Rishikesh, India Travel Guide: Top Things to Do and See in Rishikesh
Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas and split in two by the holy river of Ganges, Rishikesh is one of those places that you get stuck before you even notice it. Whether you want to rest your anxious mind or raise your adrenaline levels, this small but cute north Indian city offers a wide range of activities to choose from. And it won’t disappoint you.
DID YOU KNOW
The city owes its name to Hrishikesh, one of the names of Hindu God Lord Vishnu.
Rishikesh is considered the Yoga capital of the world, and rightly so. Here, you will find countless yoga training centers and Ashrams (a Hindu spiritual place/monastery).
Since it is also one of the Hindu holy cities, meat and liquor are prohibited. Yes, that’s right. Be prepared to become vegetarian and remain sober.
Back in the 60’s, the famous Beatles band visited Rishikesh and stayed in an Ashram for three months. Following that, the place gained significant fame as Westerners started flocking here to experience India’s mysticism.
India’s highest bungee jumping platform, at 83m, is also found here.
Language: Garwhali, but Hindi and English are widely spoken due to the tourism industry.
Currency and ATMs: The currency is the Indian Rupee. Keep in mind that ATMs in some places play up very often, so plan ahead before you run out of cash.
Best time to visit: Mid September-November and February-March, although it does get crowded. December and January are by far the quietest months but temperature can drop unpleasantly at night.
How to reach: Nearest airport is Jolly Grant airport, just 20km far from Rishikesh. If you arrive at Delhi, you can also get a 7-8 hours bus drive (with A/C) for just 7USD.
Getting around: No cars are allowed on the more touristic sides of Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula. So, your best bet is an Indian scooter for an unforgettable driving experience. Or your trustworthy feet. Of course, there are tuk-tuks/rickshaws (a popular three-wheeled form of transportation) for small distances around Rishikesh, or jeeps for longer journeys.
Safety: Rishikesh is a very safe place to walk around, even for a female solo traveler. Locals are kind and very accustomed to foreigners.
And some tips:
The International Yoga Festival is held here every first week of March and the place gets insanely overcrowded. So, if you opt for a hassle-free holiday, plan in advance.
Always bargain for the prices with the rickshaw drivers, since they naturally have the tendency to overcharge, especially if you look like you have landed on another planet.
In most touristic and big cities in India, women are usually allowed to dress as they please; but bear in mind that walking around with short pants or very provocative blouses, won’t be much appreciated.
Stay in Lakshman Jhula area for peacefulness and proximity to nature. Walk up to the village to meet locals and play with the bare-foot kids in the neighborhoods. It is more than worth it if you wonder.
Go for rafting in the Ganges river and enjoy the splendid green color of the river together with the beautiful surroundings.
Visit Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Ram Jhula side, to get simply amazed by the beauty of this place. Be there before sunset, to watch the Ganga Aarti; a very impressive devotional ritual held on the riverbank, where people let small candles with flowers to float down the river as an offering to the Goddess Ganga.
Pay a visit to the already mentioned Beatles/Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram to travel back in time in those glorious days. Don’t worry if you can’t instantly spot it; it’s just hidden in the jungle nowadays
Enjoy the sound of silence in Ganga Beach, between Laxman and Ram Jhula.
Drive or walk to Kunjapuri Temple to witness the most dazzling sunrise. The 1600m altitude offers a panoramic view of the Himalayas, on a clear day.
Rejuvenate with a soothing Ayurvedic massage in one of the numerous Ayurveda centers spread around the town.
Walk through lush landscapes to reach the nearby waterfalls, for a very refreshing experience.
Join a drop-in yoga class even if you have no idea what sun salutation means. If possible, make a little research before you give your money to a commercially-oriented teacher.
Go for bungee jumping and try also the lesser known Flying Fox (which, by the way, is the longest in Asia). And then try to keep calm
Have a stroll in Tapovan area to buy your little souvenirs.
Take a dip in the Ganges river for purification and a closer step to achieving moksha, according to Indian beliefs. Just make sure you find a nice and clean spot, and keep your clothes on, as locals do.
SATISFY YOUR APPETITE
Around Laxman Jhula:
Freedom café, for western and local food, plus a wonderful river view. Try the mix-veg masala.
Purple Dhaba, for great local cuisine.
Anna café, for the cheapest and least spicy thali-Indian style platter- for foreigners in Rishikesh.
Momo stand, for the tastiest Nutella momos (Tibetan dumplings-Many Tibetans live in north India). A pure gastronomical explosion.
Around Ram Jhula:
Chotiwala restaurant, an easily recognizable place due to the welcome guy and his characteristic painted face; a real attraction.
Juice shop, for the unique multi-flavor fresh and healthy juices.
SOMETHING TO REMEMBER
Incense sticks: You can’t miss them! Follow the smell. Sandalwood might be a good option.
Singing bowl: A small musical instrument used for meditation or even alternative healing. Tibetan shops sell it. It really makes for a great gift.
Coconut oil: You can find it everywhere. Literally. In ridiculous prices. And it works for hair, body, face, and cooking. All in one!
Chai pati: Little bags of black tea which locals use to make your lovely chai (black tea with milk-the ‘coffee’ of India).
Pashminas: Beautiful colors and fabrics, for you and your loved ones.
This travel guide provides a couple of reasons to visit this magical city but the list can go on. The beauty always lies in discovering things accidentally.