Situated on the Ganges river, Varanasi is one of India’s most historic cities and offers a variety of authentic sights and cultural experiences. Taking a paddleboat on the river in the morning gives you the chance to view the ghats, or steps that lead to the river. Hindus gather here for washing, bathing, and rituals related to the river’s holy status. Near the main ghat is a burning ghat where the deceased are cremated before their ashes are spread into the river.
The city also offers an abundance of narrow lanes to explore with people sharing the ancient urban space with goats and cows, which are sacred in the Hindu religion. Countless shrines and temples are tucked within the lanes, many of which feature buildings with vivid colors and lettering. Among these is the iconic Kashi Vishwanath Temple, which was constructed in 1780 and features a pair of gold domes commissioned by Queen Ahilyabai Holker. A centerpiece inside is the Vishwanath, an elaborate devotional representation of Lord Shiva.