Located in the foothills of the Himalayas, in the northern state of Uttarkhand, Rishikesh is the birthplace of Yoga and therefore, the perfect place for those looking for the peace of mind, body-soul balance and self-discovery. But it is also the place for adventurers and adrenaline seekers. The holy City has plenty to offer and charm different kinds of travelers, and is one of the most visited places in the North of India.
But Rishikesh not only refers to the main town, it also includes the settlements along the banks of the Holy River Ganges –and where you’ll probably spend most of the time-; Muni-ke-Reti, Shivananda Nagar, Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula, home of many popular Ashrams (such as Sivananda, Divine Life Society and Parmath Niketan), temples, Yoga studios and DELICIOUS cafes offering vegetarian meals. Oh yes! By law, this is a Vegetarian City and unlike other ‘party places’ in the Himalayas (A.K.A Manali and Kasol), you shouldn’t expect to find alcohol either; although weed is allowed and consumed openly.
Wise Advice: If you are planning to stay at one of the Ashrams, check out if there is any upcoming festivals and try to book your place in advance! Rishikesh is a very popular destination for tourists and backpackers and the place can be packed pretty soon. But don’t worry too much..! Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula are full of hostels and guest houses from as low as 200 Rs per night! Also, be careful during the Monsoon season (July to August); the heavy rain may lead to serious flooding and the Rafting is also restricted during those months.
Places to visit in Rishikesh…
There are lots of them around, but here are two that I advice you not to miss: the Tera Manzil and Bootnath Temple. The first one is located in Lakshman Jhula and has 13 floors of little rooms to worship different gods and goddess, as well as shops to buy souvenirs and religious articles. But if you wanna appreciate Rishikesh in all its glory, get ready for a little walk from Ram Jhula and climb up the 11 floors. I promise you WON’T be disappointed!
Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh
This beautiful ritual is one of the most popular activities amongst visitors and is performed at dusk in the three major holy cities of Rishikesh, Haridwar and Varanasi at the banks of the Holy Ganga River. Here is held at the Parmath Niketan Ashram,. The religious ritual consists in prayers, chantings and the reading of Vedas by the Gurus and their students. For me, it was a deep and renovating experience.
The Beatles Ashram
We were walking around Ram Jhula when we saw a board indicating the way to ‘The Beatles Ashram’ (say whaaat?!!!) and although somebody else had told us about it, we were not expecting to find something like that. In the middle of nowhere! The place was built by the Maharashi Mahesh Yogi, worldwide famous for his Transcendental Meditation methods and seminars all around the globe. Well, it was exactly in one of those where he met The Beatles in 1967 and the guys were so impressed that decided to join him the next year in an intensive course in Rishikesh. The time they spent there is supposed to be one of the most productive periods for the band, and most of the songs they wrote there were recorded in The White Album and Abbey Road.
Despite the fame and glory of the Ashram and its famous visitors (musician, actors and politicians) the place was closed in 1981 and now belongs to the Administration since is located in the lands of the Rajajai National Park. And that’s exactly what makes the place even more interesting; like a huge ghost of stone and bungalows in ruins, beautifully blended with the nature. The main gate is closed and the entrance is ‘prohibited’, but you’ll find a huge hole in the side and run into lots of travelers armed with cameras to capture the beauty of the legendary place. DON’T MISS IT when you go!
Trekking, Camping, Rock Climbing, Bungee Jumping and Water Rafting in Rishikesh are the most popular –but not only- activities for the adrenaline junkies. On our trip, my boyfriend and I tried Water Rafting and it was pretty cool! For those used to extreme experiences in the water, it may not be enough since the ride is smooth and not too wavy, but for me (beginner and absolutely terrified of water, strong currents and rocks together) it was the perfect dose of excitement. These activities are not hard to find and not too expensive either. We did a 12 Kilometers ride in 800 Rs per person.
Rishikesh YOGA Retreat
Ahrams, Yoga Studios and personal teachers offer their services all over town; you can go for a 300 to 500 Rs class or take one of the free lessons offered by some places. We attended a drop-in class at Shri Sant Sewa Ashram and gave a small donation at the end and it was pretty great!
Where to EAT in Rishikesh
With all the walking/rafting/trekking and yoga practice, you may need to refuel a couple of times a day, but that’s not really a problem here! Not either the fact that this is vegetarian city and most of the places don’t even use eggs!!… And well, for this Southamerican girl -we eat LOTS of meat down there- that was one of the most impressive things since the food is SO G-O-O-D! and so diverse too; there are lots of ‘German Bakeries’ and ‘Confectioneries’ all over the area; the one in Devraj Coffee Corner crossing the Lakshman Jhula bridge from the Tera Manzil Temple is to die for! So make sure you don’t miss the delicious Strudels, Apple Pies, Cinnamon Rolls, brownies and the endless list of Indian delicacies, although their Italian dishes are also a must try.
The Indisputably winner, highly recommended by every visitor to Rishikesh should visit is the Little Budhha in Lakshman Jhula; the environment and beautiful view to the Ganges make it an amazing place to chill for hours, but is the delicious food with Indian, Mexican and Israeli options what will make you come back.