Photos: The Ganges River at Sunrise

135 comments

Travel Photos: The Ganges at Sunrise, India

Varanasi is unlike any other place on Earth. The city is considered to be over 3,000 years old –one of the oldest in the world– and it hugs the Ganges River, which is held sacred by nearly one billion Hindus. Sunrise is the best time to visit, when thousands of people stream into the ghats to bathe and make offerings, while hundreds of boats ferry tourists up and down the river.

Mark Twain summed it up best when he said that it “is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”

Here are a dozen of my best shots, taken over a five day period. I hope you enjoy them.

Free desktop wallpapers are available HERE

Travel Photos: The Ganges at Sunrise, India

Travel Photos: The Ganges at Sunrise, India

Travel Photos: The Ganges at Sunrise, India

Travel Photos: The Ganges at Sunrise, India

Travel Photos: The Ganges at Sunrise, India

Travel Photos: The Ganges at Sunrise, India

Travel Photos: The Ganges at Sunrise, India

Travel Photos: The Ganges at Sunrise, India

Travel Photos: The Ganges at Sunrise, India

Travel Photos: The Ganges at Sunrise, India

Travel Photos: The Ganges at Sunrise, India

 

 

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{ 135 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris - The Aussie Nomad January 3, 2011 at 6:58 pm

It really does hug the river if that last shot is anything to go by.

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Priyank January 3, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Holy Ganga! Wes, this is incredible. I cannot recall the last time I saw such positive pictures of the ghats at Varanasi! Great timing too!

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:13 am

Thanks, man! Amazing place.

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Michael January 3, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Really beautiful shots. Thank you :)

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:13 am

Thanks, Michael :)

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retrotraveller January 3, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Awesome set of photographs, I have yet to go to India, but I’m planning for a trip there and Varanasi is high on the list. These photos really give me a feel for the place… I love the picture of the girl feeding the birds from the a boat (assume that is what she is doing…).

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:12 am

Yeah, she was feeding the gulls. Some boats were surrounded by hundreds of birds – it was a bit crazy.

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ayngelina January 3, 2011 at 9:59 pm

I love the magic in the second photo. The expressions of joy are priceless.

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Amy January 3, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Fantastic photos. Isn’t the light at dawn amazing? I just posted some pictures from Varanasi yesterday. The interplay of light, color and faith at Varanasi is fascinating.

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:11 am

Those are some nice shots!

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Jennifer Barry January 3, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Wow Wes, really lovely shots. I especially like the first one with the person in red, and the last where you can see the ancient structures. I will have to visit India some day. :)

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wes January 8, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Thanks, Jennifer. It’s an incredible place.

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Theodora January 3, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Gorgeous shots. Thank you!

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:09 am

Thank *you*!

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Natalka January 4, 2011 at 12:30 am

WOW…..I really regret missing this place my last trip…I certainly have to go back. Your pictures are absolutely beautiful.

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:08 am

Yeah, I think it’s my favorite place in India. One of the more trying and exhausting places too…

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Casa de Hamilton Pool January 4, 2011 at 2:49 am

Best ones yet. I keep saying that, but it’s true.

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:08 am

Thanks, brother. Still learning out here…

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marylouise January 4, 2011 at 2:55 am

WES All SUBERB! AFTER LOOKING AT YOUR PHOTO MAGIC, I HAVE DECIDED TO
LEAVE MY CAMERA HOME IN PARIS WHEN I TRAVEL TO VARANASI IN MARCH
OF THIS YEAR. MARYLOUISE

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:07 am

Don’t do it! Ya gotta bring a camera :)

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Micah January 4, 2011 at 3:19 am

Amazing!

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Ryan - PauseTheMoment.com January 4, 2011 at 3:27 am

Your best photos yet by far. Unbelievable job… Keep up the good work!

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:07 am

Thanks, Ryan – I’m really happy with these.

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Vincent January 4, 2011 at 3:45 am

The shots are out of this world! If only Varanasi could look and feel peace and serenity like in these pics.. And not constantly be harassed by hugest swam of touts ever :)

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:07 am

Yeah, the touts are annoying but I have to say they weren’t as bad as I remembered. Last time I was here they wouldn’t take no for an answer…

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Tracy Burns January 4, 2011 at 4:22 am

Gorgeous photos. I love the second one. It really looks like a whole other world or time!

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:04 am

Thanks, Tracy! That was a lucky catch — I took 6-7 photos of her feeding the gulls and that one was the keeper :)

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Adam @ SitDownDisco January 4, 2011 at 4:58 am

You already know this, but I’m going to say it again anyway, you’re a fantastic photographer, Wes. I always judge the pics that people display on their travel blogs by comparing them to magazine photos to decide how good they really are and yours are definitely of professional quality. Not many people can do this. Absolutely brilliant!

