I first visited Rishikesh as a 6 year old and have vague memories of playing by a river throwing stones and crossing a narrow hanging bridge in measured steps. Whenever I browsed through those black and white photographs in the family album I wished to go back someday to relive a part of my childhood. The days I am in a pensive mood, these sepia toned memories bubble up in my mind’s eye urging me fill in some color, extend those moments and bring them to the now. Recently, while planning a Trek to Valley of Flowers; I specifically included a Rishikesh Trip to relive the memories.
Travel Tips for Rishikesh Trip
Rishikesh is connected by Road, Rail and Air.
- Fly into Jolly Grant Airport better known as Dehradun Airport. Rishikesh is about 20 kms and 30 minutes away. Pre Paid Taxi from Airport is about Rs 1200/-
- The connections to Rishikesh are infrequent so taking a train to Haridwar about 20 kms away is a better option. There are shared autos, taxis and buses that ply between Haridwar and Rishikesh
- Rishikesh is well connected by bus. The 242 kms from Delhi is done in about 7 hours by bus or about 5 hours by car
Stay Options in Rishikesh Trip
There is a place for every budget in Rishikesh.
- If you are on a back packing trip or on a Trip to learn Yoga then you have plethora of options from homestays and hotels and hostels in the Tapovan area. This is close to the Yoga Classes and adventure activities
- If you are on a Religious Trip then small hotels in Muni Ki Reti and the Ashrams in the Swargashram area or lodges near Triveni Ghat are the best option.
- If you are looking for some quiet and luxury by the river then either staying outside Rishikesh in the hills or going beyond towards Dehradun/Haridwar is an option. Elbee Ganga View; Ganga Kinare; GMVN Ganga Resort; Yoga Resort are a few.
Local Travel in Rishikesh
- The easiest way is to hop into a shared auto for Rs 10 per head from point to point or when the distance is longer it is Rs 20/-. Alternatively hire the complete auto by paying up for all the seats.
- I would suggest not to hire a taxi or even drive around in Rishikesh since finding a place to park is quite a hassle and round about routes.
- There is parking in the Swargashram side near Ram Jhula and then you can go around by foot.
- It is worth hiring a vehicle while going out of town towards Dehradun, Neelkanth etc. Hire from the Taxi Unions in the Taxi Stands near Ram Jhula/Lakshman Jhula or in the Market/Bus Stand/Railway Station. The rates are fixed and clearly stated.
Different Flavors of Rishikesh
- Watch the Ganga Aarti
The Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh was a beautiful experience. It is held in 2 locations every morning and evening ( Parmarth Niketan and Triveni Ghat). The timings change during summer and winter based on sunrise and sunset. However it is best to confirm with the locals.
- Take a Dip in the Ganges
A dip in flowing water is refreshing. While the saying goes that a dip in the Ganges washes away the sins; I do not necessarily believe in that 🙂 much to the chagrin of ritualists. Most of the Ghats are clean in Rishikesh and have chains tied to iron poles near the steps. It is advised that people hold on to the chains since the water flows in high speed. I found Triveni Ghat and the Parmarth Ashram Ghat to be ideal for a dip.
Long period of standing in waist deep water clears negative energy clearing the flow and absorption of positive energy in the body. The sins that we accumulate is nothing but negativity which gets neutralized. The 7 holy dips is allowing flowing water to pass over the Crown Chakra or the crucial energy centre in our body activating the rest of the Chakras ( We have 7 chakras in our body).
Spend some me time in the Ashrams & Join a Yoga Class
While walking along the Ganga mindfully, that one question that will cross your mind is “What is in the air of Rishikesh that attracted people from time immemorial to come and find their calling by the river here?” Almost all the Himalayan Yogis I read about had a deep connection with Rishikesh. The spiritual energy of this town seemed to have promised a path towards Nirvana for people from all walks of life.There are several ashrams that you could visit which are located in and around Rishikesh. During my short stay of 2 days; I could manage only a few. Most of them provide accommodation which cannot be booked online but can be arranged once you arrive there or in the age old way of calling/writing in. All of them have huge gardens, washrooms and free drinking water facility in case you want to catch your breath while wandering the streets of Rishikesh.
