Rishikesh – famous as the world capital of yoga, and to some also known as the birthplace of yoga. The town lies next to the Ganges river (Ganga) and is one of the famous spiritual places for Hindus. If you plan to come to Rishikesh for vacation purposes or to practise yoga, here are four things you should know before you travel there. If you speak German, don't miss my short story about Rishikesh.
1. Don't book your yoga course in advance
For me, yoga is more than just exercise. I need to feel comfortable with the teacher and his/her voice. Therefore, don't trust others who recommend a yoga school in Rishikesh. Everyone has a different opinion and you might feel differently. The first thing that happened to me instead going to yoga class was that I got sick and had to stay 3 days in bed instead. When I was fit again, I felt too weak for advanced classes. That's why I went with Michael to a beginner's class. The class was cheap, but definitely one of the worst I ever had. The biggest problem was our language barrier. I couldn't focus on the exercises, as I barely understood what our teacher was saying. That being said, it was quite difficult to focus on my breathing and on relaxing, when you can't understand your teacher at all. Another major issue for me was the setup. The yoga studio was in busy Rajman Jhula. Our evening class at 6 PM was regularly disturbed by honking cars or some noise from the street. It wasn't as peaceful as I'd expected it to be in such a spiritual place.
For anyone who considers to do a yoga retreat or a teacher course in Rishikesh, I would not recommend to book a place in advance. Try out some different classes and see which teacher you prefer and feel comfortable with. In the end this is the most important part of your stay there, right?
2. Know how to get there and choose the right time
Traveling to Rishikesh can be a bit of a hassle. It's around 230 km away from Delhi, but it takes a long time by bus. If you somehow can arrange, take the train for example to Haridwar, and from there a bus to Rishikesh. The train rides are much more comfortable.
Choose the right time of the year when you want to visit Rishikesh. It can be very hot in May and June. The bad side: If you have a cheap room without a pool and an AC you'll suffer. We had a cheap room on the Lakshman Jhula side and during night I had to get up several times to shower so I could finally sleep again. If you come in the cooler months, don't forget to bring a sweater.
Dresscode: There a lot of westerners in Rishikesh, and nobody stares at you when you wear short pants. But, as it's a holy place and there are lots of locals as well, I would rather recommend long, loose pants. If also wrote a post and explained why it's better to pretend you're married while you're in India.
Don't carry anything in a plastic bag (food or other stuff) when you walk across the bridges. The monkeys in Rishikesh are everywhere and especially aggressive on the bridge. They will snatch your icecream or water bottle within seconds.
3. Vegetarian, healthy lifestyle
Prepare yourself for some veggie time in Rishikesh. It's a holy place, that being said, don't expect any fish or meat. And you know what? That was a part of Rishikesh I really enjoyed. Especially
while travelling, it's sometimes difficult to keep up a healthy lifestyle. Not so in Rishikesh. Every cafe has a huge menu with so many veggie options. And it's so delicious. No more excuses, no
temptation whatsoever. Especially in other places throughout India we sometimes had to try their chicken dishes which were delicious. Here, you're kind of forced to live a vegetarian lifestyle
but you won't mind at all, promise!
4. If you don't want to do yoga, skip Rishikesh
I defintely want to go to a place to practise yoga for a longer time. But, after a spending a week in Rishikesh, I was perfectly fine to leave this place. At the same time we were there, I
stumbled upon Dean's post on (Don't go back to) Rishikesh. He describes the feeling we had about Rishikesh. Lots of people who gather for a spiritual
experience at a place which to me was not spiritual at all. There was no place where I could really relax. The honking cars pushed me from the street, the noise was constantly there, too many
people to enjoy myself. The only place I felt comfortable was in the river Ganga when we went rafting. That was actually the best thing we did in Rishikesh.
There is not that much to do besides temples, yoga and ayurveda. If you're into that, and you don't mind the traffic and the hectic, it's fine. If not, I would not even consider to visit Rishikesh. One day we went to see the waterfalls and walked all the way up. To be honest, it's nothing special. Except, if you enjoy swimming around in dirty water with around 10 indian men (another 10 staring at you from outside!)
Next time I would rather travel up further north to Ladak area to do some real hiking and enjoy the nature. Because, I believe up there there I would encounter more tranquility, more pureness and more the feeling of 'connecting'. If you know a place there to do yoga, let me know.
Has anyone ever traveled to Rishikesh and was also surprised at how busy this spiritual place is? Who fell in love with this place?