10 Best Things to Do in Rishikesh, India

Rishikesh is a beautiful city located at the bank of the river Ganga in North India. Rishikesh - a curious amalgam of the traditional and the contemporary. The picturesque pilgrimage town is a place which interests yogis, river-rafting enthusiasts, spiritual souls, professional photographers as well as foreigners alike for its diverse range of offerings.

Rishikesh is definitely the Holy Grail for solo travellers in India. While the charming valleys and lush greenery weaves magic for the wandering soul in you, Rishikesh is also popular as the Adventure Capital and Yoga Capital of India. A female friendly destination in Uttarakhand, solo travellers must indulge in adventure activities like white-water rafting, rappelling fox flying and camping.

Even if you come alone, you will leave Rishikesh with lots of memories for lifetime of friends that you make during your trip. Solo travellers can also join some yoga and meditation sessions that the ashrams impart amidst the scenic backdrop of the Himalayas. Rishikesh is easily accessible by road and trains from all major cities.

It is the yoga capital of the world and an effective place to practice yoga and meditation. Located in the beautiful state of Uttarakhand, and on the banks of the river Ganges, the picturesque destination is quite popular among tourists in India and abroad. Rishikesh is also a good place for the young generation. Here they can enjoy Riverside camping, rafting, etc.

Rishikesh is a peaceful city and is a holy place which is considered as one of the sacred prayer destinations by Shiva devotees. Rishikesh is also popular for the nearby tourist destinations such as Char Dham, Nanital, Mussoorie, Tehri, Haridwar, Neel Kanth etc. If you are an adventure loving person then you are at the perfect destination. Trekking, Bungee jumping, Rafting, Camping are all done here.

Rishikesh is a hub for adventure sports like rafting and bungee jumping. Rishikesh and Uttarkashi are also some of the spiritual cities which are near river Ganga. This part of Himalaya is known as Garhwal Himalaya and there are so many high altitude peaks in this region including Meru Peak, Bhagirathi, Bandarpunchh etc.

Rishikesh is a holy city and has lots of Shiva temples, which can be found around the city. It will help you whenever you plan to visit Rishikesh. No doubt Rishikesh is one of the best tourist destinations all across the country. Surrounded by the Great Himalayas from three sides, Rishikesh is also the starting point for the Char Dham and other tourist attractions of Uttarakhand.

Here is your Rishikesh travel guide and the things to do in Rishikesh:

1. Yoga in Parmarth Niketan Ashram

Yoga. Everywhere. EVERYWHERE! Seriously, there are so many yoga studios with classes at all times of the day. Often dubbed as the yognagri and Yoga Capital of the World, the yoga ashrams in Rishikesh are famous for hosting yoga lovers across the globe, including world renowned celebrities such as Prince Charles and The Beatles. Take a soul-searching sojourn to one of the yoga ashrams in Rishikesh.

Sign up for a 3-day yoga retreat and cleanse your body, mind and soul whilst making friends for life. Parmarth Niketan Ashram is an ashram located on the riverfront on the banks of the Ganges that allows people to lodge and relax the body, mind and soul with the assistance of the art of meditation and spirituality. The ashram was founded by Swami Shukdevanand.

Parmarth Niketan Ashram is the biggest ashram in Rishikesh with over 1000 rooms that provides a neat and tidy atmosphere to thousands of people across the globe who wish to practice yoga for meditation and spirituality. The daily activities at this ashram include morning prayers, meditation, satsangs and kirtans, and a beautiful Ganga aarti at the time of the sunset.

Spring is considered the best time to experience yoga and spirituality in the holy city of Rishikesh. India is also the world cradle of yoga and meditation. Find a yoga teacher and what better place to study this practice than where it was discovered.

Rishikesh is the world capital of yoga and where possibly the largest number of ashrams in the world is concentrated (places for the practice of yoga and meditation). At the foot of the Himalayas and on the banks of the source of the Ganges, you will witness the source where, centuries ago, the wisdom of the great masters and gurus began to sprout.

You can visit different yoga schools and yoga centers to deepen the practice of styles such as Hatha, Asthanga, Iyengar, Sivananda or for a yoga teacher training course. Yoga is one of the best things to do in Rishikesh. Rishikesh offers week-long (even monthly) Ayurvedic massage and therapy packages designed to rejuvenate your senses.

A bona fide form of healing, the therapy includes cleansing your body by scrubbing, oiling and polishing processes through 5000 year-old knowledge of Ayurveda! The 5-day packages which include your stay and meals with daily massage schedule may go as high as 50,000 INR. You may also opt for a one-time 60-minute Abhayanga which is the traditional Ayurvedic body oil massage.

