Varanasi or Jaipur?

Jul 31st, 2006, 02:42 PM
  #1  
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Varanasi or Jaipur?

For a first timer to India, which city is more do-able and worthwhile--Varanasi or Jaipur? I only have 2 weeks in India, flying into and out of Delhi. I have to spend about 3 days in Hyderabad, but other than that I don't have a set itinerary. Like to do Agra and Delhi for sure.

But what about Jaipur or Varanasi? I like older Indian history, much older than the Mughal. Varanasi seems much more interesting, but is it hard to travel there for first timers? How to go about it? Also, I hear that non-Hindus are not allowed inside temples in Varanasi? Any special events at the end of Nov?

But people have said Rajasthan is very interesting too, and it's probably more convenient from Delhi.

While I'm at it, anything else close by Hyderabad that would be of interest?

Any suggestions will be appreciated.
JC98 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2006, 02:59 PM
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I would vote for Varanasi waaaay over Jaipur.

Varanasi IS Hindu India itself. Yes there are some great palaces in Jaipur, but sunrise on the Ganges will be one of the most incredible moments of your life.

http://www.waynehazle.com/india/
waynehazle is offline  
Jul 31st, 2006, 05:57 PM
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I have been to India twice and am planning my 3rd visit. I love both places and will probably return to Jaipur. But, I would not miss Varanasi!
Does that make sense?
Jaipur is wonderful and Varanasi is difficult but sooooo like anything else! It is truly magical.
Unless you feel confident that you will return to India in the near future I would chose Varanasi.
impacked is offline  
Jul 31st, 2006, 09:36 PM
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a. There is no relation between the sight seeing in Jaipur or Varanasi. Jaipur is an old city dating back to the 18th century, has some lovely palaces & forts, fine dining, beautiful heritage hotels & an ambience that is at once traditional, historical & modern. The maharajas of Jaipur were great sportsmen & you see this legacy in those exciting horse polo matches, held on the Rajasthan Polo Grounds, in the backdrop of the Rambaug Palace & the Moti Dungri Castle, perched high on the hill.
b. Varanasi is ancient, dating back to 2500 years, a hub of Hindu philosophy, way of life and all that is distinctly ‘Hinduism’. The Ghats on the Ganges throbbing with life & vitality, the religious hymns & tinkle of temple bells that come floating down in the evenings, is a sight worth appreciating.
c. However, as the number of days at your disposal are limited, you may substitute Haridwar for Varanasi, just 130 miles north-east of Delhi & once again on the holy Ganges…the sight seeing is almost the same, An evening ‘aarti’ at Har-ki-pauri’, the Kankhal Ghat where the Hindus immerse the ashes of their dead, the family purohits (Kusha Ghat) of each sub-caste has a family record of all dating back to at least a thousand years! There is no early morning boating at Haridwar, nor a cremation ground, on the Ganges.
Hope this helps.
vp_singh is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 02:39 AM
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Hi,

That's a hard one. Jaipur's a memorable place to visit - and half a day at least at Amber Fort is not to be missed.

But you will already have spent time in Hyderabad and Delhi and Agra - all of which were centres of power for Islamic dynasties, whereas Varanasi is a sacred Hindu city.

IMHO I would put Varanasi on my list of places you must see before dropping off the perch - Jaipur no, Hardiwar, no.

I did enjoy Hardiwar - and of course it is scenically different being in the foothills of the Himalayan ranges instead of on the wide plains like Varanasi, way downstream

And it is not hard to get to Varanasi - you could take the overnight train if a journey like that appeals.

But, having said all that .. Varanasi bombards all the senses. There's nothing in India quite like it and it probably rates high on the culture shock scale if you aren't already well acclimatised. I visited on my first trip and have been drawn back - but that first trip was a long one and I didn't go in the first two weeks!

It all really depends on you - and perhaps whether you have visited anywhere that is quite different from your own culture before.

But have a fabulous visit, whatever - and if you do go to Varanasi allow enough time to just wander the streets of the old centre.
fuzzylogic is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 12:33 PM
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Hello there and Namaste! First off, looking at your dates and times of travel, it seems like u have about 11 days to explore outside of hYDERABAD, so i wld say u can surely and feasibly do all u mention without choosing/cutting Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, and Varanasi..That is, if u plan well and are willing to put in a domestic flight or two en route to tackle the big distances. In terms of the two destinations in question, absolutely incomparable, complete different ends of the Indian spectrum, and yes, both fascinating and filled with history and culture and both worthy of a visit for their different sights,sounds/colors, and atmosphere. But if i had to choose one that wld define the India experince and surely give u greater insight into India, I wld say hands down Varanasi!!!I have been in/out of this city for over 15 years and it is magical and maddening and mind~boggling everytime! I love it there, it moves U! This city has got to be one of the most fascianting places to see in all of India, if not the world. However, that said, it is not a place for everyone, not the easiest place to vist, and so much depends on what are u intersts and how deep u want to go into India too! The city of VAranasi can not really be defined,,It is overwhelming and magical,otherwordly, bewildering, fascinating, can be challanging, chaotic, and also serene and spiritual too, etc. It is one of the oldest living cities in history, heart of hinduism, and truly a spectacular place to see/feel and experience. A visit to the ganges both at sunrise and sunset is a must and may very well be the most spectacular moments u have in India.. I have taken many of my groups to the Ganges/Evening Arti prayers..To get down to the ganges we first take a rickshaw for about 20/30 minutes thru the city, and to the majority of them, this was their best evening in India..It was India! To feel the pulse of the people, to be in the action, to break the barriers between tourist and local, and then, the peace, the song, to see the rituals, to pray, to light a candle, to feel the energy, to partake in something magical! So, there u have it! But that said, i too love Jaipur and for differnt reasons, the Palaces, the forts, the local color and cuisine, the history and folklore of the region and it is a wonderful place to visit with great places to stay,and the whole State of Rajasthan is one of my favorites, so, and of course, much closer to Delhi and u will not need to fly around... Anyways, good luck with ur trip planning and feel free to drop me a line if u wld like some help, as I am a American living in India [email protected]
Bonita is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 03:11 PM
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Thanks all your opinions! It looks like Varanasi wins hands down. What's the best way to get from Delhi to Varanasi? Fly or train? How long to stay in Varanasi and what to do there other than the river front?

