Temples, ghats, adventure and the Holy Ganges – Rishikesh
Updated: Mar 11
Like many other tourist destinations around Delhi, Rishikesh is one of the at not more than a 6-hour drive from Delhi. Driving to Rishikesh is smooth ad safe. If you don’t want to drive down by yourself, you can take a train to Haridwar and take a cab to Rishikesh or take a flight to Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun and drive down to Rishikesh by a cab. But I must tell you, it is just so easy to drive down to Rishikesh from Delhi. The roads are good and once you cross Modi Nagar, there are very few chances of you getting stuck in traffic till you reach Haridwar.
At Haridwar, the roads are dug up for widening but once that’s done, it won’t be very difficult to cross Haridwar. Haridwar being one more tourist and a pilgrimage destination, it has some traffic. It takes around 45 minutes to an hour to reach Rishikesh from Haridwar.
Rishikesh is a small town, famous for temples, Ganga ghats, the Holy river Ganga and many adventures activities. So, you would find tourists coming for pilgrimage or the ones coming to unleash the adventure at Rishikesh. Around Rishikesh there are a lot of places that you may like to visit. But Rishikesh itself is no less. There are numerous activities that you may like to do in Rishikesh. It is more of a weekend destination than a long vacation spot. 3 days are enough to spend time in and around Rishikesh. Experience the serenity of the Holy Ganges and the very attractive and soothing turquoise blue water.
How to reach Rishikesh:
Road Route to Rishikesh:
Being a popular tourist destination, Rishikesh had a good connectivity by bus from Delhi. If you are planning to drive down to Rishikesh by yourself, it is worth considering, as the roads are in good condition and it would take approximately 6 to 7 hours to reach Rishikesh. The road route from Delhi would be Delhi – Ghaziabad – Muradnagar – Modi Nagar – Meerut – Muzaffarnagar – Roorkee – Haridwar – Rishikesh.
By flights, you can travel to Dehradun and take a cab or a regular bus service which is easily available toreachRishikesh. The nearest airport to Rishikesh is the Jolly Grant airport at Dehradun which is approximately 35 kilometres away.
The nearest railway station to Rishikesh is in Haridwar which is approximately 25 kilometres away. there are many trains that run on a regular basis to Haridwar from major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow and Varanasi. You can take a train to Haridwar and then take a cab or a regular bus service which is easily available toreachRishikesh.
Places to stay:
Finding accommodation in Rishikesh is not difficult. But you need to pre- book the hotel for accommodation in the peak season. Otherwise you may land in Rishikesh and find one during off season time. This destination offers various budget to luxury hotels.
Some hotels and camps that are really nice ones to spend time in Rishikesh are:
Places to eat:
Like any other touristy destinations in India, Rishikesh also has the café culture, especially to welcome and serve the international tourists. Café hopping can be one of the activities you may like to do when in Rishikesh. Sitting in the café, sip a drink and enjoy the majestic view of the River Ganga like nowhere else but Rishikesh. You can also enjoy the free Wi-Fi that a few of their offer to their guests. From Street food to cafes and restaurants, Rishikesh serves a great variety of cuisines for its varied Tourists. Some of the popular cafes and restaurants in Rishikesh would be as below:
Moksha-a Travel Café
Ellbee Ganga View
German Bakery and some more.
Places to shop:
Rishikesh being a small town, there are a very few places to shop. There are three major areas namely Lakshman Jhula Market, Ram Jhula Market and Rishikesh Main Market near Triveni Ghats where you can buy cloths, precious stones, antiques, antique and Indian traditional jewelry, books, spiritual things, devotional songs CDs and DVDs, handicraft items and Pooja items like lamps, rudraksh malas, metal idols of the gods and goddesses, etc. you can also visit Khadi Bhandar, Garwahl Wool and Craft store and UP Handlooms showroom, Ganpati Gems Paradise, Swargashram. You can ask the local people for the best places to shop where you can get good stuff at reasonable rates.
Things to do:
1. Yoga and Meditation:
Rishikesh is one of the popular destinations for Yoga and Meditation in India. There are a large number of ashrams (centers) as styles for yoga. Being a home to a lot of ashrams, Yoga and Meditations Centers, these give a great experience of Indian Yoga like Parmarth Niketan, Anand Prakash Ashram, Shivanand Ashram, Phool Chatti etc. and yoga in Himalayas is a very enchanting experience probably because of the calm and peaceful environment. The ancient yoga and meditation practices may help you in a healthy and a blissful life.
