You may know Rishikesh as the birthplace of yoga, a spiritual town at the base of the Himalayas, or even as the place which beatles called home as their pursuit of transcendental knowledge Rishikesh is all of this and still so much more!
It is a pilgrim town for devout hindus, an adventure town for the adrenaline junkie, the yoga capital for the yoga & spirituality seekers and a gateway to the Garhwal mountain range, a part of the Himalayas for the avid trekker. Even the River Ganges is at its fiercest around the town or Rishikesh and is 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. 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.
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 will 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 brother) 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 twin 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 & 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 river Bhagirathi and Alaknanda come together to form the Ganges, It is 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 foothills of the Himalayas to the plains are strong and is a famous spot for River Rafting Camps. This is where Rishikesh gets it’s 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 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.
How to Get to Rishikesh
By Air – The closest airport to Rishikesh is the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, the airport is about 20 Kilometres 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.
By Rail – 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 the best bet is to take a train to Haridwar and then get a cab or a bus from Haridwar 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 are not to 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 travel to Rishikesh
Most months of the year are a good time to travel to Rishikesh. In terms of the weather being the most favorable anytime between September to January are a good time to visit. If it’s adventure that you seek, we recommend visiting between March and May as the weather is more suitable for river-rafting and other river based activities.
Travelling to Rishikesh between the months from 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 with rickshaw and two-wheelers is relatively simple. Should you choose to stay on the busier side on the eastern side of the town.Those aren’t accessible by rickshaws and your only option is to walk
Breaking stereotypes about Rishikesh
No Alcohol Means No Nightlife – While the law on alcohol and meat is diligently followed. Rishikesh due to being widely popular with backpackers and younger travelers has a buzzing side to it. Buzzing cafes, the serenity around Lakshman Jhula make Rishikesh a great place to spend an evening in
Go check out
Lakshman Jhula – Lakshman Jhula is a landmark bridge, from where Lakshman crossed the Ganges, the bridge connects the eastern and the western part of the rishikesh. While it’s extremely busy and chaotic during the day. There’s a certain sense of serenity around the ghats in the evening along with a lot of cafes and shops around the Lakshman Jhula, making it a buzzing nightspot for locals and tourists alike.
Triveni Ghat – 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 are 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 fervour 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.
Ram Jhula – 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
Bungee Jumping by Jumping 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, bungee Jump from 80,000 metres amidst Rishikesh’s stunning landscape is an experience we strongly recommend.
There’s also the tandem couple giant swing and the 1 KM Flying Fox options for people who 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 it’s descent towards the plains of Rishikesh make for an absolutely thrilling ride.
Parmarth Niketan / Yoga Niketan – Rishikesh is a hub for not only the adventure sport 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 of these Ashrams like the Parmarth Niketan provide multiple options you could sign up for an intensive course, 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