The first thing that would come to your mind if someone says they are taking a trip to Varanasi would be that either they are going on a pilgrimage or on a religious awakening. I have never been big on religious trips, nor have I have been on keen on visiting temples inspite of being brought up in a fairly religious household. Some say I am an atheist, some say I am an agnostic while some think I am merely a cynic. All the temples or religious destinations I have visited so far have been from the perspective of a tourist. Varanasi is one such place with which I have been fascinated with, from as long as I remember; way before it became Varanasi from Banaras, way before it became a political battleground. I have always felt a paramount amount of attraction towards the vibrance and vigor of the town.
Varanasi could be one of the most visually overwhelming cities in the world. The moment you set your foot in Varanasi, you are dumbfounded by the colours, liveliness, spirit, commotion, activities and not to mention the crowd! Religiously, one of the most significant cities for a Hindu; a trip to Varanasi is one of the biggest feats in the life of any Hindu. However, there is much more to the town than temples and religion. This is one of the towns in India with which foreigners and hippies have been enticed.
Varanasi is one of the liveliest cities in the world; the colors of the city bringing you to life. Waking up to the sunrise on the banks of Ganges is witnessing one of the most beautiful and colorful landscapes in the nation. The best way to capture these moments is taking a boat ride across the Ganges either during sunrise or sunset. Mornings are better because sunrises are longer than sunsets and they give you a larger window to capture the breathtaking picturesque. Most of the hotels located on the banks of the Ganges offer a two-hour boat ride at sunrise and sunset, which cruises around most of the ghats of the Ganges. Watching the sun rise or set at the Ganges is one of the most spectacular sights ever.
Other than this, the town provides the usual religious offerings. For a traveler whose trip is not so religious the best way to go about is watch the sunrise along the Ganges (since the sunrises are longer than the sunsets, thereby offering more opportunities for some incredible captures) and witness the Ganga aarti at the Dashwamegh Ghat. Rest may wander around the old city and witness the color and life painted across saints, ceremonies, rituals, history and mythology including the iconic Vishwanath Temple and the incredibly picturesque Munshi Ghat.
Not to forget that Varanasi is one of the most culturally sensitive towns in the nation; screening people by religions across most religiously auspicious ghats. Also, it is advisable not to use photography at cremation ghats, especially Manikarnika Ghat, Harischandra Ghat and the other cremation ghats.