Best Places to Visit in Rishikesh
Rishikesh or sometimes called as Hrishikesh is a heritage city, located in the foothills of Himalayas. It is called as Yoga Capital of the world and Gateway to the Himalayas. Rishikesh is one of the ancient and holy cities of India, located on the banks of majestic river Ganga. It is surrounded by beautiful Himalayan hills from three sides and breathtaking scenic beauty.
It is considered to be one of the holiest places in India, especially for Hindus. There are numerous temples and ashrams located on the banks of Ganges river. In 2015, Government of India declared that Rishikesh and Haridwar will be first Indian cities to be called as ‘twin national heritage cities’. Due to the holy nature of the city, alcohol and non-vegetarian food are prohibited in and around Rishikesh.
The best part of Rishikesh is that it offers a complete package to the visitors. There is something for everyone to have a perfect vacation, ranging from religious and spiritual experiences, scenic beauty, adventure sports, waterfalls etc. Rishikesh has become popular in western countries, ever since the Beatles band visited in the late ‘60s.
History and Legends
Rishikesh is named after Lord Hrishikesha, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Hrishikesh is the name of Lord Vishnu, which is mentioned in Vishnu Sahasranama. ‘Hrishika’ means senses and ‘Isa’ means lord, thus it becomes ‘lord of the senses’. In ‘Skanda Purana’, this place is called as Kubjamraka, as Lord Vishnu appeared under a mango tree.
As per legend, Lord Rama and Lakshmana came to this place after killing Ravana. It is believed that Rama did penance here for killing Ravana in a war because Ravana was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. Legendary Adi Shankaracharya has established many temples along the banks of Ganga such as Bharat Mandir, Lakshman Mandir, Shatrughna Mandir etc.
The summer starts from March and lasts till the month of June. The average temperature at this time will be around 35 degrees. During the monsoon season, which is during the month of June to August, there will be heavy rainfall. The winter season starts from November and continues up to February. During December-January period, the temperature can fall up to 6 degrees.
Best time to Visit
Rishikesh can be visited any time during the year. However, monsoon season could be chaotic. There will be flooding and landslides during monsoon and many places cannot be visited at this time. The best time to visit Rishikesh and to enjoy the fullest is in the winter season. But Dec-Jan period could be biting cold and one has to take necessary precaution while visiting Rishikesh.
Main attractions in Rishikesh
Rishikesh is one of the most revered spiritual centers of India, where all types and ages of people visit and enjoy the stay. This heritage city is a popular travel destination, which caters to people with diverse taste. Rishikesh offers the following activities to the visitors.
1. Temples – There are many ancient and modern temples located in Rishikesh. These temples are dedicated to many Gods and Goddesses, like Neelkanth Mahadev temple, Tera Manzil temple. Bharat temple etc.
2. Sacred Bath and Ganga Aarti – Hindus personify river Ganga as a goddess and consider very sacred. On Triveni Ghat, one can take a dip and experience the river Ganges. Triveni ghat is the confluence of three sacred rivers, Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. One should not miss taking part in Ganga Aarti while visiting Rishikesh. The spectacle of Ganga Aarti is the visual treat for every pilgrim. Ganga aarti is the way of showing gratitude to goddess Ganga, through lighting lamps or diyas, chanting mantras and singing in praises. A large number of people gather on the banks of Ganga to witness this spectacle.
3. Yoga and Spirituality – Rishikesh is known as Yoga capital of the world. Ashrams in Rishikesh promote spirituality and yoga activities. If one is interested in meditation and spiritual practices, they can head to any of the ashrams. Ashrams and Yoga retreats offer various yoga and meditation techniques. Along with spiritual discourses, ashrams also offer lodging facilities and other activities.
4. Adventure Trail – Rishikesh is definitely a heaven for adventurous activities The scenic beauty coupled with a mountainous stretch of Rishikesh is a perfect destination for an adventurous excursion. Trekking, rafting, rock climbing, jungle safari, bungee jumping and many other activities offer adventurous experience to young legs and enthusiasts.
5. Food and Shopping – Rishikesh is very famous for shopping with the traveling community. Rishikesh is filled with shops, which sell religious/spiritual items, ayurvedic products, antique items, gems & jewelry, spiritual books etc. The three main shopping areas are near Lakshman Jhula, Ram Jhula, and Triveni Ghat area.
Some of the places one must visit during their Rishikesh trip are given below.
