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The Best Things To Do In Rishikesh

Updated On 6th March, 2024

Chances are, if you’re not an aspiring yoga teacher or Yogi, you haven’t yet heard of this gem hidden in the foothills of the Himalayas. Rishikesh, though, is one of the most beautiful places I have ever travelled through and I’m so excited to share my tips and best things to do in Rishikesh with you today. The wisdom held on this land is something that can only be felt and for many (including myself), visiting Rishikesh becomes an addition for the soul. A chance to learn from the wise souls and enlightened masters that have occupied this land for thousands of years.

I visited for the first time in October 2023, solo, to mark my 30th lap around the sun and I returned just 3 months later with my Dad to get another dose of the magic.

If you’re planning a trip to Rishikesh or looking for the best things to do in Rishikesh, then you have come to the right place. As you embark on this blog post, you’re about to uncover the very secrets that make Rishikesh a unique destination to visit, not just for yogis but for all seeking a blend of spirituality and adventure.

What is Rishikesh famous for?

Rishikesh is most known for being the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’ where the serene banks of the holy Ganges River cradle this spiritual paradise at the foothills of the majestic Himalayas in North India.

A place where the gentle whispers of the river waters mingle with the distant sounds of chanting creating an energy that pierces the soul and transcends the tangible. This city is not just a place to visit on your next trip to India; it’s a spiritual pilgrimage that invites you to reconnect with your inner self.

Temples and ashrams, scattered along the Ganges, contribute to an atmosphere where grounded spirituality mingles with breathtaking mountain scenes. Fun fact: The Beatles’ visit in the 1960s put Rishikesh on the global map, earning it the title ‘Yoga Capital of the World.’

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Why I Love Rishikesh

Rishikesh, for me, is another one of those Spiritual acupuncture points on the earth, much like Byron Bay in Australia and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. It is here that like-minded souls meet to deepen their knowledge, explore their human potential and deepen the way they connect to themselves and the world around them.

Rishikesh though has a wisdom, so deep and so rich that it is unparalleled in what it offers. A way of life, a way of devotion to Spirituality ripples through the atmosphere here and humbles me to my core. After only 24 hours in Rishikesh, I knew why people often came here and never left. Rishikesh is a home for the soul. It is the kind of place when you embark on your Adventure Within that you dream about existing. And here it is, not just existing by thriving.

Getting To Rishikesh

Before diving into the heart of Rishikesh, it’s essential to know how to get there, where to stay, and the best time to visit.

If you’re flying in, consider landing at the Jolly Grant Airport near Dehradun. This is the closest airport to Rishikesh (about 40-minute drive). From there, a scenic drive of approximately 35 kilometres will bring you to Rishikesh. You can fly domestically into Dehradun, but if you’re arriving in Rishikesh internationally, most will fly into New Delhi International Airport and then grab either an internal flight or the 4-hour cab straight to Rishikesh. Check flights here.

  • By Train: Haridwar station, 30 minutes away, serves as a major rail hub.
  • By Air: Delhi Airport is the nearest international airport, followed by a 20-minute taxi ride to Rishikesh.
  • By Air: Dehradun airport is the closest airport – a 40-minute drive to Rishikesh.

Where to Stay in Rishikesh

As for accommodation, Rishikesh offers a variety of options, from ashrams, apartments and hotels to retreats and hostels. The main town / busy tourist area is called Tapovan (north side of the river) and then most of the ashrams are located on the south of the river (Parmarth Niketan for example).

Travel tip:

One thing to note is that Tapovan is built upon steep terrain so there are lots of uphill climbs and gradients that aren’t visible when looking on the map. Be sure to check reviews for accessibility and additional information.

Discover the ideal accommodation based on your preferences:

  • Best Backpacker Hostels and Budget Guesthouses
    • Green Valley Cottage (above Bistro Nirvana): This is where I stayed. The owner Pankaj is the BEST.
    • Shiv Shakti Guesthouse: A lively hostel with a rooftop offering stunning views.
    • Sonu Guesthouse: A characterful guesthouse in the tranquil Laxman Jhula area.
  • Best Mid-Range Hotels
    • Hotel Peepal Tree: Comfortable rooms with a rooftop restaurant and great views.
    • Seventh Heaven Inn: A boutique hotel in Tapovan with beautiful rooms and a rooftop restaurant.
  • Best Luxury and Heritage Hotels
    • Yog Niketan: Stunning views across Maa Ganga, spa, breakfast and yoga included (I loved my stay here!)
    • Ganga Kinare: A riverside boutique hotel offering a peaceful retreat with complimentary yoga sessions.
    • Neemrana’s Glasshouse on The Ganges: A heritage hotel outside Rishikesh, providing tranquillity by the Ganges.

