You may know Rishikesh as the birthplace of yoga, a spiritual town at the base of the Himalayas, or even as the place which The Beatles called home as their pursuit of transcendental knowledge. Rishikesh is all of this and still so much more!
It’s a pilgrim town for devout Hindu, an adventure town for the adrenaline junkie, the yoga capital for the yoga & spirituality seeker, and a gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas, which attract the avid trekker. Even the River Ganges is at its fiercest around Rishikesh and thus a prime hub for the current-seeking river rafters.
In terms of things to do, unlike most small mountain towns, Rishikesh is different: it’s extremely action-packed. And yet it has enough peace and serenity to offer people who want to just unwind and catch a break against the backdrop of the mountains. This Rishikesh travel guide will tell you exactly how and what to do here!
History And Culture Of Rishikesh
One of the most important places in Hinduism, Rishikesh has been relevant since the Ramayana. It’s said that Lord Rama paid his penance in Rishikesh for killing King Ravana of the asuras of Lanka. You’ll find a lot of temples and bridges in Rishikesh named after the heroes of Ramayana.
One of the main attractions in Rishikesh is the Lakshman Jhula, it is said that Lakshmana, Lord Rama’s younger brother, crossed the Ganges from that point. There’s a landmark Shatrughna temple (another temple built after one of Lord Rama’s younger brothers) near the Ram Jhula (a bridge built in homage to Lord Rama).
Along with Haridwar, which acts as the base of logistics for the mountain town of Rishikesh, the cities in 2015 were conferred with the honor of being “the twin national heritage cities”. Due to the religious significance of Rishikesh, consumption of alcohol and non-vegetarian food is prohibited in the city.
A large thread of Rishikesh’s cultural fabric is the River Ganges, it’s at Rishikesh where the river becomes the Holy Ganges, as the confluence of the rivers Bhagirathi and Alaknanda come together to form the Ganges, It’s also in Rishikesh where the river leaves the Shivalik Hills in the Himalayas and begins its descent towards the plains of the rest of northern India.
The currents from the river as it makes its way down from the foothills of the Himalayas to the plains are strong. This is why it has become a famous spot for river rafting camps. This is where Rishikesh gets its thrill for adventure from. Coupled with bungee jumping and cliff diving, Rishikesh has become a hotspot for travelers craving adventure.
Rishikesh is also claimed to be the birthplace of yoga. While this may be disputed, what is a plain fact is that after The Beatles made it their home in the quest to learn Transcendental Meditation, many seekers followed rising to an increase in yoga retreats and travelers, making Rishikesh the yoga capital of the world.
The closest airport to Rishikesh is the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun; the airport is about 20 kilometers away from Rishikesh and is a one-hour drive away. Getting a shared/direct taxi or bus from the airport to Rishikesh is relatively easy.
Getting To Rishikesh By Train
While Rishikesh has a railway station, it’s not as well connected. The only major touristic city that you could take the train directly into Rishikesh from is Amritsar. Having said that, Haridwar, which is an hour away from Rishikesh, is extremely well-connected to most cities in North India by train. So your best bet is to take a train to Haridwar and then get a cab or a bus from Haridwar to Rishikesh.
Getting To Rishikesh By Road
Driving to Rishikesh from Delhi is an option as the roads are pretty decent. It’s about 7 hours away from Delhi. If you’re not too keen on driving in the winding roads leading up to Rishikesh, we recommend taking an overnight bus, normally leaving late in the night from Delhi, you reach Rishikesh around 6-7 am in the morning.
Best Time To Visit Rishikesh
Most months of the year are a good time to travel to Rishikesh. In terms of favorable weather, anytime between September to January is a good time to visit. If it’s adventures you seek, we recommend visiting between March and May as the weather is more suitable for river-rafting and other river-based activities.
Traveling to Rishikesh between the months of May to August is not a good idea as the summers can be quite humid and the monsoons can derail your river-rafting aspirations.
Getting Around Rishikesh
The three primary modes of transport in Rishikesh are a rickshaw, a bike, and your feet. Tourists normally stay on the northern and the western side; commuting here by rickshaw and two-wheelers is relatively simple. Should you choose to stay on the busier side on the eastern side of the town, walking is more feasible as there aren’t many transport options here.
Breaking Stereotypes About Rishikesh
“No Alcohol Means No Nightlife.”
The law on alcohol and meat is diligently followed in Rishikesh. But due to the town being widely popular with backpackers and younger travelers, Rishikesh has a buzzing side to it. Cafes bustle with activity, while Lakshman Jhula gives off an air of serenity. These contrasts make Rishikesh a great place to spend an evening in!
