Asia, Destinations, India

Taking a breather in Rishikesh

June 7, 2011

Clear, clean water in the Ganges at Rishikesh

Almost 1,000 kilometres or 600 miles up-river from Varanasi is Rishikesh, the gateway to the Indian Himalaya.

Here, the Ganges runs clean and clear. Some consider the small town that lines the riverbank the birthplace of yoga – others know it for its association with the Beatles or for its proximity to the holy city of Haridwar.

Whatever the reason for your visit to Rishikesh, it is, quite literally, a breath of fresh air.

Taking the train is one of the joys of travelling in India, and one thing I love about the Indian Railway are the train names. Each have a name evocative of the journey – in this instance, I took the Doon Express from Varanasi Cantt to Haridwar Junction.

Departing Varanasi at 10am, I arrived in Haridwar at 4 the following morning. There was no way I was leaving the train station in the dark, so I sat on my pack for four hours, drifting in and out of sleep until the sun came up.

Just under an hour from Haridwar by bus, Rishikesh is hippy-central and a tourist draw-card. It was full of tourists from all over the world – backpackers, wealthy Europeans, honeymooning Indians and families on pilgrimage thronged the narrow streets.

It’s a vastly different experience to Varanasi. The air is bright and crisp, and the water so clean it’s possible to go white-water rafting without risking death by coliform bacteria.

My intention was to spend a couple of weeks in Rishikesh on yet another yoga retreat. However, it wasn’t to be – I found myself rebelling against the spiritual atmosphere of Rishikesh and decided to get moving up to Amritsar, on the Indo-Pakistan border, as soon as possible.

So I booked a ticket on the Dehradun-Amritsar Express and spent my few days in Rishikesh mostly trying on outfits at the local FabIndia outlet and reading books at a cafe overlooking the Ganges. I didn’t even make it out to the ruins of the ashram where, in 1968, the Beatles came and wrote most of the White Album.

Oh, and in Rishikesh I was introduced to the joys of fresh lime sodas.

But aside from that…there is little else to report apart from sunny photos and laidback days a world apart from the frenzy of Varanasi. Because sometimes? You just need to do a whole lotta nothing.



You Might Also Like


  • Reply Andrea June 7, 2011 at 5:22 am

    Mmmm…lime sodas sound yum! Looks so relaxing…could use a bit of relaxing myself right about now =)

    • Reply MeganRTW June 8, 2011 at 8:12 am

      Hey Andrea, they were very yum. Have been thinking about recreating them here in Sydney but it’s more chai weather than soda weather!

  • Reply Tiijmen June 7, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Haha, “it’s possible to go white-water rafting without risking death by coliform bacteria” I would say thats definitely a bonus point for Rishikesh πŸ™‚ So true you sometimes just need to do nothing for a few days when you are travelling. Travelling can be the best thing on earth, but also really drain all your energy if you just keep going and going. At least, that what happend with me a few times.

    • Reply MeganRTW June 8, 2011 at 8:12 am

      You’re right, Tijmen. Sometimes you just need a break – people think you’re on holiday when you’re away so long but really it can be hard work! πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Andi of My Beautiful Adventures June 8, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    What beautiful pictures! This place is definitely on my list of places to visit next time I’m in India.

    • Reply MeganRTW June 9, 2011 at 9:10 am

      You should definitely visit Rishikesh, Andi – it’s so much more relaxed that the rest of the north of the country!

  • Reply Brad Benner June 12, 2011 at 12:11 am

    I spent 7 weeks in India this past February and March — hanging out in Rishikesh the last week of the my journey. I would definitely recommend the rafting — it was the most fun I had on my entire trip. I even fell out of the boat!

    • Reply MeganRTW June 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      Hi Brad! Wow, it must have been cold in February! See, saying that you fell out of the boat just doesn’t sell it to me – that’s exactly why the idea of rafting anywhere in the world doesn’t exact sit comfortably with me πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Angela June 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I just got back from the Indian Himalayas but I couldn’t make it to Rishikesh, I’ll do it next time, so you suggest not more than a couple of days before rebelling against its spiritual atmosphere? πŸ˜‰

    • Reply MeganRTW June 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm

      Rishikesh seemed a bit like a yoga factory, to be honest, Angela! It’s a beautiful place, but I was actually very surprised at how many people from all over the world there were there, and it intimidated me a little bit! I’d just come from doing yoga in Pokhara in Nepal, and that’s definitely not Pokhara’s focus so I was a little over (under?!) whelmed. I would go back and give it a second try though.

  • Reply GRRRL TRAVELER June 12, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Came close to visiting Rishikesh but then I’ve heard it’s gotten so commercial, so I kinda thot I’d save that for another time. Did get to Amritsar & out to the border crossing– I liked Amritsar a lot. Cleaner & saner.

    • Reply MeganRTW June 12, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      Hey Christine – I’m going to post about Amritsar soon. I loved it there too, and think the basic India itinerary (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur-maybe Varanasi) should be expanded to include it.

      I think Dharamsala/Mcleod is a much better alternative for yoga or an extended stay. I ‘got’ the crowd there more, I think!

      • Reply MeganRTW June 12, 2011 at 2:18 pm

        But maybe that was because I’d been so recently in Tibet…hmm!

  • Reply Jason June 14, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I never made it to Rishikesh when I was in India (many years ago now). It’s a place that many travelers raved about back then, and from your account not much has changed. I suppose it’s a good reason to go back one day.

    • Reply MeganRTW June 16, 2011 at 7:15 pm

      There’s always a good reason to go back to India, Jason πŸ˜€ So much to see!

    Leave a Reply