10 things to do in Rishikesh this winter season
As fuzzy mist descends over the verdant Shivaliks, signalling winter’s onset in Rishikesh, the mood transforms from bustling to laid back. With fewer tourists around, quieter streets, and chillier climes, as winter winds usher in crisp mornings and chilly nights, India’s yoga capital exchanges its bustling summertime energy for a relaxed laid-back vibe. With mist-laden Himalayan panoramas, sparse tourist crowds, and quieter ghatside spiritual centres, wintry Rishikesh exerts its own magnetic pull now. Adventure junkies, nature lovers, spiritual seekers, or literary souls…every traveller can craft unique experiences this season through these top 10 activities.
Trekking in the Himalayas
Neer Garh Waterfall Trek located just 6 km from Lakshman Jhula, Neer Garh waterfall comes alive in the winter when the water levels peak. The hour-long moderate trek takes you through charming villages, verdant forests, and finally across a narrow stream over slippery rocks before you reach this hidden two-tiered waterfall. The sight of the cascading water surrounded by lush greenery is truly spectacular after the monsoons.
Valley of Flowers Trek, the Valley itself being situated at a height of 3352 meters above sea level in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, can not only be visited in summer and monsoons, but the winter months are also perfect for an easy 4 km trek through charming villages and deodar forests from Ghughani/Pulna to Ghangaria. Catch glimpses of towering snow-capped Himalayan peaks before stopping at picturesque Bhyundar village and returning via Hemkund Sahib.
Go on a camping adventure by the riverside
You can enjoy camping in Rishikesh. Pitch a tent on the sandy river banks with the majestic Himalayas in the background for a one-of-a-kind camping experience. Under the Stars, Nights get bitterly cold during winter but sleeping under a canopy of stars on the banks of the Ganga is an unparalleled experience. Lie snugly tucked in a sleeping bag on comfortable river beds while the crackling fire keeps you warm. Gaze dreamily at diamond-like stars studding the inky sky as the campfire keeps you warm. Wake up to the soft susurration of flowing water, glimpses of the river through the morning mist, and echoes of temple bells reaching your campsite. Blissful!
Take a Cleansing Dip in the Ganges during Magh Mela
As January unfolds, the holy Magh Mela or Snan at Triveni Ghat draws thousands for ritual dips at sunrise. Hosted by spiritual organizations like Parmarth Niketan or Sivananda Ashrams, discourses by saints, Vedic havan ceremonies, meditations, and community bandanas also feature regularly. Participating in the mela brings one closer to Hindu customs. Watching the sparkling diyas float along the mystical Ganga reminds one to let go of negativities and flow ahead positively.
Conquering the Mighty Ganga Rapids
With rapids ranging from Grade 1 to 4, Rishikesh is popularly called the rafting capital of India. Shiver in anticipation as you gear up in your life jacket and helmet before lowering yourself into an inflatable raft, ready to battle Grade 3 and 4 rapids in the icy waters of the Ganga. For first-timers and amateurs, marine drive is an easy scenic stretch while Shivpuri offers moderate rapids. With powerful names like Return to Sender, Golf Course and Roller Coaster, these frothy rapid stretches will get your pulse racing. Experienced rafters must take on the Brahmapuri rapids between Shivpuri and Lakshman Jhula during the winter months from November to mid-February when water levels are optimal. Paddle hard over swirling churns, heart thumping as you ride up surging crests, screaming wildly before plunging into the trough once again for the ultimate water adventure of a lifetime!
Free Fall into the Ganga
Perched on a thin ledge stretched high above the waters, get your adrenaline-pumping heart pounding in your mouth as you stare 83 meters down, and take the ultimate plunge of faith from India’s highest bungee jumping platform. Feel goosebumps rising as you free-fall at 150 mph, the icy wind slapping your cheeks. See adrenaline junkies being dipped up and down by giant elastic cords before you get snapped up just inches from the water for magnificent views of hills and river banks with hanging bridges. Available only during the winter months, bungee jumping should be high on everyone’s bucket list this season. Worth it for the crazy thrill!
Aerial Ganga Aarti Tour
Above the Ganga Feel the winter chill getting cut by gusts of air as you zip-line from the heights of Shivpuri, flying 200 feet above the waters of Mother Ganga in Rishikesh. Get an eagle-eyed view of giant slippery rocks in the middle of the river where water keeps gushing continuously during peak winters. Spot tiny colourful tents peppered across green sandy beaches. Yell out in unfettered joy as you glide smoothly over temples, beaches, and jungles for almost a kilometre, before being lifted back up by the cable pulley.
Head over to scenic camps along Marine Drive for cliff diving, cliff sliding, and body surfing. Plunge into the Ganges from heights ranging from 10 feet to 30 feet. Or simply slide along the smooth rocks bordering sandy beaches. Suitable for first-timers too.
Recharge through Yoga/Ayurveda Retreats
The winter months signal a rejuvenating retreat season at Rishikesh’s abundant centres like Ananda Spa, Omkarananda Ashram, or Himalayan Yog Ashram. Yogis flock to immerse in intensive routines covering yoga classes, pranayama, meditation, satvik meals, and even massage therapies. Some package affordable Ayurveda treatment modules too using herb-infused medicinal oils. One emerges feeling internally cleansed and glowing externally after such restorative wellness retreats by the Ganges.
Relax at Natural Hot Water Springs
Rishikesh has some natural hot water springs nestled by the Ganges, like the historic Vashishta Gufa caves or more private wellness centres with therapeutic pools by Ananda Spa. Taking relaxing dips and practising aqua yoga here amidst glittering diyas has an immensely restorative impact in the quiet winter months. One emerges feeling internally cleansed, emotionally uplifted and spiritually centred.
Celebrate Festivals with Locals
Winters allow visitors glimpses into the Rishikesh community’s festive spirit during Holi/Diwali/Makar Sankranti through their unique local traditions. Get invited to sing nighttime bhajans at tiny jaguars during Diwali week or catch vibrant parades for Ganga aartis this Makar Sankrant along with thousands of devotees. Such community celebrations echo the real essence of these festivals, proving magically memorable.
Attain Deep Relaxation with Sound Baths
Some new-age healing retreats now promote sound bath relaxation therapies in Rishikesh using singing bowls and gongs this winter. Participants relax on yoga mats getting immersed in rich vibrations and frequencies. Such deep meditation techniques help people experience elevated consciousness states and emotional healing. The soothing group sound bath sessions expedite stress relief too.
As winter descends, touristy Rishikesh’s chaos fades, allowing visitors to connect with its spiritual core experientially. So whether one skims through pages slowly at a cafe, soaks up forest bird songs wandering dusty trails, sings bhajans at local jaguars, or attains nirvana soaking in hot springs, wintry Rishikesh promises uplifting reflections always. As alpine air sharpens and fuzzy mist descends over Rishikesh, come immersed in introspective yet fun experiences guaranteed to warm your heart and feed the soul!