Did you know that Rishikesh is one of the adventure capitals of India? Here’s a complete list for the absolute best things to do in Rishikesh for those seeking adventure!
Rishikesh has long been a spiritual destination. The powerful flow of the holy Ganges has always attracted those seeking direction and inspiration from devout Hindus, yoga and meditation gurus, and even the Beatles! In fact, Rishikesh is often referred to as the Land of God.
However, what many people don’t realize is that Rishikesh is famous for two names, the latter being The Adventure Capital of India. And, it’s easy to see why; from whitewater rafting on the Ganges to jungle waterfall trekking, this Uttarakhand gem is loaded with adventure potential.
In this guide, I’ll be outlining some of the best things to do in Rishikesh for those of you seeking adrenaline and adventure. Not only that, but you’ll also find some “must-dos” that you should definitely add in between your adventure-packed Rishikesh itineraries.
At the bottom of this post, I’ve also included a “Rishikesh Travel Guide” that includes some useful information for planning your trip. Once you’ve listed all of the epic things to do in Rishikesh, make sure to check out that section to help better plan your trip.
20 Best Things to do in Rishikesh
From waterfall trekking in beautiful hilly terrain to river rafting down the Ganges River, here are the best things to do in Rishikesh in the beautiful state of Uttarakhand, India.
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1. River Rafting on the Ganges
Whitewater rafting (river rafting) is perhaps the most iconic adventure activity in Rishikesh and a unique opportunity to experience the holy river in all its glory.
Since the rafting scene is fairly large in Rishikesh, there are numerous companies and tours advertising whitewater trips. You’ll also find different routes based on your experience.
This Rishikesh whitewater rafting tour is one of the best and most cost-effective in Rishikesh and offers four options:
- 9km from Brahmapuri to Nim beach
- 16km from Shivpuri to Nim beach,
- 25km from Marine Drive to Nim beach
- 35km from Kodiyala to Nim beach.
The price will also vary depending on the course but it was very affordable compared to other parts of the world.
2. Waterfall Trekking
While a lot of the Rishikesh adventure activities and attractions on this list involve some kind of paid tour, hikes are always a great free option. They’re even better if a waterfall is involved.
Rishikesh is located in the foothills of the Himalayas. As a result of this unique rocky terrain, you’ll find some spectacular limestone waterfalls on the adjacent sloping hills.
I’ve written a guide to the 3 Best Waterfalls in Rishikesh, which are all within walking distance of Tapovan and the Lakshman Bridge. Otherwise, here are the links to the individual posts for the top three:
3. Cliff Jumping
The steep banks of the Ganges River have some epic cliff jumping spots. You’ll often find groups of people launching off the large boulders and sharp embankments into pools of calm Ganga water.
There are dozens of good spots ranging from small, 3-meter drops to epic 15-meter+ jumps.
If you’re inexperienced, I’d recommend getting a guide to show you the ropes. I couldn’t find any Rishikesh tours that just included cliff jumping. However, if you book the whitewater rafting tour recommended above or the camping trip (below), they both include organized cliff jumps.
4. Rent a Royal Enfield and Ride to the Himalayan Foothills
Besides Bollywood and Chai, there’s nothing as iconically India as a Royal Enfield motorbike. If you’ve always wanted to ride a motorbike through the hills underneath the Himalayas, then Rishikesh is the place to do it!
You can rent an Enfield anywhere in Tapovan, where there are several motorbike hire places. The cost of renting a Royal Enfield is around 1500 rupees per day, which is much dearer than a smaller scooter or motorbike (between 350-500 rupees). Licensing works off of your home driver’s license, which in India, is considered to cover two-wheelers. However, you’ll want to be confident to hit these roads.
However, if you have experience riding a heavier 500CC+ motorbike, then the Enfield is the way to go. At t the end of the day, it’s really quite affordable and a no-brainer tradeoff for the experience.
Once you’ve got your set of two wheels, either hit the road to explore or take the route to the Maa Kunjapuri Devi Temple (below) for some epic Himalayan views. Either way, exploring the mountain roads on an Enfield is easily one of the best adventures in Rishikesh you could have!
5. Hike or Ride to Kunjapuri Devi Temple
This temple is located approximately 26 kilometers from Rishikesh along steep and winding mountain roads. Getting here is an epic and awe-inspiring adventure in itself, especially if you rent a motorbike. On the way, you’ll pass rich forests and Mars-like dusty roads with distant snow-capped Himalayan backdrops.
