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:
Things to Do in Rishikesh
1. Engage in Whitewater Rafting
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).
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!
2. Satiate Your Adventurous Side with Bungee Jumping
If you are looking for an adrenaline-pumping experience, then you must go bungee jumping among other fun things to do in Rishikesh. Bungee jumping involves jumping from a tall building or cliff, with your ankles and body secured with a rope harness or cord. What makes bungee jumping an experience of a lifetime is the thrill of falling freely through the air for some time before the cord starts to recoil and brings you back upwards.
At a height of 83-metres over the Ganges, Jumpin Heights in Rishikesh is the highest bungee in India. Topping the list of the best activities to do in Rishikesh, this is a must-try. However, since bungee jumping is a physically-demanding activity, it requires a basic level of fitness. Those with heart conditions or any other health issues must avoid it
3. Camp on the Banks of the Ganges
The fresh air, beautiful mountains and tranquil Ganges that flows through Rishikesh offer an exhilarating experience to campers. From enjoying meals, music and games around the bonfire on cool evenings to waking up to the sounds of the river and chirping birds, camping would be one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating activities to do in Rishikesh. You can also take a morning walk and enjoy different adventure activities such as rafting and body surfing during the day.
4. Enjoy the Thrill of the Giant Swing
Although as exhilarating as bungee jumping, the Giant Swing is a bit different. While bungee jumping involves free-falling from a cliff or building, the Giant Swing lets you swing through the deep valleys of Rishikesh. The activity involves being secured with a rope harness that is connected to a fixed point. When you jump, you swing like a pendulum from one side to the other. Although an exciting activity, people with high-blood pressure, diabetes and other such health conditions must consult a doctor before trying it.
5. Zip Across the Deep Valleys of Rishikesh
Flying fox zip-lining is a must-try for an adventure junkie. In this, you are secured with a safety rope and harness and then sent flying across the valley on a cable. There is no reason to worry about the speed as it is managed mechanically by the operator. Zip-lining in Rishikesh allows you beautiful views of the Ganges flowing through the valley. Similar to bungee jumping and the Giant Swing, embark on zip-lining only if you do not have a health condition or after consulting your doctor.
6. Try Cliff Jumping
With cliffs of different heights near the holy Ganges, cliff jumping is a popular activity in Rishikesh. As the name suggests, the activity involves jumping off a cliff of about 20 to 50-feet in height and into the Ganges. If you are not scared of heights and water, Rishikesh is the right place to try cliff jumping. This exciting activity is sure to delight you and will remain one of the best memories of the place. While it sounds simple, cliff jumping is not for the faint-hearted. However, anyone with good physical fitness can try it.
7. Go Kayaking in the Ganges
Rishikesh offers different levels of kayaking to suit everyone. For this activity, you have to sit safely and comfortably in a kayak or a canoe-like boat and move through rapids and tides of the stream or river. If you are a beginner who wants to experience this thrilling activity, the trainers here make it simple for you. Kayaking on the streams of Rishikesh is an unmatched experience. Apart from the clean waters and rapids here, the rough patches along the stream make the activity bumpier and more exciting.
8. Explore the Town on a Mountain Bike
One of the best things to do in Rishikesh for couples and friends. The hilly terrain and enticing beauty of the town makes mountain biking a thrilling and memorable experience. You can hire a bike to explore the forest and river trails or just tour the town. The cool and fresh breeze brushing softly against your face will keep you from feeling tired and dizzy.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. Spend a Day in Shivpuri
Also known as the “Abode of Lord Shiva”, this small and scenic town on the foothills of the Himalayas is famous for its Shiva Temple. However, there is more to this temple town. If you are looking for things to do in Rishikesh for one day, Shivpuri will offer you the perfect beach camping sites from where you can enjoy beautiful views of the sunrise and sunset. Located on the banks of the Ganges, Shivpuri also has an exhilarating and picturesque rafting stretch with the white rapids below. In Shivpuri, you may also indulge in rock climbing, cliff jumping, jungle trekking, mountaineering and an interesting trek to Neer Garh Waterfall.
