A day in Rishikesh, the city bathed by the Ganges at the foot of the Himalayas
We went on a trip to Rishikesh from New Delhi. Rishikesh is a sacred city located 230 km northeast of New Delhi. It is considered the world capital of yoga and meditation, but also “The Gateway of the Himalayas“.
This city became internationally famous after the Beatles attended a Transcendental Meditation course in 1968. Ringo Starr stayed 10 days, Paul McCartney a month and Lennon and Harrison a total of 6 weeks. After that, many people interested in learning meditation came to Rishikesh. The city gradually became a spiritual destination.
Visit to the Ganges, the most sacred river of Hinduism
A little history on the river Ganges
The Ganges River divides the city into two parts. The Ganges is born in the Himalayas and is about 2500 km long. It is famous for being the most sacred river of Hinduism, but also for being one of the most polluted rivers in the world.
In Hinduism there is a belief that one should bathe in the Ganges to purify oneself and, when the time has come, be incinerated on the banks of the river. There are sacred cities like Varanasi, where, according to the Hindu faith, if you are incinerated there you are liberated from the cycle of life and death. You avoid being born again, untie yourself from the bonds of karma and get spiritual liberation (Moksha).
People who can afford it, travel to Varanasi when they see that their last days are near. But, in some cases, such as the poor or the homeless who, unfortunately, cannot afford an incineration, their bodies are thrown directly into the river. In addition to all this, we must add the pollution of industrial waste plus the waste from the sewers.
Rishikesh, one of the best places to enjoy the Ganges
However, Rishikesh is fortunate to be only 200 km away from the source of the river, so you can still see clean, pure water. On the banks of the river there are small white sandy beaches where one can bathe peacefully.
Today, tourism has not managed to get rid of that spiritual atmosphere that is still breathing in every corner of Rishikesh. Without a doubt, it is the best place to disconnect from all the chaos you find yourself traveling through India.
Travel to Rishikesh, where to stay in Rishikesh?
If you are travelling to Rishikesh by bus from New Delhi, when you arrive the bus will drop you off at the bottom of the city. It is advisable to take a tuk-tuk that will take you 5 km up to Tapovan; the part of hotels, travel agencies and yoga schools.
From there, it’s easy to get around. You can also enjoy beautiful views of the temples on the banks of the Ganges and the bridges connecting the city; the Ram Jhula and the Laxman Jhula.
We stay at the Nammastay Hotel. We pay in total for a single room and a double room only 1000 rupees (12 euros). The bosses were very nice and on the roof they had a rooftop chillout that was a wonder.
If you prefer a hostel to meet backpackers, right on the same street is the Bonfire Hostel. There, at night, you can sit around a bonfire to meet other guests and exchange experiences. But it’s all very relaxing. Rishikesh is not looking for a crazy party, but rather to relax.
Trip to Rishikesh; What to see and do in Rishikesh?
1. Crossing the Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula Suspension Bridges
These two iron suspension bridges across the Ganges are two landmarks in the city of Rishikesh. Above Laxman Jhula you can enjoy the spectacular views of the city of Rishikesh, its temples and the ghat on the banks of the Ganges.
2. Take a Yoga or Meditation course
We only stayed one day in Rishikesh although it is really a city to stay for a while. Especially if you feel like doing some Yoga or Meditation courses or hiking around.
Many people stay in Rishikesh for a couple of weeks, or even months, doing Yoga or Meditation courses. Without a doubt, it is an ideal place to get started in these practices or even to perfect them. But don’t expect it to be cheap.
3. Sitting on the banks of the river Ganges
Otherwise, the best thing you can do is to visit temples and go to the banks of the river to sit on the ghats (stairs where Hindu rituals are performed in the sacred rivers of India). From there you just have to stand still and watch the people.
We were lucky enough to arrive just at a Hindu festival and the river steps were full of people. A few cows and a couple of stray dogs reclined in them as if everything wasn’t with them.
Entire families went to purify themselves in the Ganges. The children played in the water and those who had already bathed sat quietly spending the afternoon. There were stalls where you could buy flowers and then leave them in the Ganges as a donation. It was a curious mixture of joy and spirituality.
4. Visiting the surrounding temples
Both in Rishikesh and the surrounding area, there are many temples that are worth a visit. One of the best known is the Trayambakeshwar Temple, which is located on the banks of the Ganges. It is located next to the Laxman Jhula Bridge, has 14 floors and is the largest in the area. The entrance is free of charge.
During their stay in Rishikesh the band had one of their most productive periods. They wrote more than 30 songs that would later appear in the White Album and Abbey Road.
5. Visit the “Beatles Ashram”
The Ashram is a place set aside for meditation, where students live under the same roof with their teachers for a period of time. The Ashram where the Beatles stayed for 6 weeks has become a tourist attraction for fans of the band and can be visited for 8 euros. It is full of murals dedicated to the band, contains 90 small places to meditate and is said to have a magical atmosphere.
As a curious fact, during their stay in Rishikesh, the band had one of their most productive periods. They wrote more than 30 songs that would later appear on the White Album and Abbey Road.
Next Destination: From Rishikesh to Haridwar
On the second day of our trip to Rishikesh, in the morning we said goodbye to Rishikesh with a strange feeling of nostalgia after having stayed only one day. Looking out over the Ganges, we boarded the tuk-tuk in the direction of Haridwar to look for a bus to Shimla, the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh and the summer city of British India.
If you have found this Rishikesh Travel Guide useful, I encourage you to comment, value and/or share. If you are planning a trip to India, you may also be interested in the list of Travel Tips for India and the 3-week North India Route.
I meditate so that my mind cannot complicate my life.