Rishikesh turned into a second home for me during my time in India. I went for a one month Yoga Teacher Training Course and ended up spending around 5 months in total living there! There are so many reasons to visit Rishikesh and in this post, I’m going to share 10 reasons you should visit Rishikesh.
I fell in love with this spiritual place! Even though it looks a bit shit and there is plenty of things to frustrate you (it’s India!), there is something so special about Rishikesh that kept drawing me back in and holding me tight!
If Rishikesh is the first place you visit in India be prepared for a culture shock! It feels like a chaotic circus when you first arrive. The streets are packed with cows, beeping scooters, monkeys and a ton of Indian and Western tourists.
The streets are hectic and there are no footpaths anywhere. You need to spend some time here to get used to it and to tune in to the magical energy the city holds.
Here are my top 10 reasons to visit Rishikesh!
1. Authentic and Affordable Yoga Teacher Training
Yoga is the most popular reasons to visit Rishikesh! Rishikesh is the Yoga Teacher Training Capital of the World! It’s the Disneyland for Yoga School, with Yogi Soldiers walking the streets!
The cost of doing yoga teacher training in Rishikesh is so affordable compared to almost anywhere else in the world. It will cost you around $1,500 for a 28-day course with everything included. So it makes sense for thousands of Yogi’s to go to the source of yoga to learn for a fraction of the price!
It is true that it has become very commercialised as yoga school owners see the money-making opportunity. The number of schools in Rishikesh has exploded and continues to grow as more and more people jump on the bandwagon!
Some of the schools’ offerings probably aren’t of the same standard as the expensive western schools and the curriculum isn’t very westernised (well duh this is why you came to India to learn!)
But you will learn SO MUCH about yoga and it’s philosophy and history. You will literally be immersed in it for a whole month and your life will be transformed. You WILL meet your soul mates and find a connection with yourself and others like never before.
I did my TTC at AYM, you can read all about my experience here.
2. The Ganga River
The Ganga River runs right through Rishikesh and it is the main feature of this Holy City and is an amazing reason to visit Rishikesh.
It separates the main Rishikesh Market & Tapovan from Ram Jula and Laxman Jhula which are connected by swing bridges. You can always feel the cool air breeze coming from the Ganga as you wander through Rishikesh.
A bit about the Ganga
The Ganga flows 2,700 km from the Himalayan mountains to the Bay of Bengal in northern India and Bangladesh.
The Ganga is the most sacred river to Hindus. It is a lifeline to millions who live along its banks. Hindus worship the river as the goddess Maa Ganga, as she is the mother, the giver of life. Indian Pilgrims will travel long distances to Rishikesh to bathe in the river and to take some of the water home.
There are beaches all along the banks of the Ganga where you can go and hang out, meditate, do yoga or just people watch (or cow watch!). You can bathe in the freezing but refreshing river and get all the amazing blessings from the Ganga. Rafting on the Ganga is really popular in Rishikesh as well.
One of the coolest things about the Ganga is that it changes colour throughout the year. During the monsoon season from June to August the river is brown and flowing very fast (no rafting in these months), after the monsoon, the river calms and by November it is calm and smooth and bright turquoise. It is so beautiful!
Don’t miss Ganga Aarti
Ganga Aarti is a daily devotional ritual practised on the banks of the Ganga in a few places in Rishikesh. The most well-known one being at Parmath Niketan Ashram in Ram Jhula each night around sunset.
Aarti uses fire as an offering to Maa Ganga. It’s usually made in the form of a lit lamp as well as a candle, incense and flowers which are placed in the river.
The lamps are lit and circled around by the Hindu priests in a clockwise manner, accompanied by chanting. The idea is that the lamps acquire the power of the deity. After the ritual is complete, devotees will cup their hands over the flame and raise their palms to their forehead in order to get the goddess’s purification and blessing.
You cannot miss this in Rishikesh! If you need one reason to visit Rishikesh, maybe this is it. It is so powerful and special especially underneath the beautiful Shiva statue during sunset at Parmath Niketan. It is only performed in Haridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi.
