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  • Writer's pictureAjaz Shaikh

Why Backpackers Are Obsessed With Rishikesh?

Adventure is worthwhile especially in Rishikesh, often claimed as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World.’ A magnet for spiritual seekers, Rishikesh is a perfect blend of nature, adventure, and spirituality.

At first, only Rishikesh comes to your mind when someone talks about River Rafting and pilgrimage sites. Mesmerizing clouds, overlapped mountains, fast-flowing river & a series of amazing temples, a place which literally defines the word peace since there are many peaceful Ghats and ashrams for you to have some alone time to find yourself in the big chaos of this world


How To Reach From Mumbai?

So here are some of the options for the people directly going from Mumbai.

Via Train From Mumbai: Since you will be travelling from one corner of the country to another, be ready for a long train journey.

Via Flight From Mumbai: Dehradun has flight connectivity from Mumbai, but there is only two direct flight between Mumbai and Dehradun. If you plan this trip well in advance, you can get a roundway direct flight for ₹12,000 or with a layover of between 2-3 hours, you can get it for 10,000.

In either case, you will reach Dehradun by afternoon or late evening.

Via Delhi (The recommended way): I don't need to say anything about connectivity between Mumbai and Delhi. From Delhi, you can take the bus or train. Dehradun is very well connected by road from Delhi. The frequency of buses is quite high, and usually, bus leaves in the night from Delhi. It will take around 6-7 hrs to reach Dehradun from Delhi.

If you wish to take the train, 12687/Dehradun Express is the perfect option to reach Dehradun.

Where to Stay?

First-timers to Rishikesh can find decent lodgings anywhere around Rs. 800-1000 a night. Establish a rapport with the owner/receptionist and smile as the price goes down to Rs.500 the next time you arrive. Also, Tapovan is extremely backpacker-friendly.

Zostel Rishikesh 2.0, Uttarakhand
Zostel Rishikesh 2.0, Uttarakhand

I’ve stayed in Zostel Rishikesh 2.0 which offers you all the amenities, a clean hygiene room & dorm and it's pocket friendly. The charges for the stay at Zostel are ₹549 per night for a bed in a dormitory and if you prefer your own space, so take a private room which will cost you ₹2199 per night.

Day 1: Welcome to Rishikesh

Breakfast: Road House Bistro

One of the important things to kick start your day is a good breakfast. and Road House Bistro is the perfect place to start with, it was a great discovery! Gems are not found in the open, so this is the place nestled in a lane of Tapovan a wonderful eating joint.

Must Try: Ginger Lemon Tea - Road House Bistro, Rishikesh
Must Try: Ginger Lemon Tea - Road House Bistro, Rishikesh

Known For: Ginger Lemon Tea, Masala Omlet, Chicken Noodles, Chilly Chicken & Flavour Soda

Road House Bustro, Tapovan - Rishikesh
Road House Bustro, Tapovan - Rishikesh

The place has been beautifully done with a combination of low seating and normal height seating. So if you want to just put your shoes away and sit and eat comfortably this is the place. The service is superb as is the food.

White Water Rafting

Rishikesh, the iconic city, which is also a popular pilgrim centre also attracts tourists from all across the world for river rafting. The foothills of the Himalayas are the place where you can see the best ever form of the River Ganga. Whitewater rafting is an adventure sport that is enough to shoot up your adrenaline. The mere thrill of this sport is best experienced here in Rishikesh. Nothing like experience the untamed waves of the great Ganges as you raft through the pristine white waters. Barring the monsoons, the rivers are just perfect for making river rafting in Rishikesh an unforgettable experience. The Rishikesh rafting season is from September to June. The water currents in monsoons are sharp and uncontrollable.

There are basically three rafting lengths – 16 kilometres, 24 kilometres and 30 kilometres. There may be extended periods where you’re paddling furiously, so do not opt for the longer lengths if you feel it’s too strenuous. Sit at the front for a better rafting experience

No, I won’t describe it in detail here. But you can check out my article on the Rishikesh rafting details, I suggest you read these. What I’d like to do is to share a few pointers instead:

  • Do make sure you get the right fit for a life jacket and not one that is strapped tighter than a Victorian corset along with warm suits.

  • Do pay attention to the instructor’s introductory guidelines.

  • Do paddle in sync with the person sitting beside you.

  • Do listen to the instructor’s commands at all times.

