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Planning a trip to Varanasi? Discover these 7 must-visit neighbouring cities

Planning a trip to Varanasi? Discover these 7 must-visit neighbouring cities

By Soumya Pawaskar

08 Jul, 2024

Varanasi, a holy city situated on the banks of the Ganges river in Uttar Pradesh, attracts lakhs of tourists from all over the world every year. While its famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple, magical Assi ghat and colourful lanes are must-visits, did you know there are many cities to visit near Varanasi that are worth exploring on your next trip?

Whether you're a history buff, spiritual seeker, nature lover, or just someone who loves exploring new foods and shopping spots, we've got you covered with a curated list of cities to visit near Varanasi. Each city offers a unique experience that suits every traveller’s interest. And the best part? They’re all just 4-5 hours away from Varanasi, making it easy to add these destinations to your itinerary.

1. Sarnath

Drive time between Varanasi and Sarnath: 30 mins

Sarnath near Varanasi, is a very important place historically as this is where Gautam Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. This event, known as the "Turning of the Wheel of Dharma," marked the beginning of Buddhism as a religion more than 2500 years ago.

Sarnath near Varanasi is the perfect place for all the tourists who wish to seek spiritual enrichment and want to explore the origins and teachings of Buddhism. Tourists can see temples from countries like Thailand, Japan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Tibet, each showcasing their unique architectural styles.

Some of the must-visit spots in Sarnath are:

  • Buddha statue- The standing statue of Buddha, more than 80 ft tall, is located in the Thai temple complex, a symbol of peace and Dharma.

  • Dhamek stupa- A significant pilgrimage site in Buddhism, this is the place where Buddha delivered his first sermon.

  • Sarnath museum- Established in 1910, this museum is famous for many notable images like Buddha preaching and the Ashokan pillar, from the Mauryan empire era, carved from a single block of Chunar sandstone.

  • Chaukhandi stupa- Built in the 5th century, this stupa has a unique architecture that combines both Buddhist and Islamic elements. This is where Buddha met his disciples upon arriving in Sarnath after his enlightenment.

  • Mulgandha Kuti- A Buddhist temple and monastery that depicts the key events in the Buddha’s life. It’s a perfect place to meditate and learn more about spirituality.

Best time to visit: November to February

How to reach Sarnath from Varanasi: We highly recommend renting a taxi to get to Sarnath– it's only 30 minutes from Varanasi city centre and taxis are easily available from Varanasi Junction Railway Station and Kashi Vishwanath Temple. You can opt for a more affordable option and take shared autos from Cantt Bus Stand. Alternatively, trains are available from Varanasi Junction to Sarnath Railway Station, which take about 20-30 mins to reach.

View of majestic Mulgandha Kuti Vihar of Sarnath

The majestic Mulgandha Kuti Vihar of Sarnath

2. Chandauli

Drive time between Varanasi and Chandauli: 1 hour

Located just 37 kms from Varanasi, Chandauli, is famously known as the “Rice bowl of Uttar Pradesh” because it is a major producer of high-quality rice, with a large portion of its population engaged in rice cultivation. This quaint town, known for its beautiful green landscapes and calm surroundings, is ideal for a short day-trip from Varanasi.

When in Chandauli, Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary should definitely be on your list as it is home to 2 scenic cascading waterfalls, making it a perfect picnic spot for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Some of the must-visit spots in Chandauli:

  • Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary- One of the lesser-known sanctuaries in India and a perfect picnic spot, this place is home for many unique species of birds, animals and plants.

  • Devdari Falls- Devdari waterfall, nestled within the Chandra Prabha Sanctuary, is an ideal destination for a day trip.

  • Rajdari Falls- A popular spot for nature lovers, Rajdari Falls, is a beautiful waterfall that is surrounded by lush greenery and peaceful surroundings.

  • Chakiya Kali temple- A holy shrine dedicated to Goddess Kali, Chakiya Kali temple attracts devotees seeking blessings and spiritual learnings.

Best time to visit: November to February

How to reach Chandauli from Varanasi: Trains are available from Varanasi Junction to Chandauli Majhwar Railway Station and it takes about 1.5 hours to reach. Alternatively, Private cabs are easily available from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple area, which take approximately 30 mins to reach the destination.

View of cascading Rajdari Waterfall in Chandauli in Uttar Pradesh

Beautifully cascading Rajdari Waterfalls in Chandauli in Uttar Pradesh

3. Mirzapur

Drive time between Varanasi and Mirzapur: 1.5 hours

You might recognize the name Mirzapur from the popular Amazon Prime series called “Mirzapur”, but do you know that Mirzapur is actually a historic city near Varanasi and is quite popular for its scenic hills, dams and waterfalls? It’s an ideal picnic spot and perfect short trip destination from varanasi.

