Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga, is a popular place to come and meditate, do yoga, and learn about other aspects of Hinduism. It's situated on the banks of the Ganges River, surrounded by hills on three sides, not far from Haridwar in Uttarakhand. The whole town is considered to be sacred and it’s believed that meditation there leads to salvation.
Rishikesh lures those seeking knowledge and peace with its numerous temples, ashrams, and yoga institutes. Despite the growing number of visitors, the town’s lanes and alleys retain a old-world charm, and it remains a wonderful place to relax and unwind amongst nature.
Getting to Rishikesh:
The nearest airport to Rishikesh is in Dehradun, 35 kilometers (22 miles away). However, it's preferable to travel to Rishikesh by road from Haridwar.
When to Visit Rishikesh:
As Rishikesh is located at the Himalyan foothills, it provides a cool escape during the hotter months. Therefore, the best time to visit is between March and April, and September to October. May starts to get quite hot there. Rishikesh is best avoided during the monsoon months from July to August, as it receives heavy rain. Rafting is also closed during this time. Winters, from November until February, are cold but pleasant, so bring woolens. Many people consider the couple of months just after the monsoon to be the best time to visit Rishikesh, as its landscape is alive, green, and soothing.
Rishikesh is a delightful place to wander around and explore on foot. Cross either of the two suspension bridges and you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the town and river. Venture down to the ghats
fronting the river and relax for a while amidst the daily goings-on. You can also take a boat across the river near Ram Jhula as an alternative to walking. Every evening, people gather at Parmarth Niketan ashram (in the Swag Ashram area), to experience the Ganga Aarti
(worship with fire). Adventure lovers also have two good reasons to visit Rishikesh -- the excellent trekking and rafting opportunities in the area.
Rishikesh Yoga and Ashrams:
Rishikesh is one of the most popular destinations for yoga in India. There are numerous ashrams, and numerous styles of yoga and meditation, to choose from. Hence, it's important to investigate which best meets your needs. Here are 10 of the Best Rishikesh Ashrams
for yoga and meditation to give you some idea of what's available. The main spiritual district of Rishikesh is known as Swarg Ashram, and you'll also find plenty of ashrams there, along with food stalls and shops.
Those interested in yoga shouldn't miss the International Yoga Festival
, held in Rishikesh in March each year. The week long festival is one of the biggest annual yoga gatherings in the world.
Attendees get to take part in a comprehensive program of yoga classes, and evening discussions with some of India's leading spiritual leaders. There are also vegetarian cooking classes, and the Yoga Aid Challenge charity fundraiser.
Rishikesh Side Trips:
Shivpuri is a highly recommended side trip from Rishikesh, especially if you're into adventure. Located 22 kilometers (14 miles) upstream, it's a place of mesmerizing natural beauty. You'll find excellent white water rafting there, with Grade 3 and 4 rapids. Tented accommodations with attached bathrooms, such as those provided by Camp Hammock
, add to the uniqueness of the setting in the middle of white sand beach and jungle. There's also an excellent bungee jump zone
on the road to Neelkanth at Mohanchatti village (around 15 kilometers from Rishikesh).
Rishikesh Travel Tips:
Rishikesh is a holy town, so don't expect to find any eggs, fish, or meat there. You will however be able to feast on delicious Ayurvedic and health food. The hugely popular Chotiwala Restaurant
serves some of the best Indian food in town. Rishikesh is a great place to shop for religious items, books, clothes, and handicrafts. Try to walk around as much as you can, although auto rickshaws are readily available to provide transport from the bus or train station to either of the bridges. Make sure you watch out for the plentiful monkeys which make quite a menace of themselves, particularly on the bridges.
Substantial discounts are usually possible at hotels in Rishikesh during non-peak times, so do ask! For smaller hotels, it's best to just turn up. If you prefer to book in advance and stay somewhere reputable, here are five of the best Rishikesh hotels for all budgets
. Also find out more about which area to stay in in this article.