Rishikesh and Haridwar
Rishikesh and Haridwar were two towns I wanted to visit. Many raved about especially Rishikesh. Of course the Beatles made Rishikesh famous for the rest of the world with their visit to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram. But to me ... it was a disappointment after Shimla, Dharamsala, Dalhousie and Manali.
The Ganges river splits the town. At the river banks you will find many temples. The city is also home to the 120-year old Kailas Ashram Brahmavidyapeetham, an institution dedicated to preserve and promote the traditional Vedantic Studies.
In town you will find many pilgrims. Legends state that Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana, the demon king of Lanka.
His younger brother Lakshmana, crossed the river Ganga, at a point, where the present 'Lakshman Jhula' bridge stands today, using a jute rope bridge.
The 'Kedar Khand' of Skanda Purana, also mentions the existence of Indrakund here. The original jute-rope bridge was replaced by iron-rope after it was washed away by floods. Later the iron rope bridge was replaced by a stronger present bridge.
Much more interesting where a few hikes I did around the town. Here life seem to have stand still and the modern world seemed as far away as the moon. I saw poverty everywhere. But it also seemed people were happier then in the cities. It was for me much more enjoyable in the hills then in Rishikesh city itself.
Rishikesh, it seemed suffered the same as Varanasi: with the coming of pilgrims and tourists, it had also attracted a huge amount of people who came to cheat and rob people's money.
That, plus the fact many foreigner only seem to come for cheap dope offered (often) by fake pseudo sadhus (holy men) and yogi's who were only interested in getting stoned and making money out of the dope.
Sure, the town looked nice here at the foothills of the Himalaya. Outside town it was nicer. Several beautiful little villages offered a colorful and much friendlier look then Rishikesh itself.
If you ask me, it's nicer elsewhere in Himachal Pradesh then here. I wasn't all impressed by the so called "holy city" and even less by it's mostly stoned "holy men". One additional warning, if you have to get stoned, make sure you don't carry a lot of money with you. There are stories of people being robbed in the process. Personally I found Dharamsala, Dalhousie and Manali a lot nicer.
Rishikesh is via Haridwar well connected to Delhi (224km south). Frequent buses leave the Delhi north bus station to Haridwar. You can continue traveling to several other destinations including Shimla, Dharamsala and Manali.
Where to Stay
Many choose to stay in ashrams for study and meditation. Others simply choose the cheapest guesthouse and spend their days in being "intellectual" with some fake yogi's.
More hotels, hostels and guesthouses:
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Shimla is one of the most famous former British Hill Stations. It's a great place to visit with much to explore. This includes the former Vice Roys palace and the Mall amongst other.
Dharamsala is a small town in the Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh. It's these days mostly famous as residence of the Dalai Lama. Still, there's some beautiful hikes and trekkings to do in the area.
Last stop before you reach Ladakh through the Rhotang Pass. Manali is worth a stop of a few days. Scenery and town are full of typical Himachal Pradesh culture and spectacular sceneries. A must visit:
The oldest and holiest city for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, Varanasi at the Ganges river bank is founded by Lord Shiva himself, as the legend goes.