1- Ram Jhula
Ram Jhula is a famous and most visited iconic landmark of Rishikesh. Located at 3 km from Rishikesh city, it is an iron suspension bridge across the river Ganges, which was built in 1986. Ram Jhula connects ashrams and spiritual centers on both sides of the river. The bridge is 750 ft in length and surrounded by stunning nature. Read More
Lakshman Jhula is another famous iron suspension bridge across Ganga river. It is named after Lakshmana, brother of Lord Rama, who is believed to have crossed the river on jute ropes where the current bridge is located. The bridge connects two villages, namely Tapovan and Jonk, which are located either side of the river. The current bridge was built in 1929 after the old bridge was washed away by the floods of 1924. The length of the bridge is 450 ft and it is surrounded by breathtaking nature. Read More
3 – Triveni Ghat
Triveni Ghat is one of the sacred and popular places in Rishikesh on the banks of river Ganga, with pilgrims bathing around. It is the confluence of three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. It is believed that the holy bathing in this place cleanses all the sins. Also, people visit Triveni ghat to perform last rites for the deceased. It is said that Lord Krishna visited this place in Dwapara Yuga. One can visit Geeta Mandir and Lakshmi Narayan Temple near Triveni Ghat.
4 – Ganga Aarti
Ganga Aarti in Triveni ghat is a spectacle to watch. Ganga Aarti along with the chants of vedic hymns is enchanting and makes the devotees spiritually awakened. It is a way of showing the gratitude to river Ganga because Hindus personify Ganga as Goddess. Devotees light diyas (lamps) and leave it on the water to be floated along with flowers. A large number of devotees gather on the ghat to witness this event.
5 – Maharshi Mahesh Yogi Ashram (Beatles Ashram)
Beatles Ashram is one of the famous ashrams in Rishikesh. During the 1960s and 1970s, this ashram was the training center for students of Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, who devised the Transcendental Meditation technique. It acclaimed global attention when rock band the Beatles visited and practiced meditation in this serene place. Now it has been called as Beatle Ashram itself. The place was abandoned in the 1990s for various reasons and again reopened in 2015.
6 – Neelkanth Mahadev Temple
Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is dedicated to a form of Lord Shiva called Neelkanth. Like many other Shiva temples, the presiding deity of the temple is in the form of Shivling. Lord Shiva got the name ‘Neelkanth’ after he consumed the poison, which was released during Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean). The temple is built at the place where Lord Shiva consumed that poison. The temple is situated at a distance of 25 km from Rishikesh.
7 – Kunjapuri Devi Temple
Kunjapuri Devi Temple is one of the Shakti Peethas of Uttarakhand. Kunjapuri temple is dedicated to Goddess Sati (a form of Parvati). It is believed that the chest of Sati had fallen in this place when Lord Shiva was carrying the body of Sati. Besides the temple visit, visitors also enjoy the sunrise and the view of the Himalayan mountain range from this place. There are about 150 to 200 steps and it is definitely a worth visit.
8 – Vashishta Gufa (Cave)
Vashishta Gufa is named after a great saint and one of the seven great sages, Rishi Vashishta. It is located on the banks of river Ganges. It is believed that Sage Vashishta used to meditate in this place and had ashram. There are about 50 steps to climb down. It is a great place to visit if you are on a journey of discovering spirituality and meditation. Currently, Swami Purushottamananda trust is maintaining the place. It is located about 25 km from Rishikesh city.
9 – Sivananda Ashram
Sivananda ashram is a Yoga and Spirituality center in Rishikesh. It is also called as Divine Life Society and founded by Swami Sivananda in 1936. Swami Sivananda lived in this ashram for most of his life. He has authored over 200 books and these books are available in the ashram bookstore. Sivananda ashram conducts several courses in Yoga and meditation and also spiritual conferences and discourses. Spiritual seekers can meditate in the meditation hall. One can also participate in the bhajan sessions. It is located near Ram Jhula at a distance of 3 km from Rishikesh, in the midst of scenic beauty of nature. Read More
Parmarth Niketan is one of the large and most visited ashrams in Rishikesh. Parmarth Niketan was founded by Swami Shukdevanand in the 1940s. Situated on the banks of river Ganga, the ashram is surrounded by a beautiful garden with over 1000 rooms for visitors stay. Daily activities of the ashram include universal prayer, yoga & meditation classes, satsang etc. Another attraction is the Ganga Aarti performed every day at sunset. There is a big Shiva sculpture in the midst of river Ganga in front of the ashram. Read More
11 – Swarg Ashram
Swargashram, literally known as ‘heavenly abode’ is a large part of the area in Rishikesh, where many ashrams, temples, yoga schools and religious and ayurvedic shops located within. The famous ashrams located within Swargashram are Parmarth Niketan, Geeta Bhavan etc. The area is named after one of the ancient ashram located in the area, swargshram or Kali Kamliwale Kshetra ashram(or Vanaprasth Ashram). This ashram was built in the memory of Swami Vishuddhanand, who was known locally as Kali Kambli wala (a saint with a black rug). The ashram provides boarding and lodging facility to the travelers under Kali Kamliwale Yatri Nivas.
