If you are planning a trip to Rishikesh which one of the top 10 destinations for backpackers, you will need to be prepared. Be prepared to be blown away by the mighty River Ganga, the variety of activities, spiritual practices and lots more. Rishikesh is a fusion of piousness and thrill, which is why the city has two names- The World Yoga Capital and The Adventure Capital of India. So let’s find out about the things you need to know for your backpacking trip to Rishikesh.
How to Reach Rishikesh From Delhi?
Rishikesh is easily accessible via bus, train or flight from Delhi. If you are on a budget then let’s think like a backpacker and discuss what is the cheapest way to reach Rishikesh from Delhi?
By Bus- Once you reach Delhi, you can get a direct bus to Rishikesh from Kashmiri Gate Interstate Bus Terminal. There are two options available – the first being an ordinary local state transport bus, this bus has no air conditioning and the seats are standard. The second being an air-conditioned Janrath bus which has reclining seats and curtains, then you also have the option of an air-conditioned Volvo bus. The Volvo bus is just fancier and made for extra comfort. The fare for the local bus is around Rs 300, for the Janrath it’s around Rs 500 and for the Volvo it’s around Rs 700-800. The journey usually takes around 6-7 hours approximately depending on the traffic and roads.
By Train- You can also come to Rishikesh via Train. This is the cheapest way to get to Rishikesh and a bit quicker than the bus. Most trains leave from New Delhi to Haridwar Railway station and take around 5-6 hours. Once you reach Haridwar you can then take a bus, taxi or tuk-tuk to Rishikesh, now that depends on your time, budget and patience, which you prefer to take. The train usually costs between Rs 190-400 depending on whether you go for seats, sleeper, A/C or non-A/C. Then from Haridwar to Rishikesh the bus costs around Rs 30-40, tuk-tuk prices depend on whether you’re sharing or hire one for yourself and taxi’s start from around Rs 1000.
Things to do in Rishikesh?
Well, you obviously won’t get bored here, from rafting the rapids of the River Ganga to sinking deep into Shavasana (corpse pose in yoga) Rishikesh has it all. Here is a list of things not to be missed on your trip to this beautiful city.
Yoga and Meditation
Rishikesh is one of the best places in the world for yoga and meditation. It is known as the land of gods and it sure has it’s spiritual charm that warms your heart with pure delight. There are many yoga and meditation ashrams where you can drop in for a moment peace or move your body to it’s natural rhythm. With the holy River Ganga flowing through the city and the foothills of the Himayalas where many sages have meditated, this place is perfect to dive deeper into yourself and your yoga and meditation practice. Below is a list of some ashrams and yoga schools you can visit in Rishikesh-
- Parmarth Niketan
- Sivananda Ashram
- Omkarananda Ganga Sadan
- Yoga Niketan
- Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram
- Swami Dayananda Saraswati Ashram
- Phool Chatti ashram
- Anand Prakash Ashram
- Himalayan Yog Ashram
- Shree Mahesh Heritage Meditation School
- Osho Ganga Dham ashram
- Om Shanti Om Yoga School
From small ancient temples to grand embellished temples, in every street and corner, you will find temples everywhere in Rishikesh. All temples are dedicated to different gods, so choose your favorite god and off you go. The main temples to visit in Rishikesh are-
- Trayambhakeshwar – this is a 13 story temple near the banks of the Ganga. With many gods adorned in beautiful clothes and jewellery, you really get to see the richness of Indian culture here. Also if you can make it to the top of the 13th floor, then you can get a really good view of the city and maybe see the sun go down behind the mountains.
- Neelkanth Mahadev – this temple is of immense importance as it is believed that Lord Shiva drank the poison that came out of the sea churning between the gods and demons. It is also located at a height of 5500ft, thereby giving amazing views of the surrounding mountains.
