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Rishikesh – The Yoga Capital of the World

Photo credit: Ajay Tallam
Rishikesh – The Yoga Capital of the World
  • (worth a trip)
  • 3-5 km
  • Moderate
  • Average
  • 2-3 days
  • 3 3

White-water rafting, river-side camping, yoga and evening prayer ceremonies

Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India
Rishikesh is amongst the top religious places in India for Hindus and thus to maintain the purity of the place non-vegetarian cuisine is totally unavailable. Vegetarian cuisine though is readily available and is equally tasty. Try Little Buddha Cafe for its delicious mixed-veg platter, oversized pizza, and a cheerful and funky tree house style decor.
Rishikesh is not only famous for its white water rafting, but it has gradually developed into a favourite tourist spot especially for international visitors. The 7th largest city in India is also known for other adventure sports such as hiking, rappeling, rock climbing, kayaking, and mountain biking. If you are not so much into extreme sports and enjoy quiet time during your vacation or are looking for a perfect spot for practising and learning yoga, Rishikesh is one of the most famous places for yoga in India.

Unknown to masses once, Rishikesh rose to its fame when the world famous music band “The Beatles” came to the town and stayed at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram. Reportedly, some of the band members and their partners stayed here for months and wrote several songs, most of which were a part of their double album “White Album“. The original ashram has ceased to exist, but even after almost 50 years, foreign tourists from all over the world flock to this tourist destination of India in search of their soul and seeking spiritual upliftment.

 

Rishikesh has been divided into two parts by tourists who visit this town – one is the packed, less appealing main town area which also has the town’s bus and railway station, and another is the area near Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula (two suspension bridges in Rishikesh which also happen to be iconic landmarks of the town) which are the riverside regions and host most of the travellers. ‘Swarg Ashram’ in the eastern bank is free from traffic and houses most of the yoga ashrams in the town, whereas High Banks in the west of Laxman Jhula is a small colony famous among backpackers.

 

Religious or not, it is worth checking out the evening prayer ceremony which takes place on the banks of river Ganges every evening organized by the countless temples lining the banks and their pujaris (priests) or sadhus (holy people). Hundreds and thousands of tourists, pilgrims, and worshippers gather on these banks every evening to experience and be a part of the evening prayer ceremonies. Rishikesh also happens to share its border with Haridwar – another famous town in Uttarakhand, which is one of the four locations where Kumbh Mela (a highly important Hindu religious festival which sees millions of attendees) is held once every 12 years and Ardh Kumbh Mela is held every 6 years.

 

For amateur and expert yoga practitioners, it is best to stay in or around Swarg Ashram since it is the hub of all yoga activity in Rishikesh. Parmarth Niketan Ashram, situated in Swarg Ashram, is one of the most prominent yoga ashrams which not only provides hatha yoga lessons, but also has its riverbank where the guests can enjoy the spectacular environ during the evening ceremony. Rooms are available for INR600 (approx.), which includes your room with a private bathroom, hatha yoga lessons, and all meals. Note that Rishikesh is one of the most sacred places for Hindus so non-vegetarian is almost non-existent here although the vegetarian food is equally scrumptious and goes well with the yogic lifestyle.

 

As mentioned before, Rishikesh happens to be amongst the top white water river rafting joints in India and you will find hundreds of agencies and shops offering various rafting packages. You can simply pick a 1N/2D rafting trip which includes overnight at a camp with bonfire and delicious food (you can expect to eat non-vegetarian here), or you can combine your rafting and camping with kayaking and trekking. Some also offer all-inclusive Himalayan treks, multi-day rafting trips, and camping along the river.

 

If you are in Rishikesh for a relaxing summer holiday with your family and yoga or extreme sports is not your thing, head to spend some quality time in the beautiful Neev Garh Waterfall, and you can still camp along the river without having to sign up for treks or rafting.

 

Like any other touristic place in India, Rishikesh also has many budget, mid-level, and luxury hotels and resorts. To find a budget accommodation, it is best to look around the Laxman Jhula Area or Swarg Ashram. You can also explore High Bank if you are into “backpacker” environment.

 

Opening hours

Rishikesh can be visited throughout the year. For those interested in rafting, March to early May and September to mid-November is the best time to visit. Rishikesh holds the International Yoga Festival every year in March. In July, the town celebrates the festival of Saavan (monsoon) with huge crowd gatherings so it's best to avoid if you want a peaceful vacation.

How to get there

The nearest airport to Rishikesh is Dehradun's Jolly Grant Airport. The distance is approximately 26 km and takes approximately 30-45 mins in a cab from the airport to the city.

If you are planning to take the train, it is best to alight at Haridwar and take a bus (45 mins approx.) or taxi (30 mins approx.) to Rishikesh.

For international tourists coming to India for the first time and arriving in Delhi, hiring a car is a good option as well. It takes about 5-7 hours and $80-$120 depending upon the type of car. Don't opt for prepaid taxis at the airport as they charge really high and there is no scope for bargaining.

One can also take a direct a bus from Delhi to Rishikesh which would take 5-7 hours. Fare depends upon the bus operating agency and the bus type (AC, non-AC, Volvo, Sleeper, non-Sleeper, etc.)

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