3. The Walk Across Laxman Jhula
This was the most entertaining and most frustrating part of living in Rishikesh and it’s also the one I remember the most!
The Laxman Jhula Bridge connects Tapovan to Laxman Jhula and is a swing bridge that is just for pedestrians and scooters. It is pretty damn narrow. This bridge and the view of it with the temple is probably the most iconic spot in Rishikesh so it attracts a lot of tourists, mostly Indian, all day long!
The bridge is crammed with humans in hoards stopping to take pictures and selfies, scooters in both directions (the honking is intense). It also boasts large cows and bulls taking their daily stroll or nap on the bridge as well as a whole lot of cheeky monkeys ready to ruin your day!
The monkey’s for me were the worst part, one day I saw a greedy monkey snatch someone’s bag thinking it was food only to realise it was just clothing. He threw it over the side of the bridge into the Ganga! Then he saw me with my takeaway bag of momos (dumplings) and went for them! Luckily I dodged him and ran away!
I have so many memories of going back and forward across this bridge, there is never a dull moment. The madness and the charm of India is in full force and is one of my favourite reasons to visit Rishikesh!
4. Visit Beautiful Waterfalls
One of the best activities to do in Rishikesh is to go chasing waterfalls! They are plentiful up in the lush green mountains surrounding the city.
The most popular waterfall is Neer Waterfall. It is beautiful and has a number of tiers you can keep climbing up to get higher and higher. Go early if you want to skip the crowds, which are a whole bunch of Indian men in their underwear!
The climb up to the waterfall from the main road was really hard! There was also a smaller more quiet waterfall on the way up before you reach Neer which was actually a lot nicer!
Patna Waterfall is another popular spot which is on the other side of the Laxman Jhula bridge about 5kms away.
Vikram Mini Waterfall
My favourite waterfall was a very secluded one that not many people know or make the effort to get to. Search Vikram Mini Waterfall on google maps and you will find it’s the location. You can take a scooter up there (be careful) or just hike up, it’s about half an hour from AYM Yoga School. The water is so beautiful and clear! There are amazing views into the mountains as well.
Bonus there is a little organic cafe nearby where the guy who runs it will literally pick your lettuce from the garden after you order your food! Don’t go starving though as he takes his sweet time. It is such a special spot though and the best way to waste away a sunny afternoon.
5. Experience the Hindu Culture & Spirituality
This is one of the top reasons you should visit Rishikesh and India in general!
You can fully absorb yourself into the Hindu culture and spirituality here, it will literally be in your face all day!
There are so many ashrams and temples you can visit. If you talk to almost anyone who lives there you can learn from them about spirituality and Hindu mythology which I find so fascinating. There are also many Satsangs (spiritual talks) that you can attend for free to learn even more.
Most shops will be blasting mantras all day long! You will see lots of baba’s and sadhus everywhere, you can even go to the banks of the Ganga to meet the babas, smoke chillum and talk to them about life, their perspective and experiences.
6. Attend Spiritual Healings, Workshops & Events
All the offerings available in Rishikesh is a brilliant reason to visit Rishikesh. One of the things I love most about this city is all of the spiritual workshops and events going on! On the cafe and street walls you will find all the flyers promoting what is happening in Rishikesh when you are there.
You should also join the Rishikesh Community & Rishikesh Yogis Community Groups on Facebook to stay up to date with the latest events and workshops.
Some of my favourite things on offer that I saw when I was there included:
- The Festival of Freedom & Magic
- Cacao Ceremonies
- Ecstatic Dance
- Kambo Ceremonies (psychedelic drug extracted from frogs legs!)
- Sound healing, Reiki, Reflexology therapy
- Osho dynamic meditations (must try!)
- All things occult such as tarot, palmistry & Vedic astrology
- Tantra workshops
- Eye gazing event,
- Laughing yoga & cuddling yoga
- Starseed Activation sessions
- Reggae Sound System Healing (10,000 Lions Sound System)
- Past Life Regression
This is just a fraction of what is on offer! So get to Rishikesh and get involved. You’ll definitely learn something new and meet some awesome people who will give you a new perspective on life!