Go Check Out
Lakshman Jhula is a landmark bridge, from where Lakshman crossed the Ganges. The bridge connects the eastern and western parts of Rishikesh. While it’s extremely busy and chaotic during the day, there’s a certain sense of serenity around the ghats in the evening. You can chill out in the many cafes and shops around the Lakshman Jhula, which is a buzzing nightspot for locals and tourists alike.
The Maha Aarti in the evening in Rishikesh is known to be a surreal experience. Evening aarti in the cities along the banks of the Ganges is a common tradition. The Maha Aarti in Rishikesh is known to trump even the Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh when it comes to the atmosphere and the fervor with which it is celebrated. The aarti is accompanied by the beating drums and bells and the illuminated lamps in the evening provide a beautiful view.
The secondary bridge in Rishikesh is the Ram Jhula, it also is a popular landmark among locals and tourists alike. Recently, the bridge was shut down completely due to its weakening infrastructure. The bridge has since been reopened for pedestrians only.
Parmarth Niketan/Yoga Niketan
Rishikesh is a hub for not only the adventure sports junkie, but also the spiritual seekers. A lot of serious yoga enthusiasts come to Rishikesh to become certified teachers. While most hotels have yoga classes in the morning and the evenings, some ashrams like the Parmarth Niketan provide multiple options for yoga. You could sign up for an intensive course, and the other option is to stay there and sign up for the daily yoga classes, which aren’t as intensive. You could also sign up for yoga classes while staying elsewhere.
Bungee Jumping By Jumpin Heights
For the adrenaline seekers, this is it! India’s premier bungee jumping experience is a thrilling fare, designed and curated by experts from New Zealand. You’ll be jumping from a height of over 83 meters (the highest in India!), so it’s just not for the faint-hearted!
There’s also the tandem couple giant swing and or the one-kilometer-long Flying Fox if you don’t want to bungee jump or have reservations about doing it alone.
White River Rafting In The Ganges
White water rafting is the big buzz with travelers in Rishikesh and deservedly so. The currents from the Ganges as it makes its descent towards the plains of Rishikesh make for an absolutely thrilling ride.
Is Rishikesh Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! Rishikesh is a town where you can tap into your adventurous spirit and engage in thrilling activities. But if it’s peace and tranquility you seek during your holiday, you can have that too!
How Many Days Are Enough For Rishikesh?
About 3-4 days should be sufficient for you to visit Rishikesh and engage in the many activities the town has to offer. The places you must visit are the Lakshman Jhula, Ram Jhula, Jumpin Heights, The Beatles Ashram, Rajaji National Park, and Shivpuri.
How Can I Travel In Rishikesh?
When in Rishikesh, you can get around town in a cab, auto rickshaw, or on foot. Rishikesh is quite well connected to other cities, so getting here shouldn’t be a problem.
What Is The Famous Food Of Rishikesh?
Chhole Bhature – This typical Punjabi snack can also double up as lunch, as it’s quite filling. You’ll easily get many outlets around town.
Samosa – You can never go wrong with this crispy, spicy snack. Yes, samosas are available pretty much everywhere in the country. But when you’re in Rishikesh, visit The Office to try a chocolate samosa!
Masala Chai – This is the quintessential beverage loved by many. There can be nothing more relaxing than sipping a cup of masala chai as you observe daily life in Rishikesh.
Is There Snowfall In Rishikesh?
No, Rishikesh doesn’t experience snowfall, though the weather can get chilly in the winter months (average minimum temperature is 14°C). If you want to enjoy the snow, consider places like Mussoorie (74 km) or Auli (193 km).
Which Is Better Haridwar Or Rishikesh?
Rishikesh is comparatively a quieter spiritual place, while Haridwar is usually bustling with tourists and is more religious. Rishikesh is also more inclined towards adventure sports, so based on what your holiday plans are, you could choose either. In any case, both cities are only about 20 km apart, so you can easily visit both!
How Far Is Rishikesh From Dehradun?
Rishikesh is about 44 km away from Dehradun, and the trip would take you about an hour. You can either board a bus or hire a cab to travel between the two cities.
Which Is The Best Area To Stay In Rishikesh?
Tapovan is arguably the best area to stay in Rishikesh, thanks to the many hotels dotted around it, and its proximity to the Lakshman Jhula.
You could pretty much wear what you like in Rishikesh; it mostly depends on the weather as the winters are chilly and the summers humid. Generally, kurtas/kurtis, T-shirts, and pants should work. Avoid revealing clothes, especially if you’re going to visit a place of worship.
What Time Is The Ganga Aarti In Rishikesh?
The Ganga Aarti takes place between 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm every day. You can also take part in the aarti and release a lamp into the river.