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:03 am

Wow, thanks Adam — that makes my day :)

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Magda January 4, 2011 at 6:35 am

Fantastic photos. Thanks for sharing.
I personally love Varanasi. It’s definitely the most magical place in India and one of the most magical places I have ever seen.

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:04 am

It really is like stepping back in time, isn’t it?

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Lisa E @chickybus January 4, 2011 at 6:35 am

I love these photos…the light is so warm and the vibe, so beautiful. I feel like I’m right there in Varanasi, enjoying the sunrise. Thanks for the vicarious–and beautiful–journey!

PS: If you aren’t already, you should be working for National Geographic!

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:06 am

Thank you, Lisa. No chance of me working for Nat Geo — those photogs *really* know what they’re doing. I just fake it ;)

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Christ Lockrem January 4, 2011 at 9:05 am

Awesome pics bro! Makes me think of kodachrome, but of course you probably don’t have much use for that (plus I think they just discontinued that film). Keep up the good work, and try to send some stuff to National Geographic…or maybe at least that Kodak contest they co-sponsor. How much more time on your walk-about?

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:27 am

Thanks, Chris! I’ve got the budget for another 6 months or so. Hard to say, as I do some freelance work from the road and the site is starting to generate a wee bit of income. Hoping to stretch it!

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GotPassport January 4, 2011 at 9:23 am

Yes, it is a special place. And these are beautiful images.

We arrived there late at night to see the nightly ceremony they have to honor the river. It was an incredible sight. I was out of batteries- by the time we made our way to the river. Glad to see these pictures as a reminder of my trip to India three years ago and a reminder to return, but with my family this time.

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wes January 4, 2011 at 9:28 am

Yeah, batteries and memory cards really suffer here, don’t they? I went through 2 full batteries and 12 gigs of cards in just one morning…

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Chris Day January 4, 2011 at 11:54 am

Was that a American flag steps in one of the pictures?

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wes January 4, 2011 at 12:06 pm

No, the steps are just painted red and white (if I’m looking at the right shot)

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Michael Hodson January 5, 2011 at 1:36 am

These are your best shots yet. You have a great sense of scope and scale in these. Really well done.

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wes January 5, 2011 at 10:38 am

Thanks, Michael. Varanasi is a real contrast — in the Old City, the alleys are narrow and dark. Then you reach the Ganges and the sky just knocks you over.

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Kelly Harmon, HipTraveler January 5, 2011 at 4:11 am

Wow, wow, wow!! Your photo essay of life on the Ganges River is absolutely stunning. Thanks for sharing your travels to Varanasi, India.

~cheers, hiptraveler

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wes January 5, 2011 at 10:37 am

Thanks for the kind words, Kelly.

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Laura January 5, 2011 at 8:10 am

Gorgeous! Such a beautiful place to photograph!

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wes January 5, 2011 at 10:35 am

One of my favorite spots of all time for photography…

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Amanda January 5, 2011 at 8:18 am

I pretty much only have one word: WOW! These are beautiful, and it looks as though you’ve done a good job capturing the spirit and feeling of the place. Amazing shots!

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wes January 5, 2011 at 10:34 am

Thanks, Amanda! Very kind of ya.

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Abby January 5, 2011 at 10:55 am

Stunning real life people shots, Wes!

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wes January 5, 2011 at 11:16 am

Thanks, Abby. Happy New Year!

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Candice January 6, 2011 at 4:58 am

Wow Wes, when did you turn into such a kickass photographer?! Great post!

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wes January 6, 2011 at 9:13 am

Aww, thanks Candice. I’m just faking it :)

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Heather January 6, 2011 at 5:34 am

Absolutely beautiful. Wow — thank you for sharing these!

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wes January 6, 2011 at 9:15 am

Thank you, Heather.

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Cam January 6, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Brilliant picks! Really like the religious picks, totally captures Varnasi’s vibe. We did the evening boat, which kinda sucked for photos because it got dark too quickly. Our “row boat guide” was so tiny and weak that we barely floated with the river current – I felt bad and just wanted to take over and get that boat moving for him! But, I bit my tongue and let him do his thing… ;-)

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wes January 6, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Ha ha! I saw a couple of people stuck in your situation. I watched one boat from the shore for ten minutes and the thing never moved, despite the poor guy rowing his heart out.

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DTravelsRound January 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm

These are absolutey breathtaking BREATHTAKING photos, Wes. Stunning. Should be in National Geographic.

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wes January 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Thanks, D!

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BT January 6, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Very nice work, i was wondering how bad the crowds of tourists are over there?

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wes January 6, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Tourism seems to be down all over India. The attacks in ’08 really hurt the industry and it doesn’t seem to have recovered yet. I’ve only been turned away from a full hotel once or twice in two months.

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mike jones January 6, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Nice pictures, but do a google search of Ganges and garbage and dead bodies and you’ll see the river as it really is, a real cess pool.

