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Best Places To Visit Near Varanasi - Weekend Getaways
Varanasi, the land as old as time, is the centre of Hindu moksha. On the banks of river Ganga, Varanasi, also known as Kashi, is popular among Indian as well as foreign tourists who come searching for spirituality and Hindu rituals. But what do the locals of Varanasi do when they tire of all the temple bells and chants of mantras?
They start seeking destinations outside of Varanasi for weekend getaways, of course! Here’s our list for you, if you too are searching for the best places to visit near Varanasi.
Ring any bells? Well, not literally, of course. Figuratively speaking, Sarnath is a significant pilgrimage for Buddhists. This is the place where Buddha delivered his first sermon after he had meditated under the Bodhi tree and attained enlightenment. From Varanasi, Sarnath is around 10 km away, so not too far. By car, you can reach in less than a half hour. When here, do not miss the temples and stupas, a marked difference from the Hindu hegemony seen in Benaras. Places to explore include Ashoka Pillar, Chaukhandi Stupa and Sarnath Thai Temple.
One of the priced possessions of India, Khajuraho is a UNESCO world heritage site. Known for its ruins, temples and carvings, Khajuraho has some of the most sensuous carvings that tell erotic stories. Check out the Khajuraho Dulhadev Temple here with its Light and Sound Show. Another place you mustn’t miss is the Kandariya Mahadev Temple. Since Khajuraho is 389 km from Varanasi, you can plan a long weekend there. Monsoons and Winters are good for a holiday, but summers are too hot to handle in Madhya Pradesh.
Another little pilgrimage away from pilgrimage, Vindhyachal is renowned for the Vindhyavasini devi temple. The town is located on the bank of river Ganga and many people come here to take a dip on this particular bank. Explore the Sita Kund and Kali Khoh temple over the short weekend you plan to spend here. Vidhyanchal is located on the Allahabad Road, 64 km away from Varanasi.
Ayodhya, earlier known as Awadhpuri, is the birthplace of Lord Ram. Today it is a pious little town with many temples dating back centuries. The foremost among these being Ram Janmabhoomi. After a long drawn trial and many a protests, a temple is being built here. Also, do visit the Kanak Bhawan and Nageshwarnath Temple. 202 km from Varanasi, Ayodhya should be on your list if you are a Lord Ram devotee. Ram Navmi is a good time to visit, but otherwise winter is the best.
Allahabad, now called Prayagraj, is located 129 km from Varanasi and is known for the massive Kumbh Mela it hosts every 12 years. Allahabad is that Hindu holy land where the three pious rivers— Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati meet. The point of their mingle is called Triveni Sangam. Do visit this bank once. Ardha Kumbh Mela is also hosted here every 6 years. Other places that Allahabad is famous for include the Allahabad Fort and Khusro Bagh. If you are planning a visit then do check out the Kumbh Mela dates as this is a fair you shouldn’t miss at any cost.
Lucknow is another one of UP’s significant cities, and also the capital. Once the stronghold of nawabs, Lucknow today still holds onto their culture; especially their food. With all its rich history, heritage and literature, Lucknow is the best bet for a weekend away from Varanasi if you want to enjoy a more contemporary city. Shop at the Hazratganj Market, take strolls down Sair Sapata and marvel at the Bara Imambara. Winter is great for a weekend in this city which is around 300 km from Varanasi.
314 km from Varanasi is the small but important town of Rajgir. It is known for its history connecting to Jainism as well as Buddhism. With its naturally endowed sceneries and stupas and shrines, Rajgir gives you a serenity you may not have found anywhere else. From the Vulture’s Peak to the Japanese Stupa, Venu Vann to Saptkarni Caves, Rajgir is perfect for outdoorsy fun with a touch of history.
You would have read about it in your history textbooks — the oldest University of the world. Nalanda is located 321 km away from Varanasi and has its history dating back to at least the 5th Century. Great scholars from Greece, Italy and China came here to study, including the traveller Hiuen Tsang. Sadly, today the university is is shambles, ruins left where once grand classrooms were. You can visit the Nalanda University and learn about its history, check out the Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall and go to the Great Stupa, all in a day. A weekend here will definitely be educational.
Chitrakoot is a small town, 260 km from Varanasi, known for its significance to Lord Ram’s life. Here’s where Ram, Laxman and Sita built their little hut and lived in exile for eleven and a half months before moving on down south. You can take a drive to Chitrakoot for more stories on their stay here, go see the Ram Ghat and Gupt Godavari, Kamadgiri, Ansuya Ashram etc. There is the famous Chitrakoot Falls too where you can go boating.
Another town of stupas and temples, Kushinagar is associated with Buddhism for many reasons. This is the empire where Gautam Buddha is said to have attained Nirvana after he died. International Buddhist followers come here in hoards to pay their respect and worship Lord Buddha, while there are also many significant tourist hotspots to visit. From Wat Thai Temple to Ramabhar Stupa, Nirvana Temple to Meditation Park, Kushinagar offers you a small but significant list of places for a short weekend.
Battle of Buxar, that’s what the name of this town reminds us of! Fought between the British East India Company and the Nawab of Bengal, this battle marked one of the earliest clashes between Indians and British. Buxar is also the ancient city of Sage Vishwamitra and the land where Lord Ram received his education. It is where Chhatt Pooja is held every year for UPites and even some Biharis. Apart from these trivia, Buxar is found to be fun for outdoorsy and sightseeing kind of weekends. Visit the Chausa Battlefield, Biharu Ji Temple, Katkauli Ka Maidan and the Buxar Fort. The town is only 135 km from Varanasi and hence makes for a nice short weekend or even a day trip.