Rishikesh, 238km northeast of Delhi and just 24km north of Haridwar, huddles along the steep wooded banks of the fast-flowing Ganges as it exits the mountains of Garhwal to crash onto the plains. The centre for all manner of New Age and Hindu activity, its many ashrams continue to draw devotees and followers, with the large Shivananda Ashram in particular renowned as a yoga centre. Rishikesh is also emerging as an adventure-sports centre, with rafting, trekking, mountaineering, zip-lining and bungee-jumping all on offer.
Rishikesh has one or two ancient shrines, but its main role has always been as a way-station for sannyasis, yogis and travellers heading for the high Himalayas. The arrival of the Beatles, who came here to meet the Maharishi in 1968, triggered the lucrative expansion of the yatra pilgrimage circuit; these days it’s easy to see why Ringo thought it was “just like Butlin’s”. The best times to visit are in winter and spring, when the mountain temples are shut by the snows – without the yatra razzmatazz, you get a sense of the tranquillity that was the original appeal of the place.