Explore all Rishikesh accommodation here.

Where to Eat and Drink in Rishikesh

Explore the vibrant culinary scene. From local fresh Indian delicacies to vibrant plant-based cafes overlooking Maa Ganga, here are a few of my favourites:

  • Secret Garden Cafe: Amazing food! At the top of the hill with outdoor seating/ a garden and a variety of veg / vegan delights!
  • Shambala Cafe: Juices / breakfast / food with a view over the river rapids. Probably my favourite food with a view spot in town. Beware of the cheeky monkeys!
  • Little Buddha: Vegan and vegetarian dishes with breathtaking Ganga views.
  • Free Spirit Cafe: A riverside gem offering reasonably priced, quality food.
  • Beatles Café: Immerse in 60s and 70s vibes with lasagne and burgers.

Get access to ALL my favourite spots on the Google Map Legend below.

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Get lifetime access to my endless hours of research and time spent on the ground finding the best places to eat, drink, relax and explore in the area. You open the Google Map on your device and all my pins are at the touch of your fingertips.

Best Time to Visit Rishikesh and How Long to Stay

The ideal time to visit is during February to June and September to November when the weather is pleasant (not too hot), and outdoor activities are at their prime. Avoid the monsoon season, which can bring heavy rains and hinder your exploration.

December / January has a chill in the air come morning and evening (coats and scarves) but the days are still very pleasant and around 15-18deg. Still a pleasant time to come and certainly there are fewer crowds too!

  • Best Time: September to November and March to April for pleasant, warm weather.
  • Duration: 3-5 days for a casual visit, longer if you plan on taking a yoga or meditation course or looking for a deeper spiritual immersion.

Best Places to Visit and Things to Do in Rishikesh

1. Practice Yoga and Meditation

Embrace the spiritual vibe by delving into yoga and meditation. Without a doubt one of the best things to do in Rishikesh. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced yogi, Rishikesh offers a myriad of options – from drop-in classes to comprehensive teacher training programs.

A few places I recommend checking out:

  • Parmarth Niketan – you can stay at the ashram, practice or study. I did an incredible 5-day Vedantic study here.
  • Yoga And Smiles – a MUST if you’re looking for authentic drop-in hatha yoga classes. Manav is incredible
  • Sattva Yoga Academy – an amazing place to do your YTT

One of the best ashrams in Rishikesh is indeed where I stayed, Parmath Niketan Ashram. This is one of the top ashrams in India with over 1000 rooms and when you stay there you’ll get three meals and two yoga classes per day. People come from all over the world to visit this centre. Parmarth Niketan translates to, “An Abode Dedicated to the Welfare of All.”

2. Explore the Temples and Ghats

Wander through ancient temples lining the Ganges, experiencing the mesmerizing rituals and chanting during sunrise and sunset. The Trayambakeshwar Temple, with its 13 stories, stands out as a symbol of divine beauty.

Below is Bhootnath Temple in Rishikesh, a short but steep climb from Parmarth Niketan, with panoramic views across Rishikesh.

Also consider:

  • Vashishtha Gufa Temple
  • Kunjapuri Temple

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Get lifetime access to my endless hours of research and time spent on the ground finding the best places to eat, drink, relax and explore in the area. You simply open the Google Map on your device and all my pins are at the touch of your fingertips.

3. Visit The Beatles Ashram

Trace the footsteps of The Beatles at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram, now known as The Beatles Ashram. Roam the abandoned premises, adorned with intriguing art and graffiti. It’s a touristy spot but one well worth ticking off and diving into. Most will say its one of the best things to do in Rishikesh.

4. Watch the Ganga Aarti

I would say this is in the top 3 best things to do in Rishikesh. Partake in the nightly Ganga Aarti outside Parmath Niketan Ashram which happens every single evening at sunset. Witness the river come alive with music, fire, and prayers, creating a spectacle that’s both spiritual and enchanting. Aarti welcomes everyone and for me encapsulates all that Rishikesh stands for: community, equality and devotion.

5. Get an Ayurvedic Massage

Indulge in the ancient healing art of Ayurveda with a rejuvenating massage. There are so many wonderful places to receive hands-on treatment or Ayurvedic lifestyle services. My favourite and MUST is a deep tissue massage with Ajeet at Beauty Care Ayurvedic Massage Centre in Tapovan.

6. Go White Water Rafting

For the adventure-seekers, Rishikesh offers the thrill of white water rafting on the Ganges. Navigate through the rapids, surrounded by the breathtaking landscape of the Himalayan foothills. This adrenaline-pumping experience will leave you with memories of a lifetime.

