Rishikesh, India

Rishikesh, 238km northeast of Delhi and just 24 km north of Haridwar, huddles along the steep wooded banks of the fast-flowing Ganges as it exits the mountains of Garwhal 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 on offer.

The best travel tips for visiting Rishikesh

Rishikesh, nestled in Uttarakhand, has one or two ancient shrines, but its main role has always been as a waystation 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.

At other times, a walk upriver leads easily away from the bustle to secluded spots among giant rocks ideally suited for yoga, meditation or an invigorating dip in the icy waters (though swimming is not advised owing to the fast currents). The name Rishikesh applies to a loose association of distinct areas, encompassing several scattered hamlets on both sides of the river. The town of Rishikesh itself sprawls to the south of the Chandrabagha riverbed, home to Triveni Ghat, the train station, bus stand and the commercial and communications hubs.

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Rishikesh, India

Rishikesh, India © Shutterstock

Best things to do in Rishikesh

From rafting to yoga, these are the best things to do in Rishikesh.

#1 Try some yoga

Rishikesh is India’s yoga capital. There are many reputable ashrams (spiritual centres) welcoming students of yoga with courses of varying cost and duration – from one day to several months.

Guests must be respectful of ashrams’ strict rules governing conduct. Be warned that complaints of theft and harassment in ashrams are surprisingly common. Phool Chatti Ashram, 5km north of Lakshman Jhula, is a peaceful ashram with lush gardens far from the noise of town. They run seven-day yoga and meditation retreats mostly aimed towards beginners and intermediate level.

#2 Get adventurous

Adventure activities have become one of Rishikesh’s top draws, most notably rafting. Numerous river camps on the Ganges above Rishikesh operate from late September to June, with excursions ranging from half-day runs to extended camping/rafting expeditions.

Other adrenaline-fuelled activities include an 83m bungee jump, canyon swing and flying fox at Jumpin Heights’ Jump Zone in Mohanchatti village, 16km from Tapovan.

Most activities of this ilk only run outside the monsoon period (July–Sept). It is worth noting the dramatic rise of unregulated tour and travel operators with no insurance cover. Ask for recommended travel agents at your hotel or at the tourist office.

#3 Take a dip at Triveni Ghat

Most pilgrims passing through Rishikesh en route to the Himalayan shrines of the Char Dham pause for a dip and puja (worship) at Triveni Ghat, at the southern end of Ghat Road, near the centre of town. The river looks especially divine during evening aarti, when diya lights float on the water.

#4 Visit Rishikesh’s oldest temple, Bharat Mandir

Rishikesh’s oldest temple, Bharat Mandir, features a black stone image of the deity Vishnu, believed to have been consecrated by the great ninth-century Hindu revivalist Shankara; the event is commemorated during Basant Panchami, the first day of spring. A sacred trio of entangled trees near the entrance represents the Hindu Trinity.

#5 Explore Swarg Ashram

The dense-knit complex of cafés, shops and ashrams collectively known as Swarg Ashram, opposite Shivananda Ashram, leans back on to the forest-covered hills where caves are still inhabited by sadhus - holy individuals who have given up worldly life.

The most conspicuous of the area’s many ashram-temples is Parmarth Niketan, whose large courtyard is crammed with brightly clad gods and goddesses.

Next door is Gita Bhavan, which runs a free Ayurvedic dispensary; they also sell books, saris and khadi handloom cloth. The river can be crossed at this point either by the Ram Jhula footbridge or the nearby ferry.

#6 Follow in the footsteps of the Beatles

Set on a forested bluff above the river, the abandoned ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – locally known as Chaurasi Kutiya – is also known as the Beatles’ Ashram, for it was here that the band and its entourage came to learn Transcendental Meditation from the enterprising guru in 1968, and penning over forty songs.

Fringed by Rajaji National Park, the tranquil, ruined site was kept under lock and key by the Forest Department until 2015, and there isn’t much too see except the Beatles Cathedral Gallery, with murals from when it reopened, and curious ovoid meditation huts clad with smooth river pebbles.

Beatles Ashram (Chaurasi Kutia) in Rishikesh, Northern India © Shutterstock

Beatles Ashram (Chaurasi Kutia) in Rishikesh, Northern India © Shutterstock

#7 Visit Lakshman Jhula

Most travellers find Lakshman Jhula, a pair of lively settlements straddling the footbridge of the same name, to be the most appealing part of Rishikesh.

The east bank is also linked by a 2km path from Swarg Ashram that skirts the river, passing beautiful sandy beaches sheltered by large boulders.

