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Rishikesh

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Garhwal : Rishikesh
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A view of the Ganges flowing through Rishikesh.

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.

Understand

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.

Get in

By plane

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.

By train

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.

By bus

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.

Get around

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.

See

Trayambakeshwar Temple, Lakshman Jhula
  • Trayambakeshwar Temple, Lakshman Jhula, is 13 stories high, with different deities throughout.

Do

  • Take a holy dip in the Ganges, with reputed healing powers.
  • Yoga, of course! It's on offer everywhere, and most styles are represented.
  • Check into an ashram to study yoga, meditation and Hindu philosophy.
  • Watch where you step, cows and their leftovers are abundant. Watch out for the sometimes brash food stealing monkeys, too.

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.

Buy

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.

Eat

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.

Ram Jhula

  • Mukti's Health Food, (a few hundred metres west of Shivanand Jhula bridge, overlooking the taxi stand/parking lot). A tiny place in a strange location, but very popular and excellent food. Famous green pasta, Indonesian gado-gado, and homemade frozen yogurt, apple pie or chocolate cake for dessert.
  • The Welcome Center, (about a 10-15 minute walk towards Haridwar from the Shivanand Jhula bridge), (0) 135 244 2337, thewelcomecentre@yahoo.com. Hidden down off the road (but signposted), this is a little oasis of calm from the busy street. Great Ayurvedic food and teas. They also offer cooking classes, several types of yoga, etc. and sell natural incense, netty pots, yoga mats and the like. If you like the atmosphere, enquire about staying here as well.

Swarg Ashram

  • shiva-resort, a nice place away from the bustling market of ram-jhula towards neelkanth road in jonk village the best place to have organic food and you also can stay there.
  • Chotiwala in Swarg Ashram claims to be the original, and serves up great Indian food including 5 different thalis. Meals Rs 40-80.
  • Ganga Ayurvedic Food Place, (out beyond most of the ashrams, just past VED Niketan Ashram). Delicious food, lovingly prepared. One of the cleaner kitchens around, don't be afraid of the good salads. Also great for breakfast.
  • Little Italy, Swarg Ashram, (in the Green Hotel). Good pasta, pizza, etc. Mains from Rs 30.

Lakshman Jhula

High Bank

Drink

  • Sitting around in dhabas and cafes is nearly mandatory here. In addition to the old standards like masala chai and lassis you can find a nice range of Ayurvedic teas. Some restaurants make up there own tonics to treat anything that may be ailing you.
  • Alcohol is banned and inappropriate, as Rishikesh is a holy city.

Sleep

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.

Budget

Hotels in this range start as low as Rs 100.

  • shiva resort swargasharm nice and open rooms with balconies. from Rs 150.
  • Hotel Ishan, Lakshman Jhula. Decent rooms with Ganga views and balconies. From Rs 200.
  • Green Hotel, Swarg Ashram, 243 1242. Is a large, popular place with a good restaurant. Rs 100-1000.
  • Jaipur Inn, Laxman Jhula. Nice rooms, some with a view and a good restaurant on the top floor that overlooks both the Laxman Jhula and the Ganges River. Single Rs. 900 - Double Rs. 1000

Mid-range

  • Tapovan Resort, Lakshman Jhula, [1]. A newer hotel with good rooms and a garden. Also has a decent restaurant. Rs 1650-1850.

Ashrams

Many people come to stay in ashrams for an intensive yoga study and to learn about various philosophy and meditation.

  • Rishikesh yog-peeth the complete yoga study and retreat and they also conducting yoga teacher training courses.
  • Nirmal Ashram, Mayakund, (Very close to Triveni Ghat).
  • Sivananda Ashram, Ram Jhula, (on the north side of the Shivanand Jhula bridge).
  • Patanjali Yoga Center, Ram Jhula Taxi Stand, (the best place to study Iyengar Yoga with all modern equipments and a modern yoga studio) Rooms Rs. 100-above.
  • Sri Ved Niketan Ashram, Swarg Ashram. A large place offering hatha yoga, meditation, etc. Rooms Rs 50-150.

Get out

  • Shivpuri is one of the most visited places around Rishikesh, and only 10 km away. It is the hub for many adventure sports like river rafting, camping and trekking.
  • Rajaji National Park - just 20 minutes drive away.



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