2. Crossing the Laxman Jhula

Crossing the two suspension bridges (Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula) is fun, unless you're driving a motor bike. Then it's frustrating. But never mind that. Walk off to the side, savor the views, and saunter across the sacred river. Lakshman Jhula in Rishikesh is a popular landmark located 5 km from the city.

The suspension bridge connects Tapovan village on the west bank to Jonk on the east bank of the Ganges. The bridge was inaugurated in 1939 by H.E. Sir Malcolm Haley C.C.I.E. K.C.S.I. Governor of the United Provinces, British India.

The construction period was from 1927 to 1929 after the old bridge was demolished by the 1924 floods. However, the bridge was opened for traffic in 1939. Since then, Lakshman Jhula has always been open for public and tourists.

3. Attend Ganga Aarti at Triveni Ghat

Triveni ghat is among the most sacred ghats in Rishikesh with a congruence of three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. A visit to this place will give you an insight to the spiritual beauty of Rishikesh. Triveni Ghat is the biggest and most famous ghat in Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganges.

The ghat is fully occupied by tourists from all over the world, especially Indians who believe that their sins will wash-off if they have a dip in the Ganges. Yes, Ganges is considered to be the holiest river in Indian Mythology, wherein it is so pure that it has the potential to clear all the sins (paap) committed with just a dip.

These dips are often ritual baths that last long during which a set of prayers must be chanted along with specific body postures. Triveni Ghat is a crowded ghat alongside the river Ganges, with pilgrims bathing around and is one of the points of interest in Rishikesh. It’s altogether a different site during the evening aarti. The spirituality and aura around this place will take you to a different world.

As for a tourist, Triveni Ghat is a cultural spot to observe different types of people praying. Triveni Ghat is a must-visit and while you are at the ghat, you might want to opt for the ritual bath as well.

Beautiful mantras playing all over the place. Walk down any of the streets in Rishikesh and be treated to beautiful Indian mantras playing from the shops. It's divine.

4. Crossing the Ram Jhula

Ram Jhula is a suspension bridge over the Ganges. It is located on the outskirts of Rishikesh offering various activities like river rafting and fishing. Whenever you are on a vacation in Rishikesh, Ram Jhula is a spot not to miss. The lush Himalayas, peaceful serene and the melody of water flowing reminds us that paradise does exist and it exists on the earth.

5. River rafting from Ganga Beach

Looking for a cheap river rafting. Seriously, it's priced so affordably that you have no excuse not to. Rishikesh is a perfect destination for a newbie, as the rapids aren't huge. It's a fun way to spend the afternoon. The sports activities at Ram Jhula are quite popular among the tourists as well as locals. The adventure of rafting through the Ganges with a force impeccable making us realize the value of every breath.

The thrill and adrenaline give us clarity about our purpose in life. An experience worth risking a pair of wet clothes in the cool river water. It is a sin, if you are young and left Rishikesh without white water rafting. This is the best place for rafting in India which offers rapids upto IVth grade.

6. Did you miss Beatles Ashram?

Chaurasi Kutia is an ashram in the holy city of Rishikesh. The significance of this ashram is that the popular English rock band, The Beatles, stayed at this ashram during their visit in India. Hence, Chaurasi Kutia is also known as Beatles Ashram.

The ashram is located on the east bank of the Ganges and in the foothills of Himalayas. This ashram grew popular because of The Beatles' stay. A lot of places in this ashram can be spotted which are dedicated to The Beatles like graphics on the walls and graffiti art.

The Beatles Ashram or Chaurasi Kutia is famous for another reason today. The ashram was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who devised the Transcendental Meditation Technique which is the most practiced form of meditation. Thus, Chaurasi Kutia is the glacier of Transcendental Meditation.

7. Take a stroll to Trayambakeshwar Temple

A walk along the Astha Path during the dawn or dusk is divine and deserves your time during your next visit to Rishikesh! This 3 km long pathway is built next to the mighty Ganges and leads straight to the Triveni Ghat’s aarti point. Being one of the less popular spots in Rishikesh, you can feel the coolness of the gushing water in its pristine surroundings. The pathway is dotted with colorful benches, ashrams, yoga schools and temples as well as quaint rustic lamps.

Trayambakeshwar Mandir is a temple in Rishikesh dedicated to Shiva. Trayambakeshwar Mandir is located on the banks of the Ganges near Lakshman Jhula. It is a 13-story Hindu temple which is a place of one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. A beautiful monument designed with sheer piety and wholehearted love for the locals and tourists.

