Rishikesh is a spiritual town where the sacred Ganga river descends from the Himalayas and white water rafting is a popular thing to do here. This is all I knew about the this town that was only 150 Kms away from my residence for 25 years. My first visit to Rishikesh left me surprised, awestruck and foiled for why I did not visit before. I was amazed my Rishikesh.
Rishikesh has so much to offer, it is not just another spiritual town. It is adventurous, it is scenic, it is a Yoga powerhouse, and above all it is blissful. I was surprised to see so many westerners visiting this holy town and I wondered why? Then, I got to know that Rishikesh is called the Yoga Capital of the World. The whole town is flooded with Yoga and Meditation retreats. There are ashrams, professionals and businesses offering Yoga and meditation programs of all kinds, the kinds you would never have heard of before. This guide will get you acquainted with all the faces of Rishikesh.
Best Time to Visit Rishikesh
The weather in Rishikesh is generally good throughout the year except in summers, the months of May – June are very hot. The best time to visit Rishikesh varies a bit on what you want.
- My favorite time to visit is November to March, when the crowd is low, air is mildly cold and feels pure. Most foreigners also prefer this time. Particularly the months of November and March are the best when the cold is mild.
- April-May: These are the dry and hot summer months in Rishikesh. There’s a decent crowd in this season as well.
- June – September: This is the monsoon season in Rishikesh. The month of Sawan from Hindu calender (mid-july to mid-august) sees a huge influx of pilgrimage crowd. During heavy rains mainly in August, river rafting and camping is not available.
How Many Days are Enough for Rishikesh ?
In Rishikesh, this depends on What you want.
- For all of sightseeing and adventure, I would recommend 6-Days if you don’t want to rush from one activity to another. You will need minimum 4 days to cover all major attractions.
- If you are in Rishikesh only for adventure, 2-3 days will be enough.
- If you are here for a Yoga retreat, there are options of 1-week, 10 days, 2-week, 1-month and 2-months courses or program. The more time you’ll give, the more you will learn. For trans-formative changes from Yoga and Meditation, I think you will need a month at-least. I haven’t done any such program yet, but badly wish to do a long one.
Things to do in Rishikesh
1. Trek to the Neergarh Waterfall, located at a walkable distance from Tapovan, Rishikesh. The hike to the waterfall is pretty easy only about a Km long and the views are also amazing especially, considering the little effort that is required for the trek. I was hesitant to go into the pool at first as it was a bit cold in the morning, but thanks to our trek coordinator from the hostel for the motivation, I jumped. The dip was very refreshing.
The entry ticket to the waterfall costs INR 50. Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
2. Practice Yoga. In Rishikesh you’ll find yoga practically everywhere. Other than the organised courses, you will find flyers in the city offering free Yoga sessions, then most hostels and hotels organize Yoga sessions or if you know Yoga, you could just head over to the Ganges bank and practice it yourself. If you want an Ashram experience Aurovalley ashram and Sivananda Ashram are well-known for excellent programs.
3. Attend the Ganga Aarti Ceremony in the evening at Parmarth Niketan Ashram near Ram Jhula or at Triveni Ghat. The aarti will leave you with an immersive experience even if you are a tiny bit spiritual.
4. Explore the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh. The famous British band visited this Ashram for a meditation retreat in 1968 under the guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who devised the Transcendental meditation technique. The site was abandoned later and is being redeveloped by the government since 2015. Here, you will find the ruins painted with beautiful graffiti, a museum and the meditation caves. What I loved about the place was its serenity and the sound of the Ganga river emanating peaceful vibes.
5. Pump it up with White Water Rafting. Rishikesh offers one of the best white water rafting experiences in India. I did rafting for the first time here only and It was quite safe. You also get to do cliff jumping in between the course.
6. Bungee jump at India’s highest jumping platform from 83 meters at Jumpin’ Heights, Rishikesh. They are highly professional and follow highest safety standards from New Zealand and Australia. They have a record of 80k+ jumps now without any accident. They’ve recently opened another centre in Goa as well. The jump along with the video and transfers costs about INR 5,000. It is better to pre-book online since they get a good traffic.
7. Also, the same company Jumpin heights also offer Gaint Swing and Zip lining. They offer discounts on combo offers, if you are booking more than one activity.
8. Camping is another popular activity in Rishikesh and the options are never ending. Different areas, so many camps in each and then the type of tents. We stayed at a luxury camp in Garud Chatti next to the river stream. The views from here were stunning and we had a great time.
9. Rishikesh has a lot of Cafes and Restaurants serving some unique dishes and drinks. I’d recommend you to try out the Little Buddha Cafe, Bistro Nirvana and the Ira’s Kitchen.
10. Watch the Sunrise with panoramic views at Kunjapuri Temple near Rishikesh. The temple is about at an hour drive away from Rishikesh. Some hostels in Rishikesh offer trips to the temple as a part of a tour.
How to Reach Rishikesh?
Rishikesh is accessible via road and rail. The nearest airport is Dehradun Airport, about 50 Kms from Rishikesh. If you are coming from Delhi the best option is to come by a taxi or a bus. In 6 hours you’ll find yourself in Rishikesh.
Where to Stay in Rishikesh?
- Hostels: Zostel Rishikesh, Skyard Hostel, Moustache Rishikesh
- Hotels: Budget- Rishikesh Sadan and Seventh Heaven inn Rishikesh, Luxury 4 Star- Property – GANGA KINARE by Holywater Hotels
How to Get Around Rishikesh?
Rishikesh is a small town. Especially, the area of relevance for tourists is limited between the two jhulas (bridges)- Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula within a 2 Km radius. So, make the Tapovan area as your base and you can walk everywhere. Otherwise, you can hire a taxi, auto, take shared autos or rent bikes.
What & Where to Eat in Rishikesh?
As mentioned before, unique Cafes are a thing in Rishikesh. So, you should try a few places.
- Little Buddha Cafe serves delicious Nepali, Indian, European, Thai food at affordable rates.
- Ira’s Kitchen is a cute little place with unique good food, a relaxing ambiance and a hospitable owner.
- Chotiwala in Swarg Ashram is a 100 years old Indian restaurant. They have a mascot sitting outside their place. The food is good but nothing much unique.
Rishikesh is a Holy city, you won’t find any restaurants serving non-vegetarian food in the town. If you want to have non-veg food, you will find it in only few hotels on the outskirts.
Also, public sale and consumption of alcohol is banned in Rishikesh. However, you can consume it privately. There is a big wine shop on the outskirts of Rishikesh on Rishikesh-Tehri Road, about 1.5 Km from Ram Jhula.
Accomodaton and food in Rishikesh is quite cheap. What decides your budget is the activities you do. Here is a snapshot of minimum basic costs and activities:
- Dorm in a good Hostel: Rs.350/-
- Decent room in a 2-star hotel with basic amenities: Rs.1000/-
- Cost Per meal: Rs.150/-
- Rafting from Shivpuri (18 Km): Rs. 1000/- per person.
- Rafting and Camping package: Rs. 1700/- per person.
- Bungee Jumping: Rs.3,500 + Entry fee Rs.100 + Video Cost: Rs.900/-
- If you are going to an unknown free Yoga class be a little cautious. Avoid going to isolated areas.
- Respect the local traditions and culture.
- Carry cloth bags while shopping anything, avoid singe-use plastic wherever you can.
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