Rishikesh

Rishikesh is a small town in the northern state of Uttarakhand, India. Scenically located where the Ganges River comes down from the Himalayas, Rishikesh catapulted to Western fame when the Beatles dropped by for a visit to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram (now closed). The town is still known as the World Capital of Yoga.

Rishikesh is also the gateway to the Himalayas. The Northern Char Dham Yatra (Four Shrines Sacred Journey) ideally begins from Rishikesh.

Understand

The Ganges River flowing through Rishikesh

The centre of town where the train and bus stations can be found is of little interest to most travelers. Further north-east are two bridges spanning the Ganges, Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula. The main hubs of activity and interest are at the ends of these bridges.

Most accommodation and restaurants are in Lakshman Jhula, High Bank and Swarg Ashram.

Get in

By plane

Rishikesh is about 15 km from Dehradun's Jolly Grant Airport, a small, quiet and recently renovated airport handling four flights from Delhi. The runway is being extended and will possibly handle flights from other metros. At present there are flights only from Delhi, although Jet Airways flies from Mumbai via Delhi too.

By car

Delhi airport to Rishikesh by car is a good option for a hassle-free traveling, specially for foreign tourists who are traveling to India for the first time. It's a 6 to 7 hour journey. Prices vary from US$85 for an air conditioned compact car to US$125 for an air conditioned SUV (but rates are much higher if one gets these services from prepaid taxi booths at the airport).

By train

There are many trains from Delhi to Haridwar. Some of the better are: Shatabadi Express, Jan Shatabdi, AC Special Express, Mussoorie Express. A quiet branch line connects Haridwar to Rishikesh, but there are only about three slow trains daily. Normally, it is better to take the train to Haridwar and continue by bus (45 min, ₹20), by taxi (30 min, ₹650) or by shared auto-rickshaw (40 min, ₹25). However, travelling by train is recommended in peak seasons or during a 'mela' (fair) when bus routes are diverted in Haridwar whereas trains often run empty and the fares are low (just ₹4 for a passenger train service). You can take share rickshaws (vehicle brand name Vikram) towards Lakshman Jhula (₹15) from Rishikesh station. You will have to cross Ram Jhula to reach Swarg Ashram on the other side of the Ganges.

By bus

From Delhi, Rishikesh is about 230 km away and is well connected with buses. A bus journey may take about 5-7 hours - depending on the traffic - and costs you about ₹130-₹350. An AC Bus will cost about ₹200-₹500. The right time to visit would be February, March, August-October. In July there is a festival called Savan where thousands of people flock to Rishikesh. Major roads are blocked and hotels are crowded. It is better to avoid travelling to Rishikesh during that time.

Get around

Auto-rickshaws (vikrams) are useful from the bus/train stations to get to either of the bridges (₹8) and for the southern side of the Ganges. Swargashram is pretty much pedestrian only, but it's compact and walkable (as is the whole of the town). For other auto-rickshaw journeys you should expect to pay around ₹15/km.

To visit eastern bank of Ganges, you have to walk across the suspension bridges or take ferry from Ram Jhula. Near the bank of Ganges, share jeeps and taxis are available to drop visitors at Neelkantha temple and waterfall. Overall, it’s more than 16 Km run by road to go from one side of river to another.

See

Trayambakeshwar Temple, Lakshman Jhula

Do

Outdoor activities

Rishikesh is very popular for its rafting on the River Ganga (Ganges). September-November and March-May are ideal for rafting. The rafting goes for several kilometres, and the path is interspersed with rapids, ranging from Level 1 to Level 5, in order of difficulty. At the end of the trip, you have the option of jumping some 20 feet from a ledge into the water. There are several local travel agencies, offering these rafting trips. The package usually includes an overnight camp on the banks of the river, with a brilliant and moderate trek among the hills in the morning. If one has time, courses in rafting are also offered.

Yoga

Rishikesh considers itself to be the yoga capital of the world. It's on offer everywhere, and most styles are represented. Yoga teacher training is offered at several places.

Music

Temples and monasteries

Buy

As with most holy cities come tourist destinations there's a plethora of religious paraphernalia, cheap clothing aimed at foreigners, incense, bronze Shiva statues, etc. Unlike many other similar towns in India prices here are usually reasonable and you won't have to haggle hard for a good price.

Eat

Non-vegetarian food has been banned in the city for many years. North and south Indian food is widely available, and there's no shortage of multi-cuisine backpacker cafes, especially in Lakshman Jhula. What excites many foreigners are the delicious Ayurvedic and health food restaurants, perfect for an after-yoga meal. Many of the main lanes are lined with wooden push carts selling in-season fruit, veggies, popcorn, nuts, warm cookies and lots else, and you'll usually be quoted a fair price. The papayas here are particularly delicious. Try the famous Chotiwali Special / Janata or Delux Thali. It used to be an unlimited affair but now due to practical constraints the quantity is limited and extra helpings are charged. There are several eateries offering jalebis, imartis, samosas, and other Indian snacks. If you haven't heard of these before, you should definitely try them.

Drink

Sleep

Rishikesh is filled almost entirely with budget hotels, with a few mid-range thrown in for good measure. Lakshman Jhula is popular with backpackers and has the cheapest accommodation, while Swarg Ashram is where the majority of the ashrams are located, and is a nice alternative. There's also a handful of accommodation options available in High Bank.

It's wise to book ahead in the peak tourist season, and during the Kumbh Mela in neighboring Haridwar.

Budget

Hotels in this range start at price as low as ₹100.

Many ashrams also offer cheap lodging.

Mid-range


There are two Government Tourist Lodges. Their rates range from ₹600 to ₹2000.

Online booking of both these tourist resorts can be done here:

Splurge

Stay safe

A holy city it may be, but Rishikesh draws more than its fair share of criminals and con men. Don't walk around alone at night and beware of the motives of sadhus offering one-on-one tutoring. There is also a gem stone hoax going on in at least one gem store: They ask you to bring the stones to your own country to a "buyer" who doesn't exist.

Watch where you step: After sundown it is pitch dark, so bring a light. Watch out for the sometimes brash food stealing monkeys too. They mostly "operate" on and around the foot bridges, and if you look them in the eyes they become aggressive, but rarely/never attack unless you carry food. Sadhus and police officers carry sticks to keep monkeys and cows/oxen at a distance. The brown monkeys are aggressive; the grey big languors are nicer. The greys sometimes steal food from tourists (not on the bridges), but mostly because their size scares the tourist, they don't bite you to get food.

Be alert if an ox is on your path: They are mostly harmless, but after dark they are sometimes nervous. Especially on the narrow foot bridges, you should try to read their body language before a close encounter.

Try not getting involved with any local guide who is offering you services. They are mostly con men and goons.

Go next

By train

Travel agents in Swarg Ashram and Lakshman Jhula can book train tickets for onward journeys; much easier than going to Rishikesh railway station to buy a ticket. Some may sell you a ticket from Raiwala, a small stop between Rishikesh and Haridwar, but this station, while closer, is tiny and trains only stop for a few seconds - better to board at Haridwar.

By bus

Several travel agencies scattered around Swarg Ashram and Lakshman Jhula can book luxury buses to common destinations like Delhi (₹250-₹500), Jaipur, Pushkar and Varanasi.

Nearby destinations

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, February 16, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.