Uttarakhand is the dwelling place for so many famous pilgrimages, source of India’s river of life – Ganga, and travel destinations. Numerous Gods and Goddesses reside harmoniously in this divine residency, rightly called ‘Dev Bhoomi’. The glory of Uttarakhand is even mentioned in Hindu scriptures, vedas and puranas like Ramayana and Mahabharata. As per these sacred Hindu texts, it is believed that the person who visits any of the pilgrimage site situated in Uttaranchal attains ‘Moksha’.
Beyond the gateway to heaven, embark on a journey to the abode of gods; Rishikesh, the divine city welcomes you.
Located in the Pauri Garhwal district, Rishikesh is a holy town and famous pilgrimage site for Hindus as India’s holiest River Ganga flows through it. Situated in the foothills of Shivalik Himalayas, ‘the city of sadhus’ serves as the base camp for the famous Chardham Yatra – a mesmerizing journey to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. Another most revered holy city – Haridwar, is located about 25 km before Rishikesh.
My Association With Uttarakhand
There are so many stories and lovely memories associated with these holy cities of ‘Dev Bhoomi’. I still remember those days when I used to visit these spiritual cities along with my family and cousins during summer breaks from school. Every year in the month of May or June I used to pack my bag and head towards Haridwar and Rishikesh. Those annual trips initiated my love for travelling. So if you are planning a small weekend getaway to this spiritual town of Uttarakhand, this travel itinerary will help you out in many ways.
Reaching & Staying At Rishikesh
The city of Rishikesh is easily accessible from all parts of the country. I booked UPSRTC AC bus from Paytm and boarded the bus with my family from ISBT Kashmiri Gate in Delhi. Also, you can book bus tickets from RedBus that gives you various discounts and offers. The road trip to Rishikesh will take you around 6-7 Hours.
Once you have reached the peaceful town of Rishikesh, it’s time to look for the stay options. There are various holiday homes, hotels, dharamshalas and ashrams spread across the town to cater the accommodation of large number of travellers. I stayed at Janaki Devi Somany Bhawan (guesthouse near Triveni Ghat) away from the bustling streets of this sacred town. Equipped with all modern amenities, the holiday rental has a blissful view of Ganges and Shivalik hills and a private lush green garden to relax. A long stretched footpath known as ‘Aastha Path’ or Marine Drive is situated near the accommodation.
Top Attractions In Rishikesh
After getting freshened-up, it’s time to explore this divine city of Uttarakhand. You can walk or take a sharing auto (in case your accommodation is far away from the main town) and reach Ram Jhula (also known as Shivananda Jhula), a suspension bridge across River Ganga connecting Rishikesh to Geeta Bhawan.
The famous Chotiwala Restaurant situated near Ram Jhula gives a picturesque view of serene Shivalik hills. As the name suggests there sits a dressed up chotiwala pandit outside the restaurant who looks really adorable. The special North Indian thali served here was truly mouth-watering and can be preferred for a brunch too.
The iconic Lakshman Jhula is located at a walking distance of 2 kms from Ram Jhula. Rishikesh is adorned with numerous ancient temples dedicated to several Hindu Gods and Goddesses. I visited Bharat Mandir and the significant 13 stories high temple called Trayambakeshwar Mandir. The sound of bells at each storey fills the region with spiritual vibes. Outside the temple there are various food spots and Shikanji walas (lemon soda). So, do try them out!
Dedicated to Lord Shiv, Neelkanth Mahadev Mandir is a famous Hindu temple nestled amidst hills, at 1330 meters above sea level, and 20 kms from Lakshman Jhula taxi stand. The temple is built in South-Indian style depicting the epic legend of Samudra Manthan. There is a cave below the main temple where you will find several sadhus and snake charmers. You can even take a bath at natural spring near temple. Seek the blessings from Mahadev who consumed the poison or halahal during Samudra Manthan to protect the mankind. Therefore, the deity is known as ‘Neelkantha’ (blue throat).
Ganga Aarti, Local Street Food & Shopping
In evening, I went to the famous Parmarth Niketan ashram (near Ram Jhula) situated on the banks of holy River Ganga for the mesmerizing Ganga Aarti. People offer their prayers thus thanking Mother Ganga for nurturing their life. The Ganga Aarti at Parmarth Niketan is performed with all rituals, vedic mantras and ending with a social message to save the purity and divinity of River Ganga – the lifeline of India. Another famous aarti is held at Triveni Ghat in Rishikesh where the holy ceremony is performed in Varanasi style.