The Maa Kunjapuri Devi Temple is located on a hill with an elevation of 1600M+ and offers incredible views of the snow-clad Himalayas and surrounding foothills. However, before they are earned, you’ll need to climb the 300 stairs from the main gate.
There are also some resident monkeys here that love to cause a bit of mischief with devout Hindus who consider this temple very important.
If motorbikes and steep cliffs aren’t your idea of adventure, there’s also the option of taking a tour here form Rishikesh, which takes approximately 8 hours.
Book a hiking tour instead: Kunjapuri Devi Temple hike (hundreds of five star reviews from Rishikesh).
6. Walk Across lakshman jhula & Ram Jhula Bridge
Lakshman Jhula, also spelled Laxman Jhula, is a red iron suspension bridge crosses the Ganges River in the popular tourist area of Tapovan in Rishikesh.
You’ll definitely end up adding this to your list of things to see in Rishikesh and might even end up here without knowing when crossing from Tapovan to Jonk, either on a cafe crawl or just wondering around the holy city.
When you visit this Rishikesh tourist attraction, make sure to keep your wallet close and your bags locked as thieving, opportunistic monkeys like to prowl on the Lakshman Jhula Bridge. They love pickpocketing unsuspecting tourists.
Another famous hanging bridge is the Ram Jhula. This is found just a little further upstream on the Ganges River in Rishikesh. There’s also a nice place you can relax near the bridge, known as the Ram Jhula Beach.
Tip: There is a beautiful temple next to Lakshman Jhula bridge in Tapovan called Tera Manzil Temple (Lakshman Temple or Trimbakeshwar Temple). You’ll see this on the southern banks of River Ganga and it’s worth taking a closer look!
7. Visit the “Beatles Ashram”
Even for the non-religious, taking a stroll down to the Ganges River evokes some pretty powerful and spiritual emotions. Anyone who’s ever been to Rishikesh could easily understand why the Beatles chose the place to seek inspiration for their “White Album” in the 1960s. And, it seems it was exactly what Lennon and McCartney needed since the hit later went on to sell 24 million copies, the third highest-selling album in history.
During that time, The Beatles studied Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at a then, quaint forest Ashram on the Ganges shoreline.
Now, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram is no longer teaching yoga or meditation but is instead a “museum-like” destination named The Beatles Ashram.
Getting here from Rishikesh takes roughly 30-40 minutes of leisurely walking and entry tickets cost 600 rupees for foreigners. However, we were able to easily sneak in for free by strolling in from the river bank (you didn’t hear it from me).
8. Ashram Hopping – Practice Yoga in the Yoga Capital of the World
Okay, Rishikesh has more than just two colloquially recognized names. Another, perhaps more often used, is Yoga Capital of the World – and that’s a pretty big name to live up to.
There are dozens of well-known and highly respected Ashrams in Rishikesh and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a hotel or cafe that doesn’t offer yoga classes. I hadn’t done too much yoga myself before visiting Rishikesh. But, since my hostel offered free rooftop yoga in the mornings, I thought it was the perfect chance to try something new.
Update: After first visiting Rishikesh in 2019, I’ve continued my yoga practice, committing to yoga every week!
If you’ve ever wanted to become a Yogi, or Yoga instructor, there are also dozens of reputable schools in Rishikesh. Due to the competition, Rishikesh is also one of the cheapest places to do the course! Below is a list of the best ashrams to check out in Rishikesh:
- Swarg Ashram
- Sivananda Ashram
- Parmarth Niketan Ashram
9. Giant Swing
“I thought this was a list of the best things to do in Rishikesh for adventurers!” Okay, if Yoga and exploring decaying Ashrams aren’t your idea of adventure, then the Rishikesh Giant Swing will be sure to get you back into the adrenaline “swing of things”.
The Giant Swing in Rishikesh is the largest of its kind in India and is truly world-class. The operation is run by Jump Masters from Queenstown in New Zealand and it shows.
The swing is called “Jumpin Heights” and you can jump solo or tied to your partner or lucky dorm-mate for roughly $43 USD, including pickup and dropoff at your accommodation.
Book in advance: Giant Swing Experience (best deal online).
10. Go Bungee Jumping
Rishikesh wouldn’t be a world-class adventure destination without a resident bungee jump. So, if you’re looking to unlock your inner adventure junkie, you have to try Bungy in Rishikesh!
Located at the same place (Jumpin Heights) as the Giant Swing, the Rishikesh Bungee Jump is also India’s tallest bungee at 83 meters over the Ganges River!
