Umaid Bhawan JODHPUR North India 6 Logo Northindia (1)
Back to Listing


Varanasi is probably the place in India that has the most profound impact on visitors. Formerly known as Benares, it sits on a bend of the Ganges, and its spiritual significance comes from its status as a "crossing place", where gods and goddesses can descend to earth. It has been a pilgrimage site since the sixth century BC; Hindus try to visit at least once in their lifetime and immediately make for the river to pray and bathe. The Ghats - hundreds of stone steps flanking the riverbank - are an incredible sight, particularly at sunrise when thousands of pilgrims bathe in the spiritually cleansing waters. On the riverbank at dusk, smoke from funeral pyres merges with sweet-smelling incense - while pilgrims, sadhu's (holy men) and Hindu priests attend the evening prayer ceremony, or Puja, to a feverish soundtrack of drumming, chanting and crashing symbols before releasing candle offerings into the swirling Ganges.

The riverbanks of Varanasi are lined with remarkably colourful temples, best viewed from aboard a boat on the great Ganges. The 19th century Durga Temple stands out for its striking ochre hue, which is reflected in the shimmering waters of the river, and the lively monkey inhabitants that populate this ornate temple.  On the opposite side to the stone Ghats is the lofty and impressive eighteenth-century Ramnagar Fort, home of the maharaja, whose fortifications glow golden in the afternoon sun.

The Old City, which stretches back from the Ganges into a maze of tiny alleys, has several temples, including one of the holiest temples in India: the Golden Temple. This temple is dedicated to Shiva and only admits Hindus and of course the sacred cow, although non-Hindus can admire the glinting gold-plated spire from outside.  You'll find narrow lanes of food sellers, market stalls and wandering animals, as well as numerous mosques including the sixteenth-century Razia's Mosque and the white-domed Jani Vapi.

Outside the old city are fascinating museums and places of interest to contrast with the often frenetic pace of the Varanasi’s Ghats and Old City. The Bharat Kala Bhawan Museum houses an incredible collection of miniature paintings, sculptures and twelfth-century manuscripts. There's a gallery focusing on the history of Varanasi including ancient maps of the city and excavated items from the Ghats. Mother India's temple, or Bharat Mata temple, which was inaugurated by Mahatma Ghandi in 1936, is worth a visit for its unusual relief map of India carved from marble depicting the plateaus and riverbeds of this diverse country. Ten kilometres north of Varanasi, and easily accessible by rickshaw, is Sarnath, a Buddhist pilgrimage centre, where Buddha preached his first sermon. Sarnath is a spiritual place of mainly ruined stupas, shrines and temples, which makes a serene day trip from Varanasi.

>> Read our blog: Varanasi, the holiest of holy cities...

NORTH INDIA - Ganges, Varanasi NORTH INDIA - Ganges, Varanasi
Header Varanasi Blog Sunrise 1 Header Varanasi Blog Sunrise 1
Sunrise 7 Sunrise 7
Sunrise 3 Sunrise 3
Sunrise 4 Sunrise 4
Sunset 5 Sunset 5
Varanasi Blog 1 Varanasi Blog 1
Sunset 4 Sunset 4
Sunrise 5 Sunrise 5
Sunrise 6 Sunrise 6


My favourite thing is to go where I've never been.
Diane Arbus

Ampersand’s details preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet/direct booking age. Shalmali was a delight to work with – before and during our trip.
- Mr David Wallace, North India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
We have been on expensive and luxurious holidays in the past, but the service and communication Ampersand has provided has far exceeded those offered by other agencies.
- Susan Ford, India
We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India

From our Instagram

✨Ampersand’s ‘Top 10 Swimming Pools’ hotlist - 2019 ✨
Check our TOP TEN'S #Highlights to be tempted to dive into the hottest hotels’ new pools, as well as some of our firm old favourites across Asia... 🏊🏻‍♂️💧
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
Treat yourself to a stay in #Amangalla - the stately grand dame of #GalleFort while in Sri Lanka 🇱🇰
Not only will you step into a bygone era here, but you’ll also have all the surrounding sights right on your doorstep 🏰
Rise early to witness a spectacular sunrise over the terraced rice paddies in #Bali 🌿🌅
And stay at the luxurious #COMOUmaUbud to experience #Ubud at its finest 🇮🇩
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
@jamesjayasundera is currently in the Himalayan Kingdom of #Bhutan surrounded by striking views like this 🏔🏔🏔
Follow his journey to catch exclusive glimpses into the brand new, thoughtfully-designed @sixsensesbhutan & more... 🇧🇹
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
Fine red shells blend seamlessly into the powdery white seashore of the #KomodoIslands to create this natural wonder - the otherworldly #PinkBeach 🏄🏼‍♀️🌊
Dive into its crystal-clear aquamarine waters to explore one of the richest marine environments on Earth 🌏
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
Glide through the iridescent #InleLake for a chance to see the traditional Intha (‘sons of the lake’) fishermen 🎣
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
🎌 Hot off the press - #AmanKyoto is set to open at the end of this year (November 2019) & we can’t wait! 🎌
Located in a secret garden behind the Golden Temple #Kinkakuji, this new property will offer a secluded retreat in the ancient Imperial city complete with beautifully-designed interiors by the celebrated #KerryHillArchitects
Travel with us to spot elephants 🇿🇦🐘🐘🐘
You can see these gentle giants in all of our Southern Africa destinations: #Botswana #Namibia #Mozambique #Zambia & #Zimbabwe
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
Step into #SamodePalace to walk colourful mirror-tiled halls & pass beautiful mural-lined walls 🇮🇳
This heritage property located in the romantic Aravalli Hills is also home to a marble swimming pool - the perfect place to take a cooling dip in the Rajasthani sun ☀️

Let us keep you up to date

Sign up to our newsletter and never miss out on unmissable exclusive luxury experiences