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wes January 7, 2011 at 11:04 am

Yeah, the river is filthy but it’s cleaner than it was 10 years ago. The city was cleaner as well. Still a long ways to go, but they’re making an effort.

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Phil January 7, 2011 at 11:19 am

Wes, these are really incredible!! Thanks for sharing!!

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wes January 7, 2011 at 11:27 am

Thanks, Phil :)

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Chris Day January 7, 2011 at 12:52 pm

You know as I look at these pictures , they really would make awesome post cards , and if not than a set of post cards , which would be even better. Really nice tranquil feelings , And Peace full . thanks for re tweeting it.

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wes January 8, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Thanks, Chris! I’m hoping to offer prints soon.

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Dave January 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Awesome shots mate – I’m impressed by all of your stuff, but these shots more than most. Really want to sit down over a beer with you again someday and have a chat about India…

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wes January 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Thanks! Let’s make it happen. You’re buying? ;)

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Dave January 8, 2011 at 3:22 am

Of course … you cover the transport, I’ll cover the beers.

Actually I’m not sure who’d come off worst out of that…

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wes January 8, 2011 at 10:13 am

Ha ha, yeah I suspect it’ll be a case of “same same”

Megan January 7, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Holy cow, these are gorgeous! I’m especially impressed with the ones of people–I’m such a chicken with people shots. Although I only have a point-and-shoot, so I don’t have any photog street cred to really make it look like I should be taking pictures of people.

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wes January 7, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Thanks, Megan. Actually, I think point-n-shoots are better for people shots. They’re more casual and friendly. When people see the big SLR, they tense up.

That said, I’m a HUGE chicken with people shots, too. I should have tons of good ones, but I don’t :(

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Travelogged January 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I love the colors in these photos — especially the light pink shades of the sky and water.

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suniti January 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm

you could actually capture the magical panorama

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Nancie January 13, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Gorgeous set!

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Victoria Gibson January 22, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Loving your pics of my favourite place in India. Nowhere else quite like it. Did you see the Space Invaders Motifs around the ghats? some freaky artist put 12 up a couple of years ago…

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wes January 22, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Thanks, Victoria. I did, indeed, see the space invaders murals! LOVED them. Got a couple of shots, but they didn’t make the final cut :)

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G Rant January 23, 2011 at 7:13 am

There is no place like Varanasi/ Benares!!! The only things missing are the pics of the burning ghats and the rotting water buffaloes upriver from the washing ghats and dhobi whallas!!!

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Armin January 25, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Wow, the second shot with the birds and the boat is perfect!

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John Tammaro January 26, 2011 at 7:14 am

Beautiful set of shots.

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Kristen Jacobson January 31, 2011 at 12:46 am

AMAZING photos! These are just fantastic. India is my favorite place on earth.

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wes February 1, 2011 at 9:34 am

It can be hard travel but it’s equally rewarding. Thanks for the comment.

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Federico February 1, 2011 at 9:01 am

Superb photography Wes, and I am glad I found your post and learn that Varanasi is the place to go to for all things Ganghes related.

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wes February 1, 2011 at 9:31 am

Yeah, it’s incredible. Especially for photography.

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Elise February 8, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing. I love the shot of the guy in the boat-the blues look amazing!

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wes February 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm

The colors in the morning are incredible. The haze and smog hide the sun until about 10am, but as a result you get this really diffuse, warm light. Perfect for photos.

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Sandy@Shots February 9, 2011 at 5:43 am

Some beautiful images there… I especially like the one of the man praying. Nice work!

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wes February 9, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Thanks a lot :)

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Laura February 10, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Wow! Amazing shots!

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Hua Yang February 11, 2011 at 1:16 am

Man! I believe I met you in Varanasi someday around 1/3~1/4!
Your photo of that soldier carrying a machine gun reminds me of such a scene at the Main Ghat. I was there wandering after a morning boat trip, trying to catch people bathing in the Ganges. I watched the silhouette of that young soldier for a while. There was somebody carrying a professional camera with a white lens(70~200 IS or something) walking nearby… I am not sure but that guy might comes with beard just like yours…
I had several photos of the Ganges in fog just pretty similiar to yours, which is also a proof of our possible passing by…in my album

http://cid-df97a8dbba445fc0.photos.live.com/browse.aspx/%E5%A4%A7%E7%94%BB%E8%A5%BF%E6%B8%B8%20%20%E2%80%9D%E8%B5%B0%EF%BC%81%E5%8E%BB%E5%93%AA%EF%BC%9F%E5%A4%A9%E7%AB%BA%EF%BC%81%E2%80%9C

If that’s really you, I should say the world is small.

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Himadri Dimri February 13, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Wow, these are so beautiful…I love my hometown for such beauty and I must say you caught it all amazingly well …Love dose birds on river Ganges :) wow…

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