There is also an abundance of drop in yoga classes on every corner (as to be expected!). Most styles of yoga in Rishikesh are Ashtanga, Hatha and Iyengar and cost 300 rupees per class.
There is also an annual Yoga Festival and Film Festival in March. This coincides with Mooji’s annual Satsang which attracts a lot of people to Rishikesh and is a great time to visit.
7. You Will Meet Your Soul Mates
Rishikesh is a soul mate breeding ground and a land of synchronicity, trust me! You will meet some amazing people here and they will become your life long friends or lovers!
I don’t know what it is about Rishikesh but everyone here is so open to connecting, unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. In 3 months the number of people I met here who I love like family and will be in my life forever is insane!
I was constantly meeting new people, reuniting with people I knew from before I came to India, then reuniting again & again with people I met in Rishikesh. It’s never ending, especially if you stay in Rishikesh for as long as me!
I’m not the only one either, it is a very common phenomenon for many visitors to Rishikesh. This is why many people end up staying for much longer than expected and keep coming back!
8. Chill In Cafes All Day Guilt Free!
This is the place where you might meet some of your new best friends! Cafe chilling in Rishikesh is my favourite past time At first I struggled with doing nothing but sitting on my ass in a cafe for hours, but I learnt to love it!
It became a ritual with what food I would order to who I would go with to all the amazing people who work in the cafes. I loved this SO much.
In August when the monsoon is in full swing you have no choice but to do this all day. It forces you to go inward and connect to yourself and others. It’s a really great opportunity to teach yourself a new crafty skill too like macrame!
My favourite hangout spots in Rishikesh were:
- Royal Cafe
- Sunset Cafe
- Dream Cafe
- Eat Story
- Ira’s Kitchen
There are so many more amazing places to hang out but these ones, in particular, became part of my daily routine!
9. Pet Baby cows!
I just had to include this! The cows in Rishikesh were one of my favourite things about this place and I fully fell in love with all the sweet babies everywhere!
Cows are sacred to Hindus and in this holy city, they are left to roam the streets freely. It can be a little disturbing to see them munching on rubbish and plastic (there is no waste system in India unfortunately, so a lot of rubbish everywhere), but for the most part they are well cared for by locals and visitors.
The calves are everywhere and are so friendly you can pet them and feed them. I loved the naughty cuties that hangout by the fruit stands! If you love the cows and want to look after them you can buy them food and feed them yourself.
10. You Can Take a Course In Almost Anything!
All of the places I mentioned in point 6 will most likely offer a course and teach you how to do whatever they are offering, which will give you even more reasons to visit Rishikesh.
You can take courses in so many things, Rishikesh really is a spiritual training ground and a place to learn for so many people.
- Sound Healing
- Crystal Healing
- Vedic Astrology
- Reflexology & massage
- Tarot & Palmistry
- Jewellery making
- Indian Art
- Indian cooking
- Music lessons
And so much more! You can look around in the facebook groups and for flyers and signs on the street in Rishikesh.
Another bonus is taking these courses in Rishikesh will cost a fraction of what it would cost for you to train at home, so if there is a skill you would love to learn Rishikesh is the perfect place to do it!
How To Get There
The fastest and easiest way to get to Rishikesh is to fly into Dehradun airport and get a 20 minute taxi from there to Tapovan, which should cost 700-1000 rupees. The airport is domestic so you will need to get a connecting flight from Delhi or another airport depending on where you fly into.
You can also get a bus from Delhi to Rishikesh. There are local buses running all day (very cheap but uncomfortable and long) or you can book an overnight bus with a private company. This is my preferred method of getting to Rishikesh! The bus will drop you in Rishikesh market where you will need to get a tuk tuk (20 rupees shares 100 rupees private) to Tapovan from there you will need to walk to your accommodation.
Another option is to catch a taxi which will cost you around 3000 rupees, depending on the kind of deal you can get!
There are 4 main parts to Rishikesh. The first is Rishikesh Market, which is actual Rishikesh. This isn’t where any of the tourism is and is purely local. You probably won’t spend too much time here unless you want to visit some different markets and get some more authentic, cheap Indian eats.
The next is Tapovan. This is part of the touristic area in Rishikesh and in recent years is developing more and more like the hub for yoga schools. The main road is connected to Tapovan.
The next is Laxman Jhula, which is across the bridge from Tapovan. Laxman Jhula is disconnected from Tapovan by a bridge. Only pedestrians and scooters can cross the bridge. Here you will find many clothes and souvenir shops and cafes all along the bank of the Ganges. This is the best place to chill, shop and hang out in cafes. There are many hostels and guest houses in this area. It is the most expensive part of Rishikesh. This area is more catered towards Westerners.
Lastly, there is Ram Jhula. Ram Jhula is between Laxman Jhula and Rishikesh market. This area is more geared towards Indian tourists and ashrams. It is cheaper and more hectic with more street food and plenty of babas and sadhus. This is where the famous Parmath Niketan ashram is that holds Ganga Aarti every night.
Where To Stay
There are so many great hostels and guesthouses you can stay at in Rishikesh with dorms starting around 250 rupees per night and private rooms in guesthouses starting from around 500 rupees per night.
I would recommend to either stay in Tapovan or Laxman Jhula. Tapovan is convenient because it is connected to the main road and has all the ATMs as well as a lot of local food. It is developing quickly now so also has many cool cafes, hostels and guesthouses.
Laxman Jhula is also a great place to stay, you can’t get a tuk tuk or taxi to this side of the bridge so to get there you will have to walk or jump on someone’s scooter. On this side, you will have access to many shops, Ganga front cafes and amazing hippie vibes. This also connects to Ram Jhula where you can go to the Beatles Ashram and to Parmath Niketan for Aarti.
I recommend the following hostels:
- Shiv Shakti (Laxman Jhula)
- Travel Dreams Hostel (Laxman Jhula)
- Blue Jay Hostel (Tapovan)
- Indian Culture Hostel (Tapovan)
- Live Free Hostel (Tapovan)
Staying in a guesthouse is ideal if you want a private room (private rooms in hostels are way too expensive). I’d recommend searching for a guesthouse once you arrive, looking for one that you like and negotiating the price with the owner. This is how you get an amazing place for a good price as booking sites are more expensive and not everyone is on there!
Withdrawing cash in Rishikesh
Withdrawing money is notoriously difficult in Rishikesh. There are only a couple of ATMs in Tapovan that work for international cards. This means they are often out of cash and sometimes not working at all. You may need to get a tuk tuk into Rishikesh market where there are plenty of ATMs or get a cash advance from one of the tourist shops in the market.
ATMs usually limit each withdrawal to 10,000 rupees ($140).
Get a prepaid travel card
Get a prepaid travel card before you go and save money on exchange rate and ATM fees. If you are in the UK, Europe or Australia I recommend Revolut. You can open an app-based account in minutes. Hold and exchange 29 different currencies and spend anywhere with no fees in over 150 countries with a contactless MasterCard or Visa. I have used their online account and prepaid MasterCard for over three years and I love it. I have saved a fortune on fees.
You get £200 of free ATM withdrawals a month (only 2% after that) and the exchange rate they give is the market rate
You also will get individual GBP and EUR IBANs auto-savings, cutting edge budgeting and analytics, which is so useful I even use Revolut for all my transactions at home when I am not travelling.
There is also a Premium plan which offers exclusive card designs, overseas medical insurance, £400 free monthly ATM and unlimited FX transfers.
Revolut has a 24/7 live chat in the app so if you have any issues someone is there to help you with your questions.
One of the great things about Rishikesh is that almost everything that you can get at home is available here thanks to the organic stores. In saying that here are a few things you may want to bring with you.
