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Set on the riverbanks of the sacred Ganges, Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world and the holiest of all cities for devout Hindus. It is believed that bathing in the river will purge all sins and, to many Hindus, Varanasi is the ultimate pilgrimage as it is regarded as the place that provides salvation and enlightenment. An early morning boat ride or walk along the riverside ghats offers a glimpse of the city’s spiritual significance, with pilgrims performing their ablutions and other rituals, funeral pyres blazing on the steps, incense wafting through the air and music chiming all around. The town is also a favourite among Buddhists, as Sarnath, the town where Buddha gave his first sermon after enlightenment, is only a short drive away.

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