12 – Geeta Bhavan
Geeta Bhavan is a branch of very famous Geeta Press, Gorakhpur. The main aim of the institution is to promote the principles of Sanatana Dharma. It is a huge complex, comprising discourse hall and over 1000 rooms to stay for the devotees at free of cost. Regular discourses are organized in the ashram. There will be heavy demand for the rooms in the ashram, especially during programs. There is a bookstore and an ayurvedic store if one is interested. They serve nice, vegetarian satvik food for all the visitors at a nominal cost. Many people work here as volunteers. It is located in Swargashram area, near Ram Jhula.
13 – Tera Manzil Temple
Tera Manzil Temple, also known as Tryambakeshwar temple, is a thirteen-story temple, located on the banks of river Ganga near Lakshman Jhula bridge. It is mainly dedicated to Lord Shiva, but almost all the idols of various Gods and Goddesses are present in the temple. Also, many shops are present, which sell all the religious items. The position of the temple which is surrounded by natural beauty is quite outstanding. The panoramic view of the surroundings including the Lakshman Jhula bridge is breathtaking. However, the poor maintenance of the temple and inattentive idols are the sad part of the temple. Read More
14 – Bharat Mandir
Bharat Mandir is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the form of Hrishikesha Narayana. Hrishikesha is mentioned in Vishnu Sahasranama, which means lord of the senses. Rishikesh is named after this temple. Adi Shankaracharya had reinstalled the presiding deity of the temple in the 9th century. There is a museum attached to the temple, where one can see very ancient idols and collection of artifacts, which are believed to be more than a thousand years old. However, contrary to the popular perception, this temple is not dedicated to Bharat, the brother of Lord Rama. The temple is located near Triveni Ghat.
15 – Swami Dayananda Ashram
Dayananda Ashram is a spiritual organization, established in the 1960s by Swami Dayananda Saraswati to spread Vedanta and Sanskrit studies. There is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva as Gangadhareshwara. They hold daily discourses on the Upanishads, integrated with commentaries of Adi Shankaracharya. There is a library with more than 500 books on vedanta, philosophy, yoga, religion etc. There is a yoga studio, where regular Iyengar style yoga camps are conducted. It is located on the banks of holy river Ganga near Ram Jhula in Muni ki Reti, Rishikesh.
16 – Phool Chatti Ashram
Phool Chatti Ashram is over 120 years old ashram, founded by Sri Devi Dayal Maharaj, a spiritual saint, to serve his fellow sadhus and other spiritual travelers. Phool Chatti literally means ‘land of flowers’. The ashram conducts regular yoga retreat programs with accommodation facilities. The ashram is located on the banks of river Ganga and surrounded by mountain forest and rich nature.
17 – Adventure Trail
Rishikesh is not only the place for yoga and meditation but also it attracts visitors with many adventure activities. Rishikesh offers a variety of adventure sports which cater to every individual. Picturesque mountain ranges of the Himalayas along with majestic Ganga makes it more thrilling and exciting. Some of the popular adventure activities are: River Rafting, Rappelling, Bungee Jumping, Cliff Jumping, Giant Swing, Body Surfing, Camping, Mountain Biking, Rock Climbing, Kayaking etc.
18 – Neer Garh Waterfall
Neer Garh or sometimes called as Neer Gaddu waterfall is a beautiful and magnificent waterfall on the lap of mother nature. Surrounded by serene nature, you are sure to be lost in this beautiful world. There are two bathing pools at a trekking distance of 2 km and one has to trek to visit these locations. Few snacks stalls are available which serve maggi, tea, cold drinks, snacks etc. It is a paradise for nature lovers as well as photographers. If you continue to trek upwards, you will find a couple of camping areas. Neer Garh waterfall is located at a distance of 7 km from Lakshman Jhula.