- Yoga pants from home if you are wanting to practice a lot in Rishikesh. You will be using these a lot and sweating a ton if you are going in summer. Buying quality yoga pants in Rishikesh is hard and expensive so bring enough.
- Tampons and/or a menstrual cup. The options of tampons are limited in Rishikesh and they aren’t cheap so bring what you need from home.
- Earplugs! The street dogs love to bark all night long which can definitely keep you awake.
- Light full coverage clothing and shawls. In particular long pants and skirts that can cover you but keep you cool. You can wear any top, but just cover your shoulders with a shawl if you are going out in the street. If you are visiting in winter bring a thick jacket, shawl and socks to wear at night. The day time temperatures in winter are still warm! All of these things you can buy in Rishikesh so don’t worry if you don’t have them at home.
- Healthy snacks and natural toiletries are readily available in Rishikesh thanks to all the Ayurvedic products in the country so I wouldn’t worry too much about not having access to these items in Rishikesh.
When to visit Rishikesh
The best months to come to Rishikesh are from September to October and March to April. These are the months where the weather is the most comfortable, it is sunny and not too hot during the day and not too cold at night time! These are the months that are most active with foreigners and you will find a lot of stuff to do.
April to June the weather is dry but extremely hot and sunny, temperatures get to over 40 degrees during the day. You can still visit these months but just be prepared to sweat!
From around the end of June to mid-September is when the monsoon comes. This is a very challenging time to be in Rishikesh, it is hot, humid and always raining at some point in the day. Your clothes never dry and mould gets in everything, plus there is no real drainage system so you are constantly walking through rivers! This is also the most popular time of year for Indians to come to Rishikesh for a pilgrimage to the Ganges so it can be extremely hectic and overwhelming.
In the months of November to February, it gets quite cold in Rishikesh especially at night time and in the morning. The weather during the day is usually beautiful and sunny and the Ganga goes bright green, however, the days are short. Pretty much nowhere will have any heating so you have to keep warm with blankets, clothes and bonfires.
Rishikesh is busy all year round regardless of the weather, there will always be travellers around, things to do and people to meet so you definitely can come to Rishikesh anytime but it is definitely good to know what you are in for weatherwise!
Get a SIM
This should be the first thing you do when you arrive in India! You can get a SIM card at arrivals in Delhi airport. For around max 1000 rupees ($14), you can get a SIM and a 90-day package which gives you 1.5gb per day (YES PER DAY) and unlimited calls and texts within India.
This will make your life so much easier and it means you won’t worry about shitty Indian wifi. My SIM card is with Airtel who have the best coverage in North India. It is best to get a SIM from an authorised Airtel store as the guys in the street shops will try and rip you off. You should be able to get a one month package and SIM for 250 from an Airtel store and top up each month for 200 rupees. This will not be an option in the street shops.
Note that if you plan on staying in India longer than 3 months your SIM card will be deactivated after 90 days and you will need to get a new one. This is the rule they have for foreigners.
Redbus is a bus ticket booking app that you can download onto your phone. You can book buses easily all throughout India and it accepts foreign card. It is so helpful for trip planning and it gives you all the available options. It also saves you going to an agent and they always have discounts and cashback offers going.
You could download this app and book yourself a bus to Rishikesh from Delhi before you even arrive! When you are ready to leave Rishikesh you can book buses to so many places directly from Rishikesh or Haridwar like Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh & Agra.
Because of the mountains, the bus is preferable in this region, it is also easier to book buses much closer to the date you want to leave than trains which require you to book really far in advance (unless you want really expensive AC tickets).
The buses are also way less intimidating when you first start travelling in India especially if you are alone. If you are a female they will not allow a male to book a seat next to you to help you feel safer. 9/10 you will be the only female on the bus and the only Westerner.
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There you have my top 10 reasons to visit Rishikesh plus everything you need to know before you go!
I seriously love Rishikesh and I hope you love it as much as I do!
Have you been to Rishikesh before? Let me know if you have been to Rishikesh and what reasons to visit you would add!
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