Rishikesh presents a trip that’s high on adrenaline and enlightenment – a unique blend of adventure, spirituality and yoga. Located in the foothills of the Lower Himalayas, in the Tehri-Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, this holy town serves as a starting point for the other religious hubs in the state – Badrinath, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Yamunotri (part of the ‘Char Dham’ pilgrimage route). Rishikesh is also a gateway of another sort. Today, it is a magnet for the adventure-sport enthusiast. Whitewater rafting is synonymous with the town, and the area around, thanks to the presence of the mighty (and rafting-friendly) Ganges.
Know more about River Rafting in Rishikesh.
Negotiating this pristine, glacier-fed river on a raft is an experience unlike any other – a thrill for the novice, a challenge for the hardcore adventure junkie. Other activities available here include trekking, biking and rappelling – as well as birding and wildlife safaris (links to national parks in area). For those looking for a break of the spiritual kind, Rishikesh has a host of ashrams and yoga centres, offering lessons in yoga and meditation, besides other spiritual activities.
Know more about Camping in Rishikesh.
Rishikesh is named after the god Hrishikesh, who appeared in answer to a plea for penance by a saint, Rabhiya Rishi. Folklore has it that several mystics lived and practiced penance here. It was also at Rishikesh that Lord Vishnu slew the demon Madhu.
Also according to legend, Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana, crossed the Ganges on a bridge made out of jute rope, at the point where today the Lakshman Jhula bridge stands (the jute-rope bridge was replaced in 1889 by an iron suspension structure; the current river crossing, also of iron suspension, dates back to 1939). Bharata, Lakshmana’s brother, is believed to have meditated in Rishikesh – there is a shrine dedicated to him in the town.
An image of black stone, in the town’s oldest temple, Bharat Mandir (12th century), is regarded to have been sanctified by Shankara, the noted Hindu revivalist of the ninth century. This event is marked annually on Basant Panchami, to herald the arrival of spring.
Rishikesh is ideally situated, at the point where the densely-forested Garhwal Himalayas rise just as the River Ganges makes its inexorable way down to the plains, passing through the town.
Rishikesh boasts of relatively pleasant weather all-year round – neither too hot nor too cold. Temperatures in summer (March to June) range from 20C to 35C, though they can – and occasionally do – touch 40C in peak summer. During winters (October to February), temperatures reach a low of 5C and a high of 27C. The town’s climate is ideal for indulging in outdoor activities almost throughout the year (save the monsoon months).
How to reach
Rishikesh is 232km northeast of Delhi (a 6hr drive), and 20km north of Haridwar. Shivpuri is a further 19km ahead of Rishikesh.
The town doesn’t have its own airport; it is, instead, served by Jolly Grant airport (Dehradun, 18km), which has daily flights to Delhi. The nearest railhead to Rishikesh is Haridwar. Taxis are available from the airport and railway station.
Buses coming from Delhi (and Dehradun) terminate at the Main Bus Stand. Private deluxe buses also ply between Rishikesh and Delhi, while there are regular bus services from Rishikesh to Haridwar and Dehradun.
Buses headed for the mountains of Garhwal start their journey from the Yatra Bus Stand (also the Tehri Bus Stand).
The town of Rishikesh is best explored on foot, though auto-rickshaws and buses are also available. Shared taxis – known as ‘vikrams’ here – help you get around town. To cross the river, take a ferry or walk across one of the two suspension bridges (Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula).