Mountains are calling and I must go.
Above lines have been memed and laughed upon so many times that they hardly hold any relevance these days.
So when mountains call, when wanderlust starts to consume you, when the traveller awakens and the office slave wants to break free where do you go ?
I decided upon Rishikesh.
Rishikesh is beautiful little town on the foot hills of Ganga in Uttarakhand. It is home to some of the best yoga and meditation schools in the world. Folks from all over the world come here to unwind and meditate, rejuvenate.
I mostly enjoyed sitting by the river and reading a book. Taking a walk in the bazaar or promenade on cool winter mornings.
In Rishikesh one can have a fulfilling time in just one day or plan to stay for a month and still not get bored with it.
Here are some highlights of my Rishikesh backpacking trip :
- Morning strolls around the old town.
I am photography enthusiast and think about ‘golden light’ periods and how many sun rise/ sunsets I can catch where ever I go. So early mornings are a must to catch the best light and mood of any place. Rishikesh was no different. Though I did experience cloudy days most of my stay, but it was pleasure to stroll down the 2 km promenade from Ram jhula to Laxman jhula just listening to the flowing water and seeing the pristine blue river flowing by your side. If you’re not much of a walking person, than one can hop into a rickshaw and get down at Ram jhula to cross it by foot, and attend any of the yoga/ meditation centers on the banks of Ganga. I for once would sit behind the rocks, dip my foot in the cold water and read a book till the sun burnt me out..!
- Ganga aarti.
This is my favourite free event to attend in Risikesh. It happens at two places. One near Parmarth ashram close to Ram jhula. The other further down on the banks of the main Rishikesh town. Both are worth a visit. After the aarti one can indulge in some street food or do local shopping. Rishikesh is a pilgrimage town and sleeps early. If you’re here for the night life you may be disappointed. Around 10 pm most of the town begins to shut down. Cafes are completly wound up by 11 ish in the night. Alcohol and meat are not easily available. Weed is more popular and vegetarian delicacies are no less. I found the cafes to be a little pricey compared to other places ‘Hippie’ places I have been to.
- Cafe hopping.
Rishikesh has plenty of beautiful cafes and bakeries to choose from. They are lined on the slopes of the river and give an unobstructed view of the blue ganges, with piping hot tea and tasty healthy/ organic/ protein breakfast to go with. Evenings are no less. The ambiance is soft and cafes are a great place to meet fellow travellers. One can hop from a cafe to another and that itself can be a fun activity to do. I would recommend all three German Bakeries, Cafe Chatsung and my fav, Little Buddha cafe. One can sit for hours and just soak in the lack of urgency. urgency is something we are so addicted to in the cities. Here, time passes slowly. After a while you loose the urge to check notifications, see the time, making mental notes. You truly relax.
- Adventure sports and camping.
Rishikesh is synonymous with best rapids for rafting and other adventure activities like bungee jumping, giant swing and many more. The water is icy cold plus some dash of adrenaline makes it a life long memorable experience. It is also not very expensive, especially during just the beginning or end of season. A river rafting session can be as low as rs. 500 per person Camping is another activity widely enjoyed in Rishikesh. Though the camps have been moved away from Ganga banks now, they have mushroomed on other tributaries higher up the mountains. Worth a try if you have never lived in a tent before.
- Ashram hopping.
Ashrams and yoga retreats here are a great way to mix relaxed vacation with meaningful learning experience. One can stay at many of the ashrams and enjoy the simplicity of life otherwise not experienced in youth hostels or hotels, not to mention cities back home. I loved that some ashrams, like the Osho retreat, have a areas demarcated for not speaking at all, just meditating. Such a simple but powerful idea..!
- Hostel stay.
I used to dread checking into a hotel. Being a solo traveller, I would find the boredom packed inside a square box unbearable. But since I discovered Airb bnb and backpacker hostels I make it a point to stay in of the cool hostels of the vicinity. Hostels help me meet fellow travellers. I make friends, bond over bon fires at the endo of the day. Make informal travel groups. Take part in lots of activities. And save money too at the same time. Staying at a good hostel has become like one of my to do things when I am planing my trips.
Though its not a Rishikesh specific activity, but this place is worth carrying your gear all the way without getting disappointed. There are ample opportunities of street portraiture, landscapes, sometimes astro photography too. It’s a Pandora’s box waiting to be explored.
let me know how if I missed anything.
How was your Rishikeh experience ?