India Varanasi Photo Adventure Vacations – Inspire, Create and Learn.
Varanasi is the India you imagine. One of the most colorful and fascinating places on earth, with surprises around every corner. Pilgrims come to the ghats (steps) lining the River Ganges to wash away sins in the sacred waters or to cremate their loved ones. It’s a particularly auspicious place to die, since expiring here offers moksha (liberation from the cycle of rebirth). Most visitors agree Varanasi is magical – but not for the faint-hearted. Intimate rituals of life and death take place in public, and the sights, sounds and smells on the ghats – not to mention almost constant attention from touts – can be intense. Still, the so-called “City of Light” may turn out to be your favorite stop on our adventure. Walking the ghats and alleyways or watching sunrise from a boat will be unforgettable.
Varanasi, also known as Benares (Banāras or Kashi), is on the banks of the River Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, India, 790 km (490 mi) southeast of Delhi. It is the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism, Ravidassia religion and Jainism, and played an important role in the development of Buddhism. Some Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings salvation. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Varanasi is also known as the favorite city of the Hindu deity Lord Shiva as it has been mentioned in the Rigveda that this city in ancient times was known as Kashi or “Shiv ki Nagri”.
NOTE: Varanasi can be a stand alone photo adventure, but it is meant to be combined with several of our India adventures including Rajasthan’s Golden Triangle, the Pushkar Camel Fair, Kolkata and more. In addition, a private or semi private Varanasi experience can be added to any of our group photo adventures.
This adventure is designed not only to guide you to the most photogenic locations carefully planned for the best light, but to aid you in mentally visualizing a scene before capturing the decisive moment. Our aim is to raise your awareness and spark your creativity, so that you not only go home with images to be proud of, but use your new found skills to improve and expand your photographic technique in general. Apart from the technical aspect of learning your camera settings and capabilities, you will learn how to turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary image by using your own creativity.
In addition, you will become knowledgeable on how to survey the landscape, utilize and approach your environment, photograph people indigenous to the region and the cultural considerations and challenges of photographing in a foreign country. Our time together will include individual and group discussions, inspiring ideas and great fun. We cannot think of a better country to express your creativity than India.
VARANASI 5 DAY
Day 1 | Delhi – Old Delhi
Arrival in Delhi. Whether you are arriving from India or elsewhere, or if Varanasi is an extension to one of our other India Photo Adventure. Day one is an arrival day in Delhi. Transfers will be arranged to take you to our hotel. In the afternoon we will explore Old Delhi markets and streets followed by a “Welcome Dinner” at our favorite Indian restaurant. After we’ll rest up and prepare for a very busy schedule for the next 4 days in Varanasi. (D)
Day 2 | Delhi – Varanasi (Flight) – Sanarth Museum – Aarti Ceremony
After an early breakfast we transfer to the airport to catch our flight for Varanasi. After checking into our hotel, we visit the Sarnath (the Deer Park) where the Buddha preached his first sermon and Sanarth Museum. In the afternoon we’ll set out to explore the amazing alleys and streets of Varanasi. In the evening we will board a private boat to witness and photograph the thousand-year-old Aarti Ceremony during which worshippers pray near the water by the light of candles and lanterns. This is an experience you will never forget. (B)
Day 3 | Varanasi – River Ganges – Widows of Varanasi
Today we are up early to take a sunrise boat cruise on the River Ganges, and the opportunity to capture vivid photographs of devoted Hindus bathing in the river. These photos of Hindus offering their prayers against morning sunlight make the journey quite rewarding. After we return to our hotel for breakfast.
Next we will experience an emotional visit with the Widows of Varanasi. Varanasi may be colorful and move at a frenetic pace, but the city harbors a darker secret – it is home to 38,000 widows, a marginalized and forgotten population, of which the majority live in poverty. Abandoned in the city and shunned by society, many seek refuge in the different ashrams for widows. When widows are thrown out of their households, they come to Varanasi because it is a holy city. It is the favorite city of the Hindu deity Lord Shiva, and they believe that if they die there they will go straight to heaven. Widows call it Moksha – when the final release from reincarnation is gained. A significant portion of the widows in Varanasi are aged between 20 and 45, along with elders. Poverty and disease, including HIV infection, are some of the main reasons young women are being widowed at such a young age. But cultural practices, namely child marriage, are a major driving force behind this problem in India. Girls are often married at an early age, sometimes as teenagers to much older men. When the men die, the women are left as widows. India has the highest number of child brides in the world. Poverty, dowries, gender expectation, tradition and a lack of educational opportunities for girls are the reasons behind this problem.
