Rishikesh may be known the world over as a temple town, a hippie abode, the place where the Beatles took to spirituality under Mahesh Yogi and as an international hotspot for yoga, but more than anything else, it is the Ganga that defines the town. The river, whose very name is a prayer, makes the town far more tranquil than its loudspeakers, its chaotic lanes, its sadhus, back-packers and spiritual tourists would otherwise have let it be. Rishikesh has been an abode of ascetics since time immemorial. It is also the gateway to the Garhwal mountains and holy spots within them such as the source of the Ganga, the Badrinath and Kedarnath shrines and more. And now, Rishikesh is also, as Uttarakhand Tourism would have it, the “yoga capital of the world”.

Things to See & Do

Rishikesh lies on both banks of the Ganga. You can easily access the ghats, and the temperature of the water is perfect most of the year. Spirituality is as evident here as the flow of the mightyGanga. The best way to go around is on foot as the town is hilly and is crisscrossed by narrow lanes.

Bharat Aggarwal
Rafting down the Ganga, one of Rishikesh’s many attractions
Rafting down the Ganga, one of Rishikesh’s many attractions

To cross the river, take a motor ferry from the narrow iron suspension bridge known as Ram Jhula, which is near the Swargashram area, or walk across either Ram Jhula or Lakshman Jhula, which is 2km upstream from the former. Autos and noisy tempos (locally called Vikrams) are available on the main road, as well as on the road to Badrinath. Auto drivers will even take you sightseeing, covering all the major temples in three to four hours.

The Jhulas

Lakshman Jhula, the famous 450-ft-long suspension bridge, was built in 1939. It is said that Lord Rama’s brother Lakshmana crossed the Ganga on a jute rope from here. The Lakshman and Raghunath temples are located here. This part of town is better known for its busy bazaars and cafés.

The new 13-storey Trimbakeshwar Mandir near the Lakshman Jhula has many shrines, chambers that house religious and Vedic texts, plus jewellery and gem shops. Nearby is the Swarg Niwas Mandir, a 12-storey temple with various idols of Hindu gods and goddesses on all its floors.

Temple Timings Trimbakeshwar 6.00– 8.30pm, Swarg Niwas 6.00am–8.30pm

Just 2km downstream from Lakshman Jhula, at Muni-ki-Reti, is the other suspension bridge, built after Lakshman Jhula’s construction. This is Ram Jhula (or Shivanand Jhula), surrounded by a cluster of ashrams on both sides. It connects Sivananda Ashram on the east bank to Swargashram on the west. The latter is a bustling spiritual hub with many ashrams, temples, bazaars and ghats.

Ganga Aarti

While it has been a centuries-old tradition to worship the river in the morning and evening in small private ceremonies, the Parmarth Niketan Ashram has converted the evening aarti ritual to a spectacular show. Although many consider it to be a touristy spectacle rather than a spiritual exercise, it would be a shame to miss it. The diyas floating on the Ganga in the dark are a sight to behold. If you are staying in an ashram, then it probably would have its own timings for the aarti.

Aarti Timings Summer: 6.00–7.00pm, Winter: 5.30–6.30pm

Bharat Mandir

Situated in the heart of Rishikesh, this temple is said to be the town’s oldest. It is devoted not to Rama’s youngest brother Bharat, but to Vishnu, who is referred to as Bharat in Kalyug. The temple also has a collection of excavated artefacts dating from the 2nd to 15th centuries CE.

Where to Stay & Eat

Hotel The Great Ganga (Tel: 2442243, 2438252; Tariff: ₹4,000–9,800), 1.5km from the Bus Stand, is right above the Badrinath Road in Muni-ki-Reti and offers panoramic views of the Ganga. Pure Inn (Delhi Tel: 011-22753151; Tariff: ₹3,500, with two meals), also in Muni-ki-Reti, is another good option. Amongst the budget options is Green Hotel (Tel: 2431242, 2434948, 2440242, Cell: 08171077111; Tariff: ₹900–3,800) near Ram Jhula.

GMVN has three large and comfortable guesthouses. Bharat Bhoomi Tourist Complex (Tel: 2433002, Cell: 09568 006685; Tariff: ₹990–2,500, dorm bed ₹200) is close to the railway station. Rishilok Tourist Complex (Tel: 2430373; Tariff: ₹970–2,090) at Muni-ki-Reti, has similar facilities. Ganga Resort Tourist Complex (Tel: 2438651, 2122098, Cell: 09568006683; Tariff: ₹3,200–4,200, dorm bed ₹350), also at Muni-ki-Reti, has the best location, on the banks of the Ganga. Parmarth Niketan Ashram (Tel: 0135-2434301-02; Tariff: ₹600–1,650) has around 1,000 clean and simple rooms, equipped with modern amenities. Most rooms have attached Western-style bathrooms with hot running water. A canteen in the ashram serves simple meals. The legendary Chotiwala Restaurant, a ten-minute walk from the Parmarth Niketan Ashram serves traditional food. The German Bakery has a small open-air seating area and offers some interesting dishes such as yak cheese sandwiches and fruit pancakes. Try Madras Café for south Indian staples. Ramana’s Organic Cafe overlooks the Ganga. They grow their own organic vegetables and fruit, which feature in their delicious salads and soups.

Fast Facts

When to go All year round, though it gets a bit muggy during the monsoons. September and June are rafting seasons in Rishikesh

Tourist offices

GMVNL, Shail Vihar Haridwar, Bypass Road, Tel: 2431793/ 83, 2430799,

GMVN, 102, Indraprakash Building, 21, Barakhamba Road New Delhi, Tel: 011-23350481, gmvnl.com

STD code 0135

Getting There

Air Jolly Grant Airport, Dehra Dun (22km/ 45min) is served by Air India, Spice Jet and Jet Air from Delhi. Taxi upto Muni-ki-Reti parking lot at Ram Jhula costs approx ₹1,600. From here you need to cross the River Ganga by motor boat (₹10) or by foot along the footbridge

Rail Convenient railhead: Haridwar (25km/ 45min) which is connected by the Shatabdi Express to Delhi and Dehra Dun. Taxis can be hired here or you can take a 1-hr bus ride to Rishikesh

Road Bus Night buses leave from Delhi’s Kashmere Gate ISBT for Haridwar, Rishikesh and Dehra Dun. Fares to Rishikesh range from ₹350– 742. Book online through redbus.in/ bus-tickets/Delhi-to-Rishikesh