Apart from the scenic beauty, It's a great place for the history buffs to explore the archaeological wonders such as the artefacts and ancient rock paintings that prove the region's civilization dates back to 5000 BCE.

The East India Company named this place Mirzapur, derived from the Persian word 'Mirza' meaning 'King,' so Mirzapur literally means "place of the King." This reflects the city's historical importance in terms of governance and trade during colonial times, which continues to shape its cultural identity today.

Some of the places to visit in Mirzapur:

  • Vindham waterfall- A beautiful spot known for its natural scenery and ancient cave paintings of horse-charioteers preparing to throw a wheel, believed to represent Lord Krishna from around 800 BC.

  • Kal Bhairav Temple- A holy shrine dedicated to Lord Bhairav, Kal Bhairav temple is visited by a number of devotees who want to seek blessings.

  • Chunar Fort- An ancient fort integral to Mirzapur's history offers amazing views of the Ganga river

  • Vindhyachal- Situated amidst the Vindhya Range, it’s a pilgrimage town known for its sacred temples, including Vindhyavasini Devi Temple.

  • Pakka ghat- A riverside ghat on the Ganges that is popular for activities like boat rides and religious rituals

Best time to visit: October to March

How to reach Mirzapur from Varanasi: There are regular trains from Varanasi Junction) to Mirzapur Junction, which take about 1-2 hours to reach there. Take a private cab or bus via NH 31, which takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on traffic.

View of magnificent Chunar Fort in Mirzapur

The magnificent Chunar Fort in Mirzapur (Credits- indiator.com)

4. Prayagraj

Drive time between Varanasi and Prayagraj: 2.5 hours

Prayagraj, formerly known as Allahabad, is a significant city in Uttar Pradesh. It is located at the confluence, popularly known as the Triveni Sangam and holds religious importance as the holy Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati meet to become one. The holy Ganga river originates in the Himalayas and flows through the sacred city of Rishikesh before reaching Prayagraj.

One of the oldest cities in the word, Prayagraj hosts the Kumbh Mela every 12 years, attracting millions of devotees who come to seek blessings and bathe in the sacred waters which are believed to cleanse sins. In addition to its rich culture, while in Prayagraj, don’t miss to indulge in local street food such as Allahabadi Chaat, Chole Samosa, Kachori and refreshing Lassi.

Allahabad best places to visit:

  • Allahabad fort- Allahabad Fort, notable for its Mughal architecture and strategic significance, offers insights into India's colonial and pre-colonial history.

  • All Saints Cathedral- Popular for its Gothic architecture, it is one of the oldest churches in North India

  • Akshayavat- A sacred banyan tree located in the Prayagraj Fort complex, well-known for its religious importance and mythical stories

  • Bargad Ghat- Located on the banks of the holy river Ganges, Bargad Ghat is famous for its peaceful surroundings and various religious rituals and ceremonies.

  • Swaraj Bhavan- once the Nehru family's ancestral home, is now a museum showcasing India's struggle for independence.

Best time to visit: October to March

How to reach Prayagraj from Varanasi: Prayagraj is easily accessible via well-connected National Highways, with interstate bus services taking about 3-4 hours from Varanasi. Prayagraj Junction, a major railway station formerly known as Allahabad Junction with regular trains from Varanasi take about 2-3 hours to reach.

An aerial view of Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj

An aerial view of Kumbh Mela at Triveni Sangam in Prayagraj (Credits- Mahakumbhfestival.com)

5. Ayodhya

Drive time between Varanasi and Ayodhya: 4 hours

The birthplace of Lord Ram, the glorious city of Ayodhya is situated on the banks of the Sarayu River in Uttar Pradesh. Recently, this holy city gained a lot of attention with the construction of the Ram Mandir in early 2023 and the grand idol installation ceremony. The beauty of Ayodhya is that it is home to various religions, such as Buddhism, Jainism and Islam, despite being known as a Hindu epicentre.

If you wish to experience the grandest celebration of lights, do not miss the Ayodhya Deepotsav which is happening on 30 October 2024. In this annual festival of lights, the entire city illuminates with colourful lights and lakhs of earthen diyas. Awarded with the Guinness Book World Record for lighting over 6 lakh diyas at the same time, The Ayodhya Deepotsav is an experience of a lifetime. For more details, check out their official website.

Some of the best places to visit in Ayodhya, UP:

  • Ram Mandir- Ram Mandir is a recently constructed magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Ram, marking it as an important cultural and religious landmark. This is currently one of the best places to visit in Ayodhya UP

  • Hanuman Garhi- Located on a hill, this historic temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman requires climbing a number of stairs, but it is worth it for the scenic view of the glorious city of Ayodhya.

  • Kanak Bhavan- A palace temple dedicated to Lord Ram and Sita, famous for its stunning golden statues and intricate architecture.

  • Guptar Ghat- A peaceful riverside spot on the Sarayu River, where Lord Ram is believed to have ascended to heaven.

