Located in northern India in the Uttarakhand state, Rishikesh is considered to be a holy city and is beautifully surrounded by the Himalayan mountains, the sacred Ganges River, and a wide array of wildlife.
Budget yourself, and pull out how much cash you think you'll need for your entire trip at the airport's ATM upon arrival. You will very rarely be able to use your credit card, and many ATMs won't work.
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Arrival: Sunday Night
Arrived in Dehradun at 16:30 and checked into yoga retreat accommodations in Rishikesh to eat dinner and sleep.
In the morning, we had an hour of guided meditation and an hour of asana (poses) yoga. We had breakfast, and then I had a full-body massage in my room. After lunch, I caught up on sleep before another hour of meditation and asana in the afternoon. After a late dinner, I was exhausted.
Self-meditation time meant we got to sleep in an extra hour in the morning before heading to asana at 7:30. Then, we walked into town and explored. We came back for lunch and a nap before afternoon asana and meditation, which went late again, so we went to bed after a late dinner.
Instead of guided meditation, asana, and breakfast in the morning, we went to the Rishi caves along the Ganges river. It was a beautiful drive, although monsoon season made the landslides in the mountains a little scary. After lunch, I got another massage, slept, and went to afternoon mediation and yoga. We ended the night at a Buddhist fire ceremony in town.
Day 4: Depart
After early morning asana and breakfast, I packed up and headed to the airport to fly to Delhi and then Sri Lanka.
Everything else in India! India is such a huge country that you could spend weeks in it and still not get to see everything. I will need to go back to do the Taj Mahal and all the other major cities. Personally, though, I'm glad that my first experience in India was only for a few days because it is quite a culture shock to get accustomed to.
Honestly, nothing! My yoga retreat was absolutely fantastic with fitting in as many genuinely worthwhile excursions as they could within my few days there.
Typically, tourists come to Rishikesh because it is the birthplace of yoga. There are many various-length retreats, teacher training, and ashram stays available. Ashrams are free but requires visitors to do work with the monks. I did THIS retreat, and I highly recommend it. It included my meals, massages, excursions, accommodations, and yoga. They also arranged airport pick-up and drop-off services for me. I ended up never even needing to go to an ATM for rupees!
Cows, monkeys and dogs are everywhere.
Cows are considered holy animals to Hindus, so if a herd decides to pop a squat in the middle of the highway, you just kind of have to... wait. It's actually a pretty frequent occurrence that they get in the way, and it's quite humorous. The monkeys can actually get aggressive and have diseases, so you have to be careful. I couldn't tell which dogs were strays or had homes because they were all so happy and well-fed, which I loved!
So many people were astonished by my blonde hair and wanted to take pictures with me. I thought it was cute because they were respectful about it. Surprisingly, not a lot of people spoke English. Many Indians come to Rishikesh because it is a holy city for Hindus, so I think the religious aspect brings a peaceful vibe to the city. The vibe towards animals made me so happy, too. Apparently, the Buddhist monks even give the dogs incense to liven up their spirits.
No meat or alcohol is allowed in Rishikesh because it is a holy city. I am a vegetarian, so it was refreshing to be able to eat anything I wanted and to be surrounded by so many option that I could eat. The various curries, chapati bread, cafe drinks, Indian tea, simosas, and lassi drinks were absolutely amazing. The food at my yoga retreat was not the best, to be honest, but I was happy with it. If I had more time and money to go into town, I would've because the food at the cafes was amazing.
I was extremely impressed with my room in Rishikesh. It had a living room, kitchen, spacious bedroom, closet room, and bathroom. It was clean, and I could have it cleaned on any day by just asking. The view was also gorgeous; it was in the mountains and overlooked the city. The only downside of being in the mountains was that it was nearly impossible to get a good wifi connection. Staff gave me a router, which I was able to use once I was lower in the mountains.
Meditation & Yoga Classes
Guided meditation classes were much easier than solo meditation because the music, chanting and frequent instructor comments help you mind refrain from wondering. Everyone in my small class was a beginner and had some difficulty with the asana (poses) portion, but it was definitely doable with the adjustments. We asked our instructor to go a little easier on us a few days into the retreat, and the staff became very attentive of the level of instruction that was given after that.
August in India
Monsoon season in India is July - September, so I went right in the middle of it. It rained on-and-off a little every day. Luckily, I was able to go on the excursions offered by my yoga retreat because they hadn't been able to take anyone for a couple of weeks up until my arrival. Landslides are a real problem in the mountains during monsoon season, and they had taken out a few roads leading the way to the excursions. The destruction from the landslides also affected how bad my wifi connectivity was.
My mom gave me this book the night before I went to India, and I think fate played a little hand in it, too. I don't usually read books lately, but there's a lot of travel time getting to and from Rishikesh. I also had quite a bit of free time on my yoga retreat, especially since the wifi situation wasn't great. Yoga retreats are focused on calming your spirit and teaching you how to give your mind and body a sense of peace and happiness. This book was a perfect complement to the adventure.
“There’s a Tibetan saying: ‘Wherever you have friends that’s your country, and wherever you receive love, that’s your home.”
― Dalai Lama