I came to Rishikesh during my brief visit to India in 2013. I loved it then and I love it now.
Rishikesh is best known for three things: The place that the Beatles visited and wrote the ‘White Album’, one of the yoga capitals of the world and for being one of the three most religious places in India (along with Varanasi and Haridwar).
Set in beautiful hills and next to the Ganges River, Rishikesh is a picturesque place. The town itself is quite spread out with three main areas, roughly 2km apart. The area we are staying in is called Lakshman Jhula and is the most popular place for tourists to visit. This is because there are many drop in yoga classes, music nights, cafes and good shopping. The accommodation is very cheap, 400 rupees ($8) for a nice double room with balcony and private bathroom. It is simple but clean. The food is awesome with the state being vegetarian and alcohol free there is an emphasis on organic, fresh and clean eating.
Many of the cafes offer similar menus and prices but vary in location, vibe and quality of food. We have found our favourites during our time here, in particular a bakery which serves the very best breakfast I have ever had. They offer vegan choices which makes me so very happy. For roughly $3 you can get two thick slices of homemade brown toast, honey or peanut butter, a huge bowl of muesli full of nuts and seeds and a large banana diced into it, served with soy milk and a fresh squeezed mixed fruit juice. Or two different types of vegan tofu scramble with cashew nut pesto, eggplant and pumpkin, chai tea with soy milk and toast. Ev’s favourite option, a large toasted brown roll smothered in avocado and tomato, served with home made baked beans and pan fried tofu as well as a fresh squeezed juice is also so bloody good.
All the cafes also serve sizzlers which is a sizzling hot plate of rice, vegetables, dumplings and chips, felafel plates, vegie burgers… the list goes on and on. The smoothies are so good! My favourites is almond milk, banana, peanut, spinach.
So we came here to eat really! (not really)
Vegan Tofu #1
Vegan Tofu #2
Baked beans, Avocado brekkie
Muesli, Toast Brekkie
This is a Sizzler
We have also visited the Ashram which is now abandoned where the Beatles stayed and wrote the White Album. The area is now overgrown and the buildings are trashed and abandoned but you can still visit. Inside the Ashram there is a building called the Beatles Cathedral Gallery which is a large room that has been decorated by paintings done by various artists. Most of the work is dedicated to the Beatles, including lyrics and portraits but there is also reference to the maharaja who ran the Ashram and worked with the Beatles.
Because of the religious importance, there are many gurus walking the streets and sitting by the river. They seem the real deal as they ask for nothing and appear to be content to exist peacefully. People here are really lovely, not like in the cities. We are greeted (Namaste - ‘hello’) everywhere and there are only a few people hassling us to buy things. It is a really relaxing environment.
One day we wandered along out of town and found a really nice swimming area and had a dip in the very cold but refreshing water. Then we relaxed on the rocks while we dried off. It is a really pretty place and the stretch of river is so long that it is possible to find your own private area.
Walking along the road that follows river we came across lots of cows, dogs and monkeys. The animals are free here to do as they please and they really take advantage of that. Because of their religious beliefs that cows are sacred, the Hindus respect them and wave the cows tails over their faces to bless themselves. Most cows are very placid and like to get the odd pat. The monkeys are very cheeky and fun to watch from a distance but if they see you doing something they don’t like they will attack with bared teeth and snarling. We spent one night on high alert after a monkey made several attempts to break into our room while we slept. He was very violent, shaking the window and freaking us out. We had to hiss back and scare him away.
We went white water rafting here as well which was really fun. We have never done this and it was such a great day, The water is absolutely freezing but that didn’t stop us from jumping in at every opportunity. The Ganges is notoriously filthy due to cremated bodies, dead bodies, trash, people bathing in it etc but here the water is pristine as it is the beginning of the river where it flows from the Himalayas. It is so beautiful just out of town with white sandy areas and secluded peaceful swimming areas.
The vibe here is really chilled. Most people are here doing yoga or meditation courses and stay for long periods of time. Everyone relaxes by the river or in cafes which are mostly built with large floor seating areas and cushions where you can sit out over the river. Because of the great food, shopping, beautiful scenery and cheap prices it is easy to get caught here and stay longer than anticipated…