- Sivananda Ashram: Located in Muni Ki Reti on the Main Road that leads to Ram Jhula connecting to Swargashram Area. A doctor turned sage he famously believed that Himalayas was his father and River Ganga was his mother.
- Swargashram: The area is named after this ashram which was started by Swami Vishudanand or Kali Kambli Wala Baba (The saint with a black blanket)
- Gita Bhavan: The Lakshmi Narayan Temple is calm and peaceful. I sat under the giant banyan tree for a while slipping into meditative sleep woken up by the footsteps of a large group who trooped in. Then stopped by the famed Gita Press near the gate browsing through their large collection of spiritual books.
- Parmarth Niketan: Prior to the floods of 2013; Parmarth Niketan was known for the giant Shiva statue that faced the ashram on the banks of Ganga. Every evening Ganga Aarti and the devotional singing is held here.
- Beatles Ashram: Located inside Rajaji National Park has lost its glory after the death of Mahesh Yogi; the proponent of Transcedental Meditation. The Beatles had spent considerable time in the ashram in late 1960’s. Now the ashram has a few collectibles and photos of yester years.
Yoga Classes in Rishikesh which has evolved as the Yoga Capital of the World. Most of the ashrams hold yoga classes and teaching courses. While walking down the road towards Lakshman Jhula, I found yoga classes and ayurvedic centres mushrooming all over. There were hourly Hatha Yoga classes for beginners to get a flavor of yoga as well as extended duration classes. Join a few experimental classes before deciding on which class to continue. There are different forms of yoga and go with the one that you feel comfortable and aligned with.
Walk along the Ghats, Cross the Jhulas and and just be
I loved the walk along Ashtapath which is a paved walk along the Ganga starting somewhere near Ganga Kinare hotel until Triveni Ghat. There are numerous benches and view point areas on the way as well as old houses and small temples. The densely forested Rajaji National Park can be seen on the other side of the river.
Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula are 2 suspension bridges built across the River. These are named after the mythical Ram and Lakshman to build a Ramayana Connection. It is quite an art to cross these narrow Jhulas with people, 2 wheelers, cows, horses, dogs and donkeys jostling for space. The monkeys keep jumping across 🙂 trying to prey on the unsuspecting ones visibly carrying food items. Much of the activity in Rishikesh is in and around these Jhulas which are the landmark of the town.
- Lakshman Jhula is believed to have been installed where Lakshman had once crossed the river using jute ropes many mythical centuries ago. The current bridge was opened to public in 1930 and has been donated by the Tulshan-Jhunjhunwala familes.
- Ram Jhula built in 1986 connecting Sivananda Ashram and Swarg Ashram is comparatively wider than Lakshman Jhula. There is an auto, taxi stand and a bustling market just near its entrance
The 2 km walk from Ram Jhula to Lakshman Jhula is mostly along the Ganga and then meets the Jonk Road near the Police Station. I walked along the river often stopping to take a look at a flowing river. There were series of buildings belonging to Swarg Ashram on the right including the small kutir where Swami Sivananda spent his early days meditating.
Temples around town
The story of Rishikesh is the story of Bharat Temple located very close to Triveni Ghat. This ancient temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the idol was installed by Adi Shankaracharya in 8 century AD. Buddhist influence can be noticed in the temple which is true for several temples in the hills. I would definitely recommend visiting this temple.
Rishikesh Skyline is dominated by the 13 storey bright orange Tryambakeshwar Temple near Lakshman Jhula. There are numerous idols on each floor for the devout.
