Authored by Abhinav Goel
Rishikesh, a spiritual town located at the foothills of Himalayas, truly represents of the heart and soul of India. And being the country’s epicenter of yoga and meditation retreats, it has earned itself the title of ‘Yoga Capital of the World’.
The town gained worldwide popularity in the 60’s & 70’s with the spreading of transcendental meditation movement, and when The Beatles spent time here on retreat, tourism was definitely helped!
But Rishikesh is not just famous for the peace and tranquility it offers, but also for its range of adventurous adrenaline activities. From white water rafting to bungee jumping, and then back for afternoon yoga, Rishikesh is the perfect place for those seeking both thrill and chill!
Rishikesh is a unique mix of spirituality, yoga, and adventure, so without further ado, here are our top 10 favorite things to do!
Things to do in Rishikesh, India
Embrace The Yoga Capital of the World
First Things First! Yoga is the reason why Rishikesh is so popular, so to practice yoga here is an essential thing to do!
Picking a yoga course or class can be overwhelming here as there are so many options, and so many different types of yoga offered by hotels, ashrams and professionals.
Hatha Yoga involves breath, body, and mind, and classes are usually 45 minutes to 90 minutes of breathing, yoga poses, and meditation. It has many mind-body wellness benefits, and is known to relieve stress, support healthy habits, and improve emotional health.
Do your research before enrolling in a course, and take advantage of the many free sessions offered at many of the hotels.
Hike to Neergarh Waterfall
Neergarh waterfall is a beautiful waterfall around a mile and a half north of the Laxman Julla Bridge. I recommend taking a dip in the pool’s cold water (this is a popular local activity). It’ll refresh the mind and body to the core.
The hike to the waterfall an easy 1 km stroll (20 minutes), and you’ll take in amazing views, teal stalls and monkeys along the way. The entry ticket costs INR 50. Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
There’s a café called Aqua Cafe at the top a little further up from the waterfall where you can enjoy snacks and drinks with a view to behold.
Attend the Ganga Aarti Ceremony
The Ganga Aarti is an evening ceremony which uses fire as an offering, in a spiritual ritual to pay tribute to the Goddess Ganga – the Hindu Goddess of the river Ganges, which is the holiest river in India.
The aarti happens every night, whether in rain, hail or shine, and is carried out in Rishikesh facing the river on the banks of the Ganges River. There is 45 minutes of chanting, sacred fire, essential oil, and medicinal herbs for purifying the environment.
There are two popular spots to attend the aarti, one at Parmarth Niketan Ashram near Ram Jhula and the other at Triveni Ghat. The atmosphere at Paramartha Niketan though is particularly electric with the singing of the hymns.
It starts at 5:30 pm, and you can either walk for 1 km from the Laxman Jhula Parking, or catch the motorboat service to reach Arti place. I get Goosebumps every time I attend the Ganga Aarti, and you undoubtedly will too!
Visit the Beatles Ashram
An Ashram in Indian culture is a spiritual hermitage or monastery, and Chorasi Kutia became famous as the place that The Beatles stayed. They visited to learn transcendental meditation from the Maharishi and composed a lot of their songs here.
The site was established by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who is credited for devising the transcendental meditation technique, though it became abandoned in the 1990’s and was overtaken by the jungle.
It has since been re-opened by the Government, and you can visit and explore the ruins of the original site, having since been redecorated with beautiful murals and graffiti. The meditation caves in particular (where people used to meditate) are really interesting.
There is a museum onsite showcasing the effects of Transcendental Meditation, and photographs from the Beatles visit. While it’s eerie and a little spooky (being abandoned), there are still extremely peaceful vibes.
Chaurasi Kutiya is open from 9 am – 4 pm every day, and is Rs 150 for Indian citizens, or Rs 600 for foreigners. Plan for at least an hour if you want to walk around and fully explore.
Go White Water Rafting
Rishikesh offers one of the best white water rafting experiences in India and is extremely popular, especially among visiting Indian Tourists.
Since the Ganga River is still in its very early stages here, the water is very clear with a fierce flow. You also get to do cliff jumping in between the course. It is a fun adventurous experience and is quite safe even for first-timers.
River-rafting in Rishikesh is open from September through until July, and closed from July through mid September. The water gets pretty cold from December, so aim to plan a trip within the first few months of the season.
Rafting in Rishikesh costs approximately Rs 450 to Rs 1800 per person, and there are many different tour operators to choose from (make sure to read reviews before booking).
Bungee Jumping in Rishikesh
Have you got the guts??!
If you’re up to challenging yourself, head to Jumping Heights located just outside Rishikesh. It is India’s highest bungee jump platform at a height of 83 meters.
The same company have recently opened another centre in Goa as well. They are extremely professional and follow highest safety standards from New Zealand. They have a record of 80k+ jumps without accident.
The jump along with the video and transfers costs about INR 5,000. It’s better to pre-book online since this is a popular activity and they often book out in advance.
The same company also offers a giant swing and zip lining onsite, and have some great discounts on combo offers, if you’re thinking of making a day of it and booking more than one sport.
Cafe Hop in Rishikesh
Rishikesh has some amazing cafes and restaurants serving delicious food and drinks. And there’s a lot of variety on the menu. I’d recommend you to try out the Little Buddha Cafe, Bistro Nirvana and Ira’s Kitchen.
Little Buddha Cafe has a multicultural menu with great vegan options, and incredible views of the Ganges and hills. You can opt for local Indian cuisine, or order Italian, Israeli, Mexican and Tibetan. It’s a really popular choice in Lakshman Jhula.
Bistro Nirvana is a classy restaurant known for its hearty meals, so come here if you’re particularly hungry. It’s set in the high banks region of Rishikesh, and has a rustic vibe with indoor and outdoor seating, and an organic menu that includes pizzas, chicken tikka masala, garlic naan, pita-falafel platters, pancakes, waffles and a range of soups.
Ira’s Kitchen is a cafe and tearoom famous for vegetarian paratha (this is an Indian flatbread). It’s casual dining, and a great place to find rich flavors, and tasty and wholesome meals.
Take a Meditation or Ayurveda Course
While yoga courses and learning are big in Rishikesh, you can also find classes and courses on Meditation, Chakra’s, Tantra, and Ayurveda (traditional medicine). These classes are mostly run by locals, but also foreign professionals or gurus.
There are so many options for classes and courses you can take here, so picking one can be a daunting task. I suggest you research a bit to find out what you are into.
If you arrive in Rishikesh without having booked anything, there are plenty of flyers throughout the city which promote different options. You can always make a decision then!
Sunrise at Kunjapuri Temple
Witness an incredible sunrise with a panoramic view of the Himalayas and the Ganges River at the Kunjapuri Temple. The temple is about at an hour drive away from Rishikesh.
Your options are to either take a 7 km trek to the top, or if you’re a bit too sleepy for that much exertion, you can just drive 200 m up from the temple. Some hostels in Rishikesh offer trips to the temple as a part of a tour.
Are you convinced to travel to Rishikesh?! Rishikesh will give you a spiritual glimpse into the Indian culture. It’ll expose you to the variety that exists in yoga and meditation. And yes, it could give you a life changing experience if you get deep into the yogic practice.
Rishikesh is busy and getting busier every year; yet the yoga, the pure air, the Ganges and the nature would still leave you with a blissful experience and may even enchant you to visit again.
Ready to travel? Read this travel guide to Rishikesh for info on the best time to visit, how many days to spend, where to stay, getting around, etc.