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Rishikesh, the home of Yoga in India. The Place where the Ganges River runs through brighter than you could ever imagine. A Spiritual Town made famous with foreigners by The Beatles back in the ’60s & ’70s.
Rishikesh is like no other place in India and it has to be visited by travellers to India, whether you visit for 3 days or 30!
I loved my week there, I met the most amazing group of women, enjoyed the sunshine, the cafes, the river, the yoga classes and seeing and listening to like-minded travellers live out their dream there too.
If you are going to Rishikesh, here is my full guide to help you have the best time, whether you’re looking for yoga, ashrams and spirituality, or hostels and adventure activities as it’s definitely one of the most beautiful places in India!
Rishikesh Travel Guide
How to Get to Rishikesh
Rishikesh by Train
The first thing you need to know is that Rishikesh does not have its own train station but that’s ok because Haridwar train station is a 40-minute car drive from Rishikesh and an hour’s tuk-tuk ride.
It takes about 5 hours by train from Delhi to Haridwar and the tickets can be very cheap. I got a ticket from Haridwar to Delhi for only 140Rs / £1.40! This was in second seating but for a few hours, it was fine. There is also an overnight train from Delhi to Haridwar.
Each side you will need to add on the taxi or tuk-tuk price. A tuk tuk from Haridwar to Rishikesh is about 600Rs. There is also a public bus that leaves Haridwar to Rishikesh but it goes to Rishikesh Bus station and this is still some distance from the ‘touristy’ part of Rishikesh.
Other popular places to arrive into Rishikesh from or leave to are Agra, Varanasi, Manali, Dharamshala. There are trains from Haridwar to Agra and Haridwar to Varanasi, and if you can’t find a train to Agra like I couldn’t, just say the night in New Delhi in between.
Haridwar is not really a tourist city so there aren’t places to see in Haridwar hence why most people just use it for its train station as connecting City rather than staying there.
Rishikesh by Bus
Places like Manali and Dharamshala are accessed via bus. I got an overnight bus from Dharamshala to Rishikesh. It wasn’t that nice because of the windy roads but it was the only option really.
There is also a bus from Rishikesh to Delhi which cuts out the need for transport to Haridwar, just to Rishikesh Bus station and this costs around 700-1000Rs depending on the quality.
Rishikesh by Air
The closest airport is Dehradun Airport which is 25km from Rishikesh. If you are coming from Delhi to Rishikesh there isn’t much point getting an internal flight here but if you are coming from elsewhere in India it would be a good idea to look at flights on Skyscanner as some internal flights in India can be really cheap! To arrange a transfer from Dehradun Airport to Rishikesh for a good price, have a look at this offer on Viator and this cheap option on Get Your Guide!
Where to Stay in Rishikesh
If there’s one thing you need to know about Rishikesh and it’s accommodation, it’s that there are 2 parts of the town with the river separating them, tourists generally stay in the Northern part of Rishikesh close to Laxman Jhula Bridge. The Eastern Side is the ‘busier side’ and the Western side is the ‘Yoga side’ although they are both busy in their own way and both have yoga on offer.
Both sides are where you’ll find the most accommodation as well as cafes, restaurants, yoga classes etc! Note that during the day the popular bridge of Laxman Jhula does get very busy and it can take 10-15 minutes to cross it because of all the people, mopeds and cows! Also, the Eastern side of Rishikesh is not accessible by tuk-tuk so you will get dropped off on the other side from the bus station or Haridwar and will have to walk over the bridge with your bags, this may help you decide which side to stay on if you have heavy bags!
Hotels in Rishikesh
Hotels are abundant in Rishikesh, I only went into Kunwar Residency as I worked from their lovely restaurant balcony overlooking the Ganga River so if you want somewhere fancier but still at a great price, in a good location, this would be a good choice!
Alternatively, have a look for the best hotels in Rishikesh on Booking.com here! I always use Booking.com as they offer flexible choices and really good discounts once you’ve used them a few times!
Hostels in Rishikesh
There are a lot of hostels and guest houses in Rishikesh. I stayed in Shiv Shakti Hostel and whilst I wasn’t a huge fan of the hostel because I thought their private rooms were overpriced for their quality, others that stayed in the dorms seemed to like it and the dorms are cheap, it’s also in a really good location.
I heard good things about Live Free Hostel and The Hosteller from other travellers. Also Zostel Rishikesh however it is a bit out of the way on the main road. I heard bad things about Moustache and Bunk Stay.
In regards to the guest houses, after speaking to a few people who had decided to stay in Rishikesh for a few weeks it became apparent that a good number of the guest houses are not bookable online and therefore are a lot cheaper (I know, there are still places out there not online!!).
If you plan to stay in Rishikesh for more than a few days and want your own room over a dorm room but at a cheaper price I would recommend booking a few nights online first and then asking around the guesthouses once you are there. For example, there is a guesthouse behind Shiv Shakti Hostel offering private double rooms from 400, 600, 700, 800Rs which is much cheaper than anything you’ll get online!
This also applies to the Ashrams.
Ashrams in Rishikesh
Rishikesh has a lot of Ashrams thanks to it being such a holy and spiritual place. A number of these are still used by Indians which I really liked seeing but they are very popular with foreigners too!
A lot of the Ashrams in Rishikesh offer a package where you stay for usually 7 nights, have daily activities and meals and you are pretty confined to staying within the Ashram, which is fine as that is what a lot of people want. A week of silence, meditating, yoga, eating well and disconnecting to the outside world.
I met a group that went to Phoolchatti for 1 week. They really liked it and liked that it’s a bit further from the town so they could totally disconnect. They run 1-week courses all Spring and Summer, you can view their site here and their TripAdvisor here. I would definitely consider going here if/when I go back to Rishikesh and visit an Ashram!
What I didn’t realise until the end of my stay in Rishikesh is that some of the Ashram’s in town offer just accommodation with yoga classes on top if needed and again, the accommodation is much cheaper than hotels offered online and are usually private rooms.
My friend found out about The Omkarananda Ashram which is just at the end of Laxman Jhula Bridge and I went in with her to look around and it was really great! It was basic but very clean and the man who runs it is very nice. No strict schedule needs to be adhered to in terms of going to classes and to start with she just paid for accommodation and got a private room cheaper than most dorm rooms in Rishikesh so again, if you are planning to stay for a while, book a few nights to start with and then ask around in the Ashrams for accommodation!
How long to stay in Rishikesh
3-7 Days in Rishikesh
Well, how long do you have and how much of a break do you need from India?? I stayed in Rishikesh for one week and for me that was enough, but perhaps because before that, I stayed in Dharamshala for one week too.
Generally, 3-5 days in Rishikesh is a good amount of time if you want to mix being active and doing a lot and also chilling in Rishikesh. However, if you have more time and you feel like Rishikesh is the kind of place you’ll like, you want to do daily yoga, sip tea in cafes, listen to live music in the evenings, go out for walks and meet amazing people, I recommend you stay a bit longer.
Travellers tend to get stuck in Rishikesh turning into expats there, especially for yoga, meditation and people who work online, so be warned!
Things to do in Rishikesh
There’s a lot of things to do in Rishikesh but you can also not do a lot and still enjoy it! Here are some of the best things to do in Rishikesh!
Yoga in Rishikesh
Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? Yoga in Rishikesh is a big thing and there is so much on offer! In fact, I’ll be awkward and say that there’s actually too much choice! Every other hotel has a sign outside it offering 3-4 Yoga classes a day and so do all of the Ashrams in town too. Hatha Yoga is the most popular yoga type in Rishikesh it seems but there are Kundalini and Vinyasa on offer too. I would ask around and get some recommendations when you arrive or at least go to one class and if you don’t like it, go elsewhere the next day.
