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Top activities in Rishikesh

River rafting is a popular sport in Rishikesh
Image courtesy: ©Flickr/Devajyoti Sarkar/CC BY-SA 2.0

Ever since the Beatles rocked up at the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late ‘60s, Rishikesh has been a magnet for spiritual seekers. Today it styles itself as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’, with masses of ashrams and all kinds of yoga and meditation classes. But it is not all spirituality and contorted limbs; it’s also a popular white-water rafting centre, backpacker hang-out and Himalayan-trekking gateway. Take a look at the top activities in the city.

Yoga & Meditation

Yoga and meditation are ubiquitous in India’s yoga capital. Teaching and yoga styles vary tremendously, so check out a few classes and ask others about their experiences before committing yourself to a course. Many places also offer ayurvedic massage, and some residential ashrams have strict rules forbidding students from consuming drugs, alcohol, tobacco and meat during their stay. Popular yoga places are Omkarananda Ganga Sadan, Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram, Parmarth Niketan Ashram and Rishikesh Yog Peeth.

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Rafting, Kayaking & Trekking

More than 100 operators offer full and half day rafting trips, launching upstream and paddling down to Rishikesh. Some also offer multiday rafting trips, with camping along the river. The official rafting season runs from September to June. Most companies also offer all-inclusive Himalayan treks to places such as Kuari Pass, Har-ki Dun and Gangotri/ Tapovan.

Red Chilli Adventure is a reliable outfit offering Himalayan trekking and rafting trips throughout Uttarakhand and to Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. De-N-Ascent Expeditions are specialists in kayaking lessons and expeditions. GMVN Trekking & Mountaineering Division can arrange high-altitude treks in the Garhwal Himalaya, and hires out trekking equipment, guides and porters.

Walks & Riversides

An easy, 15-minute walk to two small waterfalls starts 3km north of Lakshman Jhula bridge on the south side of the river. The start is marked by drink stalls and a roadside shrine, and the path is easy to find. On the other side of the river, a 20- minute uphill walk (signposted) to lovely Neer Garh Waterfall starts about 2km north of Lakshman Jhula.

For a longer hike, follow the dedicated pilgrims who take water from the Ganges to offer at Neelkantha Mahadev Temple, a 7km three-hour walk along a forest path from Swarg Ashram. You can also reach the temple by road (about 20km) from Lakshman Jhula.