Sarnath is the site of the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma and also where the original Sangha was formed. Consequently, it is a major pilgrimage destination for Buddhists. Within the deer park complex is a large stupa (Dhamekha Stupa) constructed by the Emperor Ashoka in 249 BCE and also several other Buddhist structures that were added between the 3rd century BCE and the 11th century CE.
The town is relatively peaceful and green, and so also provides a welcome alternative to Varanasi (13kms) as a place to stay for people visiting the ghats along the Ganges.
Fly to Babatpur airport (24kms) from Delhi, Calcutta, Lucknow or Mumbai
Get a train to Varanasi Cantt. (6kms) stn as all major trains from the country pour in from here. Sarnath has a small train stn but it seems usless..
Buses reach to Bus stand near the railway stn cantt.
If you are in Varanasi city, you can take a taxi, auto rickshaw or bus. (higher cost in decending order) to Sarnath. Don't take a cyclerickshaw, its too long and polluted way.
Dhamekh Stupa. Constructed by king Ashoka in 249 BCE to commemorate his pilgrimage to the Deer Park. It is believed that the stupa marks the exact spot where the Buddha taught the five ascetics the Four Noble Truths, his first teaching after attaining enlightenment.
Chaukhandi Stupa. Constructed in the the 5th century, the stupa marks the spot where the Buddha met the five ascetics. The octagonal tower is of Islamic origin and a later addition.
Mulagandhakuti Vihara. The ruins of the temple where the Buddha spent his first rainy season.
Ashoka Pillar. Only the base remains.
Sarnath Archeological Museum. A small, but impressive collection of artifacts escalated from the site. The sculptures are particularly of interest.
Mahabodi Dharmshala Temple, Thai Temple and the Burmese Temple. very cheap, but Spartan
UPSTDC Tourist Bungalow, ☎ +91 (0542) 2595965 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +91 (0542) 259-5379). A government run establishment - drab and uninspiring, but conveniently located.
The Golden Buddha Hotel, Sarangnath Colony (arranges pick up from Varanasi airport), ☎ +91, . probably the best hotel in town. Offers such facilities as ayurvedic massage, a restaurant serving Mediterranean dishes, a peaceful lawn, and outdoor hot tub.