Rishikesh is a city located in the northern part of India, and in the heart of India, in the state of Uttarakhand. Known as the “Yoga Capital of the World” and the “Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas”, Rishikesh lies at the foothills of the Himalayas, along the banks of the sacred Ganges River. It is a popular travel destination, especially for yoga enthusiasts and spiritual seekers. I visited Rishikesh in 2007, and in this post, I will share the various experiences Rishikesh has to offer and why it is such a fantastic place to visit. Please note that my photos and videos are from 2007, which explains their quality.
Rishikesh is a hub for yoga, meditation, and spirituality, but it also offers a wide range of other activities such as hiking, white-water rafting, yoga and meditation courses, and nature excursions. The city provides an opportunity to experience the spiritual peace and beauty that is increasingly rare in today’s world. It also allows visitors to delve into Indian culture and religion, making it an excellent destination for anyone interested in Hinduism and its practices.
Spirituality in Rishikesh
Rishikesh is renowned for its spiritual significance and long history with yoga, meditation, and spirituality. It is the birthplace of yoga and home to numerous ashrams and temples, such as the famous Parmarth Niketan and Triveni Ghat. The ashrams offer yoga and meditation practices, as well as spiritual teachings, making these places ideal for those who want to explore India’s spiritual and cultural heritage.
Yoga and meditation festivals are also popular in Rishikesh, and the city is particularly famous for the International Yoga Festival held annually in February. This festival attracts yoga enthusiasts from around the world. Read more about yoga in my Finnish blog here.
Travel Activities in Rishikesh
Rishikesh is also a favorite destination for adventure enthusiasts, as it offers a variety of activities such as white-water rafting, bungee jumping, trekking, mountain biking, and more. Since the city is located along the Ganges River, it provides opportunities for various water sports.
White-water rafting is one of the most popular activities in Rishikesh. The strong currents of the Ganges River and the mountainous scenery make rafting an unforgettable experience. I personally only dared to watch it from the shore, as the accompanying video I captured shows. Bungee jumping is another popular activity, offering adrenaline-pumping experiences.
Rishikesh is surrounded by stunning nature. The majestic Himalayas provide breathtaking landscapes, and the city is encompassed by lush forests. The Ganges River flows through the city, and its waters are sacred to Hindu practitioners. Triveni Ghat, located along the banks of the Ganges, is one of the city’s most important religious sites. Visitors can participate in sacred bathing or the floating candle ceremony, a beautiful way to honor the sanctity of the Ganges River.
The Rishikesh area also hosts several parks, offering excellent spots for relaxation amidst nature with the sound of birds singing. Rajaji National Park, a large wildlife sanctuary near Rishikesh, is home to a variety of animals, such as tigers, elephants, deer, and monkeys.
When people talk about the sacred Ganges River in India, water pollution is often mentioned. However, in places like Rishikesh, where the Ganges first descends from the mountains, and the city of Haridwar, the water is relatively clean and refreshing, akin to clear spring water in a bottle. The icy-cold waters of the Ganges felt heavenly during the hot summer months when I visited.
Best time to visit Rishikesh
The best time to visit Rishikesh is from October to February when the temperature is pleasantly cool. Spring and autumn are also good times to visit the city, but the summer months are typically very hot.
The Beatles in Rishikesh
In 1968, The Beatles visited Rishikesh, India, to study meditation with a teacher named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The trip was a significant event for the band, which was one of the world’s most prominent groups at the time.
The Beatles were interested in Eastern philosophy and spirituality and had heard about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s teachings, so they decided to travel to India to study meditation under his guidance. When The Beatles arrived in Rishikesh, they were initially very enthusiastic about studying meditation and Indian culture in general. They stayed at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram, an isolated place in the mountains. The band members spent several weeks there, meditating and learning various spiritual techniques.
Although the trip to Rishikesh was not without its issues, it was a significant event in Beatles’ history. The journey to India provided them with new ideas and inspiration for their music and influenced their personal growth. Similarly, The Beatles’ trip to Rishikesh inspired many other people to explore Eastern philosophies and meditation.
To my knowledge, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram is now closed, but Rishikesh remains a popular destination where visitors can study meditation and delve into Eastern philosophy.
The Beatles’ journey to Rishikesh is also detailed in John Lennon’s biography, which was written by Lesley Ann-Jones.
Restaurants and Food in Rishikesh
Rishikesh offers a variety of delicious dining options for all types of diets in its restaurants. The local cuisine is generally vegetarian-focused, as the city is a center for the Hindu religion.
