Review of
boat trip on Ganga river

View of Ganga river in Varanasi

"Boat trip to Ganga River" was last updated on Jan 29, 2014
All information below is subject to change


Ganges is the largest river in India.

To Indians, Ganges is one of the sacred rivers. Indians come to Varanasi, or specifically Ganges, to die. They believe that their soul will be transported directly to heaven, freeing them from the evil cycle of incarnation.

Ganges is also the most polluted river in India! Studies have shown that the Ganges is one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

When you see the water, you'll know what I mean. It's not water you're looking at, but has the consistency of sewer mud.

Stroll along the Ganges River and the first thing that hits you are locals who are eager to take you for a morning or afternoon boat trip on the river.

It's not only one local, but many! You can choose to do a boat trip with one of them, or arrange it through your guesthouse.

Red ghat in Varanasi

We arranged a boat trip through Maruti Guesthouse (where we stayed).

Price: Rs 200 (for 2 hours)

The owner and his sweet family knew a guy who could boat us through Ganges. I don't remember his name, but he was very sweet and just got married. I'll just call him 'Raj' in this article.

We were picked up by 'Raj' early in the morning, before 06.00 am. It was before sunrise.

He guided us on the streets and we went down to the river where boats where docked. An old man came to us and asked if we wanted to buy floating candles (Rs 10 each).

Floating candles are perceived as offerings to the water god. Every morning and every afternoon, you'll see hundreds of them floating in the river.

We started the journey and passed the ghats slowly. There was definitely time to take lots of pictures and enjoy the morning breeze.

Me on the boat in the Ganges river in Varanasi, India
Floating candles in Varanasi, India
Ash in Ganga river in Varanasi

I gently commented the Ganges river pollution to 'Raj' but he was without a doubt, in denial (no offense).

I asked why the water was so dirty and pointed at the white substances appearing on the surface.

He said it was the birds that were pooping in the water, or something like that.

Yes, there were birds in sight. But it was definitely not poop.

It was ash.

Disposal of half-burned or dead human bodies in the river infect the water dangerously. In addition to this, many industries just dump their wastes directly into the river.

Everyday, about 90 million liters of sewage is disposed into the Ganges at 12 towns that fall along its bank. The amount of the sewage increases all the more during the festivals.

Logs on Ganges river in Varanasi

But still, locals are washing their bodies in the river, washing clothes and picking up 'water' to cook food. Cows also take frequent baths in the water. I also saw a 'white' traveler bathing in the water with the locals.

The whole phenomenon is really disturbing. But it's belief and religion.

Back to the good part.

When the sun started to rise, the scenery was just stunning. Watching the sun in the horizon was magic. We passed 'dhobis' who washed clothes in traditional way, by hitting a piece of clothing against a flat rock – over and over again. They dried the clothing in the sun by folding them out on the ground.

Sunset on Ganga river in India
A dhobi - washing men in Varanasi, India

At the next ghats, more and more people were approaching the water to take a bath. Women wore clothes in the water, and the men only wore a Indian type of 'sarong' around their waist.

Locals bathing in Ganges river in Varanasi
A boat filled with tourists in Varanasi
Drying clothes on the ghats of Varanasi

It was a holy moment, that's for sure.

When we closed up on the Main Ghat, the boat stood still for a while. There were so many other boats in the water. Hundreds of tourists and backpackers were all there. We saw a boat full of Thai people – it looked like the boat was about to tip over, if you ask me.

Then we drove back the same route. Excellent morning, if you ask me! :-)

During the winter season in north India, it's chilly in Varanasi. It's a good idea to bring a sweater or a warm hoody.

Watch my video clip from the Ganga river!

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