  • If it is a milder rapid, do ask the instructor if you can ‘ride the rapids’. That is, getting off the raft and plunging into the rapids while holding the raft rope. Or, for the daredevils among you, riding the rapids on your own, with no raft rope for support (It’s awesome, trust me).

  • Do try the cliff jump, at least once.

  • Do not hesitate on top of the cliff while doing the jump. You’ll be pushed (seriously).

Rafting is more of physical activity so you will start feeling hungry the moment you get out of the Raft. Let me warn you also you should avoid having a heavy breakfast before going for rafting.

Lunch: Chotiwala Restaurant

One of the oldest restaurants in Rishikesh, Chotiwala is a must-visit for anyone craving homelike food. While the restaurant is labelled a multi-cuisine facility, its highlight is its typical North Indian and Garhwali dishes. Foodies in a mood to experiment must go here. You can dig into sumptuous set meals, choosing from Chinese, South/North Indian and Bengali flavours. The restaurant brims with people all day long

Special Veg Thali - Chotiwala Restaurant, Rishikesh
Special Veg Thali - Chotiwala Restaurant, Rishikesh

Known For: Special Veg Thali, Gajar Ka Halwa (Seasonal) & Sweet Lassi

Live size mascot of the restaurant’s brand name - Chotiwala
Live size mascot of the restaurant’s brand name - Chotiwala

Interestingly, there is a fat man in traditional wear sitting at the entrance, which looks like a live size mascot of the restaurant’s brand name - Chotiwala. But it's a live person and very photogenic.

Ganga Aarti - Parmarth Niketan Ashram

Head to Parmarth Niketan Ashram - It is famous for its Ganga Aarti at dusk among tourists as well as devotees. The place is full of aarti attendees, wandering sadhus and tourists doing very obviously touristy things like getting themselves clicked with the aforementioned sadhus or in front of the enormous Shiva statue. The evening view of the Ganga river is splendid. Religious or not, the evening aarti is quite a stirring experience.

Ganga Aarti - Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh
Ganga Aarti - Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh

Dinner at Freedom Cafe

The cafe culture in Rishikesh is still going strong. Among the popular, is Om Freedom Cafe. It is one of those Cafe’s in Rishikesh, that has not lost its charm and have been attracting travellers for a long time. The cafe’s setting gives you the perfect views of Ganga, Lakshman Jhoola and The Mighty Himalayas. The hippie vibes start coming to you the moment you step into the café. It is one of those typical treehouse cafes with rustic roofs. The yogi style cushion and communal seating space is something that you’ll find in many Rishikesh cafes but here the experience elevates because of lovely food and peaceful music.

Day 2

Ganga Beach

I would recommend you wake up early and go for a walk on Ganga Beach. In Rishikesh, most of the shops doesn’t open till 10 am. An early morning walk on the Ganga Beach along the Ganges will make your morning extraordinary and a perfect place to do your morning yoga in the heart of the yoga capital of the world to effervescent your body.

Breakfast on Street Food Crawl

Rishikesh street is also known for some of the delicacies of street food. It's time to satisfy your taste buds as you discover the best street foods available and leave calories aside. I recommend trying Aloo Chat

Must Try Street Food of Rishikesh: Aloo Chat
Must Try Street Food of Rishikesh: Aloo Chat

The Beatles Ashram

The Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh is actually called Chaurasi Kuti, which means “84 meditation huts.” Maharishi Mahesh Yogi leased it from the forest department in 1961 and built an ashram with money donated by an American heiress. It covers 14 acres of land on a cliff overlooking the Ganga river in the Swargashram part of Rishikesh, away from the other ashrams.

There are numerous buildings on the property that include a former temple, residence buildings know as Anand & Siddhi Bhavan, bungalows, a kitchen, library, the home of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and of course the 84 beehive-shaped meditation huts. Some of the architecture is extremely distinctive, which, combined with the dilapidation, makes for a very atmospheric environment in which to wander.

The Beatles Ashram was neglected for many years after Maharishi Mahesh Yogi left in 1981 when the lease expired. The jungle began to overtake. Rajaji National Park is right outside the boundary walls, and home to tigers, leopards, wild elephants, monkeys, cobras and more!

The walls of the ashram were painted on as part of an art project before authorities shut it down in 2012

In early December 2015, it was reopened as a tourist attraction and it’s now a safe place to visit. Now the Beatles Ashram, Rishikesh, is run by the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, as a tourist attraction, and I highly recommend it while in Rishikesh.