14. Soak in the Stunning View of the Himalayas at the Ram Jhula
Travel pictures of Rishikesh often include stunning shots of the famous Lakshman Jhula. However, there is another iconic suspended bridge, the Ram Jhula, which skips many itineraries. Do not make the same mistake. Built in 1986, the 450-feet-long suspension bridge connecting the two mountains is built over the Ganges. Similar to the Lakshman Jhula in design and structure, the Ram Jhula connects Swarg Ashram on one side of the valley with Sivananda Ashram situated on the other side. Take a stroll across the bridge and soak in the beautiful views of the valley and the river below. Also, there are many temples and ashrams on both sides of the Ram Jhula.
15. Participate in a Satsang and Meditation Session at Gita Bhavan
A visit to Rishikesh is incomplete without exploring the spiritual experience the place offers. If you are looking for inner peace and tranquillity, you must visit Gita Bhavan. Located in Swarg Ashram near the holy Ganges, this vast complex attracts many people throughout the year. This renowned institution also preserves copies of the Vedas, Puranas, epics and other important Hindu religious literature. The Bhavan has over one thousand rooms for the devotees who can stay here free of cost and enjoy vegetarian food and sweets at economical prices. You can also visit Gita Bhavan just to meditate and listen to the discourses.
16. Embrace Nature at Neer Garh Waterfall
One of the most popular things to do in Rishikesh for couples and outdoors lovers, relax in the lap of nature at Neer Garh Waterfall. Also known as Neer Gaddu, the waterfall is located inside the woods and is at a distance of about six kilometres from the Lakshman Jhula. The view of milky-white water gushing down the rocky terrain is truly mesmerising and a photographer’s delight. Trekking enthusiasts can enjoy a short trek through the lush green forest to get to the waterfall. Neer Garh Waterfall is a two-tier waterfall with two bathing pools. The smaller one is at a trekking distance of one kilometre, while the larger one is another two kilometres away. The trail to the waterfall is exciting and you can also enjoy a refreshing dip in the cool bathing pools.
17. Enjoy Some Peace at Rishikund
Rishikund, which means ‘the pond of the sage’, is known for its peaceful surroundings and mythological significance. Located near the Raghunath temple and Triveni Ghat, the pond and the surrounding sanctuary are dedicated to Lord Rama and Sita. One of the interesting facts about the pond is that you can always see a reflection of the Raghunath temple in the pond’s water.
18. Take a Dip in the Holy Ganges
No trip to Rishikesh is complete without this. This is one of the most important things to do in Rishikesh for everybody. It is believed that taking a dip in the holy Ganges washes away all your sins. Triveni Ghat is the biggest and the most famous ghat in Rishikesh. It is known for the confluence of the holy rivers Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati and is a revered bathing spot for the pilgrims.
19. Visit Osho Gangadham Ashram
This spiritual sanctuary is a must-visit for those looking for mental peace and tranquillity. It is located in the middle of the forest near the Ganges and is surrounded by Shivalik hills on three sides. The ashram is a beautiful and comfortable place. Thousands of people from all around the world come here to learn different meditation techniques and nourish their mind, body and soul.
20. Meditate in the Ancient Vashishta Gufa
This sacred cave on the banks of the Ganges was once the holy abode of Sage Vashishta, the human son of Lord Brahma. The place is peaceful, pristine and provides a perfect natural setting for meditation. There is also a Shiva Linga inside the cave where you can pay your respects. If you are seeking a calm mind, meditating in the cave is one of the most important activities to do in Rishikesh.
21. Revitalise Your Body with an Ayurvedic Massage
Has the city tour left you drained and exhausted? Are your muscles sore after the thrilling activities? If yes, go for an Ayurvedic massage for relaxation. There are different Ayurvedic massage centres in the town. The massage centres in Rishikesh use some of the finest herbs and Ayurvedic oils that help relax the tense muscles. The enticing fragrance of these oils will surely have a calming effect on the mind as well.
22. 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.
23. 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.
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24. 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.