  • Nageshwarnath Temple- Believed to have been built by Lord Ram’s sons, Luv and Kush, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva is one of the best places to visit in Ayodhya UP

Best time to visit: October to March

How to reach Ayodhya from Varanasi: The fastest and cheapest way to reach Ayodhya from Varanasi is by taking a train from Varanasi Junction to Ayodhya Junction as it takes only 3 hours. Considering the distance between the two cities, it takes approximately 4-5 hours to reach Ayodhya from Varanasi by road and one can hire private cabs from Varanasi railway station.

View of the grand Ram Mandir at Ayodhya

The grand construction of the recently built Ram Mandir at Ayodhya (Credits- Volzero.com)

6. Lucknow

Drive time between Varanasi and Lucknow: 5 hours

The capital city of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow is quite popular for its rich Nawabi culture, etiquettes, Urdu language and delicacies like Kebabs and Biryanis. Lucknow offers a glimpse into the majestic royal era, through its architecture and rich heritage.

The city of Nawabs is famous for its chikankari and zardozi embroidery, a paradise for all the shopaholics. Additionally, the city markets - Hazratganj and Aminabad are popularly known as the” Chandni Chowk of Lucknow” which is a treat for both shopaholics and food lovers alike.

Some of the places to visit in Lucknow:

  • Rumi Darwaza- This grand structure is known as the 'Gateway to Lucknow' and quite famous for its Awadhi architecture which gives insights into the city's royal past.

  • Bara & Chota Barambara- Famously known for their intricate Mughal architecture, these two monuments showcase majestic domes, fine carvings and beautifully designed long and narrow passages.

  • Chattar manzil- This palace is a beautiful example of the Indo-European architecture and it is believed that the rulers of Awadh resided here for a long time during their rule.

  • Ram Manohar Lohiya Park- A perfect spot to unwind, this scenic park is famous for its landscaped gardens and various recreational activities.

  • Hazratganj- A bustling centre of Lucknow's shopping and cultural scene, known for its historic colonial buildings, market streets and delicious local food.

  • Unmissable food places- Visit Bajpai Kachori Bhandar for the best Poori-Aloo, Tunday Kababi for authentic Kebabs, Prakash ki mashoor Kulfi, Idrees Biryani

Best time to visit: October to March

How to reach Lucknow from Varanasi: The private cabs and buses are readily available for travel from Varanasi to Lucknow and the journey takes approximately 6-7 hours. Trains are available from Varanasi to Lucknow, which takes about 4-6 hours to reach.

View of glorious Rumi Darwaza in Lucknow

The glorious Rumi Darwaza in Lucknow (Credits- Incredibleindia.org)

7. Kanpur

Drive time between Varanasi and Kanpur: 5.5 hours

Located south of the Ganges River in Uttar Pradesh, Kanpur is well-known for being home to the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur. Apart from being an industrial hub, Kanpur is also famous for its historical landmarks, local shopping markets, leather manufacturing and lush green parks.

If you're a foodie, Kanpur is the perfect place to indulge in a blend of Mughlai and Awadhi culinary traditions. The city's vibrant street food scene offers delicious dishes like Kabab Paratha, Luchi Sabzi, Basket Chaat, Shami Kebabs, and the iconic Thaggu ke Laddu, made with Khoya, Semolina, and refined sugar.

Some of the best places to visit in Kanpur:

  • J.K. Temple- Popularly known as the Radhakrishna Temple, J.K. Temple in Kanpur is worth visiting for its unique architecture. Plan your visit in the month of August to witness the Janmashtami celebrations here.

  • Moti Jheel- Perfect for an evening outing, Moti Jheel is a serene lake that is popular for its calm surroundings and recreational activities.

  • ISKON Temple- Dedicated to Lord Krishna, the ISKON Temple in Kanpur with its grand marble structure and various meditation programs, attracts a number of tourists from all around the world.  

  • Kanpur zoological park- The largest zoo in Northern India, the Kanpur zoological park is famous for keeping animals in natural habitats.

  • Jain Glass temple- One of the 24 Tirthankaras of the Jain community, this majestic temple is entirely carved out of glass.

Best time to visit: October to March

How to reach Kanpur from Varanasi: Private cabs are available from Varanasi and it takes approximately 6-7 hours to reach Kanpur. Alternatively, there are few trains that take about 5-6 hours to reach Kanpur.

View of the marvelous JK Temple in Kanpur

The marvelous JK Temple in Kanpur

So, are you ready to explore these cities to visit near Varanasi? Whenever you plan your next trip here, consider making a pitstop at The Hosteller Agra and The Hosteller Delhi, our two beautiful hostels in Uttar Pradesh that offer affordable accommodation in the prime locations. Also, looking for Long stays? Grab 20% off on bookings of 7+ nights at any of our hostels!

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