Rishikesh is a small town in the northern state of Uttarakhand in India. Popularly adored for its scenic beauty dotted besides the holy Ganges, Rishikesh is traditionally known as the spiritual capital of the globe. From the music legends like "The Beatles" to new age celebrities like actor Kate Winslet - everyone wants to come down to this city of Yogi's and Temples.
Rishikesh is also the Gateway to the Himalayas. The Char Dham Yatra (Four Shrines Sacred Journey) ideally begins from Rishikesh.
The center of town where the train and bus stations can be found is of little interest to most travelers. Further north-east are 2 bridges spanning the Ganges, Shivanand Jhula and Lakshman Jhula, and either end of these bridges are the main hubs of activity and interest.
Most accomodation and restaurants can be found in Lakshman Jhula, High Bank and Swarg Ashram.
Rishikesh is in close proximity of Dehradun's Jolly Grant Airport (about 15 kms) - a small, quiet airport handling 1-2 commercial flights a day, and a few chartered flights.
A quiet branch line connects Rishikesh to Haridwar, but there are only about three slow trains daily. It's best to take the train to Haridwar and continue by bus (45 min, 17 Rs).
Travel agents in Swarg Ashram and Lakshman Jhula can book train tickets for onward journeys, much easier than going to Haridwar to buy a ticket. Some may sell you a ticket from Raiwala, a small stop between Rishikesh and Haridwar, but this station, while closer, is tiny and trains only stop for a few seconds - better to board the train in Haridwar.
From Delhi the city is about 230 km away and is well connected with buses. A Bus journey may take about 5-7 hours - depending on the traffic - and costs you about 130-350 INR. An AC Bus will cost about 200-500 INR.
In Rishikesh, there are several travel agencies scattered around Swarg Ashram and Lakshman Jhula that can book luxury buses to common destinations like Delhi (250 - 500 INR), Jaipur, Pushkar and Varanasi.
Auto-rickshaws (vikrams) are useful from the bus/train stations to get to either of the bridges (Rs 8) and for the southern side of the Ganges. Swargashram is pretty much pedestrian only, but it's compact and walkable (as is the whole of the town). For other autorickshaw journeys you should expect to pay around Rs 15/km.
White Water Rafting
Rishikesh is very popular for its rafting on the River Ganga (Ganges) Season: September-November and March-April-May are ideal for rafting.
As with most holy cities cum tourist destinations there's a plethora of religious paraphenalia, cheap clothing aimed at foreigners, incense, bronze shiva statues, etc. Unlike many other similar towns in India prices here are usually reasonable and you won't have to haggle hard for a good price.
Non-vegeterian food has been banned in the city for many many years. North and south Indian food is widely available, and there's no shortage of multi-cuisine backpacker cafes, especially in Lakshman Jhula. What excites many foreigners is the delicious Ayurvedic and health food restaurants, perfect for an after-yoga meal.
Many of the main lanes are lined with wooden push carts selling in-season fruit, veggies, popcorn, nuts, warm cookies and lots else, and you'll usually be quoted a fair price. The papayas here are particularly delicious.
Rishikesh is filled almost entirely with budget hotels, with a few mid-range thrown in for good measure. Lakshman Jhula is popular with backpackers and has the cheapest accomodation, while Swarg Ashram is where the majority of the ashrams are located, and is a nice alternative. There's also a handful of accomodation options in High Bank.
It's wise to book ahead in the peak tourist season, and during the Kumbh Mela in neighboring Haridwar.
Hotels in this range start as low as Rs 100.
Many people come to stay in ashrams for an intensive yoga study and to learn about various philosophy and meditation.