If you’re keen on trying the giant swing, a bungee, and the flying fox, you can check out this combo package. Alternatively, you can book the bungee separately using the same link.
11. Camping in Rishikesh
After the hustle and bustle of Indian backpacking and travel, getting back to nature in Rishikesh is always a welcoming change of pace. If you’re looking for an epic multi-day trip exploring the best of Rishikesh and camping with like-minded travelers in the jungles beside the holiest River on earth, then I’ve got you covered.
You can book camping with Camp White World Expeditions, which runs an amazing experience 21 km from Rishikesh in a beautiful valley near the Ganges. This is a really top-rated bookable experience in Rishikesh and even has a Badge of Excellence on Tripadvisor.
After all the epic adventure activities in Rishikesh like sightseeing tours, bungee, giant swing, water sports, whitewater rafting and cliff jumping– the best way to just unwind and meet new people is to go jungle camping.
If you’d prefer to camp independently, you could check out the “Camp River Zone” or alternative tour companies camping near Marine Drive.
I wouldn’t recommend freedom camping by yourself in the forests beside Rishikesh as herds of elephants and even tigers (apparently) could be present in the jungle.
12. Rock Climbing
Of course, Rishikesh wouldn’t be an adventure travel destination without rock climbing! The truth is, there are several great rock climbing locations in the Ganga Valley worth checking out.
There are also a few adventure travel tour companies offering rock climbing and repelling trips.
Update: Unfortunately, the tour company I went with on my first trip to Rishikesh has now shut down. However, if you do a search you’ll be able to find some. Alternatively, just walk around Tapovan and there are plenty of tour offices where you can book a rock climbing adventure.
13. Ganga Aarti at Triveni Ghat – Best Thing to do in Rishikesh at Night
One of the best things to do for sunset in Rishikesh is to head to the Triveni Ghat to watch the famous Ganga Aarti. This is a sacred Hindu fire offering ceremony specific to the Ganges River. It is also present in other holy places such as Varanasi and Haridwar.
The Ganga Aarti is performed every night during sunset as well as every morning for sunrise. The timings work off the sunrise and sunset times. Therefore, it will vary by season. I’d recommend getting to the Ghat about 40 minutes before the sunset.
Allow about an hour if you want to walk 5 kilometers from Tapovan. Otherwise, a rickshaw or blue Vikram won’t cost more than 150 rupees for the trip.
14. Rajaji National Park Safari
Like me, if you missed out on a Ranthambore Safari booking, you’re in luck if you make it to Rishikesh. There are a select few safari tours heading to Rajaji National Park, which offers an opportunity to spot a wild Bengal Tiger. This is one of the best national parks near Rishikesh for wildlife spotting!
This safari tour includes a professional wildlife guide who upholds strict viewing rules to not disturb the tigers and other animals in the park. In terms of wildlife and nature, this Safari Tour has to be one of the most underrated and epic things to experience in Rishikesh!
Book a Rajaji National Park Tiger Safari online for the best deal.
15. Parasailing and Paragliding
Chasing the best possible view of the incredible Rishikesh landscapes? Pocket your drone, there’s no better way to get a real birds-eye view than to go parasailing and paragliding. If you want the best possible views of the Himalayan foothills around the Rishikesh mountains, this is your best experience!
In my opinion, a paragliding experience is one of the best adventurous things to do in Rishikesh. Like most things in India, the options are also fairly cheap in comparison to places like Switzerland.
Book at: “HAWKS’ FLY ADVENTURE
16. Go Hiking in The Mountains around Rishikesh & Beyond
Due to its location, Rishikesh is a hiking and trekking dream hotspot. There are hundreds of short day hikes and a select few epic overnight hikes to snowy peaks below the Himalayas.
With so many to choose from, it’s hard to know where to even start. For quick hikes close to Rishikesh, check out the waterfall links above. Also, this blog covers some of the best treks on offer near Rishikesh and includes some epic overnighters too.
The longer treks are usually offered as a tour package since you’ll need gear, accommodation, and transport. Below I’ve listed some of the best trekking tours in Rishikesh.
- Nagtibba Trek (Dehradun to Dehradun) – easy trek but beautiful scenery including Himalayan views, snow, fields, and forest.
- 4D3N Deoria Tal, Chopta, Tungnath, and Chandrashila Treks
- 4D3N Dayara Bugyal Trek (Haridwar)
- Kunjapuri Trek
- Kuari Pass
As it was for us, Rishikesh is a popular destination for backpackers prior to heading to Nepal for Himalayan trekking. The foothills and nearby trekking peaks were a perfect warm-up for us before our Three Passes Trek.
