A Journey Through Varanasi, a City of Life and Death, in Photos

By Mark Wiens 26 Comments
View of Varanasi, India
View of Varanasi, India

People from around India come to Varanasi for the Ganges River, and life (and death) in the city revolves around the river.

Taking a nap with a nice view of Varanasi
Taking a nap with a nice view of Varanasi

You’ll find sadhus, or Hindu holy men, throughout Varanasi, often napping in the sunshine or deep in meditation.

Washing clothes in the Ganges River
Washing clothes in the Ganges River

There’s nothing better to do when you’re in Varanasi than walk along the Ganges river. Doing laundry is also a popular activity.

Colorful Kedar Ghat
Colorful Kedar Ghat

Ghats are a series of steps that lead down to a river, and in Varanasi you’ll find ghats continuously along the river. One of my favorites, for its beautiful painted steps, is Kedar Ghat.

Colors of Varanasi, India
Colors of Varanasi, India

Like in all of India, Varanasi is full of color. From the colors painted on buildings to the clothing of pilgrims, you’ll be immersed in colors when in Varanasi.

Stopping for a break in Varanasi
Stopping for a break in Varanasi

Taking a seat on a step and watching life and death happen is one of the most incredible things to do in Varanasi.

Funeral in the early morning in Varanasi, India
Funeral in the early morning in Varanasi, India

Though you can go to one of the burning ghats and see bodies being burned (I didn’t take any photos), you can also see funerals taking place where a body is just sunk to the botton of the river. Here’s a funeral I witnessed along the ghat early one morning.

Watch my Varanasi video to see more of this ceremony.

Drinking from the Ganges River
Drinking from the Ganges River

People not only bathe and wash their clothes in the Ganges river, but it’s also consumed!

Morning boat ride
Morning boat ride

Taking a morning sunrise boat ride is a great way to see Varanasi waking up and to observe rituals and traditions taking place along the banks of the river.

Morning ceremony along the Ganges River
Morning ceremony along the Ganges River

Every night, and also in the morning (but less), there’s a ceremony to honor the Ganges river. It involves lots of burning incense and fire.

Shrine in Varanasi
Shrine in Varanasi

Throughout Varanasi you’ll see many interesting shrines.

A peaceful nap!
A peaceful nap!

You can really sit or lay down and take a nap wherever you please in Varanasi. This man just decided to take a nap in a cage… why not!?

A posing sadhu in Varanasi
A posing sadhu in Varanasi

Like I mentioned above, all over Varanasi there are many sadhu holy men. Sometimes they ask for their photos to be taken in exchange for a few Rupees.

Kissed by a goat!
Kissed by a goat!

Even if a goat starts licking your face, just keep on snoozing!

Dead monkey in Varanasi
Dead monkey in Varanasi

While walking along the main road of Varanasi, I came across a dead monkey. People would passby and toss coins as the monkey rest.

Ganges River and the Ancient Lanes
Ganges River and the Ancient Lanes

Exploring the Ganges River and the ancient narrow alleys are the highlights of visiting Varanasi.

Boat in Varanasi, India
Boat in Varanasi, India

A very colorful boat full of people in Varanasi, India.

Peanut man and green pea man
Peanut man and green pea man

If you get onto some of the main streets in Varanasi, you’ll find all sorts of delicious street food. During my stay, I frequented the peanut man and the green pea man.

Exploring the streets of Varanasi, India
Exploring the streets of Varanasi, India

Varanasi is a great place to get lost in the craziness and just explore the city.

Tasty snacks in Varanasi, India
Tasty snacks in Varanasi, India

You’ll find lots of delicious food in Varanasi too!

If you plan to visit Varanasi, be sure to check out tips and information on my Varanasi travel guide.



26 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Sagari

    8 months ago

    I hope to visit Varanasi soon. Twice I missed the chance to visit this place. India is a place where we can find lot more places to keep on exploring. That’s a nice collection. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Vishaljit Sinha

    2 years ago

    Really love your photos , showes the real India.I really love your videos till it make me hungry and make me realise that I had nothing in the kitchen rake.. to eat after that its tease full to watch…… but really appreciate your work and passion towards food ……

  • Prasad

    2 years ago

    Hey Mark , I am Prasad from India. I am a regular follower of your videos. Despite being a pure vegetarian , I enjoy your food videos. I wanted to make a humble request. I may not be able to afford to travel , so I request you to kindly dedicate some more time to the tourist places in your videos . Overall your videos are excellent and I do get a feeling that I am personally visiting the place. Thank you Mark.

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hi Prasad, nice to hear from you, thank you for the kind comment, and for your support. Will try to do so, and thank you!

  • Siddhartha Joshi

    3 years ago

    Absolutely fantastic pictures…loved them all…

  • Amit

    4 years ago

    Wonderful Varanasi. Its a place which has a reputed position in Indian Culture, Many Indian religious Purana’s have also mentioned of it.

  • flipnomad

    4 years ago

    Varanasi is one of my fave places on Earth. It may not be exactly as beautiful as other places but it’s unique and photogenic in my opinion. There’s always something going on in every corner.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Flip, I agree, it was just incredible, I was fascinating looking in all directions.

  • Mike

    4 years ago

    Wonderful photos, Mark. I think there is an opportunity for an amazing scene no matter where one points their camera!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Thank you Mike, yes in Varanasi that is so true, and I couldn’t even turn off my camera!

  • Christoffer Moen

    4 years ago

    Varanasi is as beautiful as the photos you’ve captured of it — altogether lush, intense, colorful, moving, and thought-provoking. I’m in awe.

  • namy

    4 years ago

    Your photos always astound and impress me. Just want to go there 🙂

  • Christina

    4 years ago

    Crikey, intense! I’ve never been to India, but hopefully one day I will go. I need to mentally prepare myself for that many people though. Great photos!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Thanks Christina, hope you can visit in the future!

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    4 years ago

    I’ve never been to India never mind Varanasi, but looking at your photos, I felt like I was there, Mark! I love how you really captured the spirit of the place and I really look forward to getting to see this wondrous city one day with my own eyes!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Thanks a lot Steph, Varanasi is really a fascinating place, unlike anywhere else I’ve been. Hope you can visit in the future!

  • Stephanie – The Travel Chica

    4 years ago

    Beautiful photo essay

  • Noel

    4 years ago

    These photos are amazing! They really made me want to go to India right now!

  • Maria

    4 years ago

    Definite show stoppers here. Beautiful, sad, intense and energetic simultaneously.