Our afternoon and evening will be spent exploring and photographing more of Varanasi. In the evening we will witness one of the Aarti prayer ceremonies taking place along the banks of the Ganges. You’ll be able to get up very close to the high priests waving Yak-tail fans and performing rituals during the ceremonies. (B)
Day 4 | Varanasi – Bathing Ghats – Bengali Tola – Sadhus
Today we begin even earlier. Our guide meets us at our hotel before sunrise, so you can witness the amazing spectacle which takes place on Varanasi’s waterfront at the start of every day. The principal attraction of Varanasi is the long string of bathing ghats, which line the west bank of the River Ganges. Ghats are the steps which lead down to the river from which pilgrims make their sin-cleansing dip in the holy river and on which bodies are cremated. A boat ride on the Ganges at dawn, when it is full of pilgrims, is an amazing experience, and our guide can explain to you the various rituals taking place.
Leaving the boat after passing the most important Ghats, we will continue on foot for a fascinating exploration of the narrow lanes of the Bengali Tola area of Varanasi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth. Here we will pass countless small temples, shrines, and traditional shops. Our guide will provide a unique insight into this most fascinating of cities, which would otherwise be incomprehensible to the outsider. Along the way we’ll set up several photo sessions with local Sadhus. In the evening we enjoy a wonderful “Farewell Dinner” at a favorite Varanasi restaurant. (B) (D)
Day 5 | Varanasi – Delhi (Flight)
After breakfast we transfer to the airport to board our return flight to Delhi for your connecting flight home or book a later departure hotel room and rest up. (B)
May all who come as guests… leave as friends®
Experience | Difficulty
Beginner, amateur, enthusiast and semi-pro photographers
DSLR, mirrorless, compact or iPhone cameras
Travel by private air-conditioned car, train and mini-van
Minimal elevation changes and lots of walking
(non-photographers also welcome)
Travel, people, urban, landscape and architecture photography
Professional photographer | guide
Photo walks & discussions
Small group size (4-8 guests)
5 star hotel
Domestic roundtrip flight, Delhi to Varanasi
All Entrance fees
Delhi – Hotel Imperial or similar
Varanasi – Hotel Madan or similar
Arrival & Departure Airport: Delhi, India (DEL) – Transfer time to hotel 50min
Our adventure begins at 11 AM on the first day and ends at noon on the last day.
NOTE: If you are registering for Varanasi as an extension to another India adventure, we will manage your domestic flights. Please speak with guest services to finalize your itinerary.
Travel Visa: A visa may be required depending on your nationality.
Single Supplement: $600
(Optional) Early Arrival Hotel Room: $350
(Optional) Late Departure Hotel Room: $350
Options and Benefits
Private Guided Tours & Adventures
We offer amazing private guided photo adventures, cultural tours and vacations for individuals, couples, families and groups. We can customize any of our published adventures, as well as others, to meet your individual needs, schedule, budget and interests. This may include the finest 5-star accommodations, business-class travel, and private guides and fixers who are able to make the impossible possible. If you are not interested in a photo-centric vacation, but you love our approach to private travel, we will be happy to design and deliver an amazing adventure focused on travel, culture and cuisine.
We offer travel insurance through Travelex. The cost for travel insurance can be as low as 4% of the total trip cost, depending upon age and other factors. Knowing you have trip cancellation coverage can make a big difference should you have to cancel for some unforeseen reason. Travelex Insurance Services is a BBB Accredited business with an A+ rating.
Street, Landscape and People Photographer
Born in Jerusalem, raised in London and spending most of his time since a teenager traveling around the globe, you could say that living in Barcelona for the last 10 years has been the longest time that you could find Laurie in one spot!
Combining his extensive travels with his photography background, Laurie has been offering photography tours for over 20 years. He enjoys nothing more than using his experience to aid photo enthusiasts in the technical and creative skills needed to turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary one – all the while guiding his students to Barcelona’s most photogenic locations.
His first foray in photography started when he was just 13. He documented his adventures when he sailed with his brother, father, and Ruby the family dog, from England to Israel on a 3.5 month sailing trip on their yacht. With a deep connection to the sea, and still a teenager, he set about his first freelance business in Southeast Asia where he offered underwater photographic tours to divers using the Nikonos underwater camera system. Since then, he has been a photo tour guide in some of the most exotic locations found anywhere on the globe.
As well as using professional DSLR’s and lenses, Laurie considers himself a purist and still uses his film cameras on occasion. He tries to convey on his tours that it is not the equipment that makes a great image, but what the photographer is trying to achieve before they even take the lens cap off the camera. A difficult thing to achieve, with so many photographic opportunities in this amazing city.