Varanasi has forever fascinated tourists with its old world charm and it’s no fluke it’s a prominent feature on most east/north Indian itineraries. Sadly, most itineraries for Varanasi tours offer the usual fare – a boat ride, guided tours to temples at the Ghats, evening Aarti etc. But I bet there are hardly any tours which take you to the Palace of Kashi Naresh. Or the Dasashwamedh Ghat. My point exactly. In case you want to explore, and not just visit, Varanasi try a walking tour.
Varanasi - the holy city of India
Because most itineraries to Varanasi only feature one, or maximum two, day stays and, therefore, the real Varanasi gets lost somewhere. To see the real, virgin, naked Varanasi I’d highly recommend a walking tour of the city. Similar to heritage walks organized in New Delhi, New York or Paris, heritage walks in Varanasi show visitors around the most hidden nooks and crevices of the city. Most walking trips are single day trips helmed by local guides who take visitors to places normally left unseen, besides the regular Varanasi attractions. Walking tour itineraries are easily customizable and have to be prebooked, especially if there’s a particular guide you’re looking for. Nevertheless, the right guide can make a lot of difference. He is the tour, actually. So make sure you have a good one and you’ll have a good time.
A Word of Advice
Benaras can get a little overwhelming, especially for foreign visitors. Coming from a relatively subdued culture, the sheer vividness of culture, the entire hippie undertones to the city, shady looking touts on the Ganga Ghats – everything together can get on anyone’s nerves. Varanasi is equally famous for its con artists. It might do you a huge favor to book a walking tour from an established, registered tour operator. Stay away from bhang and drugs – you get loads of both here!