If you're traveling overland from India to Kathmandu in Nepal via the Sunauli border crossing, you'll most likely pass through Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. The city is located at a major railway junction, and is a transportation hub for buses going to the border about three hours north. Although Gorakhpur has developed quite a bit in the last few years, it's not a tourist destination or place you'd want to linger in for very long. However, if you do find yourself having to spend time there, these top things to do in Gorakhpur will help you fill in the hours.
Go Temple Hopping
Gorakhpur has several Hindu temples within 10 to 15 minutes of the railway station. The most prominent one is Gorakhnath Math, dedicated to 11th-century Hindu holy man Guru Gorakhnath who's regarded as a manifestation of Lord Shiva in his yogic form. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is the head priest of the temple. It's situated on sprawling and serene grounds in a complex with many other smaller temples, which makes it enjoyable to wander around. A recent revamping of the temple complex included the addition of a colorful laser sound and light show that takes place every evening at 7 p.m.
Gita Vatika, near Asuran Chowk, has an attractive temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and his consort Radha. Continuous chanting around the clock and a garden setting give it an uplifting energy. While you're in the area, stop by Vishnu Mandir to admire its black stone statue of Lord Vishnu. The temple is said to date back to the 12th century Pala Dynasty.
Admire the Street Art
Gorgeous murals are a surprise attraction at Gorakhpur. A local jewelry brand recently invited the team at Delhi Street Art to beautify the walls of the city with art conveying cultural and social messages under a "Wall of Change" initiative. The themes include cleanliness and hygiene, women's safety, water conservation, recycling, and yoga. You'll find most of the art around Police Line, and Collectorate on Kachari Road, about 10 minutes south of the railway station.
Dine at the City's Trendy Bollywood-Themed Restaurant
Gorakhpur's Royal Residency Hotel has what is perhaps the most trendy and innovative restaurant in the city, themed on iconic Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan. It's named after his 1988 smash hit "Shahenshah." The menu features Indian and global cuisine, with dishes that are also named after the actor's films. Old movie posters, dialogues, and other memorabilia decorate the walls. A classic motorbike similar to that ridden by Amitabh Bachchan in the 1975 blockbuster "Sholay" is on display as well. What's more, the restaurant is conveniently close to the city's street art and railway station.
Hang Out at the Mall
Feel like being in an air-conditioned environment away from all the hustle and bustle? There are a couple of malls in Gorakhpur that fit the bill, and they have INOX movie theaters too in case you want to catch a Bollywood film. City Mall is located just around the corner from the Royal Residency Hotel and Shahanshah restaurant. It's about a decade old and remains popular.
The relatively new Orion Mall, opened in late 2019 near the Radisson Blu hotel in Mohaddipur, about 10 minutes east of the city center. It's spread over five levels and is Gorakhpur's biggest mall. A fun gaming zone provides extra entertainment.
Relax at a Park
If you'd rather spend time in nature than at a mall, Vindhyavasini Park and Ambedkar Park offer walking trails and wide green open spaces. They're both situated around Ramgarh Lake to the southeast of the city center. Vindhyavasini Park, Gorakhpur's main park, is close to Orion Mall in the Mohaddipur area. Its circular exercise track extends for about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) and fills with fitness enthusiasts early in the morning and in the evening. The park also has a yoga center, children's playground, statues of archaeological importance, fountain, and plant nursery run by the horticultural department.
Take a Boat Out Onto Ramgarh Lake
Massive Ramgarh Lake covers about 1,730 acres and provides Gorakhpur with natural beauty. The lake has been cleaned up in recent years and is currently being developed as a tourist attraction with boating and water sports. Other places of interest around it are a Buddha Museum and a new zoo. The lake is also a natural water body for migratory birds and plans are underway to establish it as a wetlands.
Learn About Indian Railways
Kids and train buffs will enjoy visiting the Rail Museum near Vindhyavasini Park. It's housed in a 19th-century heritage building and showcases the history of Indian Railways, particularly the North Eastern Railway zone headed in Gorakhpur. The top attraction is a Lord Lawrence Steam Engine. It was built in London in 1874 and was the first engine used by North Eastern Railway. A toy train takes children on a fun ride around the museum's grounds. You can also see models of old railway stations and exhibits of antique items used in the railways, and dine at a restaurant in a refurbished train carriage.
Marvel over the Eternal Flame at the Imambara
Gorakhpur Imambara is a fascinating 18th-century landmark related to Gorakhpur's lesser-known Islamic heritage. Revered Sufi saint Syed Roshan Ali Shah built it as a place for religious gatherings. Most notably, it has a holy dhuni fire that's been burning continuously for more than 250 years, from the time the saint is said to have lit it to meditate. The imambara draws people of all faiths to get their wishes granted, especially during the annual Muharram festival when its 300-year-old gold and silver tazia (replica of the tomb of the Prophet Mohammad's martyred grandson Imam Hussein) is on display. It's located about 10 minutes southwest of the railway station.
Visit One of the Largest Religious Publishers in the World
Barely five minutes from the imambara, Gita Press is a must-visit for those who are interested in Hinduism. What is now one of the largest religious publishers in the world began in the 1920s with just three printing machines in a small rented room in Gorakhpur. Its current premises, with an eye-catching ornamental entrance modeled on the tower of a South Indian temple, was inaugurated by the President of India in 1955. The company's many publications are centered around holy Hindu texts including the "Bhagavad Gita," "The Ramayana," and "The Mahabharata." They're available for purchase at the salesroom next to the press.