometers from Varanasi, is a sacred grove mentioned in various ancient texts. It is believed to be the abode of Lord Vishnu and is dotted with numerous temples and ashrams. Visit the Chakra Tirth Temple, Sita Kund, and Hanuman Garhi for a divine experience. The tranquil atmosphere and lush greenery make Naimisharanya an ideal retreat for spiritual seekers and nature lovers.
22. Ayodhya: The Birthplace of Lord Rama
Ayodhya, situated around 200 kilometers from Varanasi, holds a special place in Hindu mythology as the birthplace of Lord Rama. Explore the Ram Janmabhoomi complex, which is believed to be the site of Lord Rama’s birth. Visit the Hanuman Garhi Temple, Kanak Bhavan, and the ancient Nageshwarnath Temple. Ayodhya is a town steeped in history and spirituality, with a rich cultural heritage that attracts devotees and history buffs alike.
23. Shravasti: Reliving Buddha’s Teachings
Shravasti, located approximately 300 kilometers from Varanasi, is a significant Buddhist pilgrimage site associated with Lord Buddha. It is the place where Buddha spent a significant portion of his monastic life and delivered many discourses. Explore the Jetavana Monastery, Anathapindika Stupa, and the ancient ruins of Sahet and Mahet. Shravasti offers a glimpse into Buddhist teachings and provides a serene environment for contemplation.
24. Renukoot: A Thriving Industrial Town
Renukoot, situated around 180 kilometers from Varanasi, is a bustling industrial town known for its aluminum and power plants. However, amidst the industrial landscape, lies the serene Rihand Dam. This colossal dam on the Rihand River offers a picturesque view and a peaceful atmosphere. Take a boat ride on the reservoir and witness the scenic beauty of the surrounding hills. Renukoot is a unique blend of industrial progress and natural splendor.
25. Lumbini: Birthplace of Lord Buddha (Nepal)
Although not located near Varanasi, Lumbini is an iconic Buddhist pilgrimage site that should not be missed if you have the time. Situated in Nepal, approximately 280 kilometers from Varanasi, Lumbini is the birthplace of Lord Buddha. Visit the Maya Devi Temple, which marks the exact spot where Lord Buddha was born. Explore the Ashoka Pillar and various monasteries built by countries from around the world. Lumbini is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and holds immense spiritual and historical significance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What are the best places to visit near Varanasi for a spiritual experience?
If you’re seeking a spiritual experience near Varanasi, Sarnath, Vindhyachal, and Kushinagar are must-visit destinations. These places hold deep religious significance and offer serene environments for meditation and introspection.
2. Are there any natural attractions near Varanasi?
Yes, there are several natural attractions near Varanasi. The Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary, Chandraprabha Dam, and Bateshwar are beautiful places where you can connect with nature and enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings.
3. Can I purchase authentic Banarasi silk near Varanasi?
Absolutely! Varanasi is renowned for its Banarasi silk weaving industry. Visit the Varanasi Silk Weaving Center to witness the art of silk weaving and purchase authentic Banarasi silk sarees and fabrics as souvenirs.
4. Which places near Varanasi offer a glimpse into historical architecture?
Chunar, Ghazipur, and Ayodhya are notable places near Varanasi that showcase historical architecture. Explore the forts, temples, and ancient ruins in these towns to delve into the rich history and architectural brilliance of the past.
5. How far is Kushinagar from Varanasi?
Kushinagar is located approximately 250 kilometers from Varanasi. It takes around 6-7 hours to reach Kushinagar by road. Plan your visit accordingly to explore this important Buddhist pilgrimage site.
6. Is Lumbini worth visiting even though it is not near Varanasi?
Absolutely! Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, is a significant Buddhist pilgrimage site. Although it is located in Nepal, it is relatively close to Varanasi. If you have the time, it’s highly recommended to visit Lumbini to experience its spiritual aura and explore the historical sites associated with Lord Buddha.
Varanasi, with its ancient temples, vibrant culture, and spiritual significance, is undoubtedly a captivating destination. However, the surrounding areas also offer a plethora of attractions that are equally enchanting. From historical sites to natural wonders, each place near Varanasi has its unique charm and story to tell. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or a spiritual seeker, these 25 places to visit near Varanasi provide a diverse range of experiences. So, plan your itinerary accordingly and embark on a journey of exploration and discovery in the vicinity of this mystical city.