Literally at the foothills of Himalaya, Rishikesh is dissected by River Ganga. It has hills on three sides with Ganga flowing in the middle. Rishikesh is the city of saints, roaming in saffron colored clothing, global yoga capital, important spiritual center, place to attain nirvana (Beatles did!), and loads more. I could continue writing a page or two about it. In short, a town offering from nothing to everything. Everyone who comes here finds something to spend time doing, from simply laying down in sun & relaxing, or chilling and removing hangover in hostel. Or listening to spiritual discourses in various ashrams, sitting on the banks of River Ganga. Sometimes even walking around in the streets and making friends.
Rishikesh is about 250km from International Airport, New Delhi, in hilly state of Uttarakhand. Depending on the unpredictable traffic jams on the route, it can take anywhere between five hours (normal traffic) to seven or more by taxi / road. It is advised to budget eight hours of travel time if going to New Delhi to catch a flight. Train is the most economical option for reaching Rishikesh from Delhi or any other city. Airport (Dehradun) is ~35km away with daily flights from Delhi and Lucknow.
Rishikesh is that one small town which offers something for everybody, making you spend days and weeks relaxing and enjoying in lap of nature. If desired, city can be seen in about half a day but the exploration lies in the ashrams in and around Rishikesh, and in the hills across the road. From sitting on the banks of Ganga and meditating or doing yoga, to spending whole morning eating breakfast in the café on riverside, and listening to spiritual discourse in afternoon, or laying down on the beach and enjoying the warm sun, or hiking to small villages, and the waterfalls, all are possible. If this does not excite you enough, maybe bungee jumping and white water rafting will.
Rishikesh is a ‘holy’ town, hence alcohol and non-vegetarian food is ‘not available’.
Why Go: To Chill / Relax, Spirituality, Yoga, water/river and adventure activities
Sightseeing in Rishikesh:
Sadhus / Saints
India was and still is known as land of Saints. Though hardly visible anywhere else in India, they can be seen in abundance here. Some are genuine, living a life of Yogi, but some are said to be convicts and hiding from law! Interact with them with caution, and at your own risk and adventure.
Technically Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram, and about 45min walk from the Laksham Jhula. Earlier in a neglected and abandoned state, it has now been converted in a tourist attraction. It is the ashram where Beatles spent from few days to few weeks (varying for different members) and attained their nirvana. Here you can see the meditation cells and dilapidated building of the ashram. Something which is still worth seeing is the Beatles Cathedral Gallery – a graffiti wall. It is still in a good, near original shape. Now government has developed it and converted it to a tourist attraction.
Approx mid way to Beatles ashram from Laksham Jhulla, it is the worshiping center of the town containing multiple shrines. It offers meditation sessions and evening aarti / prayers. Free or extremely low prices accommodation can also be found here with restriction of night walk in times. Place of interest for religious bent of mind.
There are three waterfalls. Two can be reached by foot. For third a transport is required, and goes by the name of Neelkanth! Of the first two, first is small and can be ignored. Second waterfall is about 20min walk plus 15-20min hike. Fall of water is not very strong and good to play and bathe.
One of two suspension bridge in town. Also the center of town for backpackers and offers great views of the town. It is the cultural / activity center for tourists in the evening. Please beware that during heavy rush hour of tourist on long weekends, there can be pedestrian jam on the bridge 😀
The second suspension bridge and commercial part of town.
Meaning Blue Throat, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is approx 17km by road. Shared Jeeps / Taxis are easily available near the mountain side of Lakshman Jhulla. It can also be reached by walking for few hours through the forest from Swarg Ashram.
Activities to Do:
Rishikesh offers several options from adventure to spiritual. For adventure lovers, white rafting, kayaking and bungee jumping are available. Swimming in clean but cold (ice melt) Ganga is possible but not advisable unless you are a very strong swimmer. Water current is strong and can and do takes weak swimmers with it. However, do not forget to bath / take a dip in morning to rinse off your sins! 😉 Camping was earlier permitted but now has been stopped in order to conserve the ecosystem in the region. Rafting has been permitted, but it is advisable to check before your trip for latest update.
For physical and mental fitness, yoga classes and spiritual discourses are available. You can join full course or attend on per day basis.
Rishikesh has moderate climate. Summers are not extremely hot with temperatures remaining under 40 degree Celsius. Winters are cold with pleasant days. Night temperatures tend to remain above 5 degree Celsius.
- Summer: April to July. Temperatures tend to stay below 40 degree Celsius during daytime with no rains
- Monsoon / Rains: July to September. Temperature tends to remain between 30 – 35 degree Celsius, with high humidity. Rains are expected often. Showers can be sporadic lasting for couple of hours at the beginning and end of the season, while in August you can have prolonged showers.
- Autum: End September to November. Temperatures cool down to around 30 degrees with low humidity. 2nd half of October and November have pleasant days and cool nights.
- Winters: December – January. Day temperatures remain around 20 degrees. Night temperatures drop to single digits but remain above 5 degrees.
- Spring: February to March. Relatively short period lasting only few weeks before high temperatures of summer sets in. In 2nd half of March, temperatures cross 30 degree Celsius.
Food and Eating:
Places adjoining Laksham and Ram Jhulla are full of eating joints. More options are available on road from Laksham Jhulla towards Swarg Ashram.
Stay and Accommodation:
On long weekends, Rishikesh can be exceptionally busy when residents of Delhi come to relax and holiday. Book well in advance if your trip is falling on long weekend.
Budget Ashrams / Guest Houses: Adjoining Laksham Jhulla
Budget and Mid Range Ashram and Hotels – Ram Jhulla and Lower side of town
Luxury Hotels / Resorts – Lower side of the town
Moving within City:
Rishikesh is small enough city to explore on foot. However, if you desire to explore the hills, you can rent a scooty or even motorcycle on per day basis. Renting for long periods, running into weeks, Rishikesh is not the best place to hire, New Delhi is.
One Day Trip – Haridwar; Rajaji National Park (Haridwar); Vasishta Guha
Next stop – Mussoorie, Dehradun, Delhi