While Rishikesh has been branded as the ‘Yoga capital of the world’, I perhaps wanted to discover a different Rishikesh altogether; there should be more than just what meets everyone’s eyes, I thought. And this must have been the reason why I made hurried plans of visiting Rishikesh and never gave a second thought on whether I should stay back for an important official meeting in Delhi and postpone the Rishikesh trip for some other time.
But why? Because I was mesmerised by a few pictures that I saw of this place and then it occurred to me that Rishikesh being just 252 kms from Delhi can be visited for a day, without losing much on my work front other than a meeting. The experience was thrilling, more so because of the presence of my friends.
And here how I spent a day in Rishikesh going from one corner to the other –
Take an early morning walk on the Ganges bank
If you are in Rishikesh just to be in close proximity to nature, nothing can beat the experience of taking a walk on the Ganges river bank early in the morning. There are several private parties that arrange these walks, but it can also be done alone.
The chirping of birds and the sounds of chanting of hymns coming from the ashrams around, when mixed together creates a very pleasant music for the ears and gives a good start to the day.
Pay a spiritual visit to Vashishta & Arundhuti gufa
This gufa (cave) is on the Rishikesh Badrinath highway and is just 20 kms away from Rishikesh. Here sage Vashishta was said to have meditated for close to 100 years.
There is a Shivlinga inside to which tourists can offer prayer, besides there being provision for them for deep meditation. Another cave dedicated to his wife, Arundhuti is situated close by. Though the 1 km walk from the entrance leading to the caves is wearisome (given the steepness of the stairs), but you will soon forget that once you are inside the sanctorum.
The cascading waters of the flowing Ganges presents another pleasing sight from the Ashram. You can dip your feet or also take a bath into the holy waters before going inside the ashram.
Enjoy a scenic drive to the Neer Garh Falls
It is a beautiful waterfall located at a distance of 5 kms from Rishikesh on the Badrinath highway. While you can drive up to the falls, interested trekkers can also trek from Tapovan to Neer Garh, crossing through green forests and steep roads & steps to experience nature better. During summers, you can also take a cool dive into the clear waters. For refreshment, there are a few small make-shift stalls selling water, tea, biscuits and maggi, but they are a bit costly.
Enjoy a walk on the Laxman Jhula/Ram Jhula bridge
A landmark of the town of Rishikesh, Laxman Jhula is situated at a distance of 2 kms from the Ram Jhula, which is located downstream.
The iconic iron suspension bridges connect many important villages and ashrams located around Swargashram like the Gita Ashram, Parmarth Niketan Ashram and the Terah Manzil Mandir. The Laxman Jhula Bridge is the older of the two and was completed in 1929.
The markets adjacent to Ram Jhula and the Laxman Jhula offer some of the best options to shop for your favourite clothes, jewellery, precious stones and other spiritual stuff.
Have a sumptuous meal at Chhotiwala restaurant
Your trip to Rishikesh would not be complete if fail to visit the renowned and the oldest Chotiwala restaurant for to enjoy a good vegetarian meal with your family and friends. Just to avoid confusion, there are two Chhotiwala restaurants, one near the Ram Jhula bridge and the other in Swargashram (which is the older one) but both run by the same family. A colourful mascot signifying the ‘Chhotiwala’ sits at the entry and is seen entertaining kids by clicking photographs with them.
Visit the Aarti at Triveni Ghat/ Parmarth Ghat
Wind up your day by attending the Maha aarti in the evening. Aarti at the Triveni Ghat or the Parmarth Ghat both in the morning and evening are one of the most sought after attractions while in Rishikesh. The timings for the aarti vary according to season and can be confirmed from the authorities before visiting.
Besides the ones mentioned, you can also visit the many ashrams and temple that Rishikesh is most famous for. A few notable ones worth visiting are Beatles Ashram (it gets its name after the Beatles visited the Ashram to learn meditation), Neelkanth Mahadev Temple (a temple dedicated to Shiva), Bharat Mandir (one of the oldest temples in Rishikesh), to name a few.
How to reach?
Rishikesh is well connected by road, rail and air. It is connected with important cities like Delhi, Dehradun and Haridwar through a good network of private and govt. owned buses. The nearest railway station is at Raiwala, which is just 10 kms away from Rishikesh town or the Haridwar Junction, which is 25 kms away from Rishikesh. Jolly Grant airport at Dehradun is the nearest airport to Rishikesh which is approximately 35 kilometres away.
Where to stay?
A range of hotels suitable across budget types are available round the year. The Tapovan and the Swargashram areas have some of the best hotels. For one who is in search of adventures, there is also the option of putting up in tents on the river bank.