- Kunjapuri Devi Temple – this temple is devoted to the Goddess Durga and is considered very scared too. As the Hindu myths go, it is said that a part of Lord Shiva’s first wife Sati’s dead corpse had landed here. The temple is around 25kms from Rishikesh and based in the mountains, offering panoramic views of the Tehri Garhwal range mountains.
- Bharat Mandir - is one of the very old temples in Rishikesh among them all which was constructed by the famous saint Adiguru Shankaracharya in the 12th century. This temple is devoted to Bharat, the younger brother of Lord Ram; it is to be found in the old town next to Triveni Ghat.
- Geeta Bhawan - this temple another golden oldie among all the traditional temples in Rishikesh. Here you will find the well-known Indian epic Mahabharata and Ramayana explained through paintings on the walls. People also gather here to read the Ramayana jointly (sathsung). You can also witness the aarti which they perform every evening on the banks of the River Ganga, it is amazing.
With Rishikesh being surrounded by the foothills of the Himalayas and Rajaji National Park, it has many secret waterfalls to explore. With short distance treks, the waterfalls are easily accessible and mostly free to go and visit. The refreshing jade blue water is sure to leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. It is a perfect activity to do with friends, family and fellow travellers and it also gets you out of the chaos and amidst nature. The main waterfalls to visit in Rishikesh are –
- Neergarh waterfall – is located around 5kms from Laxman Jhula on Badrinath highway road. The entrance fee for tourists is Rs 50 and for Indian citizens, it is Rs 30, once you reach the waterfall you have to do a short trek to get to the first waterfall. Then further on there are two more waterfalls where you can have small snacks and tea whilst bathing in the water.
- Garud Chatti waterfall – is 4kms from Laxman Jhula on Neelkanth road and is a smaller waterfall. To reach the waterfall it is a 1.5km trek through lush green forests and flowing water, however, be careful as it can be quite slippery. Perfect spot for picnics and hanging out.
- Patna waterfall – this waterfall is named after a small village called Patna village and is located around 6.5kms from Laxman Jhula. The beauty of this waterfall is the limestone caves and cliffs that are next to the waterfall. The height of the waterfall is pretty high so you can actually take a dive into the water too. The trek is pretty steep and hard so wear good footwear and take water along with you.
White water river rafting and Kayaking!
If your looking for something fun and adventurous to do in Rishikesh then definitely you must put this on your bucket list. Rishikesh has gained popular momentum with this adventure sport, offering a high rush of adrenaline and picturesque backdrops of amazing views. Rafting through the rapids of the cold and refreshing Ganga is sure to leave you feeling pumped and soaking wet full of chills and thrills. The price depends on the stretch you decide to do, as all stretches have different water grades, so you can decide which one suits you best. Another water sport you can do is kayaking if you are looking for something more ardent and challenging.
Bungee jumping is an activity which gives you goosebumps as soon as you hear the name of it. You can now experience New Zealand's most extreme sport in the adventure capital of India - Rishikesh. Surrounded by the rocky hills and mountains, you take the biggest leap of faith at a height of 83 meters. It is located in a place called Mohanchatti not too far from Rishikesh and is run by ex-army officers and jumpmasters from New Zealand. It will cost you Rs 3550 per person for the jump and you will be given your dare to jump certificate in end.
Trekking in Rishikesh is an experience within itself. Wandering through the meadows and thick green forests of the mountains are sure to take your breath away. If you are a diehard trekker and want to challenge yourself then these treks are for you.
- Kunjapuri Temple Trek
- Neelkanth Mahadev Trek
- Kuari Pass Trek
- Chandrashila Trek
- Valley of Flowers Trek
- Surkanda Devi Temple Trek
How lovely would it be to spend a night or two camping on banks of the River Ganga? Well, Rishikesh is also famous for its campsites, depending on your budget you can either slum it or clamp it. Either way, you will be impressed sleeping under the midnight sky full of stars and nature all around. Eating your dinner cooked on a bonfire, wrapping up warm around the campfire and singing songs with your friends and loved ones, now that sounds like a perfect weekend getaway.