17. Visit the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple (Shiva Temple)
The Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is another beautiful Hindu temple worth visiting when exploring Rishikesh and the surrounding area.
It takes roughly one hour to get here if you rent a motorbike in Tapovan. However, similarly to the Kunjapuri Devi Temple, the journey itself is well worth the ride.
Neelkanth is associated with Lord Shiva. And, according to Hinduism, this is the very place that Shiva ingested all the poison from the ocean and placed it in his throat. This, in turn, made Shiva’s throat turn blue.
18. Watch Sunset on the Ganges
After a long day of adventure-fueled adrenaline, it’s always great to sink into the Rishikesh “chill” for sunset.
Head down to the river banks, hostel rooftop, or any of the hundreds of cafes near Lakshman Jhula and finish the day off with an incredible Uttarakhand sunset.
19. Visit the Veda5 Retreat
Veda5 is one of India’s very best luxury wellness destinations. It’s nestled in the Himalayas near Rishikesh and offers healing and rejuvenation through ayurveda treatments, yoga classes, guided meditation sessions and amazing organic food.
The best part is, you can drop in to Veda5 on a holistic, 8 hour day visit which includes:
- one hour ayurveda or organic spa therapy or massage
- hotel pickup from Tapovan or Rishikesh town
- use of swimming pool and ayurveda bar
- yoga and meditation sessions by toga guru
- village temple trek
While this isn’t for the adventure seekers, visiting the Veda5 on a day trip is one of the best things to do in Rishikesh to unwind. However, this is a popular retreat and they limit the numbers, so it’s best to book in advance.
Book: Veda5 Retreat Day Visit
20. Join the Best Walking Tour in Rishikesh
I’m a big fan of walking tours when I first get to a new city. It’s one of the best ways to learn about the culture, the history, and discover the best spots and hidden gems.
In Rishikesh, you’ll find tonnes of walking tours, since all the best highlights and attractions in Tapovan are within walking distance.
The best-rated walking tour is run by Yo Tours. It’s super cheap and a great way to meet other travelers.
Book: Walking tour by Yo Tours
Where to Stay in Rishikesh
After spending a few weeks relaxing and experiencing all of the epic things to do and see in Rishikesh, I ended up staying at a few different hotels and hostels. The main thing to look for in Rishikesh is the location.
Many backpackers including myself recommend staying in the Tapovan area. There are so many things to do in Tapovan, since this is the main tourist area in Rishikesh. It doesn’t matter too much whether you stay on the south side, or the north side, as everything is within walking distance.
My favorite hostel in Rishikesh: Live Free Hostel
After checking out a few hostels, Live Free definitely had the best vibe. Complete with a courtyard and comfortable rooms, there is also a big downstairs hangout area where they have group cooking activities and movie nights. There is also free morning yoga on the rooftop. Beds are also incredibly cheap, at less than $4 a night! However, when I booked, it was cheaper on Booking.com than on Hostelworld for this hostel for some reason.
Best budget private room: Hotel Yog
If you’d prefer to relax by yourself or as a couple, the Hotel Yog is one of the best budget hotels in the Tapovan area. Rooms are considered budget but are a little more expensive than the nearby hostels. However, at only around $20 a night for spacious rooms with mountain views, a continental breakfast and a rooftop terrace, you really can’t go wrong.
Best-rated yoga resort: Rudram Hotel Yoga and Ayurveda Retreat
Looking to do a whole bunch of yoga in Rishikesh but still want to stay within the Tapovan area? This place offers yoga courses and free yoga sessions by the Ganges. The rooms are super comfortable and come with AC and mountain views.
Rishikesh Travel Guide
That wraps up the list of the best things to do in Rishikesh. If you’re already here, or still planning your trip, consider reading the below tips for visiting before you click out. I guarantee you’ll learn something!
How to Get to Rishikesh
Before you can jump into these epic activities and things to do in Rishikesh, you’ll have to get here! Due to the relative proximity, most tourists visit Rishikesh either from Delhi or via a stopover.
Below are some of the best options for getting to Rishikesh by air, car, or bus.
Overnight and long-distance buses are by far my favorite way to get from A to B in India. They’re cheap, worry-free (mostly), and fairly comfortable. The best resources for booking buses in India include Redbus and Bookaway. Both have listings for small, private bus and transport companies to help you compare the best fares.