Most striking on the east bank is the enormous, gaudy, thirteen-storey Kailash Niketan Temple, just north of the bridge. The dramatic landscape and turquoise river (brown during the monsoon) are best appreciated from one of the cafés that line its banks.

#8 Take a nature walk

Plenty of paths wind through the forests around Rishikesh, offering walkers a welcome escape from the bustle of town.

There’s a chance of encountering wildlife along the way; keep a safe distance from wild elephants. Do enlist a guide or take a walking partner as there have been incidents of robbery along the trails.

#9 Swim at Neergarh Waterfall

Just 3 km north of High Bank along the Badrinath road, a left detour on a gravel path leads to the popular Neergarh waterfall. The moderately steep walk to the top is dotted with laidback cafés and numerous cascades and little pools, great for a swim.

#10 Trek to Neelkanth Mahadev

Winding steeply through the forests from Swarg Ashram is an old, 10km pilgrim trail to the small Shiva shrine of Neelkanth Mahadev. It marks the spot where Lord Shiva once swallowed the poison that turned his throat blue, earning himself the nickname of Neelkanth, “the blue-throated one”.

The road that takes a long detour through the forest has made the small settlement a less peaceful retreat during yatra (pilgrimage) season. The trail offers some stunning vantage points, crossing a spur before the final descent to Neelkanth.

One or both legs are often done by shared jeep, departing from the stand south of Ram Jhula Bridge.

#11 See the sunrise ay Kunjapuri

The small white Shakti temple of Kunjapuri, 10 km north of town, stands at the sharp point of a conical hill 1645m high, with panoramic views of the high Himalayas to the north and Rishikesh and Haridwar to the south.

A popular sunrise and sunset spot, it gets most traffic during the Navratri (April & Oct) and Dussehra (Oct) festivals. It’s a 3–4hr hike from Lakshman Jhula, passing through pleasant countryside, or a short bus ride to Hindola Khal, followed by a 3km (45min) walk uphill.

#12 Kick back on a beach

The motorable track running north of Lakshman Jhula passes several secluded beaches before arriving at the beautiful ashram of Phool Chatti (5km upstream), set at a bend in the river with sandy beaches including the famous Goa Beach. Giant boulders add drama, but swimming is hazardous due to strong undercurrents.

Shri Bharat Mandir, Rishikesh, India © Shutterstock

Shri Bharat Mandir, Rishikesh, India © Shutterstock

Best areas to stay in Rishikesh

Yes, you can stay in Rishikesh but there are better areas to stay.

Rishikesh town has plenty of hotels, but also an excess of noise and air pollution; the only reason to stay here is to be near the bus station. While backpackers head for the cheap little guesthouses of Lakshman Jhula or the huddle of hotels on High Bank.

Spiritual travellers tend to prefer Swarg Ashram and the east bank of the river, away from the noise, near the ashrams.

Best restaurants and bars

From numerous vegetarian and vegan eateries to rooftop cafes, here’s where to eat in Rishikesh.


Located on the eastern bank of the Ganges, Tapovan is a vibrant neighbourhood brimming with healthy food options. Numerous vegetarian and vegan eateries blend ancient Ayurvedic principles with contemporary culinary innovation. Indulge in fresh organic produce, revitalising smoothies and delectable raw desserts.

Laxman Jhula

Crossing the iconic Laxman Jhula, you'll find yourself in a bustling neighbourhood filled with a fusion of flavours and captivating riverside ambiance. Here, you can savour a diverse range of cuisines, including Indian, Italian, Israeli, Tibetan, and more.

Choose from rooftop cafes that offer panoramic views of the Ganges, or unwind in a charming restaurant nestled amidst lush greenery. Don't miss the opportunity to try the lip-smacking Israeli delicacies or the traditional Indian thalis that exemplify the essence of Rishikesh's culinary fusion.

Swarg Ashram

Located downstream from the main town, Swarg Ashram is a tranquil haven that harmoniously blends spirituality with gastronomy.

Immerse yourself in the serene surroundings as you explore the ashram's quaint streets dotted with vegetarian cafes, rooftop eateries, and organic food stores. Indulge in farm-to-table delights, sip on herbal teas, and relish the divine flavours of Ayurvedic cuisine. Swarg Ashram offers a unique dining experience where you can nourish both your body and soul.

Ram Jhula

Crossing the iconic Ram Jhula, you'll enter a bustling area known for its vibrant street food and lively nightlife. As dusk settles in, the streets come alive with an array of food stalls and local eateries serving tantalising snacks.