There are so many cafes to dine in Rishikesh, you will find that the streets are packed with tiny little cafeterias hidden in every nook and corner. Most of the cafes offer an intercontinental menu along with yummy Indian dishes, however, you are looking for a local dining experience then you must go to eat at a dhaba (roadside food stall). Depending on what your taste buds are craving you have plenty of places to choose from. Also, most of the cafes have a nice view of the River Ganga, so you can enjoy the nice cool breeze as you sip on your lemonade. Some famous cafes to go are –
- The Beatles Café
- Little Buddha
- Royal Café
- Ganga Beach Café
- Live Free Café
- Tat Café
- Shambala Café
- Rawat Dhaba
- Mamta Dhaba
Ganga Aarti on the banks of the River Ganga!
Hundreds and thousands of people flock to Rishikesh just to witness the Ganga Aarti. This special ritual is performed in devotion for the goddess Ganga who is believed to wash away your sins. The river is considered very sacred by all Hindus, hence they all come and bathe and pray in this river for salvation. The aarti consists of lighting fire lamps, chanting mantras and singing devotional songs in praise of the goddess, thereby creating a very spiritual and calm ambience around you and within you. It is one thing not to be missed when you are in Rishikesh, seeing the lamps set afloat on leaf boats and peoples devotion for the river will really enlighten heart and fill it with peace and joy. The two main places where you can see the Ganga Aarti is Triveni Ghat and Parmath Niketan Ashram.
Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula Bridge!
This bridge is no ordinary bridge it has special history behind it and definitely one of a kind with cows, people and scooters crossing it. With this bridge being the main connection between Tapovan and Jonk village, it is of great importance as this bridge is the only way people can cross the river to get to the other side. According to the legend of Ramayana, Laxman (the brother of Lord Ram), crossed the Ganga using a rope during their exile. Later in 1927-1929, an iron bridge made on suspension was constructed at the same place which is now known as Laxman Jhula Bridge. Taking a walk along the bridge is a wonderful experience, seeing the view of the river flow underneath and holy city enamoured with shrines colourful temples.
Shopping and Massage!
After doing all the exploring around Rishikesh, you sure will need a break and some time to recoup your energy. What better way than getting an ayurvedic massage and some pampering. There are lots of spas and ayurvedic centres where you can choose whatever type of treatment you need or want, you just relax and loosen up as the therapists here have magic in their hands. Me time can mean a lot of different things to people, so if your one of those who likes to shop and treat yourselves to a souvenir or two, then shopping in Rishikesh is insane. From comfortable yoga pants to beautifully adorned ornaments, you can shop your heart out as things are pretty cheap here. Just remember to bargain and give them your biggest smile, it’s the small things that make all the difference.
Where To Stay in Rishikesh? Best Hostel for Backpackers?
There are plenty of hostels to choose from in Rishikesh but the one that stands out to most backpackers is Live Free Hostel. The hostel has many facilities and activities to offer and the staff is super awesome too. The hostel has a very friendly and homely approach as it provides a lot of communal activities, that bring fellow travellers together. The free chai in the evening, free communal dinner every Tuesday, free yoga classes every morning are just great ways of making people come together. The hostel’s accommodation is very clean and comfortable, as well as being fully air-conditioned and spacious. There are 3 floors and each floor has its own communal seating area with hammocks and tables and chairs. They also have a yummy café offering different types of dishes with something special on the menu every day. Staying a hostel like this feels like home because that’s the vibe that you get when you arrive here. Here are some of the facilities the hostel has to offer-
- Ensuite washrooms
- Hot showers
- Towels on rent
- Bedside Lamps
- Laundry Services (Extra)
- Water Dispenser
- Parking Facility
- 24/7 Reception
- Card Payment Accepted
- Free Wi-Fi
- Common hangout area
- Common television
- Pool Table
- Private rooms/ Deluxe rooms
- Organised trips/activities
Live free at Live Free! Thank you for reading, hope you enjoy your trip to Rishikesh. Namaste!