Residence buildings know as Anand & Siddhi Bhavan - The Beatles Ashram
Residence buildings know as Anand & Siddhi Bhavan - The Beatles Ashram
Ever since the Beatles visited the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late '60s, Rishikesh has been a magnet for spiritual seekers. Today it styles itself as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’, with masses of ashrams and all kinds of yoga and meditation classes. The action is mostly north of the main town, where the exquisite setting on the fast-flowing Ganges River, surrounded by forested hills, is conducive to meditation and mind expansion. In the evening, an almost supernatural breeze blows down the valley, setting temple bells ringing as sadhus ('holy' men), pilgrims and tourists prepare for the nightly Ganga Aarti (river worship ceremony).

Things to Do There

  • Visit the legendary ashram where The Beatles had spent a great number of days to find internal peace and happiness.

  • Take a look at the eye-catching graffities and the paintings done by the visitors on the walls of the abandoned ashram.

  • Click photographs so that you can show off to your friends and family that you have set foot on the same spot that The Beatles did.

Visiting Hours: 10:00 am to 04:00 pm, throughout the week

Entry fee: INR 150 per head for Indian nationals and INR 600 for foreign nationals.

"Almost everyone who enters the space is dumbfounded that such a historical and spectacular site was falling into ruin"

Ram, Laxman & Janki Jhula

These three bridges on the River Ganga are so famous that they have become the symbol of the town of Rishikesh. Your Rishikesh travel would be incomplete without visiting these two architectural wonders. The bridges also have religious significance.

Ram Jhula From Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh
Ram Jhula From Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh

The majestic structures are a popular landmark now and the most sought after tourist spot as well. However, few questions that regularly pop up in every traveller’s mind is regarding the story of the names of the bridges.

Here’s the story for you:

Legend has it that the younger brother of Lord Ram, Lakshmana, crossed the Ganga (where Lakshman Jhula stands now) using just two jute ropes. To honour his triumph, a 284 feet long hanging rope bridge, named Lakshman, was built at the same place in 1889. Since then, it was the very rope bridge that was used to cross the river, up till it was washed away during the floods of 1924.

Tera Manzil Temple, Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh
Tera Manzil Temple, Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh

Following this, another bridge, made with iron was built in the year 1929. The bridge connects the two districts of Tehri and Pauri (Tapovan in Tehri and Jonk in Pauri). It is said that the extra cost of rebuilding the new bridge was contributed by Rai Bahadur Shewpershad Tulshan to perpetuate the honoured memory of his father to whom the old bridge belonged. Rai Bahadur also stated that no toll or tax should be collected by anyone to cross the bridge ever, which stays till date.

Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh
Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh

In the year 1986, another bridge, two kilometres downstream of Lakshman Jhula, was constructed. The bridge, although similar in style and structure is bigger than the former one. Surrounded by a number of spiritual attractions Ram Jhula used to witness slight more crowds, especially the religious ones, all through the year.

View Of Laxman Jhula from Freedom Cafe, Rishikesh
View Of Laxman Jhula from Freedom Cafe, Rishikesh

One of the most memorable experiences you can enjoy at the Ram Jhula is overlooking the holy city of Rishikesh from the bridge itself in all its natural and historical glory, surrounded by the river and the mighty mountains.

Shopping & Market

Keeping in mind the vast number of tourists and pilgrims who visit the place every year, there are innumerable shops and markets near the starting and ending point of the bridge.

The Ram Jhula Market can be found at the point where the bridge ends, where you can find shops selling everything imaginable- from groceries to mementoes and religious tokens. You can find religious sculptures, statues and framed pictures of different gods and goddesses, dress materials, jewellery and other artefacts available in the markets.

One can buy authentic semi-precious stones and gems at reasonable prices from here as well. Shoppers can choose from beautiful, ethnic, locally sourced handicraft items to bright and comfortable cotton clothes like sarees, lehengas and cholis, all at reasonable prices.

Best Time to Visit Rishikesh

The best time to visit Rishikesh for white water rafting is September-June and November. Another good time to visit Rishikesh is from February to early May. The International Yoga Festival is organised in Rishikesh in the first week of March. It is not favourable to visit Rishikesh in summer (May-June) as the temperature during these months gets extremely high, making it unbearable for sightseeing.

Rishikesh is not all spirituality, contorted limbs, white-water rafting centre and backpacker hang-out, it's also popular for Himalayan trekking gateway.

For an extended trip do add these nearby places also -

  1. Himalayan Trek - Mukta Top

  2. Mussoorie & Landour

  3. Dehradun

If this getaway has inspired the traveller in you, you may also like to explore...

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