Some come to Rishikesh to explore their adventure side…some to connect with spirituality…some to find Nirvana…some to simply lose themselves…and some to find themselves. Whatever might be your reason, whenever you might come, from wherever you might come; Rishikesh always welcomes you with open arms.
Rishikesh has a lot to offer, but very few go beyond the routine river rafting and temple visits around Ram and Lakshman Jhullas. Here is my list of 10 'must dos' in Rishikesh:
1. Learn Yoga in the “World Capital Of Yoga”: Thanks to the globalisation of ‘YOGA’, Rishikesh is now referred to as a ‘World capital of Yoga’. In spite of Kareena Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty and other celebs trying their best to glamourize the Yoga, very few young Indians have shown interest in reaping the benefits of this great life-enriching practice. Mostly the spiritually inclined senior citizens come to Rishikesh for Yoga. Take a break from the maddening pace of life and reconnect with your inner self at any of the Yoga & Meditation Ashrams. Click here to check Top 10 Rishikesh Ashrams.
2. Rock-N-Roll at the Beatles Ashram: Classics are forever. It’s the same with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ashram, famously referred as the Beatles Ashram. It was here that The Beatles, the veritable gods of rock, stayed in 1968, triggering off a craze that made India a happening global destination for the westerners seeking nirvana. The Beatles wrote ‘The White Album’ songs here. Spread over 14 acres of land near Ram Jhulla, this Ashram was abandoned in 1977 and is in control of the Forest Department since then. Once a preferred destination for foreigners, now a reminiscent of a glorious past.
3.Feel at home in Backpackers’ hideout: Rishikesh is not all spirituality and contorted limbs; it's now a popular backpacker hide out too. You can stay at most Ashram’s at as low as Rupees 300 per day, including meals and yoga session. And some Ashrams like Shivananda Ashram offer everything for free. Just book in advance and enjoy the modest hospitality of the Ashrams.
4. Retreat and Rejuvenate: If you are the kind, whose idea of a holiday is to relax and simply practice the art of doing nothing, then Rainforest House is for you. A homely guesthouse hidden away from the hustle bustle of the town, nestled in the middle of a hillock and Ganga flowing just below it; it is a space where people, mostly foreigners, come to relax and rejuvenate. It is a no frills guesthouse built and run with love by Steve and Trupti. Simple cosy rooms. Organically grown and freshly prepared veg food. No Internet. No phone. The only sounds you hear are the rhythmic sounds of yoga meditation CDs, gurgling sound of Ganga stream and chirping of Himalayan fauna.
5. Witness the divine light ceremony: The evening Ganga Aarti, at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram is a spectacle that no one should miss. The ideal time to visit this place is in the evening around 6 pm to attend the Shiv Aarti, which takes place at the riverbanks of the river Ganges.
6. Discover 'the Adventurer You': If you have the guts for Adventure, this is the place to be in. Be it white water rafting or kayaking or Cliff Jumping in Ganga or Bungee Jumping at "Jumpin Heights" or Rappeling or Rock Climbing or Trekking or Jungle Safari or Biking in the Raja Jee National park, Rishikesh has a lot to satiate your adrenalin rush. So pick up the activity you like and explore your adventure side.
7. Treat your eyes to magnificent views: Temples sitting on top of the hillocks, in and around Rishikesh, offer some of the most breathtaking panoramic views. From Kunjapuri Devi Temple, located 15 km away from Rishikesh, one can see the stunning snow ranges and peaks of Garhwal Himalayas to the North and of Rishikesh, Haridwar and the Doon valley to the South. Bhootnath Temple, situated 3 kms from the Lakshman Jhula on a hillock, is a hidden heaven for pilgrimage tourists and adventure seekers
8. Food Lovers’ Nirvana: Thanks to the influx of global travellers, from back packers to well-heeled, Rishikesh has turned into a global town offering mouth-watering cuisines from the world. Though Google Baba will give you a detailed list of restaurants and cafes. Per me, some of the best cafes are in the Lakshman Jhulla area. Little Buddha café; a funky tree house-style restaurant overlooking the Ganga offers amazing pizzas and platters. Café 60's (Cafe Delmar/Beatles Cafe) is a must try for the amazing view and delicious food. Devraj coffee corner – this German bakery is a foodie’s paradise. Do try out their coffee and specialties like brown bread with yak cheese, along with the usual croissants and apple strudel. Bollywood buffs can visit this for paying tribute to Bunty and Babli. If you can put in a bit of hard work in your food trail then don’t miss out Pyramid café, a steep walk away from Lakshman Jhulla, is an oasis of delicious food in a relaxing atmosphere. Set amidst the forest and with a distant view of the Ganges River, it is what your soul needs. Ayurpak café: if you are fond of Ayurvedic food and can do with lesser portions then this should be your pit stop. Other gems are freedom café, Moon dance Café, Bistro Nirvana.
9. Make harmony with your soul. Learn Indian classical Music from the Gurus: Indian classical music like a crystal has been shining bright for ages. Popular it might not be but its soul stirring powers are world-renowned. So when you are in Rishikesh don’t forget to learn Indian Classical music and dance from the Gurus themselves. Enroll yourself at Veena Maharaj Music School, Sivananda Ramesh Music School, Bhuwan Music School or Om Rudra Cultural Society. Attend the Yoga & music festival, held from 5th to 14th Nov every year where musicians from across India and world come together to teach Yoga and Music absolutely free.
10. Unlock your explorer side: Rishikesh excursions consist of some of the finest places near the city – Narendra Nagar, Neergudu waterfall, Garur-chatti, Waterfall and limestone caves in Raja Jee National Park, Chila Sanctuary, Chandrashila Summit. So go off the map. Replace the fear of unknown with Curiosity. You never know your discovery can be someone’s itinerary. All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.
Rishikesh is immensely popular both in India and abroad but very few people have explored it in the truest sense. Next time instead of ticking tourist spots off a list, try exploring the unexplored in the explored. Who knows somewhere you might find a part of yourself that you never knew existed.