Sample the delicious chaats, savoury pakoras, and piping hot samosas while mingling with locals and fellow travellers. For those seeking evening entertainment, Ram Jhula offers a range of charming rooftop cafes and bars where you can unwind, enjoy live music, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere

Triveni Ghat lights © Shutterstock

Triveni Ghat lights © Shutterstock

How to get around

Most will travel around Rishikesh by Vikram (auto-rickshaw) and jeep but taxis are a good alternative too. Here’s how to get around.

By Vikram and jeep

Vikrams (auto-rickshaws) to Lakshman Jhula can be hired from Rishikesh’s bus station. On the east bank of the river, jeeps from the northern edge of Swarg Ashram connect to the centre of Lakshman Jhula.

By ferry

Ferries cross the Ganges near Ram Jhula outside monsoon season.

By taxi

There’s a taxi booking office run by the Garhwal Mandal Taxi Owners Association not far from the Ram Jhula bridge on the west bank. Reliable agencies include Ajay Travels at Hotel Neelkanth, Haridwar Rd, and Mahayama Travels at the Urvasi Complex on Dehradun Rd.

What is the best time to visit Rishikesh?

With its pleasant weather and clear skies, Autumn (September to November) is often considered the best time to visit Rishikesh. The temperature during this season ranges from comfortable to slightly cool, making it ideal for exploring the city's attractions, embarking on adventurous activities, and indulging in meditation and yoga retreats. Witnessing the autumnal colours that envelop the Himalayan landscape adds an extra touch of magic to your Rishikesh experience.

Spring (February to April) is another excellent time to visit Rishikesh, as the weather remains mild and enjoyable. The temperature gradually rises, but it is still pleasant for outdoor explorations and activities. The city bursts into life with vibrant flowers and blossoms, enhancing the scenic beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Find out more about the best time to visit India.

Neelkanth Mahadev Temple at Rishikesh, India © Shutterstock

Neelkanth Mahadev Temple at Rishikesh, India © Shutterstock

How many days do you need in Rishikesh?

Time your visit during the autumn or spring, and allocate a minimum of three to five days. Upon arrival in Rishikesh, take some time to acclimate to the serene surroundings and get acquainted with the city. Explore the banks of the Ganges, witness the evening Ganga Aarti ceremony, and indulge in the local cuisine.

Dedicate a day to spiritual exploration by visiting the ashrams and temples that have made Rishikesh a global spiritual hub. Participate in yoga and meditation sessions, visit the iconic Beatles Ashram and soak in the tranquillity of the sacred spaces.

Engage in thrilling outdoor activities that Rishikesh is renowned for, such as white water rafting in the Ganges, trekking to nearby waterfalls or scenic viewpoints, and experiencing the adrenaline rush of bungee jumping or zip-lining.

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How to get here

Although it has a train station, it’s often quicker (and easier) to arrive at by bus or private jeep. Here’s how to get to Rishikesh.

By train

Rishikesh lies at the end of a small branch railway line from Haridwar, linked by one daily train at 7.25am (1hr 10min). The daily #54472 train connects Delhi, but is painfully slow (7am; 11hr); there are plenty of faster services from Haridwar.

By bus

There are two important bus stands in Rishikesh: the ISBT (for lowland destinations) and the Yatra or Tehri Bus Stand (April–Oct; for mountain destinations), both of which have recently been combined off Dehradun Rd to the north of Rishikesh town.

Mountain roads are treacherous and tedious, landslides are not uncommon during the monsoon period, and only early departures reach the Char Dham in a day.

Plenty of private bus companies have offices around Lakshman Jhula and Swarg Ashram. Destinations Agra (6pm; 12hr); Badrinath (4 daily; 12hr); Dehradun (hourly; 1hr 30min); Delhi (12 daily; 7hr); Gangotri (5.30am; 11–12hr); Haridwar (every 30min; 30min); Kedarnath (4.30am; 10hr); Nainital (9am; 8–9hr); Uttarkashi (8 daily; 7–8hr).

By jeep

Jeeps depart when full from the jeep stand (daily 4–8am) by the main GMVN office on Haridwar Bypass Rd, to the west of town. Although slightly more expensive than buses, they are much faster.

When booked in advance through agencies, such as Sharma Travels, you may be able to arrange to be picked up from west-bank hotels.

By Vikram

Vikrams to Haridwar depart from Dehradun Rd.

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Andy Turner

written by Andy Turner

updated 19.05.2023

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