I did yoga at TAT Cafe and really liked it. His Vinyasa morning class was hard work but the guy who does the classes and runs TAT is a great teacher. After you can get breakfast overlooking The Ganga River!
The classes and locations vary too. I found that some of them are not the best locations aka in the back of the reception of a hostel and the mats can be quite dirty so take your own or take a towel to put on top. Generally, classes are between 200-300Rs for 90 minutes and it can vary on the day as to whether you are there in a group or you are the only one there!
Classes & Courses in Rishikesh
If you want to learn about Yoga, Meditation, Chakra’s, Tantra, Singing, Music, Ayurveda, Cooking, you can do all of this in Rishikesh, plus more! I love that it still has the vibe of using posters around town to advertise what is on and most of the time the classes are run by young locals or foreigners who are trained in their profession or have a real passion for it. You can look online but I’d say the best way to find out what to do in Rishikesh classes and courses wise is to wait until you get there and look at the signboards!
Sound Healing in Rishikesh
I went to a Sound Healing Session on Sunday at Devi Music Ashram by Yoga Svarupe which was soo good! It’s on from 5:00-7:00 pm but get there at 4:30 to get a good place, take some layers, cover-up and lie down and listen to the most incredible Sound Healing! It’s by donation basis too!
Neergarh Waterfall in Rishikesh
Neergarh waterfall is a great place to visit near Rishikesh! It’s walkable from Rishikesh, it’s along a busy road to start with but has amazing views of the Ganges below and lots of monkeys along the way! You then turn and the road is less busy, although it does start to get steep then!
It costs 50Rs to enter the waterfall and you can climb really high! Along the way are tea stalls with seating in the waterfalls and right at the top is Aqua Cafe which is further up from the waterfall and also a steep climb up steps but it’s well worth it as it’s so quiet and the owner is so nice. It offers freshly made food and drinks, complete with a valley full of prayer flags, and they also offer camping so if you want to go camping in Rishikesh, this is a good place to check out!
The Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh
This is a big tourist place in Rishikesh by both foreign visitors and Indian visitors. To read more about the Ashram including The History of when The Beatles arrived, what effect this had on Rishikesh and Tips for visiting, read my post here!
Camping in Rishikesh
It seems that Camping in Rishikesh and near Rishikesh is a popular thing to do! Again, if you have time, I would say it is best to wait until you are in Rishikesh and have a look at the posters around the town as companies will advertise when they are holding camping trips this way. Alternatively, if you want to book something in advance, this 1 Night 2 Day Camping and Trekking Adventure offering a real camping experience in the mountains near Rishikesh on Viator looks good!
Bungee Jumping in Rishikesh
Who is brave enough?? I wasn’t! Maybe I would have been 5 years ago but not now! Jumping Heights, India’s first highest Bungee Jumping platform at a height of 83 metres is located just outside Rishikesh increasing Rishikesh Tourism even more! You will need to prebook this as a jump and transfer package and you’ll be out for about 4-5 hours. This must be one of the most unique and fun things to do in Rishikesh if you’re brave enough!
White Water Rafting in Rishikesh
Well, except for Rishikesh Rafting that is! All-day people are rafting down the Ganga River right through the town of Rishikesh and although I didn’t do it because it’s not quite my thing, it does look fun! This seemed especially popular with Indian Tourists who I guess don’t have many chances to go white water rafting in India, therefore Rishikesh is a great place. The water may be a bit dirty in reality but it looks so nice and blue and great to swim in from afar!
Jungle Safari in Rajaji National Park in Rishikesh
If you fancy trying to spot some wildlife including Tigers whilst in Rishikesh then get booked onto a Jungle Safari! Rajaji National Park is a popular place to visit in Rishikesh and is surprisingly near by! Jump into a Jeep and look out for Elephants, Tigers, Panthers, Spotted Deer, Sambhar, Wild Boar, Barking deer, Goral, Himalayan Black Bear and Sloth Bear! If you want a full day experience including sunrise and a nice air-conditioned car I’d recommend this full tour. If you just want to be out for a few hours and go in a jeep at a cheaper price, this 3-hour tour is for you!
