Rishikesh is my comfort place. I have been visiting this place for years and yet I feel there is alway something new here. It is tough not to be hypnotized by its soothing aura mixed with religious vibe and natural surroundings. For many, Rishikesh is another religious city in ‘Dev Bhoomi’ Uttarakhand. But those, who have explored this magical destination, know that it equally attracts thrill-seekers along with spiritual-seekers. There are plenty of things to do in Rishikesh, and millions of tourists from far and wide visit this ‘Yoga capital’ of the world.
When I decided to spend a few days of summer in Rishikesh, I had no idea how fun this trip would turn out. Here is my complete guide to this magnetic town in the Himalayan foothills.
Rishikes is a hermit’s hermitage, a sage’s abode, and a thrill-seeker’s hub. This sacred city of the Hindus exudes tranquility, where tourists from all over the world come to meditate and to sail through the raging water of sacred Ganga. It is one of the most sought-after destinations, surrounded by lush green forests, verdant hills, and the river Ganga, flowing through the city.
As per Ramayana, Lord Rama is said to have served his penance here after killing Ravana. Lord Rama and his brother Laxmana crossed the mighty river Ganga at the site where Laxamn Jhula is located. Hence, it has mythological importance as well.
This Garhwali town in Uttarakhand is home to several temples and the numerous Ashrams add to its charm even more. Its vicinity to Haridwar makes it among top Indian tourist destinations visited by millions annually.
Apart from the religious and healing and meditation centers, it has several sports and activities points, which make it an adventure-packed destination. From bungee jumping to hiking, mountain climbing, and paragliding, there are plenty of best things to do in Rishikesh. But what stands out among all is river rafting in the raging rapids of water.
Best Time to Be in Rishikesh
Rishikesh is a year-round destination. However, monsoon is the season that should be avoided. It has a humid subtropical climate and remains pleasant throughout the year. Here is a monthly breakup of its climatic condition:
Winters (October to February): The winter months that run from October through March are considered ideal for river rafting and sightseeing. If you plan to visit Rishikesh during winter, best bring your woolen clothes. This Himalayan region goes through a slight chill during these months.
Summers (March to June): The best time of the year is between March and April when the weather is comfortable. The temperature is not too hot, not too cold and is perfect to enjoy outdoor activities.
Monsoon (July to September): It receives heavy rainfall during the monsoon and flash floods are common. Owing to the heavy downpour, the water level increases and rafting is closed until winter. You may find less crowd during monsoon, and it is perfect for budget travelers to get cheap accommodations, but the rain and the flood might make your trip unsuccessful.
How to Get There
Being a popular tourist destination, Rishikesh is well-connected with the world. It takes less than an average of six hours from Delhi to Rishikesh by road. The nearest airport is in Dehradun, which is only 35 km from Rishikesh. You can find several rom major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucnkow and Bangalore to Dehradun flight. The nearest railway station is in Haridwar, which is 25 km away. Here are how you can reach here by different modes of transport.
The nearest airport is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun. Several flights are available from other Indian cities. Book a flight to Dehradun and from the airport, you will get cabs, taxis, and buses that will take you to Rishikesh.
Haridwar Railway Station is the nearest station that is connected with major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow, etc. A train journey in India is not only affordable, it is also satisfying. That is said, the best way to explore the true essence of India is to explore it by train. From the station, you can easily get a public or private run bus, a taxi, or a cab to reach Rishikesh.
A long drive to Rishikes is worth every penny. A road trip to the Himalayas offers some of the most scenic landscapes. The town is connected to other parts of India via National Highway 58. Several state-run and private buses ply from Delhi, Chandigarh, Amritsar and other cities.
My first day began early in the morning at 4 am. I and one of my friends hit the road and started our three hour road trip from Meerut to Rishikesh. The distance between the two cities is just 160 km. We reached Haridwar by 6:30 am and directly headed to Har Ki Paori. We took blessings of Maa Ganga. When we came out, we felt the urge to have a cup of chai. There was a small tea shop near Har Ki Paori, where we had Kulhad wali Chai.
However, that wasn’t enough and hence to kill our hunger pangs, we headed to Bharat Mata Mandir road, where we munched on Aloo Ka Paratha. Haridwar has several eateries where you can get a decent meal at a very affordable price.
When we reached Rishikesh, it was already 10:30 am. Our first destination was Triveni Ghat. It is the biggest Ganga ghat and always remains packed with devotees. It is believed that Lord Krishna visited the Ghat, when he got injured by an arrow. I personally wanted to attend the famed Ganga Aarti and listen to the Vedic hymns. It is one of the best things to do in Rishikesh that not only rejuvenates your senses, but also purifies your soul.
However, Ganga Aarti wasn’t until the evening and hence we decided to search for a shelter. There are several hotels, homestays, and Dharamshalas available here. From expensive to budget-friendly, all kinds of accommodations are dotted in Rishikesh. Since we were on a budget, we decided to take shelter in JaiRam Dharamshala. The rooms are spacious, well-maintained, with all basic amenities, including spacious free parking and the view of river Ganga from the Dharamshala is an icing on the cake. It cost us just INR800.
In the evening, we visited Janki Pool, a bridge named after Mata Sita. We crossed the bridge and traversed through the narrow hilly roads along the river admiring the ethereal view. The road led us to Ram Ji Ke Pool. When we reached the pool, we realized we hadn’t had lunch. There were several eateries nearby and we visited one and had food.
When we finished our food, it was already time for the Ganga Aarti. We drove to Triveni Ghat and took our seats on the stairs, waiting patiently for the Aarti to begin. It wasn’t long before the priests started performing puja. The chants of Vedic hymns, the diyas, and the surrounding aura is so divine that anybody can feel the presence of God. Being a part of a Ganga Aarti in one of Ganga Ghats is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and everyone should witness this magical Puja.
We were hypnotized and lost track of time. We felt the blessings of Maa Ganga and after offering our prayers, we came out of the Ghat and explored the nearby markets. There are several shops outside, which are run by the locals as well as the foreigners. Yes, you heard that right. These foreigners from Europe and America now call Rishikesh their second home. They have their own Ashrams where they do Yoga and meditate and even have shops for livelihood.
We were tired and exhausted after such a hectic day. But still we decided to visit Laksham Jhoola. This suspension bridge connects Tapovan village in Tehri Garhwal to Jonk village in Pauri Garhwal district. As per the legends, Lord Rama’s brother Lakshmana crossed the river Ganga on a jute bridge. Until 1924, the 284 feet long jute bridge was there. But it got washed away in the flood and the current bridge was constructed in 1930.
Lakshman temple, Trayambakeshwar temple, Sacha Akhileshwar Mahadev temple, Sri Raghunath Ji’s temple are located in the vicinity of Laxman jhula. Visiting these temples is one of the most important things to do in Rishikesh. You will also get to see
But we were exhausted and headed to our Dharamshala and called it a day!
Our second day began early in the morning. When we woke up, it was already 10 am. We hit the road and headed towards Neelkanth, which is 37 km from Rishikesh. The temple is dedicated to Neelkanth, an aspect of Lord Shiva. The temple is surrounded by thick forests and hills, and is adjacent to the Nar Narayan mountain range. As per the ancient Hindu inscriptions, when Lord Shiva consumed the poison that originated during Samudra Manthan, He felt extreme heat and to cool Himself off, he visited this mountain region. The consumption of the poison turned His throat blue and hence He is also called Neelkanth.
The architecture of the temple is influenced by Dravidian style, which is a rare sight in North India. This Shiva abode is situated at an elevation of 1330 meters and is surrounded by Manikoot, Brahmakoot, and Vishnukoot. The temple is visited by a huge number of devotees on Shivaratri and during the months of Shravan.
We parked our bike outside and decided to trek up to the temple, which is indeed a thrilling experience. There is a natural spring in the temple, where we took showers. The water of the spring is believed to have healing properties. We rejuvenated in the waters and offered our prayers and sought blessings of Mighty Shiva.
Offering water and Bel Patra leaves in the temple is considered sacred. We did and also whispered our wishes in Nandi Ji’s ear. Hindus believe that whispering your wishes in Nandi Ji’s ear can fulfill all your wishes.
The Devi Maa temple is located close. We didn’t think twice and visited the temple barefoot through an unconstructed road. Locals believe that every morning a lion visits the temple, who is believed to be the vahan of Devi Maa.
We wanted to visit Ganesh Gufa, but since we were barefoot, we dropped the idea.
Our next stop was Tera Manzil temple, which is known as Trayambakeshwar temple. I must tell you that the temple’s huge decorative symmetric architecture can stun you. It is located near Laxman Jhoola. This 13 storey temple enshrines several deities under one roof. Each floor of the temple has several small temples dedicated to Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Don’t expect an elevator here. You need to climb the stairs. We visited all the temples on each floor, and when we reached the 13th floor, we were stunned. The panoramic views from above the temple offers some scenic vistas of the mighty Ganga, Laxman Jhoola, and the surrounding areas.
It was already 5 pm in the evening and we were hungry. We decided to grab a bite of something and sign off for the night. En route, we found an eatery, where we ordered traditional Thalis. We filled ourselves and headed back to our room.
No trip to Rishikesh is complete without unleashing your inner adventurous soul and challenging your limits. And rafting in Rishikesh is one of the best things to do in Haridwar and Rishikesh. Our third is all about facing my fears. We joined a group of rafters. We were equipped with helmets and life jackets. We sat on the raft with our paddles. We started to row. At the beginning of this 16 km distance, the river was calm and composed and it was fun. We were shouting and hooting, while leaving other rafters behind.
We passed through some giant and strongest rapids. Some famous rapids here are roller coasters, cross fire, golf course, Double Trouble, etc. After a few hours, we stopped at a Maggi point. The break was much needed as we were exhausted. The small shop here sells maggi and other snacks. And as everybody knows a plate of maggi in the mountains is a bliss!
There was a cliff from where people were jumping off in the water. I am not adventurous, but looking at everyone enjoying the activity, I too wanted to be part of it. It was a thrilling experience.
After half an hour, we were back in the water, rowing our paddles. It ended gracefully with high rapids, thrill, fun, and goosebumps.
When it ended, we headed towards our campsite. Although everyone was tired, we just couldn’t let the night get over. We, along with the other groups, sat around the bonfire. If someone was playing guitar then someone else was singing. Or sometimes we even shared our other travel experiences as well.
It is indeed a great opportunity to meet new people and exchange ideas and experiences. After dinner, we all head back to our tent for the night.
We woke up early in the morning and realized people were shouting. We came out of our tent just to realize that there was a tiger, who was roaming nearby the campsite. That wasn’t part of my plan. But thankfully everything was under control and the tiger went back to the woods in the hills.
It was our last day in Rishikesh. From the camp, we took a cab and returned back to Jairam Dharamshala, where we freshened up, paid our bills, and took our bike out. It was time for us to bid adieu to this sacred town.
Although the trip was over for the day, I am sure to come back to the mountains again!
Rishikesh is both religious and adventurous. Its serene Ganga Ghats and the revered temples make one feel alive. There are plenty of places to visit and things to do in Rishikesh and just a few day trips isn’t enough. Not just temple hopping and river rafting, visitors to Rishikesh also come to this temple town in the Himalayan foothills to do Yoga and meditation. Being the ‘Yoga Capital’ of the world, it has several Ashrams and Yoga centers, where you can rejuvenate your mind and soul and spend some time amidst nature.
If a trip to Rishikesh is on your card, plan it ahead and ensure you have enough days to experience this mythical town.