I will tell you what there is to see and do so that it is you who chooses what to spend your time in the city.
- Visit, stay (and eat in) an ashram – Yoga in Rishikesh
If there is something that abounds in Rishikesh, that is the ashram or also known as “spiritual retreat centers.” There are all shapes, colors and focused on different aspects, such as meditation or yoga.
There are many ways to visit the ashrams: go one day to tour one, go to eat -free- one day and see how it works inside or you can even stay several days staying in one and practice yoga, meditation and mantras.
If your plan is to stay in one, as a spiritual retreat, I recommend that you inform yourself well before going, because the dynamics are not the same at all. The most popular Rishikesh ashrams are:
- Marmarth Niketan
This is known because it is the one that makes the ceremony to the most impressive Ganga goddess in the city. In addition, it is the ashram where the International Yoga Festival takes place every year.
Staying there costs about € 11 per night, in a shared room and, of course, does not have an internet connection. If you want to know more or want to reserve a place, here is the link to its official website.
- Ashram Sivananda
This ashram is mainly focused on yoga and is one of the most respected and recognized in the country. You can stay at the ashram or you can sign up for their yoga courses. I leave here the link to your website if you want more information or reserve your place.
- Ved Niketan Dham
Another of the yoga-centered retreat centers, but also offering meditation classes, is this. You can stay there or you can go to the loose classes they offer daily. I leave here the web for you to inform or reserve your place.
- Ashram Osho Gangadham
This retreat places special emphasis on meditation and is located in the middle of the jungle, about 10 minutes from Laxman Jhula. You can stay for a few days there, in shared or private rooms or you can simply sign up for their meditation courses. Here is the link to their website for more information.
- Sachcha Dham Ashram (Prem Baba)
This center is the one of the well-known Prem Baba, it is close to the Laxman Jhula Bridge and it is possible to enter to see it and sign up for your yoga or meditation classes – which are free. But they also serve free food for residents and “homeless” every day at 1pm and 9pm. I went once to see how it was.
If you decide to go, you will see a queue of people take a glass, a plate and a spoon and after serving them the food they sit on a mat on the floor and comment all together, in silence. If you ask for food, nobody will say no, but don’t abuse… it is not a free buffet for you to go every day.
- Visiting the famous “Beatles Ashram”
In the months of 1968 the “Liverpool 4” spent a season in Rishikesh, immersed in the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh where, in addition to practicing transcendental meditation and some yoga, they were inspired to compose almost 50 songs that many came to light in the album “White Album”.
The ashram fell into disrepair and nobody gave it a ball or noticed it, until the locals began to realize that the turisas were going to cross it. There they saw the business and decided to charge about € 8 to access and walk among the more than 90 meditation booths that are shaped like a smurf house , or the main meditation room that is now full of murals and graffiti that give it an air very magical
You can easily reach on foot from Tapovan, it’s about 30 minutes walk from the Laxman Jhula Bridge. Open from 10am to 4pm and at the entrance, after paying the almost € 8 I recommend you take a photo of the poster with the ashram map, so you can know what you are seeing later. The visit can easily take you an hour or an hour and a half. There is a small cafeteria inside the enclosure with bathrooms.
- Hiking to the waterfalls
If you like hiking, one of the most beautiful routes you can do from Rishikesh is to the Neer Garh waterfalls, located about 4 kilometers from the Laxman Jhula bridge, walking north on the main road until you run into the sign that Indicates the detour to follow the path. Before it was free to access, now they charge 30 rupees.
The waterfalls have 2 levels and to access the highest one you have to climb about 500 or 600 meters on a steep slope. Both on the road and at the base of the waterfalls you will find some food stands – very basic.
Of course, in the monsoon season find out before going, because the area is usually flooded; and if you go in summer take a large bottle of water. If you dare, you can take a dip in the water pools – although I must warn you that they are very cool.
- Trekking to the birth of the Ganges
Continuing with outdoor sports activities, one of the most demanded tours by adventure sports enthusiasts is the one that takes you up to 4,000msnm until you reach the Gaumukh Glacier which is where the sacred Ganges River is born.
It is not a path of roses, first they take you in a jeep to the city of Gangotri (they are 270km that are made in about … 10 hours or more!) Where they ask for trekking permits. Then there are almost 3 days of trekking.
- Rafting on the Ganges
The waters of the river Ganges cross the city of Rishikesh and, at certain times, as in spring the rapids are perfect for rafting.
The environment is fantastic and is another way to get to know the city, from the middle of the river. For those who are not so fast-adrenaline lovers, you can also rent a kayak and take a quiet walk.
- Visit Rajaji National Park
If you have the opportunity to visit this national park, do not miss it. There live a lot of animals like elephants, tigers, leopards, striped hyena, Tibetan bears, mountain goats or endemic birds, in addition to seeing the native flora.
The reality is that seeing these animals depends, to a large extent, on luck … so do not be disappointed if you go and in the end you see nothing, because it can happen.
- Hunting urban art
One is not expected to find a lot of urban art in such a sacred and miserable city, and yet Rishikesh never ceases to amaze. There are many graffiti on its walls and one of the best known is the one left by the German urban artist TONA. This German left a lot of fantastic murals embodied in different corners of the city … you can’t find them all!
- Rishikesh Central Market
There are several markets in Rishikesh, two are in the Tapovan area and then there is the “central one”.
To go to the central market you will have to leave the Topavan area behind and head to the center, where the bus and train stations are. To be more exact, it is in the area close to the Ghat Triveni and it is what the local people go to – so it is cheaper than those of Tapovan. It is a network of streets, each with a specialty: clothes, vegetables, souvenirs, local products, spices, etc. They close on Thursdays.