We’ve spent almost 5 weeks in Rishikesh, mainly the Laxman Jhula area and were able to do almost everything that peaked our interest. We agree that for someone just visiting town and not enrolled in some type of program, one or two weeks is plenty of time to experience most of what this area has to offer.
Most travelers spend their time here bent in a yoga pose, deep in meditation and/or smoking their way to enlightenment in one of the many cafes overlooking the Ganges. Bungee jumping and water rafting is also possible for the thrill seekers (sounds fun but we passed on it). Treks are supposed to be amazing as well.
A lot of our usual shenanigans we already covered here, Rishikesh: First Impressions.
Here is a few different activities we enjoyed.
Unguided Hike and Waterfall Tour
Word on the street is there are two waterfalls within walking distance of Laxman Jhula. It was my day off yoga and we decided to go find them on our own. Guides are available but really cramp our style. Heading north on the main road leaving Laxman Jhula we noticed we were being followed. Turns out we did find a guide, this mother and pup team joined us for the full trek. Here’s a picture of them napping at the waterfall.
About 20 minutes out of town we came across a small temple. This is where we were told to start walking up in the jungle to find the first waterfall. The police were setup at the temple and told us the area was closed and we cannot see the waterfall. Not really understanding why, we walked up the road a bit further. Five minutes later there was a small food stall selling chai. Just behind it was a trail leading into the jungle. We decided to explore and felt confident with mama dog guarding us. Our intuition told us it looped back to the waterfall trail the police told us we couldn’t go on. We were right, after a fairly intense 15 minute uphill hike we came to a big cave and the waterfall, which we had all to ourselves.
There is a bigger waterfall close by which we tried to check out the following Sunday but were never able to find it. Mama joined us on this hike as well, minus the pup this time.
There is nothing better then wind in your hair, one hundred and ten cubic centimetres of pure Honda goodness beneath your seat and the arms of your lady wrapped around your waist. We spent the day winding around the back roads with Macklemore’s hit song Downtown on repeat in our heads. 350 rupees ($7 CAD) well spent!
We enjoyed the road on the hillside that runs from Laxman Jhula to Rishikesh on the east side of the Ganga. It was away from the in-town crowds but still poses some safety hazards like road side cliffs, blind corners, animal crossings and potholes. Rishikesh isn’t the safest place to rent a scooter, but luckily they aren’t necessary to get around either. Just a fun way to spend the afternoon.
Ganga Aarti Light Ceremony
Every evening at dusk on the banks of the Ganga at Parmarth Niketan ashram, locals and tourists gather for the daily Ganga Aarti ceremony. Aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering to the Goddess Ganga, goddess of the most holy river in India. The ritual takes place facing the river, where lamps are lit and circled around by the pandits (Hindu priests) while songs in praise of Mother Ganga are played. The idea is that the lamps acquire the power of the deity.
The ceremony commences with a Hawan, a fire ceremony in which we burn our ego to reveal purity, allowing us to learn without doubt. During the ceremony, the Hindi word “swaha” is chanted to the fire by all in attendance, which translates in English as “take it” (asking the fire to take our ego). During our time in India, we were able to attend three of these ceremonies, as they seem to take place quite often.
The ceremony is completely free and everyone is welcome. It is a great way to spend the evening and immerse yourself in the culture.
Hair Cut and a Shave
Maybe not the most thrilling experience but getting a haircut and shave is worthy of mention. There are plenty of salons to choose from. We managed to find this highly recommended, yet extremely small shop located underneath a set of stairs in the Tapavon area. This guy is a true master of his trade. Armed with scissors and a straight razor, he does great work and includes a head massage. Cost is “as you wish”, 100-200 rupees is customary ($2-4 CAD).
We really enjoyed our time in Laxman Jhula and the surrounding area, but as we said, 1-2 weeks would be enough time if you weren’t enrolled in a course. The town has an almost magical vibe about it, but there is as much darkness as there is magic. The more well-known it gets, the easier it will be for people to exploit the spirituality and the faster that magic will disappear. Until then, it will remain the little yogi town on the banks of the Ganga.
We will leave you with some pictures we snapped from around Laxman Jhula.
Britt and Jeff 🙂