There are many other temples around Rishikesh and for the first time I visited Temples dedicated to Lakshman ( near Lakshman Jhula on the Tapovan side) and Shatrughan (near Ram Jhula) the brothers from another mother of Lord Ram in the mythology Ramayana. Both the temples were calm and peaceful devoid of the usual humdrum. The Hemkunt Gurudwara, Balaji Temple and the Iskcon Temple are all in a line on the main road.
Enjoy gorgeous views from the Cafes
The cafes in and around Lakshman Jhula on either side of the Ganga offer gorgeous views. The food is not particularly fascinating but all that can be excused for those soothing sounds of the gurgling river or watching it meander down to the plains. The best part is no one forces you to order, nor do they ask you to clear out as soon as you are done. All of them provide free wi-fi and trust me, the day will just zip by munching into a bowl of salad with a book in hand, some chatter from the neighboring tables and cups of coffee
I loved the view from Ganga Beach Cafe, Little Buddha Cafe, Ganga View Restaurant and German Bakery; 60’s Cafe Delmar or Beatles Cafe on the other side. The walk down the narrow alley in search of Beatles Cafe is worth it for the ambiance and the view of Ganga.
Indulge in some local food
The food in Rishikesh is no different from Haridwar or other North Indian towns; however there is a Saatvik quality in the vegetarian preparations. The street side fare is mostly lemon shikanji, fruits, chaats and kulcha chola. Most of these eateries are located in the Ram Jhula. Swarg Ashram or the Bazaar area unlike the cafes which are dominant in Laxman Jhula. The Chotiwala Restaurant in Ram Jhula offers great views of Ganga including the Ganga Aarti in Parmarth Ashram. The Thalis and other regular Indian meals are good in Chotiwala specially the Garhwali Thali and the Ras Malai. For an upmarket exerience visit Elbee Ganga View Rooftop.
Take a Short Hike into the Mountains towards Nilkanth, Kunjapuri
Nilkanth Temple dedicated to Shiva and Kunjapuri Temple dedicated to Parvati are a short day hike away. These temples can also be accessed by road.
The trek to Nilkanth Mahadev is about 11 kms. The trek route passes by the ghats along the ashrams, then moves uphill through Rajaji National Park. Alternatively, take a shared ride at Rs 130-Rs 150 to the temple through a different route. This includes to and fro as well as 2 hour waiting at the temple. The temple gets its name from Samudramanthan when Lord Shiva consumed the poison churned from the sea during the war between Devas and Asuras and his throat turned blue. The Shikhara of the temple has carvings related to Samudra Manthan. Devotees bathe in the spring before entering this revered shrine.
I could not make it to Kunjapuri but I have marked it for my subsequent visit to Rishikesh. This is the best place for gorgeous views of the mountains (Swargarohini, Chaukhamba, Gangotri) as well as a birds eye view of Rishikesh and Doon Valley. This is best visited at sunrise and ideally reach by vehicle and trek down the 10 kms until Lakshman Jhula. Shared vehicles leave for Hindola Khal village on the way to Gangotri from the Yatra Bus Stand.
Trip to Rajaji National Park
Rajaji National Park is spread over 800 square kms and is on the fringes of Rishikesh. It is named after renowned freedom fighter C Rajagopalachari. Though it is classified as a Tiger Reserve it is better known for the Asiatic Elephants. Infact, the elephants can be seen across the river drinking water and taking a dip in the Ganga in the summer months. It is also a bird watchers paradise in winter. The National Park is closed between 15th June and 15th November
Rishikesh is famous for adventure activity specially Rafting. I was there is monsoon which is off season for rafting and most adventure sports so was happy reading all the sign boards related to it. The best season for all kinds of adventure sports in Rishikesh is between March and June in the sites in Brahmapuri. Shivpuri, Kaudiyala etc. Ziplining, Bungee Jumping, Cliff Jumping etc. I found a lot of agencies in the Tapovan- Lakshman Jhula area who were offering packages for these activities.