(Image Source: https://bit.ly/2QDvVpF)
2. Adventure Activities:
Rafting on the Ganges, cliff diving in the Ganges, bunjee jumping, kayaking, Giant swing, flying fox, etc. are some of the adventure activities that you can do When in Rishikesh.
A 24km long stretch of rafting is an amazing experience. There is also a 36km rafting stretch which can be a little exhausting. The chilling water and the low-high ripples of the water and the most exciting experience of the river rafting. You may also get a chance to do cliff diving on a 24km stretch.
(Image Source: https://bit.ly/2QB66GH)
The location for bunjee jumping, flying fox, giant swing etc. is almost 50km from the main Rishikesh city. The drive through the Sivalik Range is bundled with fresh air, lush green mountains and amazing landscapes. These activities are done in a strict supervision of internationally trained and certified instructors. You need to understand the gears, safety Instructions, jumping techniques and other important information before up sign up for the most adventurous memory for a lifetime. For bunjee jumping, it is a 83m high jump with proper gears and safety measures are taken by the instructor before you take the leap. And finally, you really need guts to jump down from that height.
3. Hiking and Camping:
Camping in Rishikesh is yet another experience. Camp sites locates art the banks of the tributaries of the River Ganga, the camps are quite isolates from the hustle-bustle of the city nestles between the grandeur of unbeaten natural beauty. Lo of campsites provide accommodation in Swiss tents and all three meals inclusive packages at a very affordable price. You can do many other activities near and a little far away from the camp site like nature walk, rock climbing, playing volley-ball, etc. You might not experience the luxury like you do at a hotel or a resort but the rustic feel of the camps is also an experience which you be most unforgettable one for you.
(Image Source: https://bit.ly/2Qxgu22)
There are a lot of place in and near Rishikesh for hiking and trekking. Some of them are easy and you can come back in a day, but some of them are difficult ones and you might also have to camp at one or more places up the hill for a night or two. Trek to the Chandrashila peak is through the picturesque village and deep valleys with an easy trail to Deoria Tal and proceed to Chopta through the dense forest to reach the camp site. The Trek leads to the Tugnath Temple and a few kilometers further to the Chandrashila summit. It is altogether a trek for 6 days and not a really easy and smooth one starting from the base camp at Sari.
If you don’t want to exhaust yourself with trekking and experience her activities in Rishikesh, there are many other locations where you can go for a day trek, which starts in the morning and ends by the evening.
(Image Source: https://www.wildex.in/riverside_camping_rishikesh.htm)
Remember, if you plan to go for a long trekking expedition, be prepared with your trekking gears especially the shoes. Also, don’t go out on even a small hike without a guide or the local person who knows well about the place, otherwise there are some high chances of you getting lost in the woods or face any difficulty.
4. Walking tour around the town:
If you want to tour around the city, there are many ‘City Walking Tours’ available or you can book a guide for a day and ask him to take you around Rishikesh. There are many spiritual centers, yoga and meditation centers, old temples, ashrams, Ram Jhula, Lakshman Jhula, the local market, cafés, Triveni Ghats, Beetle’s Ashram, Vashishtha Gufa, etc. that you may be interested to visit. Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula connect the two banks f the river to one another. During the local city trip, the guide would tell you the importance of the River Ganga and the Hindu mythologies related to it.
(Image Source: https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/34423342995/039aea963d/)
Ganga Aarti in the evening being one of the significant event to attend, it starts at 5:30 PM at the holy ghats of the Ganges where the pandits and yogis sing devotional songs and aartis. In the end, tourists and devotees offer a small leaf bowl to the Holy River Ganga in the flowing water which contains a small lamp, some flowers and incense stick.
(Image Source: https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/17640038978/6cb2781377/)
You can also hire a bicycle for a full day and tour around the beautiful city on your own. Bicycles are easily available on rent near Lakshman Jhula.
(Image Source: https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/8863538023/45dedeb237/)
5. Visit Vashishta Gufa:
Visit to Vashishta Gufa situated on the banks of the Holy River Ganga, is a peaceful experience near Rishikesh. The cave is names after the Vashishta- Lord Brahma’s manas putra who was also among the seven great sages (Saptarishi) and Lord Rama’s Guru. It is believed that Vashishta meditated in the cave for a long time. The cave has a Shivling. Vashishta Gufa is located 25km form Rishikesh on Rishikesh-Badrinath road.
6. Visit Beatles Ashram:
The Beatles Ashram is names after the famous international band ‘Beatles’ who visited Rishikesh in 1968 for meditation, who came to learn inspirational meditation at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Ashram. This got the ashram a great popularity after The Beatles visited and Rishikesh came into limelight becoming one of the most popular destinations for Indian and international tourists. Eventually, Rishikesh became a hub or a major center for Yoga and meditation the ashram is closed for learners after the death of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi but open for tourists to see the place. Take a road from the Ram Jhula leading to an old closed iron gate of The Beatles Ashram.
