On the banks of the River Ganges, the holy city of Rishikesh has long attracted spiritual seekers; even the Beatles did a stint here. It’s also dubbed the yoga capital of the world, and you can’t go far without spotting an ashram or a yoga center. Here’s how to make the most of your day in Rishikesh.
Morning: Yoga and the Beatles
Rishikesh is the place to go if you want to practice yoga, with yoga studios and ashrams galore. Start your day with a yoga class (most accept walk-ins, though it’s never a bad idea to prebook). Once you’ve limbered up, grab a quick breakfast and make your way out to the Beatles Ashram on the eastern banks of the Ganges River, just south of the Swarg Ashram neighborhood. Originally the ashram of the Beatles’ guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, this ashram was left derelict for many years, so those who wanted to visit had to sneak in. Today it’s a popular stop on most Rishikesh tours.
Afternoon: Neelkanth Mahadev Temple
In the afternoon, make your way to one of the most famous temples in the Rishikesh area: Neelkanth Mahadev. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple stands on a hilltop overlooking the forested region surrounding it, and while many devout pilgrims choose to visit on foot, if you aren't in the mood for a trek you can take a guided tour that includes transport up to the top. There's also a holy freshwater spring right in front of the temple where devotees often stop for a ritual purification dip before entering the temple.
Night: Aarti on the River Ganges
As the sun begins to set, make your way to the ghat (riverside steps) right in front of the Parmath Niketan ashram in the Swargashram neighborhood for the evening aarti (prayer) ceremonies. It's best to arrive early to get a good spot. As the sun sets, devotees, led by a group of yellow-clad aspirants, sing religious songs and engage in prayer, culminating with the release of hundreds of tiny offerings featuring flowers and little candles that are floated ceremoniously down the river. A local guide can come in handy in terms of helping you understand the rituals and their significance.