Ganga Evening Aarti Ceremony in Rishikesh
I’m so bad, I didn’t even do this despite being in Rishikesh for one week, however, I thought the Rishikesh Aarti Ceremony would be closer to the tourist end of town but it’s not. The Aarti happens at Parmarth Niketan Ashram after the Ram Jhula Bridge, aka about a 20-30 minute walk away from the Laxman Jhula Bridge. If you are not visiting Varanasi and then you must not miss seeing an Evening Aarti in Rishikesh, if you are, like me, I feel like it’s ok to miss it if you do.
Village Trek in Rishikesh
There are not that many places to visit near Rishikesh that are accessible on your own I found. A tour is needed, and a great place to visit with a guide is the Patho Villages. A guide can give you an insight into these Himalayan villages as well as showing you incredible views. If you are yet to visit a local village in India, booking a Village Trek would be a great thing to do in Rishikesh!
Sunrise at Kunjapuri Temple in Rishikesh
If you want to witness an incredible sunrise and you are happy to wake up early, you must go to Kunjapuri Temple! The hostel I stayed at was offering group trips there leaving at 5:30 with transport. It is walkable but you’ll need to leave at 4:00 am and walk 28km uphill! However once at the top- 1645 meters high to be exact you will be rewarded with not only the sunrise but a view of the Ganga River below where you walked from and the Himalayan Peaks! I feel like I’ll do this next time I visit Rishikesh! What an experience! If you want to visit as part of a tour and do a Village Trek after, have a look into this option on Viator!
Shopping in Rishikesh
Rishikesh is a really good place to shop, it might even be one of the best places to shop in India! This is because it’s a good size and all of the shops are easy to walk around, the shop owners are nice and there is just so much stuff! Especially health and wellness related like essential oils, natural beauty products, as well as bags, clothes, jewellery and so much more!
Walk to some Temples in Rishikesh
There are a few different temples around Rishikesh that are walkable too, whether you want a fairy easy walk or a much challenging up hill walk!
Cafes in Rishikesh
If you’d rather just chill the F out in Rishikesh, you can! It’s so easy to spend your day into evening Cafe and Restaurant hopping, chatting to new people, drinking tea and eating good food! See my recommendations on the best places to eat in Rishikesh below!
Go to the Beach in Rishikesh
Another way to chill out in Rishikesh is going to the beach as the river does have beaches along it complete with soft shimmering sand! It can get busy on some of them with Indian visitors getting in the River but it’s also easy to climb some rocks and find some quiet parts!
This should give you plenty of things to do in Rishikesh!
Best Places to Eat in Rishikesh
Rishikesh is abundant in cafes and restaurants offering good, healthy food with plenty of Vegetarian and Vegan options at a great price! Here are my favourite places:
- Little Buddha Cafe – Great for Western Food and Vegan Food, especially breakfast with a view of the Ganga!
- Ganga View Cafe – A modern cafe straight outta Melbourne or London, this is good for something a bit different!
- Tat Cafe – I loved going to Yoga here and then sitting in the sun eating breakfast on the balcony watching the River.
- Shambala – Good for Dinner because of the regular Live Music.
- The Beatles Cafe – I mean, its The Beatles Cafe, you have to go!
- Cafe De Goa – An amazing view of the River and Laxman Jhula bridge, perfect for people and monkey watching.
- The Bakeries – There are so many bakeries selling cakes and pastries, including Vegan cake which are really good!
However there are plenty more, I just kept going back to the same places so I’m sure you’ll find your favourite spot too!
I hope this Rishikesh Travel Guide helps you plan your trip there! I really loved it, as I said at the start, don’t get me wrong, it is still very busy but it has a great vibe and attracts such good people, I’m sure you will enjoy it too!
For more of my posts on India see: