Getting lost in the kaleidoscope of colours in Varanassi

The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
60 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
Length of time
1-2 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 80
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
224th/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 70% SUMMARY RATING: Worth doing


Varanasi feels like a microcosm of India – nowhere else will you see such such a vibrant variety of cultures, religions and colours, yet this is also combined with the thronging masses of people all around you and the rubbish and pollution that comes with such numbers


I loved my time in Varanasi as I just headed off to get lost in amongst the lanes, wandered into incense-heavy temples and looked over the riverside ghats as people washed themselves for ritual, or just washed themselves.   I can also understand though why some might find it a bit oppressive.  Either way, it feels like one of the must do experiences of this wonderful country


Some simple tips:

  1. Get lost in the small alley ways – its all part of the experience and you’ll no doubt find some cool temples and views of the Ganges that aren’t in the standard tourist route
  2. Try to avoid taking a standard tourist tour of the Ghats.  Instead, find one of the guys with his own boat near the water and get him to take you out.  It just avoids being crammed into a boat with 40 other fellow tourists
  3. Its India, so be ready for people near-constantly nagging you to sell you something, but it is probably a bit worse in Varanasi and it is a tourist hotspot where people tend to have spent a lot to visit


#1 Looking from the water at the Ghats - Varanasi's most famous spectacle

#2 Getting lost in amongst the winding narrow alley ways that cross-cross all through Varanasi and give you that wonderful experience of, just for a moment, being lost in the whole atmosphere of the place

#3 Seeing some of the funeral rituals at the Burning Ghats, often with many happening at once

#4 Jumping in a tuk tuk or just walking through the mayhem of the narrow streets

#5 Sunrise views across the Ganges

#6 Cows - lots of them, basically everywhere

#7 Getting in amongst the washing, praying and generally people hanging out by the Ghats

#8 Finding that random guy who has a boat, more than prepared to take you out and letting you enjoy the experience not in a crammed tourist boat like this one :)

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone