By Nandini Hoon
Filled with incredible scenic beauty, spiritual fervour, and exciting cafes by the Ganga, Rishikesh is an eclectic blend of Indian and Western influences, says Nandini Hoon
Rishikesh is an enigma, seated on the banks of river Ganga. For millions of years this small town has been home to generations of seekers, masters and commoners, giving it its unique character. It is here that you will meet people from all walks of life; right from the Silicon Valley techie to the seeking mystic thronging the by-lanes. A beautiful blend of Indian culture and spirituality, and the magic of Western influence, Rishikesh serves as a gateway to relaxation, rejuvenation and a revival of your inner being.
Surrounded by the majestic Himalayan range, Rishikesh is paradise for yoga-enthusiasts and spiritual seekers who want to learn modalities like reiki, pranic healing and meditation. The sight of cool, soothing mist travelling from the mountains and passing over the pure waters of the Ganga leaves the visitors mesmerised. The Ganga serves as a meeting point for seekers, explorers, writers, thinkers and mystics who immerse in her beauty. Rishikesh is also a hub for organic vegetables which lend the rich local cuisine, authentic flavours. Travellers can relax and refresh themselves at the many small eateries, which serve the best of Indian and Western cuisine. Further, the market here offers a variety of fashion choices from traditional to Western wear.
A hearty adventure
Rishikesh serves as a centre point connecting travellers to destinations like Badrinath, Kedarnath, Harsil, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Uttarkashi, Joshimath, Devprayag, Rudraprayag, Tungnath, Chopta, Hemkund Sahib, Dehradun, including hill stations like Mussoorie, Dhanaulti and others. It is an adventure lover's haven where rafting, paragliding and trekking are regularly organised. The rafting camps at Kaudilaya and Shivpuri serve delicious food too including vegetable Maggi, a much loved treat by locals and travellers alike.
Tucking in warm, freshly cooked lentils soup, rice and vegetables at local dhabas is very nourishing for travellers traversing the long routes to Gangotri and Kunja Puri, in the Himalayas.
A quick visit to Tehri Dam or even the shrine of the mother Goddess at Kunjapuri offers nature lovers a treat. The sight of the hills covered in a blanket of mist and fog, cool winds amidst rainfall, rallies of turbaned bikers on their way to Hemkund Sahib, with yellow fluttering flags on their bikes, never fail to mesmerise the onlookers.
A trip to the famous Rajaji Tiger Reserve is a must and can be arranged by local travel agents in Rishikesh, Delhi, Dehradun, Chandigarh and Mussoorie. Spot the big cat in the wilderness as well as elephants, panthers, deers and different birds.
Devprayag, the meeting point of the ancient rivers of Alakananda and Bhagirathi, is a sight for sore eyes. It is here that you can behold the powerful waters that form the pristine river Ganga and see the rock where, it is said, Lord Rama came to do his penance after killing Ravana, the king of Lanka.
Rishikesh is also known for its very popular cafes that serve a wide variety of cuisines. Café by the Ganga is famous for continental, Israeli and Indian food; Café de Goa serves authentic international cuisine; and the famous German Bakery has treats to relish too. Chotiwala is popular for its authentic Indian street food. The range of breads and rolls, local honey and Rhododendron juice available at the cafés are amazing.
Rishikesh is divided into Tapovan, where most of the hotels and resorts as well as yoga centres and bustling market are tucked away, and other regions where the ashrams are. Mystics thronging the streets throughout the year while enjoying the late Bob Marley's music add to the enigma of this land of the Gods.
After exploring Rishikesh, which is part of Dehradun, the capital of Uttrakhand; Mussoorie, another tourist delight of Dehradun, will bring you back to the present times. Situated in the foothills of Himalayas, it is 76 kilometers away from Rishikesh and great package tours are available to take you there. A drive via the Rishikesh by-pass through rich deciduous forests full of pine trees, grassland, scrublands and unpolluted fresh air will delight your senses.
Popularly known as the Queen of Hills, the hill station of Mussoorie was discovered and popularised by the British during the Raj, and is famous for its natural landscapes, colonial structures, hotels, eateries and boarding schools.
It is a shopper’s paradise and a grand food destination too. Though modern, the place has managed to keep its old world charm alive. It’s a gateway to the potato fields of Dhanualti and home of India's famous storyteller, Ruskin Bond. He lives in Landour, a pocket of Mussoorie and so does veteran actor, Victor Banerjee. Lal Tibba is a region in the vicinity which also showcases the Himalayan glory in all its splendour. There is a series of interesting cafés in Mussoorie, which includes Chic Chocolate, a popular joint known for its banoffee pie, and fish and chips. So what are you waiting for? Start planning and packing for a visit to the land of the gods.
Must dos in Rishikesh
Best time to visit: April to October
What to wear? Casuals, summer wear. Don’t forget your sun-blocks, hats and umbrellas. Carry walking shoes because you will explore quite a bit on foot.
Transportation: Travel to Rishikesh by train, car or plane via Jolly Grant airport at Dehradun situated 17kms away from the main town. Use local autos and taxis to commute internally. Rishikesh is reachable from Delhi by road in six hours approximately, by train in five hours and by plane in 45 minutes.
Trip Organiser: Travel company India Heritage Getaways has its office in New Delhi, in the residential area of Anand Niketan. It has been creating and organising tours for the past 12 years in India and worldwide.
Based in New Delhi, Nandini Hoon is a trained dancer, theatre artist, filmmaker, poet, face reader and an avid travel blogger.
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