(Image source: https://farm1.staticflickr.com/981/41926002242_7c6961738b_k_d.jpg)
(Image Source: http://www.nerdtravels.com/2016/07/beatles-ashram-rishikesh/)
(Image Source: http://www.nerdtravels.com/2016/07/beatles-ashram-rishikesh/)
(Image Source: http://www.nerdtravels.com/2016/07/beatles-ashram-rishikesh/)
7. Ayurvedic Spa:
Along with yoga and meditation rejuvenate yourself with an Ayurvedic spa in Rishikesh. Experience the serenity and the perfect amalgamation of your body and soul with a relaxing spa treatment at a variety of Ayurvedic spa centers in Rishikesh.
Ananda Spa is considered as one of the best ones for a spa therapy. Ananda Spa is a Royal palace of Narendrangar, now converted into a luxurious spa resort. Even Lord Mountbatten once resided in this property. Ananda offers traditional Indian Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta and professional and certified therapists to perfectly guide you in their yoga sessions. They also offer the healthy ‘Satvik’ organic cuisine for the wellness of the body and mind.
8. Visit Triveni Ghat:
The auspicious Ghats of the Holy Ganga, the Triveni ghats are most mesmerising during the sunset. At Triveni ghats, there is a confluence or the sangam of the three important – the Ganga, the Yamuna and the Saraswati and thus becomes a popular tourist attraction. Busy with food stalls, shops and temples, Triveni ghat is worth visiting during the sunset for the Maha Ganga Aarti where hundreds of lamps are offered to the mighty River Ganga that float in the river and the panorama is mesmerizing.
(Triveni Ghat during the Sunset)
9. Visit Chilla Sanctuary/Rajaji National Park:
Not very far from Rishikesh, Rajaji National Park is located around 20km spread over 820 sq. km land and over 3 districts of Uttarakhand, Haridwar, Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal. The Chiila Sanctuary, the Sanctuary of Motichur and the Sanctuary of Rajaji are combined together to create Rajaji National Park in 1983. Nestled between the Sivalik Ranges of Himalayas, Rajaji National Park is a home for a wide range of flora and fauna that includes spotted deer, barking deer, sambar, elephants, peacocks, quills, vultures, hornbills, hawks, falcons, etc. Drift around the beautiful landscapes of enthralling wilderness in an adventurous jeep safari.
10. Visit white sand Ganga Beach:
The white sand on the banks of the Holy Ganges is yet another place to spend some time and enjoy the natural tranquil in the music of the flowing water. Earlier, the campsites were located on these white sand beaches along the banks of the river. But because of the Government regulations due to flood threats, these camps are moved to the banks of the tributaries of River Ganga or away from the water body.
There are many such locations from where generally the rafting starts. You can just sit dipping your feet in the water. It is generally advisable not to take a dip in the water where you cannot see the bottom of the river, as the undercurrent might just pull you into the river and there are very high chances of drowning.
There are a number of such beaches along the river bank and a peaceful spot to savour the peace. These beaches are also called as silver sand beaches. The sunset is also mesmerising to watch from these locations.
11. Drive to Rudraprayag:
Rudraprayag is a place of confluence or sangam of two significant rivers, Alaknanda and river Mandakini. It is one of the Panch Prayags or the five confluences of the river Alaknanda. Located approximately 145km from Rishikesh, you need one complete to drive to and fro to Rudraprayag from Rishikesh. Even if the distance looks less when measured in kilometers, the time requires if more because of the curvy hilly and damaged road. There is road construction going on at many places too which is also a reason for the so much time required to reach Rudraprayag. The beauty of the tall high mountains and aqua blue colour of the river water is astonishing while you drive through the ghats.
Other than a few temples, a nature walk and a pilgrimage sites, there is nothing much to do at Rudraprayag.
According to the Hindu mythology, it is believed that Narad Muni worshipped Lord Shiva at Rudraprayag for mastering the art of music from him. Later, Lord Shiva getting impressed by the devoutness of Narad Muni, bless him in a Rudra Avatar and that is how the place got its name.
12. Drive to Devprayag:
Nested in the Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, the town of Devprayag is located on the Rishikesh - Badrinath highway, approximately 73km from Rishikesh. The heavenly town of Devprayag is popular for the last confluence or sangam of the river Alaknanda.
