Ever since The Beatles decide to hit it on their travel map in 1968 and wrote songs like Mother Nature’s Son inspired form their stay, Rishikesh has been one of the most visited tourist destinations for foreign tourists in India. It enjoys a diversity of tourist population which only a very few locations around the globe have ever had the chance to; Rishikesh is not only the adventure hub for the zealous youngsters looking for adrenalin crazed action and people of all ages and ethnicities who come from all over the globe seeking peace in its ancient yogic knowledge and wisdom; but it is also one of the most prominent religious destinations in India holding special significance for Hindus along with its sister city of Haridwar. Being located on the banks of one of the holiest and most nurturing rivers of the world The Ganga (Ganges) gives it an edge over any other tourist destination of its kind.
The two landmarks for which the town is known for all across the country are the two large suspension bridges over Ganga known as the Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula. No matter how short one’s stay is at Rishikesh one is certainly in for more than a couple of trips over these structures as they fall right in the way of going almost anywhere in the town. The bridges are for pedestrians only and people used to Indian driving conditions are even able to hop two-wheelers on them.
The whole town of Rishikesh is sopping wet with yoga and as soon as one gets down on a station or airport one begins to see people of all kinds from kids to yogis and sages in various poses of yoga. The town can be divided into two parts one which is the main township with all the stations, bus stands and bigger markets, the other is the smaller, more remote outer-township area where most of the ashrams and accommodations are located. This area is the major hub of all tourist interest and most people make it a base for their stay while roaming around to nearby towns and cities like Haridwar and Dehradun.
Rishikesh is believed to be the true Indian broadcaster of yoga to the whole world. The town even though small, has rich ancient history with mention of it even in Vedic scriptures; the name can be broken into two to more correctly understand its meaning, Rishi- meaning a great sage or sear and kesh- which in Hindi means hair.
The whole town is dotted of Yoga Ashrams of varied sizes and standards, some more authentic then others. It attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year who come looking for inner peace, mental serenity or better health; and with the number of tourists only going up every year it can be certainly said the Rishikesh seldom lets you down. The Ashrams have a well-planned schedule once you register and are on deck; they take care of everything from the diet to accommodation. Most teachers are well-trained and experienced and are helpful to great extents.
People of Rishikesh are some of the most cordial people of all the tourist destinations in India. No matter what you ask of them, no matter the trouble they will always answer back with a smile. Rates are very much on the lower end due to a very competitive market for almost everything.
Rishikesh sees the arrival of both, rich and well provided folks who come for a different experience for their family and prefer all the luxuries that the place can provide; also large is the no. of backpackers who live with the spirit of wandering. The first is served by top-of-the-list luxury hotels and resorts whereas the latter find a very comfortable and safe adobe in the cheap lodges and guesthouses, most of which are very hospitable and budget friendly. The Atali Hotel and Resort and The Shiv Shakti Guest House are two examples of both the categories respectively.
Rishikesh isn’t really a food traveller’s delight but nice restaurants are not hard to find in proximity, especially near the two bridges. The town holds immense religious significance to millions of Hindus and thus non-vegetarian food and alcoholic beverages of any kind are not allowed inside the town and people often go to nearby cities like Dehradun for such tastes.
Adventure sports in Rishikesh are an experience more intense and fun than anywhere else in India or for that matter even the south-east Asian sub-continent. The crown jewel of Rishikesh adventure tourism is the White water rafting which is facilitated by a trail of rapids on Ganga the like of which are not found on any other river in the world. It attracts rafting and kayaking enthusiasts form all over the world. The rafting is cheaper than any other place in the world and people have an option in choosing the length of their adventure ride; distances of 8km, 16km, 24 km and 36 km are generally offered. The river has rapids from of grade 1 to grade 4, the biggest of which is The Wall.
Bungee jumping is another thrill Rishikesh has in store for adrenaline junkies. It is offered by a private organization which also offers many other adventure activities like Flying Fox and the Great Swing. The people here are a little less cordial and there maybe a few hidden charges but all in all it is a profitable bargain.
Trekking and hiking tips are led by seasoned local guides who take to picturesque spots and scenic sunsets.
It is a place which awakens the explorer in anybody with events like the Ganga Aarti which is a religious ritual of Hindus which take place every evening at the banks of Ganga. People also visit nearby town of Haridwar much higher in religious significance and the Queen of Hills Mussorie which is not more than 70 km away from Rishikesh.
The nearest airport is located at Dehradun and the railway station at Haridwar; via road Rishikesh is only 6-8 hours from the capital Delhi.
Unlike many other places which one might visit, Rishikesh is one, which evidently brings the thought ”I’ll be back here again, sometime ”, come to your mind just as you are leaving it for your home.