Restaurants in Rishikesh serve traditional Indian dishes like daal makhani with rice and chole bhature, but the city also has a few international restaurants offering Western cuisine and good options for meat-eaters. I enjoyed vegetarian food in Rishikesh’s restaurants without any issues, but unfortunately, I don’t remember the names of those restaurants or if they’re still in operation after so many years.
But here are some popular restaurants in Rishikesh that could be worth a visit:
- Chotiwala Restaurant: This is one of Rishikesh’s most famous restaurants, offering a wide range of Indian vegetarian dishes, including local delicacies like Chole Bhature and Aloo Paratha.
- Bistro Nirvana: Located on the banks of the Ganges River, this restaurant offers an excellent view of the river and serves a wide selection of international dishes, such as pasta, pizza, and burgers.
- The Sitting Elephant: Located in Rishikesh’s old town, this restaurant offers an extensive menu of vegetarian food as well as international dishes like pasta and pizza.
- Ramana’s Organic Cafe: This cozy cafe offers a wide selection of organic and vegetarian options, making it an excellent choice for fans of healthy and fresh food.
- The Beatles Cafe: Named after the famous British band that visited Rishikesh in the 1960s, this cafe offers a wide selection of Indian and international dishes, such as pasta, pizza, salads, and curry. It is located near the Ganges River and offers a fantastic view of the river.
Safe Traveling in Rishikesh
When I was traveling to North India and Rishikesh, I rented a taxi car and driver. The journey was sometimes dizzying, watching vehicles overtaking each other and large trucks overtaking smaller cars, forcing my car to give way to the larger vehicle, even on the roadside. However, generally traffic was safe.
One minor rear-end collision did occur during the trip, but fortunately, we were not driving fast. The damage on the car was barely visible, but the incident led to a small altercation when local bystanders attacked the driver, surrounding our car and nearly pulling the driver out of his vehicle. I watched the situation from the back seat, not understanding anything. The situation ended with reconciliation after a verbal exchange, and we continued our journey unharmed, but it was an excellent example of a fiery temperament and mass hysteria. It was the kind of material news channels like to play, as if it was a standard way to handle such situations.
Overall, Rishikesh is a safe travel destination, but as with all destinations, it’s essential to be aware of possible dangers and risks during the trip. Here are a few things travelers should consider when visiting Rishikesh:
- Water: Avoid drinking tap water and use only bottled water. Some restaurants and stalls may use tap water for cooking, so be cautious when eating out. Wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitizer before eating.
- River currents: The Ganges River in Rishikesh is known for its strong currents, especially during rainy seasons. Avoid swimming if you’re unsure about water safety and never swim alone.
- Traffic: Rishikesh has heavy traffic, including cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and animals. Be cautious when walking on streets and try to use pedestrian pathways when possible.
- Theft and robbery: Although crime is not prevalent in Rishikesh, it’s essential to be cautious and vigilant. Keep your valuables safe and ensure your hotel room doors and windows are locked. Be aware that monkeys in India may enter balconies and steal or damage your belongings.
- Animals: Rishikesh has many free-roaming animals, including dogs, monkeys, and cows. Be cautious when interacting with animals, as they can be unpredictable.
- Nature: Rishikesh has many beautiful natural spots, such as mountains and waterfalls. Be careful when exploring these places, as the terrain can be hazardous and slippery.
- By being aware of these potential risks and taking appropriate precautions, you can enjoy a safe and memorable trip to Rishikesh.
How to Get to Rishikesh
If you fly to Delhi, you can reach Rishikesh from Delhi in several ways:
- Bus: Several bus companies offer direct bus connections from Delhi to Rishikesh. The journey takes approximately 6-8 hours, depending on traffic.
- Train: Multiple trains operate from Delhi to Rishikesh. You can catch a train from either Hazrat Nizamuddin or New Delhi railway stations. The trip takes about 6-7 hours.
- Taxi: You can also rent a taxi from Delhi and drive to Rishikesh. This option is slightly more expensive but is also faster and more comfortable. The journey takes around 5-6 hours but could take longer if there is heavy traffic. It’s essential to use reliable travel agencies or drivers. Keep in mind the duration of the trip and ensure you pack necessary comforts, such as snacks and drinks.
For more travel ideas and information on India, check out my visual travel guide INDIVUE – Trip to India and follow my blog on social media! You can read this post about Rishikesh also in Finnish.