In the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, Rishikesh straddles the Ganges, linked by suspension bridges and flanked by the green foothills of the Himalayas.
Long a holy site of pilgrimage for Hindus, sages and saints have visited in search of higher knowledge, meditating on the sandy banks of the river and immersing themselves in its sacred water. It’s also a gateway to a number of remote temples in the mountains beyond and the revered Chota Char Dham circuit.
Rishikesh is regarded as the ‘Yoga Capital of World’, famous in the west as the place where, in 1968, The Beatles visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram to learn advanced transcendental meditation. It was during this incredibly productive period that they wrote 18 songs that appear on the White Album. Today, it draws many people wanting to learn about yoga and meditation with numerous centres to learn, improve and master a range of practices and techniques.
An unforgettable sight occurs each evening. As dusk descends and bells across town ring in the breeze, the population congregates on the river bank to perform the Ganga Aarati ceremony, where floating ‘diya’ dishes with lit candles and flowers are floated downstream as an offering to Goddess Ganga.
The fast flowing Ganges has also attracted white water rafters, with the season spanning March to September, with a full range of adventure activities such as mountain biking, rock climbing and zip lining cropping up to satiate thrill seekers. This is also a good place to begin a number of spectacular Himalayan hikes.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit is between October and April.
What to do
- Witness the daily evening prayer ceremony on the River Ganges
- Explore the countryside on nature walks and treks