Eating dinner alone, sitting on a vast balcony overlooking the Laxmann Jhula bridge above the river Ganges in Rishikesh India, I met Alice. As I looked across to the Rishikesh temple of Trayambakeshwar, which we nicknamed the ‘Orange Cake,’ the café was bustling and humming with the sounds of contented customers, enjoying their eclectic mix of chais, Naan bread and curries.
Alice came into the cafe as a stranger asking if she could share my table. For the rest of the week, we had a Rishikesh adventure together: getting lost on dirt paths on a motorcycle, trying different yoga classes, searching for the best place to eat Indian thali…
The city is the perfect little bubble of cafes, Hindu spirituality, tantra courses and open satsangs with gurus. I could have stayed here forever, and I am sure I will be back soon.
Here are my favourite photos of Rishikesh from this whirlwind week and a little story about each one to heighten your curiousity and love for this spiritual haven in India.
Bathing along the River Ganges
The Ganges River is a holy body of water for India, and people come from all over the country to bathe in it and release their blessings to the current.
The backpacker area of Rishikesh is right on the River Ganges, between two bridges, Laxmann Jhula and Ram Jhula Rishikesh. I stayed in an ashram on the Ram Jhula side, and multiple times a day I walked back and forth between the two structures.
Rishikesh city is one of the places where the water is the cleanest, but it is also very strong. As most Indians cannot swim, they hold on to the chains that are tied to the ghats, while they duck their heads underwater.
Monkey Business on Laxmann Jhula Bridge
The two bridges are extremely narrow and seem quite rickety, although me and Alice tested them out and are still living to tell the tale.
There is constant traffic when crossing from one side of the river to another, as the bridges are frequented not only by hundreds of people, but also by motorcycles (constantly beeping, of course), monkeys, and cows!
The Beatles Ashram
To celebrate Alice’s birthday we spent the day at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram, where the Beatles stayed in the late 1960s. The Beatles Ashram Rishikesh, is where The Beatles wrote most of the White Album! Ringo and his wife weren’t too happy at this ashram though; they left after just a few weeks.
The Beatles ashram is now abandoned and covered in gorgeous graffiti, created by various local artists. The first thing you see when you enter are these beautiful stone pods that might have been the rooms at the time; there are two floors in each one and on the bottom we saw the remains of Indian-style bathrooms.
The Beatles in India put Rishikesh on the map, and this spot is now definitely one of the top tourist places in Rishikesh for travelers.
Meet the Holy Men of Rishikesh
Because of the holy river Ganges running straight through the town, Rishikesh is a powerful spiritual center. Hundreds of sadhus have made the banks of the river their home.
Sadhus are holy people who have given up life in society in order to pursue religious enlightenment. They usually dress in an orange cloth, and during the day they walk around barefoot, asking for donations.
At night you can see groups of them making themselves comfortable under the stars.
The Beauty of India’s Women
One of the things that I was most enthralled by in India were the women and their clothes. No matter where you were, the saris colored the streets with reds, oranges and pinks.
In the mornings, when they bathed in the river, the women hung them up to dry.
Ganga Aarti on the River Ganges
Every evening, the Parmarth Niketan Ashram holds a Ganga Aarti on the river, blessing its waters and giving offerings to the Goddess Ganga.
Hundreds of people leave their shoes at the entrance and sit on the ghats for the ceremony.
There is chanting and lamps are lit, over which people cup their hands to bring some of the smoke over their own heads, thus receiving a blessing from the Goddess.
Afterwards, people often bathe in the river, and light a candle prayer. They send their beautiful flower offerings into the water, to be swept away by the currents and become true. This is a magical moment on your Rishikesh trip.
Rishikesh Temple Vendors
India is full of temples; both Buddhist, Hindu and sometimes joined together. These structures are dedicated to different Gods (there are over 33 million Gods in Hinduism).
Surrounding many of these are small shops with vendors selling the offerings that worshipers bring to their chosen God. Sometimes they are flowers, small cups of water or milk. And sometimes they are ribbons that are tied to the outside of the temples.
Drink a cup of Hot Chai
During my stay in Rishikesh, my favorite thing to do was wake up early and watch all the activity by the river. Since I was staying on the side of the Ram Jhula bridge, where the ashrams are, the streets were mostly filled with Indian tourists. I found my favorite chai stand and sat there every day, watching all the beautifully-clad women and men walk by.
Sometimes people would sit next to me, and we would try to have a conversation despite neither of us speaking the others’ language. Luckily, smiles always work.
Visit Rishikesh in India
It has been a pleasure to share my photos of Rishikesh with you. These Rishikesh images show just how magical this spiritual retreat is and will give you an idea of things to do in Rishikesh.
I hope it inspires you to take the plunge and visit soon. Maybe you’ll find me and Alice Teacake there, bent in some yoga pose, drinking a hot cup of frothy chai, watching the glorious sunset as Mother Ganges flows by!
How to get to Rishikesh
Visitors to Rishikesh usually fly from Delhi. The nearest airport to Rishikesh is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, 35 kilometers away. For the best prices, I recommend checking out Skyscanner. From Dehradun, you can take a taxi or a bus.
Rishikesh can also be reached via Hardiwar train station, 25 kilometers away. This station is linked to by major hubs including Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Varanasi and Lucknow. From the train station, take a local bus or a taxi. The bus takes around 45 minutes. A taxi will be slightly quicker taking 30 minutes (if the traffic is OK!).
There are plenty of buses arriving in Rishikesh from the nearby cities of Hardiwar and Dehradun but also from further main hubs such as Delhi.
For local help in booking transport, accommodation and activities in India, I recommend India Someday for their awesome services (psst – Teacake Travels’ readers can get up to 25% off their booking fees: 20% if you’re a solo traveler and an extra 5% if you mention Teacake).
Where to stay in Rishikesh
About the Author and Photographer
Victoria Campa grew up in Madrid, Spain and went to school in New York City. She has been backpacking around India, Nepal and Sri Lanka for the past few months, camera in hand. Soon she will be collecting her photographs in a limited edition book. You can see more of her work on her website www.victoriacampa.com or follow along on her instagram @vwcampa
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