After Haridwar, definitely the next stop has to be Rishikesh. Most people just go to Rishikesh as a site seeing spot from Haridwar. However, there are so many things to do in Rishikesh that it deserves an exclusive visit. Rishikesh has a uniqueness to it which needs to be experienced. Very unlike Haridwar, Rishikesh is calm and this charm makes it the Yoga capital of the world.
My List of Things to Do in Rishikesh
My list of things to do in Rishikesh comprised of white water river rafting, visiting some popular eateries, watching Ganga arti at evening and visiting the Beatles Cave. There are many other things to do and see in Rishikesh too. We drove from Haridwar to Rishikesh and checked into ‘Ganga Kinare’, a riverside boutique hotel which I had pre-booked. After having some lip smacking pasta at the hotel I waited for my pick up from the hotel to the point where rafting would start. I had asked the hotel to make the arrangements. In the mean time I explored the hotel space about which I will tell you.
River rafting was my dream and so it was the first thing I wanted to tick off among all the things to do in Rishikesh. We boarded the van with a boat on top and drove uphill to a point called Shivpuri. River Ganga ran parallel to the road and the water looked greenish. I was super excited. At Shivpuri I was given the rows with which I had to climb down a foresty hilly path to the rocky river bank. Two rafters carried the boat down. They instructed me about how to row and what to do during rapids. However, I was shocked to find that unlike what I expected, I had no team and I was alone in the boat with one rafting trainer. Anyway, my excitement ruled over the fear and I confidently sat on the boat. The view from the boat was spectacular.
Unique Rafting Experience
The green hills on both sides of the river and the cloudy sky looked mysterious. Well, when the first rapid came, my heart seemed to have popped out. I didn’t exactly know what was happening, except that the boat was crashing too hard on the waves. The huge waves ran over my head, drenching me completely and I could hardly see anything. The professional rafter stopped the boat by a waterfall and called another rafter from their club to assist me. He knew that it was difficult for me to handle rapids alone. We stood on the rocks and had tea and went to the waterfall. During rafting one can also do ‘cliff jumping’ which I didn’t try. Then there were more rapids, more fun and finally a dip in the Ganges near Ram Jhula during sunset. The first on the list of things to do in Rishikesh was accomplished.
Drenched I went to change at Parmath Niketan and then witnessed the evening Ganga arti at Parmath Ghat. The famous Shiva statue of Rishikesh is situated here. Like in Haridwar, participating in Ganga arti is one of the major things to do in Rishikesh. After this on returning to the hotel, I was invited to join the Ganga arti at the personal bank of the hotel by their in-house priest. This was a transcendental experience. The sound of the flowing river, the stars in sky, the chants and the flame of the lamps, created magic. An Irish lady, a guest at the hotel started crying; “tears of ecstasy”; she said. Ganga Arti at evening also takes place at Triveni Ghat, Lakshman Jhula. After the arti I worked on my travel journal, painting and writing down my thoughts and experiences of the day.
The Walking Trail
We woke up really early. For this we had an early (Indian) dinner at the hotel and went to bed. After waking up, we did some yoga with the first rays of the sun at the Yoga centre of the hotel. It was by the river. After the yoga session we left the hotel. We took the esplanade just outside the hotel and started enjoying the breezy and serene walk by the Ganga. Lakshman Jhula was our first stop. The 450feet long iron suspension bridge joins Tapovan and Jonk. The bridge and the 13 storey (Tera Manzil ) Trayambakeshwar Temple make maximum postcards of Rishikesh. We had light breakfast at ‘Chotiwala’, an extremely popular eatery, making it one of the major things to do in Rishikesh. Then we sat at ‘Little Buddha Café’. This café has a tremendous view of the Ganga and the little white sand beach by the river.
Beatles Cave/ Ashram
Rishikesh is called the Yoga Capital of the world and has ashrams at every corner, some of them being pretty popular. However, Beatles Cave or Beatles Ashram is a special one. No one resides here anymore and it is a National Property maintained by Rajaji Tiger Reserve as it is in the outskirts of the National Park. Rishikesh is visited by travelers from all across the globe since years. In 1968 came the iconic ‘Beatles’ at this ashram which was founded by Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, to learn transcendental meditation. The sprawling land is uninhabited and is situated on a hill top, surrounded by forests. There are meditation domes and one of them had paintings of ‘Yellow Submarine’ and letters to Yoko from Lennon as graffiti. Abandoned buildings like Anand Bhavan,siddhi Bhavan and Chaurasi Kutiya look haunted. Chaurasi Kutiya was the main meditation centre with 84 (chaurasi) chambers. Beatles fans visiting this place is one of the most important things to do in Rishikesh and do not miss the photo gallery.
Our Stay at ‘Ganga Kinare’
‘Ganga Kinare’ literally means ‘on the bank of the River Ganga’. The boutique hotel was actually just beside Ganga. Our room was facing the river and across the river stood little blue hills of the forests of Rajaji National Park. At the entrance, they welcomed us with prayer beads and chants together with a cool welcome drink. The vibe of the resort was in sync with the spirit of Rishikesh. It has a yoga centre besides spa and the pool over looked the Ganga River. The dining area also overlooked the river and there are open spaces for dining too. They have their own Ganga ghat (embankment) for Ganga arti, in the morning and evening. The boutique store of the hotel had amazing and unique collection of souvenirs. The menu had plethora to choose from and the food tasted amazing, both continental and Indian. In Rishikesh you have to consume vegetarian food.
There’s More to Rishikesh
The list of things to do in Rishikesh is actually never-ending. We missed a few things due to lack of time. There are two more bridges besides Lakshman Jhula; Ram Jhula, similar to that of Lakshman Jhula and now a new bridge is built, Janki Jhula. We didn’t have time to walk and cross these two. There are numerous ashrams, spiritual retreats and wellness centers. Two most popular ashrams are Paramartha Niketan and Gita Bhavan. There is no dearth of temples in Rishikesh; the most popular ones being the Tera Manzil Temple, Bhootnath Temple and Neelkanth Mahadev Temple. For adventure junkies besides camping by the river, trekking, river rafting and cliff jumping there are too many ways of experiencing adrenalin rush. Rishikesh has world class Bungee Jumping, Zip Lining, Reverse Bungee, Giant Swing, Flying Fox and air safari and paragliding.
To conclude, Rishikesh is a puzzle which needs time to settle in. You have to spend time here to get what you want. It provides the serenity, peace and calm and the adrenalin rush at the same time, pretty similar to the flowing Ganga here. At places the River is calm and at places she flows wild. Rishikesh is molded in shadows of the flowing River, Ganga.