From Devprayag, River Alaknanda and River Bhagirathi confluence to be known as Holy River Ganga. The beauty of the two rivers meeting is an absolute bliss and you can actually see the difference between the flowing water of two different rivers by the their colour and the speed of the flow. The name Devprayag combines ‘God’ and ‘Confluence’ in its name as ‘Dev’ and ‘Prayag’ respectively and hence, known as godly confluence. You can take a dip in the holy river at the bathing ghats at Devprayag and have some delicious regional cuisines at local food stalls near the ghats. It is difficult to find any fancy other place to eat.
Devprayag being one of the Panch Prayags or the five confluences, it is visited by thousands of pilgrims during their annual pilgrimage tour to chardham.
According to the Indian Hindu mythology, Bhagirathi did a penance asking the Gods to bring Ganga to the Earth. 33 koti (Crore) gods and goddesses along with Ganga appeared on the Earth and chose Devprayag their home. It is also believed that Lord Rama and His father Dasharatha meditated at Devprayag.
13. Drive to Kanatal:
Not a very popular tourist destination, Kanatal is less heard place in Uttaranchal. Located around 82km from Rishikesh, it is said that Kanatal is named after a lake that once existed there. Kanatal offers a serene and charming natural tranquil, fruit orchards and lush green forests. Not a much popular location, Kanatal offers a peaceful natural beauty that would relax your mind and body.
Drive from Rishikesh to Kanatal is really mesmerising. It also has a lot of campsites for the tourists to spend a night under the blanket of starts and spend some time in the nature’s bounty. The long nature walk and some adventure activities is all you can so at Kanatal which is no less mesmerising.
14. Drive to Dhanaulti:
Located approximately 95km from Rishikesh, Dhanaulti is yet another popular hill station. It is located in a close proximity of many other places like Mussoorie, Tehri Chamba etc. yet it still remains much untouched by the infuriating rush. The pleasant cool weather, the natural tranquil, the lush green jungle and the mesmerising view of the snow peaked mountains of Himalayas adds to the amazing memories of the tourists.
The major attractions of Dhanaulti is the Eco-Park, a newly developed park looked after by the forest division of Garhwal Region. Well connected by smooth road from Rishikesh, Dhanaulti is one another destination you can add to your bucket list when you are planning to travel to Rishikesh.
15. Drive to Haridwar:
Like Rishikesh, Haridwar is also situated on the banks of the Holy River Ganga and also famous for thousands of pilgrims visiting for pilgrimage during the Chardham Yatra. Many big-small temples and the Ganga Ghats are what Haridwar is mainly famous for. It is located at a distance of 20km from Rishikesh. While driving to Rishikesh from Delhi, you cross through the crowded city of Haridwar.
(Image Source: https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/2085710183/152e4e1791/)
According to one of the Indian Hindu mythologies, it is believed that during Samudramanthan, few drops of Amrit were spilled in Haridwar. Haridwar is also regarded as one of the seven holiest places (Sapta Puri) to Indians. May pilgrims start their pilgrimage from Haridwar as the mane is combines two words ‘Hari’ and ‘Dwar’ meaning ‘God’ and ‘Door’ respectively, meaning the door to the God.
If you may like to pay a visit to Haridwar, you can visit on the way to Rishikesh from Delhi or while heading back to Delhi from Rishikesh.
Best time to visit:
Rishikesh being at the foothills, the weather is quite pleasant throughout the year. But the best time to visit Rishikesh for adventure activities like river rafting on the Ganges, cliff diving in the Ganges, bunjee jumping, kayaking, Giant swing, flying fox, etc. It is advisable to visit Rishikeshfrom late September - October to mid-December, and from early March - April to early May.
In July, because of the festival called ‘Savan’ celebrated in Rishikesh, thousands of people gather in Rishikesh. Main roads to Rishikesh and the local city roads are blocked and hotels are quite crowded. Hence reaching Rishikesh and finding good accommodation is difficult. Hence, it be better not to travel to Rishikesh in July.Also because of the rains and threats due to floods, river rafting and some other adventure activities are closed for a while, mainly till the beginning of September.
We spent a good time exploring the small town and the temples, made a few friends at the hotel we stayed, spent sometime with them at the white sand Ganga Beach and also drove back to Delhi with some of them.
You can spend some time at the banks of the river appreciating the natural beauty, meditate and do yoga at an ashram, unleash the adventure in you with river rafting, bunjee jumping, cliff jumping, trekking and camping etc., take a walk by the banks of the river or the ghats, and sing some devotional songs during the evening aartis at the Ganga Ghats. There is lot more to do or just relax in your hotel room leisurely.