Holidays to the Ganges River, India

Flowing from the freezing cold Himalayan peaks down to the Bay of Bengal, the Ganges is considered one of the most sacred rivers in India. And it’s incredibly long too; at 1,569 miles long the river passes through India and Bangladesh, providing a lifeline to the millions of locals who live along it and rely on it for their daily needs. It’s also proved important historically, with many former capitals being located on its banks.

Many pilgrims and tourists are attracted to popular towns along the river, including Haridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi. Pilgrims visit to bathe in its waters as it’s believed the river can cleanse away sins and encourage salvation. To access the water they use the many ghats (stone steps) which dot the river.

One of the most popular spots for tourists and pilgrims alike is Varanasi, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. While the city is charming it can also result in somewhat of an assault on the senses for new visitors; many Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi offers freedom from the cycle of rebirth, so they travel to the city at the end of their lives to take part in the sacred life and death rituals. The resulting sights, sounds and smells can be intense, but offer a fascinating insight into this culture. Boat tours are a popular way to take in the buzz of activity and religious ceremonies that take place along the river banks. For a more hands on perspective take part in a rafting experience. This is a particularly popular activity in Rishikesh thanks to its rougher waters and stunning natural scenery.

Highlights

  • Visit one of the most sacred rivers in India

  • Spend time watching religious rituals in Varanasi

  • Take a boat ride for a different perspective

Sally
Senior Travel Designer
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I spent almost a year living in India, volunteering and exploring, and this vibrant corner of the world always draws me back. I was once caught up in a local paint-throwing festival in Udaipur. We came away covered head to toe in red paint, but the experience was well worth it!

Map of ganges River