Things to Do in Rishikesh, India: The Yoga Capital of the World


Known as the "Gateway to the Himalayas" and "Yoga Capital of the World", the city of Rishikesh is considered as one of the holiest places to Hindus. As a pilgrimage site, it is dotted with centuries-old temples. The River Ganges—considered as sacred in India—starts streaming in the state of Uttarakhand, where Rishikesh is located. Made famous when the Beatles came to visit in the winter of 1968, the city of Rishikesh has now become a place where one finds spirituality, tranquility, adventure, culture, good food and then some. To discover more about this place, here are some things to do and places to see in Rishikesh.

Lakshman Jhula Bridge
Witness the Ganga Aarti

Each time dusk descends, a devotional ritual called the "Ganga Aarti" is performed at the banks of the Ganges River in the three sacred cities of Varanasi, Haridwar and Rishikesh. Instead of the "pandits" (Hindu Priests), the ceremony here is officiated by the young ashram residents studying the Vedas at Parmath Niketan Ashram. The Ganga Aartis starts off with chanting of devotional songs (bhajans) accompanied by prayers and a purifying ritual called "hawan". 


Afterwards, the final act of the "aarti" takes place—where the ashram residents and the spectators makes an offering to the Ganges in the form of a small diya (cup made of leaves) filled with flowers and a lighted lamp.

Visit the Beatles Ashram

A riot of arresting street art now dominates the peeled-off walls of the ruins of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Ashram in Rishikesh. Within these walls was where the Beatles searched for spirituality in the winter of 1968. During their transcendental meditation sessions with the Maharishi, the band achieved a creative high writing a staggering 48 songs, most of which ended up on their double album "White Album". 


Other notable personalities who spent time in this former ashram were the Beach Boys, Donovan, Stevie Wonder, and Mia Farrow. Today, the ashram is where you can find a wonderful set of mural essay created by street artists forming the 'Beatles Ashram Mural Project'—which was founded in 2012. Aside from the mural paintings, lyrical lines such as "with every mistake we must surely be learning" from a George Harrison-penned song, can be read scribbled on random walls.

Cross the iconic Lakshman Jhula Bridge

Built in 1927, this iron suspension bridge across the Ganges River, connects the towns of Tapovan and Jonk. Mahatma Gandhi once crossed this bridge after he was told by his friends in Haridwar "not to leave Haridwar without having gone as far as the bridge"



At that time, Gandhi found the iron bridge "out of place in such surrounding" and would have preferred the rope bridge from before it was swept by flood in early 1920s. Today, the bridge is filled with pedestrian crossing over to the other side where the 13-storey Shiva Temple towers beautifully over the Ganges River.

Get wet on a wild river rafting ride

Even if you have tried river rafting before, there's no achieving a better adrenaline rush than experiencing it in the holy waters of the Ganges River in the foothills of the Himalayas. October to June is the ideal time for river rafting in Rishikesh where you can enjoy riding through a total river length of 36 kilometers with 13 major rapids. 

Study a Yoga course or attend a session

You cannot visit Rishikesh without immersing in yoga and meditation. Yoga schools and meditation centers are located all over Rishikesh. You can either walk-in for a yoga session or enroll to study a yoga course where you can choose from 200, 400 and 600 hours of yoga training. 



Most yoga students stay for a month to learn the minimum 200-hour yoga courses. So yes, when in Rishikesh, it is best for you to embrace a Zen state of mind through yoga.

Bungee Jumping

Surrounded by the hills that rises up to the Himalayas mountain range, Rishikesh is a perfect jump-off point for a lot of adventure activities such as bungee jumping. The popular site is the "Jumping Heights" in Mohanchatti which is less than an hour from Rishikesh. Here, you can experience the pull of gravity from a height of more than 80 meters from the ground.

Café hopping and food-tripping

One of the best part of traveling to a new place is trying out the local cuisine. Rishikesh dishes one of the best gastronomical scene in India. Varied and sumptuous, the food culture in Rishikesh is very rich and gives you plenty of options to satisfy your appetite. 



Popular cafes and restaurants includes The Little Buddha Cafe, The Sitting Elephant, Bistro Nirvana, The Beatles Cafe, Freedom Cafe, Madras Cafe, German Bakery, Ayurpak, Chotiwala, Cafe Karma and many more.

Pray at the many holy temples

Rishikesh can be a one-stop "Eat, Pray and Love" destination because you can do a lot here including finding love in different forms and praying at the many holy temples. 



Even if you don't share the same faith as the Hindus, it is still a wonderful experience to visit the many temples in the city. Aside from having intricate architectural designs, these places of worships (some are even thousand years old) brings forth a soulful experience—especially if you witness a religious activity inside.

Shop at the bazaars

Like most cities in India, the bazaar scene in Rishikesh is so colorful and filled with delightful souvenir items, traditional clothing, silverware and jewelries, antique items, organic products, spices and even branded jackets imported from Nepal. The streets lining up both sides of the Ganges River are filled with bazaars and markets that will surely gift you with amazing shopping finds.



These are just some of the many wonderful activities one can do in Rishikesh. Other things you can do include: hiking and camping, cycling, kayaking, wildlife sighting, hot-air ballooning and more.