A trip to India can bring you some of the best travel experiences there are. The country is filled with breathtaking landscapes, climate zones from the subtropics to the harsh mountains, and a culture saturated with diverse myths, religions, and traditions.
To see the entire subcontinent you’d need to invest at least three months of travel time, anything shorter and you’d be unable to really experience all of these unforgettable places. Whether you have time or not to spend three months trekking around, here are 3 places you shouldn’t miss on any trip to India:
1. Get to know real Indian culture in spiritual Varanasi
Varanasi, on the River Ganges, is extremely spiritual and a powerful place to visit. Photo by Max Barnard.
As soon as you enter the city of Varanasi (also known as Banaras), you immediately feel the magical atmosphere created by spirits of ancient gurus.
The Ganges River also runs through the center, and is lined with steps known as the Varanasi Ghats. This city is also one of the most holy of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism. Similar to the importance Mecca holds for Muslims, many devout Hindus hope to visit Varanasi once before the die.
Ceremony at Dashashwamedh Ghat. Photo by Sarah-Loreen Lorenz.
Every morning during sunrise, Hindus wash themselves at the base of the Ghats. And in the evening, this ritual is repeated. You can witness both of these traditions from a boat along the Ganges.
Ritual Ablution(washing) in the Ganges during a flood. Photo by Sarah-Loreen Lorenz.
Hindus believe that death in Varanasi brings salvation, and shortly before the end of their lives many make the pilgrimage there. I was deeply impressed with my visit to the Manikarnika Ghat, where I witnessed a traditional Hindu cremation. During this ceremony a giant wooden pyre was built in which the body was cremated, a process that can normally take 3-5 hours.
2. Jaisalmer – The Golden City