The temple is open on all the days of the week for the common public. It is one of the religious places that is believed to have sustained through all the thick and thin. A place of serenity that cleanses the aura and infiltrates the mind with positivity and love.

8. Go bungee jumping near Patna Waterfall

Rishikesh has been tagged as the best and highest bungee jumping location in India. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, indulge in this unforgettable experience whilst witnessing the astoundingly gorgeous landscape of the hills. Not for the faint-hearted!

The area is ideal for hiking. Do visit Patna Waterfall on E-bike and experience the joy of riding in the mountains. It is located on Neelkanth temple road and to reach there one has to walk/trek for approx 15–20 min. Just a short walk or ride out of town and you're submerged in beautiful nature. The Ganga river runs through this sweet little town and there's tons of places to sun bathe, take a soak, or read a book in the crisp, breathable air.

Take a deep breath and say Om. With sandy beaches to lounge or swim in the Ganges get in the water, take a dip, soak in the sun, meditate, read, enjoy.

9. Neelkanth Mahadev Temple

Neelkanth Temple is a sacred and famous temple located at 32 km from Rishikesh. A famous pilgrimage near Rishikesh, the temple lies above Swargashram adjacent to Nar Narayan mountain range. The temple also has a freshwater spring which attracts many devotees for a bath. Both the drive and trek to this temple is amazing.

10. Neergarh Waterfall

Located at 20-25 minutes drive from Laxman jhula, Neer Garh Waterfall or Neer Gaddu is a natural waterfall with 3 catchments i.e. 3 waterfalls at 3 different levels. A bridge is also there to cross the catchments. One should visit early to avoid the crowd. Entry fee is INR 30 for Indian citizens which needs to be paid at the prescribed entry counter.

The lower level of the Waterfall is easily accessible even with kids. The higher level requires a bit of hike; but its worth it. Carrying own bottle of water is recommended. Few snacks stalls serving magi, cold drinks, tea etc. are there; plastic table and chairs are also available. One can sit in open with legs in chilling yet refreshing clean water and enjoy the snacks.

Food in Rishikesh

Good options for chill-out restaurants to lounge in overlooking the river. The food options are unlimited as it caters to thousands of tourists throughout the year. As we Indians, consider sweets as an offering to God, there are ample of sweet shops located around the city. The famous sweet shops in Rishikesh prepare sweets using pure ghee. The sweets are delicious and leave a craving for more.

Along with sweets, Rishikesh adobes several restaurants that serve hygienic food with impeccable taste. The popular food to eat at Rishikesh are samosa, aloo puri, chole bhatura, pani puri and kachori. There are numerous cafes around the city that serve quick bites with an excellent cup of tea or coffee.

The locals aren't trying to hassle or cheat the tourists. You won't be chased down the street or harassed by vendors, and yet, the quality of the vendors is top notch. Another +1 for Rishikesh! Great shopping. Did I mention that there are vendors galore, and they don't harass.

How to Reach Rishikesh

Rishikesh is located 372 m above sea-level in the foothills of the Himalayas. Rishikesh is well connected via Roadways, Railways and Airways with both Delhi and Dehradun. It is around 270 km from New Delhi and is connected via NH 58 through Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Roorkee, Haridwar while Dehradun is just 42 km from Rishikesh. There are local bus services between the two towns.

By Air: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun which is located at an approximated distance of 35 km from Rishikesh. From Dehradun, bus and taxi services to Rishikesh are available.

By Bus: There are no direct transportation services other than buses. Being a tourist destination, bus services from major nearby cities like from New Delhi, Haridwar, Varanasi and Dehradun are available. The frequency is high during the peak season i.e. April, May and June.

By Rail: The Indian Railways connect Rishikesh with Delhi, Haridwar as well as Katra and Jammu. The nearest railway station is Haridwar which is located at 25 km (approx). Tour buses and State Transport buses can be boarded to reach Rishikesh. Rental cab services are also available.

Stay in Rishikesh

Rishikesh has very few hotels. However, hostels can be found in abundance. Hostels/ashrams are relatively cheap and offer similar facilities like hotels. It is recommended to pre-book during the peak season. The bustling hostels in Rishikesh house artists and yoga enthusiasts from across the globe. Make sure you stay for a couple of nights in one of these hostels. They organize array of activities that will make your time in Rishikesh more fun and wholesome - from night yoga classes to river-rafting, from sunrise treks to weekend party nights.

This was a short insight into the things to expect from Rishikesh. If you don't get what you have read here, don't be disappointed, you shall have your own experiences and memories to cherish.
Kalyan Panja