Note: If you’re getting to Rishikesh by bus, you’ll most likely be dropped at a bus station in Adarsh Gram, approximately 15 minutes from the popular Tapovan area. There are rickshaw drivers and Vikram drivers here waiting for tourist-loaded buses. Try not to be ripped off and pay no more than 350 rupees for the ride, which can be split.
If you choose the train route, you’ll need to book a ticket to Haridwar and then forward to Rishikesh. Haridwar is well-connected to major hubs like Delhi, Varanasi, Rajasthan and Amritsar. However, there are only three slow trains from Haridwar to Rishikesh railway station daily. A better bet would be to book a train to Haridwar and continue to Rishikesh by bus.
The most direct and fastest way to get to Rishikesh is just to fly. The nearest airport is Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport, which is 15 kilometers from Rishikesh. However, this airport only services flights from Delhi, so if you’re anywhere else, you’ll need to fly to Delhi first. If you choose to fly to Jolly Grant Airport, you can get a Vikram or rickshaw to Tapovan for 300-350 rupees.
Best Time to Visit Rishikesh
Rishikesh has three main seasons; Summer, winter, and the monsoon.
Monsoon months: July to September
Summer: March to May
Winter: October to February
The widely-accepted consensus is that the best time to visit Rishikesh is between the months of September to June. This avoids the monsoon months, where torrential rainfall is common.
These months offer the best adventure opportunity in Rishikesh, from safe whitewater rafting to pristine hiking conditions.
Also, note that April and May can also get a little hot. So, if you’re a bit shy of the heat, try visiting between September to March. March is also the time where the yoga festival kicks off, so this is easily the most popular time to visit Rishikesh.
How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Rishikesh?
Your travel budget will vary greatly depending on the things you do in Rishikesh and how you want to be accommodated. Below I’ve averaged the costs on both sides of the spectrum
Budget: $20 USD per day
Luxury: $200 USD per day
On average, I spent about $25 a day in Rishikesh including all of my food, accommodation, and adventure activities. However, this is an average amount. Some days where I just walked to waterfalls and sat in cafes, I spent less than $10. On the flip side, things like trekking tours and bungy jumps boosted that well above $60 a day.
However, I am conscious of the fact that I’m used to “budget” and “backpacking” travel. I stay in cheap shared dorm rooms, eat street food, and usually walk long stretches rather than paying for a lift. I choose to travel like this because I enjoy the simplicity of frugal travel.
Although, I do understand that other travelers get to spend less time exploring, and want to treat themselves. If that sounds like you, you could easily spend $200 a day on a fancy hotel, fine dining, and private tours.
How Many Days Should I stay in Rishikesh?
Since the beautiful city of Rishikesh has so much variety in terms of activities and things to see, recommending how long to spend here is difficult.
If you’re visiting Rishikesh for adventures like hiking, waterfalls, or river rafting, I’d recommend staying here for at least a week.
For people looking for more spiritual things to do in Rishikesh including yoga and meditation retreats, it’s popular to spend at least 2 weeks here. With that said, I met many people who were planning to spend a couple of days, and ended up staying months.
This city draws you in. And, with some of the best yoga schools and ashrams in the world, many people stay to do their yoga teacher’s course or simply stay in a retreat.
Can You Eat Meat in Rishikesh?
Rishikesh is considered a “Holy City” in India. This means that the sale and consumption of meat and alcohol is forbidden. If you respect those customs, then you’ll be rewarded with some of the best vegetarian food in the world.
However, I did notice that there were a couple of restaurants selling chicken on the menu. So, I’m guessing it’s not widely policed.
Final Note: More Things to do in Rishikesh
Been through this list of fun things to do in Rishikesh and looking for more travel inspiration? Considering this Land of Gods is also a treasure trove of adventure sports, water sports, and adrenaline activities, you’d expect there to be even more!
Below are some more activities that you can do in this amazing adventure and yoga destination.
- Get an ayurvedic massage
- Go hot air ballooning – varies by season
- Mountain biking
- Visit Bharat Mandir Temple
- Visit the Ragunath Temple
More Things to do and See in India
I really hope that this comprehensive guide to the best things to do in Rishikesh has been useful in planning your adventures and itinerary. If you have any more suggestions that you feel deserve a spot on the list, leave me a comment and I’ll gladly check it out during my next visit.
For more travel guides and adventure inspiration from India, take a pick from the list of posts below.
Why not save this guide to the best things to do in Rishikesh for later?