What to do in Varanasi- Day Excursion to Sarnath
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Varanasi has so much to see, so many places to go to, so much to experience etc. etc. & I keep on saying the same thing.. no improvement on my vocabulary so far!! But there is one place which is also a must when you are in Varanasi. This will take a full day of yours, but it’s not gonna waste. This is one of the prime points of the Buddhist Circuit in India. Sarnath. Sarnath is very close to Varanasi, just about 16 km away from the city of Varanasi is situated a village called Sarnath.
Though known as the Buddhist circuit, the village is named after Lord Shiva, There is a dedicated temple on his name, which is very famous among locals and tourists as well.. why not?? The village on whose name it has been named, won’t attract tourists? Come on!!
After the temple visit, it’s a mini Asia visit.. what does that mean now?? I will come to that, but let’s give you a little more details as to where, how, what etc. etc.
How to go?
As I said Sarnath is just 16 km away from Varanasi, it’s super easy to connect to this place. SO First.. for budget people like Me..
From wherever in Varanasi you are, take an Auto to ‘Cant.’ i.e. Varanasi railway station, from there take another auto to Sarnath. If you are lucky enough, your auto driver may be kind enough to take you to Sarnath as well, which happened to me, I was just asking him to tell me where to take an auto to Sarnath, and he just told me, if he is there, I should not be thinking of anyone else for that time, And I didn’t think of any other option. From Assi to Sarnath it cost about 65 rs (on shared basis). The same happened while I was coming back, I just couldn’t thank my stars that day, which hardly happens to me!! Yes.. this has nothing to do with you or this post.. why are you so impatient!!
That was option 1.. then there is another for the well-spent people, you may take a private car, but you have to hire for the entire day as you won’t get any option to get a private car while going back to the city. If you book any private tour through your hotel/ online, then they mostly provide car and guide service together. I will tell you more on this, but for now, the reaching part to Sarnath is clear to you I suppose?
It’s more or less a full-day tour, start by 9-10 am in the morning, and get done with the tour by 5 in the evening and head back to the city.
There are a few hotels/ guest houses available, as for many foreign tourists who dedicatedly do the Buddhist circuit, they stay here for a night. Otherwise, a day excursion is quite enough.
Weekends are quite crowded as locals also come here with friends and family to spend a good time here. Apart from the tourist attractions, it’s a quiet place otherwise. There are a few good restaurants available in the central area as well.
What to See?
Firstly let me tell you about Sarnath. Once you enter Sarnath, the atmosphere changes, the roads are broader, you are quite secluded from the hubbubs of Varanasi city. It’s easy to cross the roads, the place looks cleaner and more comfortable. Very comfortable.
Places to see:
I was so excited to see the temple while entering the village, but it was closed and there was no one around to ask any questions. Though starting with a disappointment, I will say keep reading.
Almost 2-3 minutes walking distance away from the last, I entered the place. I was allowed to roam around the place and take pictures. However the main temple was closed, they only open it in the morning at 8 am for the visitors.
There is also accommodation facility available here, tourists can stay here.
While the above temples are quite next to each other, the other main attractions are just 7-10 minutes walking distance away from these 2. Start with Sarnath Temple, take a round of the temple, offer puja if you want, everything is available on the temple ground.
The Japanese Pagoda:
Just another 3 minutes walking distance away. The place is so quiet, calm; the temple is a simplistic beauty, which is always way too attractive for me than anything grandiose. Photography is allowed inside. (only wherever you are to remove your shoes, please follow that.. this isn’t something to mention as everyone knows.. so true you are.. I just thought that I should and forgive my inanity!)
Now you are to take the main road and start with The Chinese Temple:
Go inside, take a tour, photography is allowed inside. I am not explaining anything here, as there isn’t much to explain. These are simple temples, where you appreciate the simple yet stunning architect, it takes you back to some old time, or to those Jackie Chan movies you have watched, or refreshes your travel memory to any of these countries if you have been before.. if you haven’t then be happy with the first 2 reasons, they are also not bad at all.
It’s a temple dedicated to Lord Buddha, that’s it! No, it’s not.. The temple is built on a huge ground, surrounded by thick lush green gardens everywhere, you must visit the Bodhi tree under which Lord Buddha was enlightened (though he actually attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, there is an imagery scene created here), which is at the right turn of the temple ground. You see Sarnath is a historical place in India, Buddhism gained popularity here with the influence of the royal families, hence this place has high importance among Buddha Followers.
Deer Park is inside the temple, so you don’t go out of the temple, after the temple visit buy a ticket for 10 rs (if you have a camera then another 10 rs for that), and go to the Zoo come deer park.