Triveni Ghat is situated near the main market area of Rishikesh. I tried out the street food options available here such as special aloo patty (stuffed with namkeen, onion, cabbage and sauces), pav stuffed with spicy chickpeas (chana) and tibetan momos with a chilli dip. You can find all these street style food in the main street going towards Triveni Ghat. Since Rishikesh is deeply associated with spirituality and devotion, thus non-vegetarian food and alcohol is banned in the city from past many years. But not to worry, the vegetarian delicacies available here are just lip-smacking.
The best place for shopping in Rishikesh is around Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula. But the price of items near these areas is quite high. Therefore, you can do shopping in Rishikesh near Triveni Ghat which also offers variety at reasonable rates.
Located near Triveni Ghat chowk, Pandit Ji Ka Rajasthani Restaurant is the best place to have dinner and breakfast. You can even treat your stomachs with a yummy pizza at Domino’s in this main market area of Rishikesh. This sacred pilgrimage in Uttaranchal not only offers Indian food but also Italian, Chinese and other delicacies.
Jungle Camping In Rishikesh
Located in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, Rishikesh finds an important place for every type of traveller. That’s why the town is also known as the ‘Yoga Capital of The World’. It also finds a great place for starting trekking expeditions and excursions towards the Himalayan peaks. Rishikesh is a very popular place for all kind of adventure activities like jungle or river-side camping, rock-climbing, flying fox at Jumpin Heights and much more. White water rafting in the thrilling rapids of River Ganga is the major attraction which brings in adventure enthusiasts from all over the globe.
There are numerous options for camping in Rishikesh in terms location and available facilities. As per the latest guidelines by NGT, the camping is only allowed amidst forest area and not riverside. I booked bamboo cottages at Paradise Huts (Ghattu Ghat, Neelkanth Mandir road) for a peaceful stay. The jungle camps were located on the banks of Heval River (a tributary of Ganga) in the serene valley of Shivalik Himalayas. Relax in the lap of nature and enjoy the tasty food cooked at the camping site. Sit along the banks of Heval River and capture beautiful moments with your loved ones.
I had a good time playing with friendly dogs at the campsite and interacting with the locals. A small walk to Neergarh Waterfall in Rishikesh is a good option to beat the heat during summers. In evening, sit around the bonfire, play melodious soundtracks and enjoy few snacks along with tea under the glittering stars in the sky. Camping in the lap of nature is an ideal option to take a break from the urban madness.
Unlike normal restaurants, the food cooked at these campsites in Rishikesh is very simple and homely. This adventure capital in Uttarakhand offers wide variety of camp stays. You can either choose to stay in a proper resort for a leisure-filled holiday, bamboo cottage with basic amenities or Swiss tents for a complete offbeat experience.
Rafting Amidst Thrilling Rapids
The sun shined amidst Shivaliks and the Himalayan bulbuls were chirping. After breakfast we checked out from the jungle camp and headed towards Shivpuri – the second starting point for white water rafting in majestic Ganges. The guides will give you all the safety wears and guidelines to be followed while rafting such as how to move paddle in river and more. The chant of ‘Jai Ganga Maiya’ and ‘Har Har Mahadev’ will give you an adrenaline rush. The 16 km rafting expedition in River Ganga comprised of 9 rapids of different grades (levels). So, always choose the rafting distance (24 kms, 16 kms & 9 kms) as per your strength.
The Ganges in Rishikesh offers the most defined rapids for white water rafting in India. After crossing the first rapid known as Shivpuri rapid we got amplified for upcoming major ones. Other exciting river rapids during the course of rafting are Roller Coaster, Return to Sender, Golf Course, Double-Trouble and Club House. Amongst all the most thrilling one is Roller Coaster which will make you skip a heartbeat. The pristine cool and rejuvenating water splashes of Ganga offers an utter delight. This ecstasy is raised to the next level by the breathtakingly beautiful surroundings. The raft takes a break at Maggie Point beach where we relaxed on the sands for few minutes, clicked some cool pictures and then moved ahead towards the end of this amazing rafting expedition in River Ganga.
After an unmatched adventure in the midst of gushing rapids, the journey came to an end at NIM Beach near Lakshman Jhula. All those who have not yet experienced the gushing rapids of Ganga, just pack your bags and head towards this ‘Adventure Capital of India’ – Rishikesh to maximize the fun. Feel the divinity and soothing environment of this ‘Yoga Capital’.
Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere.
Check-out www.riverraftingrishikesh.com for best camping & rafting packages in Rishikesh.
Don’t Litter. Help Mother Nature, Help Yourself. Travel Responsibly!