Rishikesh is located 230KM North of Delhi, resting at the foothills of the Himalayas. The more scenic & popular tourist destination is about 2km upstream from actual Rishikesh city. This area is split by the beautiful turquoise River Ganges which rushes below Lakshman Jhula, 450ft of steel bridge connecting either side. This bridge is barely 6 feet wide & is crammed with tourists, locals, monkeys, vendors, cows & motorbikes whizzing by. It is not for the faint hearted! For me this bridge embodied the very essence of India! All it needed was some delicious food….
This area is full of backpackers & tourists & all the things that draw them there – ashrams, cafes, restaurants, massage & other therapies, yoga classes/courses, activities, shops, street food, an array of accommodation. The small town has a great buzz about it.
Rishikesh is known for being the birthplace of yoga & is referred to as the yogic capital of the world. There are numerous yoga schools offering intensive courses & daily classes. If you enjoy yoga you will be surrounded by many like minded people. The streets are full of people carrying yoga mats & glowing from their spiritual journey & self healing.
If you intend to take a dip in the Ganges, Rishikesh is one of the less polluted points to do so. The 2252KM long river flows from the Shivlak mountains, in Uttarakhand, the residing state of Rishiskesh & hasn’t accumulated as much pollution by Rishikesh’s river banks. The River Ganges is deemed to be one of the most sacred rivers in India, flowing through numerous holy cities & worshipped by Hindus. It is also extremely polluted due to the dumping of untreated sewage, industrial waste, religious offerings & dead bodies (cremated & non-cremated/decomposing). Despite this pilgrims still travel from around the world to take a ‘holy dip’ & cleanse in the waters. After my recent bout of sickness I opted out of this opportunity.
Rishikesh is a very spiritual area & has been meat & alcohol free to coincide with the holy city status it carries & to align with the religious beliefs of the communities it harbours. It is an absolute haven of tasty options for the vegetarians out there (& non vegetarians!), as is most of India!
The Beatles visited Maharishi Mahesh Ashram in Rishikesh in the late 60s boosting it’s fame in the West & assisting to shape it into the popular destination it is today. Their stint here learning meditation was creatively inspiring for them. Their endorsement opened the west to meditation, changing attitudes worldwide & sparking international interest in Indian spirituality. The ashram has since been abandoned & jungle & monkeys are taking over the ruins. It is well worth a visit for Beatles fans. I have heard several reports of paying an entrance fee or hopping a wall to get in. Obviously due to the monkeys I couldn’t go.
Rishikesh is emerging as the adventure capital of India, offering white water rafting on the River Ganges, bungee jumping, trekking, canyoning, mountain biking… It truly has so much to offer!
If none of this tickles your fancy & you are keen to pick up a new instrument while in India, Rishikesh seems like a popular place to learn the Indian Sitar. A friend who was learning it said it would take him years to become competent in it although he was very enthusiastic about learning.
As with most popular backpacker destination, Rishikesh has ample various ranged accommodation available. I stayed at the newly open Bunk Stay Hostel & I was happy with my experience. There are also a lot of cafe’s restaurants & the apparently popular German bakery – who knew this was a thing in India? There is a nice selection of restaurants, the ones I visited were reasonably priced & I didn’t get sick during my time here! Bonus!
If you need to buy souvenirs, clothes, jewellery, ayurvedic medicine, yoga mats, spiritual books etc, you can get pretty much everything here. There are also a few places offering a packaging & delivery service if you want to send a parcel back home. They cater really well to their backpacker market here! Rishikesh seems to have it all!