CulturallyOurs Exploring Rishikesh Bathing In The Ganga Things To Do In Rishikesh

Exploring Rishikesh India – The Yoga Capital Of The World

CulturallyOurs Exploring Rishikesh Bathing In The Ganga Things To Do In Rishikesh

These days Rishikesh, a city in the state of Uttarakhand in India, is known throughout the western world as the Yoga Capital Of The World. Sitting on the banks of the mighty Ganga, this holy city in Hindu religion has welcomed devotees from near and far for thousands of years. They travel to Rishikesh perhaps to get a step closer to God by embracing spirituality, bathing in the Ganga, performing religious prayers and or simply meditating along the riverbanks to seek inner peace.

Yoga perhaps was always a part of Rishikesh but in the recent years it has been made exceedingly popular by the sheer number of yoga studios, yoga classes and even yoga certification courses that are being offered by a number of yoga schools. Rishikesh even hosts a month long annual International Yoga Festival on the first week of March since 1989.

But there is more to Rishikesh than just yoga. In November 2019, the second annual CulturallyOurs Travel Retreat took place in Uttarakhand starting with a two-day visit to Rishikesh. The retreat attendees spent time exploring Rishikesh and all that the city had to offer.CulturallyOurs Exploring Rishikesh Near Laxman Jhula Things To Do In RishikeshThey found that even non-yoga lovers and non-yogis can explore Rishikesh to find a vibrant city steeped in culture and tradition. An ancient pilgrimage site that has been written about in all the Indian epics, the Rishikesh of today seems to be an intangible mix of the old and the new. Look closely and you will find that the ancient energy and vibrations that made up this holy city is still there.

  • You can hear it in the ringing of the temple bells
  • You can hear it in the flowing waters of the Ganga
  • You can hear it in mooing of the cows
  • You can hear it in the chanting of pilgrims at the riverbanks
  • You can hear it in the air

Whether you are a yogi or not, here is a detailed travel guide to exploring Rishikesh and experiencing both the old and the new, the culture and the beauty that this city has to offer.

History of Rishikesh

There are several mythological tales of how Rishikesh came to be. Perhaps the most famous of them are the story of the great sage Raibhya Rishi who performed penance on the banks of the river Ganga and as a reward for his penance, the supreme Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Hrishikesh and hence the place was named Hrishikesh and later to Rishikesh.

Legend has it that Lord Rama and his brother Laxmana came to Rishikesh after they killed the demon God Ravana to offer penance for their actions from the great Indian epic, the Ramayana.CulturallyOurs Exploring Rishikesh Around Rishikesh Things To Do In RishikeshIn February of 1968, the Beatles visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in Rishikesh, attracted by his Transcendental Meditation techniques. When they were here, The Beatles composed numerous songs. Made popular by their visit and their experience in Rishikesh, many others followed thus increasing the participation of yoga in the city. Soon enough infrastructure expanded to include yoga centers, ashrams and yoga studios.

Today most hotels offer yoga classes, group coaching sessions and even certification classes.

How to get to Rishikesh

Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport to Rishikesh which is approximately 35 km away. It is served by popular domestic carriers like Air India, Spice Jet and Jet Airways. There are often daily flights from New Delhi and Mumbai.

Rishikesh can also be accessed by train via the Indian Railways. Rishikesh railway station is the major railway station in the city. Rishikesh is also very well connected with all major north Indian cities like Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida via bus.

What to see in Rishikesh

There are so many things to see and do in Rishikesh for all kinds of tourists. Whether you are going for a spiritual holiday, a yoga camp or even if you are a non-yogi looking for a weekend getaway, there is something to do in Rishikesh.

#1 Aarti on the River Ganga

Perhaps the most famous activity in Rishikesh is the Ganga Aarti. It is quite a spectacular sight to see hundreds of devotees come together to chant, sing and do puja to the revered Ganga. Often called Ma Ganga, the mother Ganga, the river is synonymous to everything that is religious and pious. It is said that bathing in the Ganga absolves one of all their worldly sins and is a way to go to heaven in the afterlife. Hundreds of oil lamps in leaf cups are released into the river as an offering to the gods.

There are many places to view the Ganga Aarti. The most famous one is by Triveni ghat which is on the Northern side of the river. But smaller aarti can also be found on the south side as well along the steps that lead to the river.

You can always to your own puja to the river goddess. All you need is yourself and if you like some flowers, an oil lamp and presence of mind.CulturallyOurs Aarti On The Ganga In Rishikesh Things To Do In Rishikesh

#2 Walking the Laxman Jhula/Bridge

There are two bridges in Rishikesh – the Laxman Jhula and the Ram Jhula. Both are synonymous with Lord Laxman and Lord Ram, revered Gods in Hindu religion. Hindu scriptures tell the story of the two brothers who have said to have crossed the river on simple rope bridges.

Today more elaborate and stable bridges stand in their place and is crossed by hundreds of people as they move from one side of the river to another. Walking on the bridge is a great way to pay homage plus get stunning views of the valley that the river can carved among the mountains. If you look below you will find many white-water rafting boats and kayaks adventuring along the river.CulturallyOurs Exploring Rishikesh Walking Along Ram Jhula Things To Do In RishikeshCulturallyOurs Exploring Rishikesh Walking Lakman Jhula Things To Do In Rishikesh

#3 River Rafting on The Ganga

Adventure sports is the latest trend to have come to Rishikesh. Water sports was made popular several years ago by rafting and adventure camps that are setup every year along the banks of the river upstream. This brings many adventure junkies and thrill seekers to conquer the rapids on the Ganga.

