If you thought Rishikesh is all about finding your spiritual core and yoga, you’d be just a little left of the truth. Agreed, it has rightly earned its epithet of ‘Yoga Capital of the World’ and is also the most popular starting point of the ‘Chota Char Dham’ pilgrimage for the Hindus but there is a lot more to do in Rishikesh than these. A historic city in the state of Uttarakhand, Rishikesh is a little slice of heaven for the outdoorsy traveler and the thrill-seeker. Want to know what’s in store for you? Know about some of the best things to do in Rishikesh right here:
1. Engage in adrenaline-inducing activities
What’s a trip to Rishikesh without experiencing the adrenaline rush of whitewater rafting? With different grades of rapids across rafting stretches to Rishikesh from Brahampuri, Shivpuri, Marine Drive and Kaudiyala, pick the one you’re comfy with depending on whether you’re a novice or an expert. Rafting can be enjoyed in Rishikesh during any season except monsoon (July-mid Sep).
While river rafting, you can also experience the fun of jumping off a cliff into the freezing waters of the Ganges, from a height of 25-30 feet. Another relatively new adventure sport you can enjoy in Rishikesh while rafting is riding the rapids – not on a raft but by simply using your body to float with the current. If you’re an adventure junkie, body surfing is something that you must try!
A must-do in Rishikesh for an authentic nature experience is spending a night or two at the camps set up on the banks of the river, amidst a mélange of verdant hills and serene environs. In addition to riverside camping, there are many other activities in Rishikesh for you to indulge in like bungee jumping, flying fox, giant swing, rappelling, mountain biking, rock climbing and trekking.
2. Visit Rishikesh’s beautiful Hindu shrines
The adventure sports came much later; Rishikesh is primarily a religious center for Hindu pilgrims and one of the holiest places in India as attested by the huge number of beautiful temples here. And one of the first things to do in Rishikesh for any traveler is to visit as many of them and seek blessings. Some of the best temples to visit in Rishikesh are Trayambakeshwar Temple (popularly known as Tera Manzil Temple), Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, Shatrughna Mandir, Kunjapuri Devi Temple, Lakshman Temple, Raghunath Temple, Shri Bharat Mandir, and Bhootnath Temple.
3. Rejuvenate with yoga and meditation
A trip to Rishikesh can be a perfect opportunity for you to connect with your spiritual side through yoga and meditation. With scores of yoga retreats (or ashrams) and skilled masters of this ancient art, you can learn different styles of yoga along with meditation to relax your body and mind and soothe your soul. Millions of visitors from across the globe come to Rishikesh to practice yoga so what are you waiting for? Book a stay at any of the reputed yoga centers in the city like Parmarth Niketan, Sivananda Ashram, Sadhana Mandir, Yoga Niketan, Rishikesh Yogpeeth, and more.
4. Admire the street art at Beatles Ashram
When the Beatles visited Rishikesh in 1968, they stayed at Chaurasi Kutia ashram of the legendary guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Once an international academy for meditation, the ashram fell into disrepair during the 1990s. However, as a tribute to the musical maestros who resided here, two street artists – Pan Trinity Das and Kyrie Maezumi – made it their canvas and opened up their art gallery here. Open to public since 2015, Beatles Ashram is definitely a must-visit to see the multi-colored graffiti painted on the walls of Cathedral Gallery and soak in its beautiful environs.
5. Enjoy spectacular views from Lakshman Jhula
It’s probably one of the most touristy things to do in Rishikesh, but you’d regret if you don’t soak in the amazing panoramic views from the Lakshman Jhula – the city’s most iconic landmark. Built in 1929, this 450 feet-long suspension bridge built across the Ganges leads to the Swarg Ashram and Gita Bhavan and allows you to enjoy scenic vistas of the serene surroundings en route.
Update: The 96-year-old bridge is currently closed to traffic due to its poor and failing condition.
6. Attend the evening aarti at Triveni Ghat
Here’s another definitive experience in Rishikesh – attending the evening aarti at Triveni Ghat. A spectacular event, the Maha Aarti that takes place at Triveni Ghat starts with chanting of bhajans and prayers with beating drums, ringing bells and glistening diyas. Tourists from all over the world would attest to how the atmosphere is reverberating with harmony during this sacred ritual. The illuminated lamps cast stunning images on the water, which makes for an unforgettable sight.
7. Explore the wildlife at Rajaji National Park
Take a step back from the increasing urban sprawl and the adventure sports in the city and head to Rajaji National Park, located around half an hour drive away from Rishikesh. One of the offbeat things to do in Rishikesh, visiting this national park will give you a chance to see animals like the Asian Elephant and Tiger, and over 315 species of birds in their natural habitat. The best way to explore the flora and fauna here in its pristine and undulated form is to take a jungle safari.
8. Go café hopping and shop during leisure hours
The city has an eclectic assortment of cafes and boutique restaurants, offering multiple cuisines to select from. And visiting them is one of the best things to do in Rishikesh, especially after a day spent in tackling the rapids or exploring the crowded temples. Great ambiance, delectable food, and the opportunity to meet new people make this a fun activity to spend your leisure hours.
Shopping in Rishikesh can also be quite fun, and you will come back with some unusual stuff like incense sticks, books on yoga and prayer beads. Some of the best markets to explore are Laxman Jhoola market for aromatic essential oils and authentic Rudraksh, Moti Bazaar for brass idols and prayer bells, Shyampur Haat Bazaar for spices and Upper Bazaar for souvenirs and handicrafts.
So are you ready to try some of the most memorable things to do in Rishikesh? Pack your bags, book a hotel and get going. We’re sure you will find this guide quite helpful! Don’t forget to tell us about your favorite experiences in the comments below.