Rishikesh is a beautiful town in India that sucks you in so you never want to leave. It’s known for being the “yoga capital” of India offering breathtaking views of the Ganges River, tranquil places to hang out, adventure tours, waterfalls, live music daily and everything else you could want from a town. You should stay at either two of the bridges just outside of Rishikesh called Laxman Jhula or Ram Jhula where all the travelers stay. A multitude of cafes and restaurants, yoga and meditation centers, and little shops line the beautiful Ganges River between these two bridges.
When we arrived to Hardiwar at 6am on a sleeper bus from Agra we were pleasantly surprised as a tuk tuk was waiting to take us to Laxman Jhula for 50 rupiah each (80 cents). After an hour long tuk tuk ride I knew I’d like this place. The town was surrounded by green mountains and heaps of nature, filled with small shops and wonderful locals welcoming you to their home.
We found our hostel, Bonfire, with a great location and free chai twice daily, free laundry and a relaxing rooftop chill out area. We went for food down the many winding steps to reach the Laxman Jhula Bridge. We stopped in Tat Cafe for some delicious Indian breakfast and a cow joined us minutes later. Yes I said a cow, it walked straight into the cafe and wasn’t removed for a solid five minutes until a worker used a didgeridoo to move it out of the restaurant. It was hilarious.
Crossing the Laxman Jhula Bridge is an adventure every time. Cows, monkeys, motorbikes and mass amounts of people cross this bridge all at the same time on a daily basis. Never seen anything quite like it. While on the subject of wildlife I should mention, there are cows, monkeys and dogs everywhere in Rishikesh. Be very cautious on the bridge and through the town. Do not walk too closely to a cow or in their direct line as they will horn you. I’m speaking from experience, horn in the leg doesn’t feel great. Also it is important to remember do not make eye contact or flash your teeth at monkeys. Do not walk around with bananas or snacks out in the open as the monkeys will jump on you and take them from you or slap you in the face like they did to my friend.
There is a vast amount of colors on the Laxman Jhula bridge with the Traditional Indian sarees, backdrop of Rishikesh’s buildings and lush green mountains. I recommend going down for a bit of people watching and selfie taking with the locals. You can sit up at the German Bakery and watch the floods of people try to cross and avoid the cows while enjoying a delicious americano.
Two of the days we were there we rented motorbikes to drive through the Ganges Mountains and trek up to the waterfalls. The Neer Gahr Waterfall is 20 rupiah for entry (30 cents) and about a 20 minute walk up to the top pool where you can go for a swim under the rushing water. The locals will stare at you if you wear a two piece swimsuit. The Patna Waterfall is not swimmer friendly, but it is pretty and doesn’t cost a rupiah to see. We saw locals carrying slabs of marble on their heads up the mountain. It’s crazy to think all the activities they are used to doing that seem so bizarre to us.
While in Rishikesh, I recommend going water rafting down the rapids. You can find places in town that do it for about 400 rupiah ($6) It’s class three rapids and a great adventure. The water is quite nippy, but very refreshing. I accidentally body slammed our guide when he was trying to get me back on the boat. Slightly embarrassing, but I think he blushed more than I laughed.
Every morning in Rishikesh I was able to go to yoga, which allowed me to fall back into a healthy morning routine. Tat Yogi’s instructor, Jitinder taught many different classes and we bonded quickly given I was his only student in his ashtanga vinyasa class on a couple of occasions. He brought me flowers to put in the river for the ceremony I had for JB, gave me a scarf to keep as a gift and wrote a few mantras in my journal to help aid me in the healing process. It’s quite spectacular the bond you can make with someone in just a couple of days. Tat Yogi Cafe is also a great place to enjoy a morning coffee and breakfast, with sweeping views of the Ganges river and affordable and delicious food!
I also visited and stayed at Anand Prakash ashram for a day. Our day was filled with meditation, yoga and silent meals. We practiced acra yoga on the roof overlooking the Ganges mountains, met some beautiful souls and recentered ourselves with a calm and relaxing day. The facilities are amazing with beautiful studios and lots of space to relax. The best part of the Anand Prakash Ashram is the money goes to helping orphans in India via Helping Hands charity.
I spent one whole day walking around the city into all the market shops before visiting the Beatles Ashram. Four different shop owners asked me to sit and have a free chai tea with them. I happily obliged given I love the chai here. It was fun to get to know some of the locals. One woman who worked at the purse shop even gave me a free henna up my hand and arm! She did it in a matter of two minutes! Unbelievably talented and kind.