Well, you actually get to see a lot of deer there, a few species of birds, and to the most some monkeys. Happy??
Actually, Lord Buddha shared his first sermon to his disciple inside this park, which is why it’s so important an attraction.
Next is your Jain temple, right next to Buddha Temple, pay a visit if you want. I had kept this one for last as I was running late for the other 2 main attractions.
- Buddha Relic/ Stupa/ Dhamek Stupa is right next to Jain temple, but you need to buy a ticket here.
- So better come right opposite to the museum, which is another 2 minutes walking distance from the Stupa. You will find a long queue; and you know that’s the ticket counter, right opposite the museum.
- Buy a COMBINED ticket which allows you access to both Buddha Stupa (the ticket mentions park) and the museum. 30 rs for Indians & 250 rs for Foreigners.
After buying the ticket I headed to the museum first. Now, you don’t get to enter the museum directly, you have to deposit all your belongings (backpacks, phones etc) to their locker inside, you get to keep the key, if you have a camera (like DSLR) you are allowed to take that inside but not your phone!!
The museum takes about 30-40 minutes to see everything. If you have a guide with you they explain a lot of significance of various collections of artefacts, sculptures etc.
*** Museum is closed on Friday.
Buddha STupa/ Buddha Relics/ Dhamek Stupa:
King Ashoka built this relic in the memory of Lord Buddha after converting into Buddhism, this relic has actually gathered all the fame and popularity of this place. The main attraction of Sarnath is this, but all others also cannot be ignored, mark my words…
So the stupa is built on a huge place, with a garden surrounding the area, in the middle stands the huge gigantic relic. Then there are many other (partially destroyed, half survived) historic artefacts, structures (which are so meaningful to know) and the place is absolutely beautiful and peaceful.
In this entire trip, if you need a guide, it’s for this one place particularly. Also in the evening, a light and sound show takes place here.
There is another Thai temple a little walking distance away from the museum, don’t miss that as well if you have covered the rest so far. There’s nothing to dislike here.
You may also get to see some local fairs taking place, if interested, take a peek and enjoy some time there.
How to go around:
Apart from the Cambodian temple and Tibet Monastry, all other temples, museums etc are close by within walking distance. While entering Sarnath, you can spot the first 2 temples and the others are within 7-10 minutes’ walking distance away. That much is the difference. But you may also opt-out of the Cambodian temple and Tibet Monastery, as they are closed after 9 in the morning, I still managed to get inside the Monastery and go around the place but the main temple was closed, which only opens in the morning.
Apart from these two, all other attractions are next to each other. Sarnath, Japanese pagoda are next to each other, then the rest are just 5 minutes walking distance away from each other. And this also means you have to take a walk to access all these places.
If your auto driver is as good as mine, he will give you a small round of the place, so you know which is where and you can draw your map in your mind and then it’s even easier to see everything, you are in order, (without that guide also you will be able to manage, don’t over think it, he charged little extra, and it was just a penny for his generosity, and I was sorted.)
WARNING: you will find many young boys trying to pursue tourists for such tours, they will just show you what is where and will charge you 200-300, don’t fall into that trap. You can well manage all these by yourself. For your satisfaction of temperament, Google map works really well here.
If you are coming with a guide, then you don’t have to stress about any of these, for that you have to bring the car and guide from Varanasi, you may book tours available online or from your accommodation. Locally there’s no guide available.
There are a few good restaurants available here, plus there are ample street food shops available, whatever you are comfortable with go for it.
But I would suggest if it’s too humid, then go for light food, I helped myself with a small cup of ice cream, coconut water and some tea. If the weather is humid, I prefer to keep myself cool and hydrated. But eat whatever you are comfortable with.
You get to see a lot of street shops, selling souvenirs. You have to have some talent of bargain, by the way, go around a few shops and then buy.
I loved.. loooved Sarnath.. though it was humid, I burnt, even more, *** this reminds me do carry an umbrella with you, you can forget your sunglasses but don’t forget the umbrella ( and carry some water, you can buy locally but have some in-store) & coming back to the point, I loved roaming around the place. It’s beautiful, it’s peaceful and it can’t be a miss though I loved Varanasi as well.. You got my point right?
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2 thoughts on “My Solo Trip to Varanasi, India: Blog Post: 5”
Amazing,I’ve been to Sarnath a few years ago and I’m surprised I didn’t notice some of the places you visited. Loved the itinerary and way you went around exploring. Thanks for sharing.
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Thank you for spending some time here..