One of the most revered Buddhist pilgrim centres in India, Sarnath is a famous destination in Uttar Pradesh. Buddhists from all over the world see India as the Land of Buddha, and for them, a visit to this country means including a trip to Sarnath along with other pilgrimage destinations. Besides, Sarnath was the place where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon after attaining enlightenment and therefore, plays an important role in Buddhism. It is one of the four holiest sites of Buddhist pilgrimage in India, and hence, a trip to Sarnath is a must for devout followers of the Buddha.
Besides Sarnath, the other three sacred Buddhist centres in the Indian subcontinent are Lumbini, Nepal - the birthplace of Buddha, Bodhgaya, India - where he attained enlightenment, and Kushinagar, India - the site where he finally gave up his mortal self. It is also believed that after attaining enlightenment, Gautama Buddha came to a tranquil forest in Sarnath dotted with deer.
The city also has an age-old history including Emperor Ashoka, who took several measures to spread the Buddha's message of love and compassion throughout his empire during his reign He embarked on a tour to Sarnath around 234 B.C. and erected a stupa. So, while you are on a sightseeing tour in Sarnath, witness several stupas, excavated ruins of ancient monasteries, the deer park amongst other interesting attractions.
If you want to know more about Sarnath, how to reach, the best time to visit, where to eat and stay, and some useful travel tips, here is our comprehensively curated Sarnath travel guide.
Why visit Sarnath?
Sarnath is one of the pilgrimage centres in India and if you are inclined towards Buddhism, then Sarnath is an ideal place for you. The city holds many famous attractions including the most popular one, Dhamek Stupa. Built in the 5th - 6th century, this place was made to commemorate the Buddha’s spot preaching his first sermon. So, if you are interested to gain knowledge and get an insight into Buddha’s life visit Sarnath.
For history buffs, the Sarnath Museum is the perfect place to visit as it possesses a rich collection of Buddhist sculptures, heralded among the finest embodiments of Buddhist art. And the Sarnath travel guide will help you plan your Sarnath tour in the best possible way.
Best time to visit Sarnath
Before heading to Sarnath, check out the best season to visit -
Summer (March to June):
The summer season in Sarnath is very hot and the temperature rises to 46°C. The hot dry winds or ‘loo’ can be uncomfortable, so summer must be avoided to visit Sarnath.
Monsoon (July to September):
There are heavy showers in Sarnath during the monsoon and as a result, the humid levels go up. You must carry umbrellas and admire the freshness and greenery in the city.
Winter (October to February):
With the temperature decreasing to 5°C, winter is the best time to visit Sarnath. It gets a bit foggy and misty and it is advised to carry warm clothes with you. The weather is pleasant, which makes sightseeing more enjoyable.
Places to visit in Sarnath
Sarnath is a renowned Buddhist pilgrimage place in the country and has a lot of attractions dedicated to Buddha. Apart from this, the age-old history of Sarnath can be witnessed through its popular historical sites. Here are some of the best places to visit in Sarnath -
- Dhamek Stupa
- Sarnath Archaeological Site
- The Mahabodhi Society Temple
- Chaukhandi Stupa
- Ashoka Pillar
- Thai Temple
- Tibetan Temple
- Archaeological Museum
Things to do in Sarnath
Situated in Uttar Pradesh, Sarnath is blessed with historical sites, rich cultural heritage, lip-smacking foods, beautiful parks, and much more. Exploring Buddhist sites in Sarnath and savouring the delectable dishes amongst other things will make your trip to Sarnath memorable. For the best experience, here are some of the best things to do in Sarnath -
- Witness the Bodhi Tree.
- Visit Chaukhandi Stupa.
- Relish toothsome local food.
- Partake in Buddha Purnima celebrations.
- Seek enlightenment at Dhamek Stupa.
- Explore the place where the Buddha rests in peace.
- Seek peace at Buddhist Temple.
- Relax at the Garden of Spiritual Wisdom.
How many days are enough to visit Sarnath?
2 to 3 days are enough to explore the best of Sarnath.
Average Sarnath Trip Cost
The cost of travelling to Sarnath will be INR 7000 per person. It depends on the flight/train tickets, the type of accommodation, etc.
Accommodation in Sarnath
A large number of hotels and guesthouses have sprung up in Sarnath to cater to the accommodation needs of tourists. Take your pick from the best hotels Sarnath, Varanasi from the list below for an unforgettable stay -
- The Fern Residency, Sarnath
- Hotel SGT Plaza
- Srishti Shelter
- Hotel Pinnacle Gate
- Mayur Paying Guest House
Where to eat in Sarnath
The city does not have too many places to the east but the handful has joggers scrumptious meals. You can find North Indian delicacies in large amounts with some popular Chinese dishes. Tibetan cuisine like momos can also be found here. The three top restaurants in Sarnath are -
- Vaishali Restaurant
- Friend’s Corner Tibetan Restaurant
- Green Hut
Shopping in Sarnath
Before heading home from Sarnath, shop for some of the wide selling artefacts and statues of Buddha as souvenirs. You will see many different types of Buddha sculptures. Visit Sarnath Market and get your hands on whatever you like. But remember, if you are looking for any fancy items here, then there is not much Sarnath has to offer.
How to reach Sarnath
Lying in proximity to the much-visited Hindu pilgrimage centre Varanasi, Sarnath is easily accessible by air, rail and road from major destinations in Northern India.
By Air - Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport is the main airport to reach Sarnath. It is well-connected with prominent Indian cities like Delhi, Gaya, Lucknow, Mumbai, Khajuraho, and even Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. Once you reach, Sarnath is nearly 24 km away from the airport.
By Train - Sarnath is connected to Gorakhpur and Varanasi via passenger trains. You can get trains from Agra, Amritsar, Mumbai, Bhopal, Hyderabad, and Bangalore. Once you get off the station, take a bus or taxi to reach Sarnath.
By Road - Several buses are available by the Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation along with some private travel services to get to Sarnath from nearby cities like Prayagraj, Varanasi, Sultanpur, Lucknow, and New Delhi.
How to get around Sarnath
You can use auto-rickshaws and taxis available throughout the city. They are not that costly and are considered the best way to travel in the city to visit the attractions.
Useful Tips for Sarnath Trip
- Avoid visiting Sarnath in the summer as the extreme heat will make you very uncomfortable.
- Do not wear revealing clothes while visiting religious sites.
- Keep yourself warm in winters and wear woollens properly.
- Respect the local culture.