The Beatles ashram is full of beautiful artwork and tons of energy. It’s a great place to watch the sunset if you can time it right. This is where the Beatles supposedly wrote 48 of their songs!
I saw Dr. Das an aryuvedic doctor who prescribed me a few supplements for mood and digestion. I openly talked about my struggle with an eating disorder and my recent loss. He recommended moringa powder and a stress reliever. The supplements were extremely cheap, about $5 in total! While walking to get my medicine from the organic herbal supplement store I noticed some liquid squirting towards me, I looked over and a boy was peeing in the middle of the square and on my foot! India is one of a kind.
The multitude of cafes around the city and live music every night made Rishikesh easy to fall in love with. The vibes I received while in this town were very special. Locals always smiling and wanting to take selfies with you. In addition, the restaurant and street food I consumed while in Rishikesh was undeniably delicious. Check the list below for my recommendations!
You will not be disappointed during your visit to Rishikesh. Enjoy the yoga, beaches and beautiful views.
Things to do:
- Rent motorbikes and drive through the Ganges mountains. 250 rupiah to rent bike for the day. ($4)
- Neer Gahr waterfall - 20 rupiah entry (30 cents), 20 minute hike to the top! Bring your bathing suit.
- Patna Waterfall - Free, 15 minute walk.
- Explore some caves and find some Babas who have left society and now live in caves. If you are lucky the baba may bless you give you a gift for visiting.
- Beatles Ashram - 600 rupiah ($9) for entry. If you’re into art or The Beatles I highly recommend. It’s only $9 and you can easily spend a couple of hours walking around the abandoned ashram that is now a tiger reserve.
- Ganges Ceremony - every night at 5:30-6pm they hold a ceremony at the river near the Ram Jhula Bridge to honor the holy water. There are heaps of people and it’s very interesting to see all the locals come together!
- White water rafting - 400-600 rupiah ($6-$9) per person depending on the company you use. Class three rapids and lots of fun!
- Beaches - beautiful sand and a great place to chill out and listen to music!
- Yoga and meditation - Tat Cafe offers a multitude of classes. You can find Laughter Yoga, Tatrum Yoga, and all other types around the city (avoid donation based classes unless you’re into restorative stretching).
- Visit or stay at an ashram (Anand Prakash Yoga and Ashram Retreats - 700 rupiah ($10.50) for a one day drop in, includes two yoga classes, meditation, fire puja, kirtan chanting and three meals or 1000 rupiah if you stay overnight)
- Live music at many cafes at night (Zorba, Treehouse, Moksha, Anna’s Cafe, etc)
- Bhutan Temple
- Kujapuri Shrine for sunrise. Beautiful view of sunrise at the highest temple just outside of Rishikesh.
- Ayurvedic doctor and massage - Dr Das at Krishna Cottage gives consultations for 200 rupiah ($3.25). Try to get a massage booked through his counterpart, but if you are unable to head over to Baba Massage Centre in the main part of town. 1000 rupiah ($15) for 60 minute deep tissue massage.
Places to eat and hang out:
- New Krishna Cafe - delicious food and beautiful views.
- Ratwan Restaurant - great local food.
- Sixties Cafe (Beatles) - Best veggie burger with carmelized onions and all!
- Tat Yogi - great breakfasts!
- Pumpernickle German Bakery - AMAZING espresso, delicious vegan/vegetarian dishes. great brownies and Reese’s balls.
- Little Buddha Cafe - massive portions and good veggie platters.
- Free Spirit Cafe- delicious veggie burger and fries!
- Street food - aloo tika (hash brown potato with all the fixings), channa puri snack mix
- Zorba Cafe - live music and fresh food
- Devraj German Bakery by the river - good coffee and pretty view. Don’t order the chocolate cake though...
- Anna’s cafe- Good thali and live music at night. Try Anna’s special lassi!
Where to stay:
- Bonfire Hostel - 400 rupiah ($6) per night, good common rooftop area, lots of activities, great for solo travelers!
- Galaxy Hotel - across the Laxman Jhula Bridge, nice place to stay if you are traveling with someone... feels like a nice hotel for 400 rupiah ($6) per person to split a room)
- Live Free Hostel - A little bit more expensive for $7 per night, but good location.
- Into the Unknown Hostel - $4 per night, but no common area.
Have a glorious time in Rishikesh!