Located on the banks of the legendary Ganges river, Rishikesh is one of India’s spiritual capitals. Home to many ashrams and Hindu temples, it’s a sacred town in Uttarakhand. Apart from that, the area is famous for its natural beauty and adventure sports. On this basis, here are the best things to do in Rishikesh.
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Welcome to Rishikesh: One of India’s Most Sacred Towns
The area of Rishikesh is one of the most alluring destinations in India.
In the West, it’s known as the “Yoga Capital of the World.” For Hindus, Rishikesh is one of several sacred towns on the Ganges river and a popular nature destination.
Most Rishikesh attractions are related to spirituality or nature. Located about six hours north of Delhi, Rishikesh is a meat-free city, and you won’t find any alcohol in Rishikesh proper.
The top places to visit in Rishikesh are in the area of Tapovan, a small tourist town with many hotels, ashrams, restaurants, and tour agencies.
Overall, Rishikesh is an incredible destination, no matter if you are interested in religion, yoga, food, or adventurous activities.
From ayurveda treatments to rock climbing, Hindu ceremonies, and bungee jumping, Rishikesh will have something for your taste.
Here is a comprehensive Rishikesh travel guide covering all the best things to do and places to visit.
The Best Things to do in Rishikesh
Base yourself in Tapovan, and you’ll be within walking distance of many restaurants, coffee shops, and attractions in Rishikesh. In Tapovan, you can find tuk-tuks to the places that are further out.
Visit the Two Famous Bridges: Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula
When it comes to the most famous things to see in Rishikesh, the two bridges should undoubtedly be on your itinerary.
Named after two Hindu brother gods, the Lakshman Jhula and the Ram Jhula both span over the Ganges river and allow pedestrians and motorcycles to cross.
Lakshman Jhula dates from 1929 and is located in Tapovan, whereas Ram Jhula was built in 1986 and sites between Tapovan and Rishikesh.
River Rafting in Rishikesh
One of the most fun activities in Rishikesh is undoubtedly river rafting.
For less than 10 USD, you can go on a one-hour rafting expedition that starts north of the city and will take you into Tapovan.
Many companies and tour agencies in Tapovan offer the trip. Ask your hotel which company to choose, and you won’t be disappointed.
Learn About Hinduism in one of the City’s Many Ashrams
You can visit many ashrams in Rishikesh, and the most famous one is arguably the Chaurasi Kutia, known as the “Beatles Ashram.” The English rock band practiced transcendental meditation here in 1968.
Today, the Beatles Ashram is not an active temple anymore as it stood abandoned for many decades. It’s now a tourist attraction and one of the top places to visit in Rishikesh for its significance.
Apart from the Beatles Ashram, there are many other temples that you can visit. Some welcome casual tourism, while others require visitors to stay there for a while.
Bungee Jumping in Rishikesh
If you’re courageous enough, bungee jumping is popular when it comes to adventure sports in Rishikesh.
Many companies in Tapovan offer bungee jumping, and they will take you to the natural area of Mohanchatti, where you can also camp overnight.
Rishikesh lies in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. As such, there are lots of great trekking routes around the city.
One of the easiest treks is the Neer Garh Waterfall waterfall hike (12.5 km). You can do it without a guide. To ensure a safe trek, go with friends or locals who know the area.
Get an Ayurvedic Spa and Massage
Ayurveda is from India, and the region of Rishikesh has world-class treatments.
If you’re staying in one of the more luxurious hotels in Tapovan like the Salvus House, they will offer those treatments for great prices. If not, there are many smaller massage parlors in the city.
Take a Yoga Class
If you come to the World Capital of Yoga, you shouldn’t miss taking a class.
I took a class at the Mangalam Yoga Peeth in Balaknath Road, Tapovan. It’s a small studio where you can just join in without a reservation, and the 45-minute class I took was excellent.
Other Adventure Sports in Rishikesh
The best things to do in Rishikesh include adventurous activities, and they go far beyond rafting, hiking, and bungee jumping.
In this context, you can go kayaking, rock climbing, take a mega-swing, or do body surfing. You can do all of these activities in Tapovan, Rishikesh. Once you’ve found a tour agency you like, you can negotiate a great price if you book various activities together.
Where to Stay in Rishikesh
The best area to stay is undoubtedly Tapovan, Rishikesh. The town is located a few kilometers north of the city of Rishikesh and is home to hundreds of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, and coffee shops.
The town also has a great atmosphere and I thought that the locals were super friendly. Better still, there is a lot less hassling than in places like Delhi or Jaipur.
I stayed in the Salvus House, one of the more luxurious options with a pool. You can find hotels for as cheap as 20 USD per night, and hostels for less than 10 USD a night.
Find more places to stay in Rishikesh here.
Things to do in Rishikesh: Know Before You Go
To complete our Rishkisesh travel guide, here are some things to know for your Rishikesh adventure.
How to Get to Rishikesh
From Delhi, there are three ways to get to Rishikesh: bus, train, and plane. From Agra, you can take the famous Kalinga Utkal express train.
Getting to Rishikesh by Bus
The easiest and cheapest way to get from Delhi to Rishikesh is to take the bus. I used a company called Laxmi Holidays and it was alright. The bus takes about 6h30 and will drop you at a place called Nepali Farm from where you can take a tuk-tuk to Tapovan.
Getting to Rishikesh by Train
From Delhi, you can take a train to Haridwar, Dehradun, or Rishikesh. The train to Haridwar is quicker, but you’ll have to take another train to Rishikesh. The entire journey will take 6-7 hours.
From Agra or Delhi, you can take the Kalinga Utkal Express directly to Rishikesh, a long route that connects the two sacred cities of Rishikesh and Puri. Watch the video below in which I take the Kalinga Utkal Express from Rishikesh to Agra.
Getting to Rishikesh by Plane
How to Get Around Rishikesh
The town of Tapovan is easily walkable. If you want to get further out, take a shared tuk-tuk. There are always enough passengers and a shared tuk-tuk ride should cost no more than 50 INR (0.6 USD).
Is Rishikesh Safe?
Overall, Rishikesh is a very safe place. The city is sacred for Hindus and the area lives off tourism. As such, common sense will suffice to stay safe in Rishikesh.
The Best Time to Visit Rishikesh
You can visit Rishikesh all year round, but the peak months are arguably February to May. The shoulder season is from October to January while the Monsoon season lasts from June to September.