7. Trek to Temples and Waterfalls

Embark on a trek to Neer Garh Waterfall and Neelkantha Mahadev Temple for a refreshing escape into nature. Here in Rishikesh, you are at the foothills of the Himalayas and there are so many waterfalls to be enjoyed and hikes to enjoy.

Some popular waterfalls include:

  • The Secret Waterfall Rishikesh – DhaulSrot
  • Neergarh waterfall
  • Himnish waterfall Rishikesh

8. Go to Sadvijis Daily Satsang at Parmarth

This was my absolute favourite thing to do and experience in Rishikesh. So much so, that I went nearly every night. Satsang translates as a spiritual conversation and Sadviji hosts it every single evening (straight after Aarti) at Parmarth Niketan. This informal discussion is open and free to everyone and provides life-changing insight every time I go. Sadviji shares her wisdom and opens up to receive questions from the audience to offer solace and grounded wisdom.

100% of the best things to do in Rishikesh.

9. Try some local food!

Wow, I would return to Rishikesh for the food alone. Most of the local spots have an extensive menu of curries and dishes, all made fresh to order. You do not need to eat in fancy places to receive the best food here, try some of the local spots and delicacies like Palak Paneer, Dosa and Thali (a mixture of curries on a tray!).

One of my favourite spots to get local Indian food in Rishikesh is Rawat Restaurant. So cheap and SO good. Cooked in an open kitchen too! Try the thali or the dosas!

10. Do A Cooking Class With Cooking Masala

Amit hosts the BEST cooking classes so if you love Indian food and want to get the inside scoop on how they create such magical dishes, this is one of the best things to do in Rishikesh for you! He also owns the local spice shop (most of which are sourced from his farm) and his knowledge of cooking is translated wonderfully in his shop and in his class. We paid 2500idr for the 2-hour class which included eating the food we made for dinner!

India Google Map Legend

Get lifetime access to my endless hours of research and time spent on the ground finding the best places to eat, drink, relax and explore in the area. You simply open the Google Map on your device and all my pins are at the touch of your fingertips.

11. Watch the sunrise from Kunjapuri Temple

This was my favourite moment during my time in Rishikesh. We took a taxi in the early hours of the morning and ascended through the mountain tracks to arrive for sunrise at Kunjapuri temple. You can drive most of the way and then you just climb the steps for the final stretch to reach the temple and sunrise viewing platform.

The first glimpse of the sun as it rose above the peaks was beyond breathtaking. Well worth coming up for and one of the best things to do in Rishikesh without a shadow. of a doubt.

12. Dip in Maa Ganga

People come from all over the world to bathe in and bottle up the magical waters of Maa Ganga. You are encouraged to enter the mother goddess with reverence and offer her all that you are ready to release and let go of. Taking a dip holds great religious and spiritual significance for thousands of travellers and locals. It is believed that taking a holy dip in the waters of Maa Ganga cleanses the mind, body, and soul, and relieves you from bad karmas and sufferings.

A purification.

There are many places to dip along Maa Ganga. Please note that you must adhere to the local dress code when dipping. Women, you must cover shoulders, mid-riff and knees when bathing in public.

Travel tip:

Many people have drowned bathing in Maa Ganga due to underestimating her current. You’ll notice there are lots of chains attached to the side of the river bank, these are to hold onto for safety. You can also head to Ganga beach where there are lots of sheltered spots to dip in.

13. Be among the cows – they rule the land!

I call Rishikesh, the land of the cows. No but seriously. In the Hindu religion, cows are sacred and here they are free to roam the streets and treated like family (royalty). They wander, roam and rule the land and I’m pretty sure you’ll develop a new relationship with and love for cows after you visit Rishikesh.

Day Trips from Rishikesh

1. Haridwar

Just 30 minutes away, Haridwar offers a deeper spiritual experience with its ancient temples and the sacred River Ganges.

2. Kanjapuri Devi Temple

Rent a motorbike and journey to this viewpoint for a panoramic view of Rishikesh and the Ganges.

3. The Valley of Flowers

For a multi-day adventure, explore the Valley of Flowers in July and August, adorned with a breathtaking array of alpine flowers.

Have you been to Rishikesh?

What are your best things to do in Rishikesh? Anything you’d add to this Amsterdam bucket list?

Love as always and happy adventuring… 

Mollie Bylett

India Google Map Legend

Get lifetime access to my endless hours of research and time spent on the ground finding the best places to eat, drink, relax and explore in the area. You simply open the Google Map on your device and all my pins are at the touch of your fingertips.





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