No matter whether an adventurer is a novice or an expert, Rishikesh offers the perfect rafting opportunity in addition to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful surroundings. A number of rapids across different grades and stretches make it convenient for all rafters to choose the activity as per their skills. From Grade 1 to Grade 5, Rishikesh seems to have it all.

CulturallyOurs Exploring Rishikesh River Rafting On The Ganga Things To Do In RishikeshOf course, like anything done in excess, there are some serious environmental impacts to rafting on the Ganga. Over the recent years, the Government has stepped in to control the number and quality of outfitters who are allowed to operate in the area. Definitely look for ratings and requirements when choosing a rafting company for your adventure.

#4 People watching along the Ghats

Perhaps one of the simplistic yet grounding things to do in any place is to simply sit and watch your surroundings. Rishikesh is a very unique city in that it attracts all kinds of people from all walks of life. From young to old, local to foreign, and everything in between. Find a place to sit along the many ghats or steps that lead to the river and you will see and experience the life of this city – the people. It is a great way to get engaged with mind, body and soul as a way to get to know a place.CulturallyOurs Exploring Rishikesh People Watching on the ghats Things To Do In RishikeshCulturallyOurs Exploring Rishikesh Main Market Square Near Laxman Jhula Things To Do In Rishikesh

Where to stay in Rishikesh

Being that Rishikesh caters to people from all walks of life, there are many different kinds of hotels and types of accommodations you can find in Rishikesh. From hostels to home stays to boutique hotels to high end chains, you can find something for every budget.

In order to get the best experience of the city, it might be a good idea to stay close to the river and the Ghats. That way you can walk to many of the attractions. Most of the hotels also have yoga teachers who conduct classes as day spa to enjoy. A few options are Sanskriti Vedic Retreat and Aloha On The Ganga. Both are close to the Ghats and easily accessible from the main road.

What to eat in Rishikesh

Along the same vein of catering to many different kinds of tourists, food options in Rishikesh also cater to many different kinds of people. From the legendary Beatles Cafe and German Bakery along the banks of the Ganga to roadside dhabas and street food, you will not go hungry. There are meals for all different dietary pallets – from vegetarian to vegan to gluten free and organic. Most of the restaurants have a Hindi menu and an English menu so just ask for the one you need.

Given that Rishikesh has great spiritual significance in Hinduism, meat might not be readily available in most restaurants and cafes. When in doubt, see where the locals eat. If there is a crowd, it is safe to eat. In the main bazar area right by Laxman Jhula (bridge) you will find many local dhabas as well as hostels that rent rooms.CulturallyOurs Exploring Rishikesh Street Food Things To Do In Rishikesh

What to expect in Rishikesh

Rishikesh is an absolutely beautiful city to visit in India. There is just something very serene about its location and its spiritual significance. Unfortunately it is also a big tourist hotspot as it is one of the main city for anyone looking to get into the Indian Himalayan region. It is also the starting point for many religious pilgrimages. Use this detailed travel guide to help you make the most of your Rishikesh visit. Try not to get caught up in the touristy trap of experiences that have sprung up in the name of commercialism. Forget all the detailed ‘to do’ guides and must-sees. Instead focus on the energy and the vibrations that seem to be such an incredible part of this city.CulturallyOurs Exploring Rishikesh People Things To Do In RishikeshFind a place by the river and mediate. Hear the prayers bells and chant your own tune. Let that guide you on how you want to experience all that Rishikesh has to offer. At the end of the day, how you experience Rishikesh or any place for that matter, solely and wholly depends on you – your mindset, your attitude and your end goal of traveling.

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Travel Guide To Rishikesh India Yoga Capital Of The World By CulturallyOurs

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Leave your comments below

  1. Alison says:

    A lovely post that brought back some very special memories. I’ll be writing posts about Rishikesh myself very soon. We spent a month there last year and plan to return for a month on Feb 10th. Spending that much time there, and sitting with a teacher every morning meant our time was deeply peaceful and we wandered the town from one end to the other and really got to know it. Can’t wait to get back there!

    • Karthika Gupta says:

      Thank you Alison. It is such a beautiful place – far more on the inside than outside. I just felt such a feeling of peace and calmness. How awesome that you are going back in Feb! The weather will be nice and pleasant. Where are you staying? By the river or in the city?

  2. Jan says:

    That’s a hilarious picture of a cow on the Lakshman Jhula bridge!! Yes, Rishikesh has become the Yoga capital. It is interesting that Beatles visited this place and also composed some songs. Would love to listen to those songs 🙂

  3. Angela says:

    This sounds like a truly iconic place to visit whether or not you are a yoga devotee. I couldn’t believe there would be a Beatles cafe or German Bakery along the Ganges!!

  4. Nicky says:

    Rishikesh is a place I would love to visit. I had planned to do a month long retreat there whilst my husband went off to Nepal to trek, but unfortunately our plans had to change. Reading your account I know I will live it, just as I’ve loved everywhere I’ve visited in India. It’s a country very dear to my heart, and I look forward to following in your travelling footsteps.

  5. Georgina says:

    I have heard so much about Rishikesh from my friends who had visited on yoga retreat but this is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to read about this beautiful place. You have written so beautifully that I felt I was alongside you on this journey. Great post. Hope to visit one day.

  6. A yoga retreat in Rishikesh sounds like a dream vacation, but I love how you’ve highlighted so many other things to do there besides yoga. I’d love to try the river rafting on the Ganga, and sample some (OK, a lot) of the food!

  7. Sue says:

    Great guide & good to hear that Rishikesh is more than just yoga but also a shame that it is getting taken over by the trappings of tourism. I particularly love the idea of people watching – it’s my favourite sport! Also, your comment on eating where the locals eat is a great mantra for anywhere in the world, if it’s busy with local people it must be good!