I'm still so clueless about India! Awaiting my Lonely Planet guide to arrive. Any recommended guidebooks for India?

Thanks!
JC98 is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 03:42 PM
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I think you need at least a solid 2 days in Varanasi. Aside from the Ganges I went to the Maharaha's Fort one day. Yawn.

It would have been better to do a Ganges Sunrise twice. Actually I wish once day I had walked on the banks with the guide and one day without him.
waynehazle is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 04:29 PM
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Thanks, Waynehazle. I remember from your trip report that you took the overnight train to Varanasi? And you had to "padlock" your backpack to your leg? Very funny. What class train was that? AC2? (Hey, I'm getting a bit more knowledgeable just by reading trip reports and postings on this forum!

In general, how hard is it to travel by train with your luggage and all? Where do you put them? Are there porters to help you with your baggage? Are they stored somewhere separately or you have to keep them with you at all time? Is theft a big concern?

The AC1 class price doesn't seem too bad. I haven't compared train fare to air fare, but train is probably much cheaper?

Thanks!
JC98 is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 06:53 PM
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JC, Varanasi is a holy city to Buddhists as well, and you will want to go to Sarnath (a few out of Benares), where the Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment in the deer park. You will see Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world there. There is also an archaeological museum in Sarnath; one of the significant items in the museum is the Ashoka lion pillar which is also depicted on some of the Indian money. There is also an outstanding museum on the campus of Benares Hindu University.
tanuki is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 07:01 PM
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may i suggest that you also get a bit less basic guide than a lonely planet as well....
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 09:55 PM
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JC98,

I was told later that I really didn't need to padlock all my stuff to my leg. But I sure didn't want to wake up and see all my stuf gone!

the train was great to Varanasi.
waynehazle is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2006, 03:39 AM
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I think it is a good idea to lock your bags to something, there are cables under the seats provided just for this purpose. We brought a cable lock and tied it all down. From what we were told there are (were ?) lots of theft problems on the train between Agra and Varanasi and they even made us sign a register in the morning saying we still had all our stuff.

Have a great trip !
kellyee21 is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2006, 10:05 AM
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Well, of course it is quicker and easier to fly from Delhi, but yes the train experince is another definative Indian experince if u are hankering for an Indian intensive, and every visitor to India should experince this!,,, i forget but i think it is about 17 hours or so by train from Delhi..U can also shorten the train journey a wee bit by taking the train from Agra instead, that may work for u and then fly back to Delhi from Varanasi. Of course, the flight will be a breeze, perhaps train in and fly out...In Varanasi, sunrise at the ganges is wonderfual and as i mentioned in my previous post, Sunset at the ganges for evening prayers!,,my faveorite time...and by all means, take a rickshaw thru the city at night too and feel the magic..And as the other poster mentioned, visit Saranth and the incredible on~site museum there too and a wonderful budhist Temple too, very holy site to Buddhists worldwide..And in Varansi, wander thru the narrow old lanes of the city, go to the perfume and silk shops..See a music recital at night..Perhaps visit Benares Hindu University, and of course, visit some of the amazing temples all across the city, far too numerous to mention,,take care and feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]
Bonita is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2006, 10:25 PM
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Thanks, all, for the great info. An Indian friend of mine told me that the temples in Varanasi might not admit non-Hindus. Is this true? Are they very spectacular temples?
JC98 is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2006, 11:40 PM
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Only some of them don't. The big one in the market area doesn't allow foreigners in...they have guards with big guns outside, so you'll know which it is.

others, like the one with the marble "map" of India, and some of the smaller ones throughout the old city, welcome visitors. One thing about visiting, is expect the priests to want to bless you and know they will want a donation for this. There are often other people there who will attach themselves to you, talking about the temple, then will ask for guide fee. We gave to the priests, but would just ignore the guides.

Varanasi is not hard to get to...a quick flight and about a 40 minute/ $8 taxi into the old town. It is a bit harder to 'be'in Varanasi though. It is very dirty, the hotels near the ghats are less nice than in the (distant) cantonnment, and eating is a bit more questionable as the restaurants are very small.

That said, I loved Varanasi. It was my second time to India, and my daughter had spent several weeks there earlier, so she knew all the tips and tricks.

With only 2 weeks and having to spend time in Hyderabad, the Delhi/Agra/Jaipur triangle might be a bettter trip this time. I thought my first trip (which was Delhi/Agra/Jaipur)would be my only one, and did not feel I'd been shorted by missing Varanasi that time. India is a huge country with so many "must sees" that you will always have to make hard choices.
lcuy is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2006, 08:12 AM
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I think the temple where the whole floor is a giant relief map of Asia is the Mother India temple.

Yes the great temple in the Old City, the one with the golden roof, does not allow non-Hindus.

When I went 2002 that area was under high protection. The temple is right next to a Muslim mosque. Radical factions of both religions are threaten to tear each other's houses of worship down.

Even without being able to go into some places, Varanasi is still worth it.

waynehazle is offline  
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