The holy city of Haridwar, previously known as Hardwar marks the point where River Ganga descends from the mountains and enters the plain. A dip into the Ganga at this point is thought to wash away all sins. This attracts thousands of pilgrims to Hatidwar every year.
The town of Rishikesh is located 35 kms away from Haridwar at the confluence of the Rivers Ganga and Chandrabhaga. Set amidst the beautiful mountainous scenery, this town has a long history of religion and meditation. It is also one of the leading centers of Yoga in the country.
Location : State/District
Haridwar lies in the Haridwar district and Rishikesh lies in the Dehra Dun district of the state of Uttarakhand in northern India.The latitude of Haridwar is 29° 58' 0" N and its longitude is 78° 10' 0" E while the latitude of Rishikesh is 30° 7' 0" N and its longitude is 78° 19' 0" E.
Both Haridwar and Rishikesh have immense spiritual importance. They are basically religious destination. A dip in the Ganga at Haridwar is considered to be sacred while Rishikesh is not only ideal for meditation but also is the gateway to the four main pilgrim spots in the Himalayas – Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. The breathtaking natural beauty of these towns attracts nature lovers. Rishikesh has also become a popular destination for adventure sports enthusiasts.
The long religious tradition of Hardwar and Rishikesh attracts thousands of families and religious minded persons. However, young people who are interested in adventure sports and enjoying the beauty of the Himalayas also visit these towns. They are also popular destinations for foreign tourists who want to understand the culture and spirituality of India.
As the towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh are located at the entry to the Himalayas, the climate is quite pleasant. Summers last from May to July and are hot in Haridwar, but somewhat cooler in Rishikesh which is located at a height of 360m from the sea level. Moderate rainfall is received during the monsoon months of July till September. The winters are cold and crisp and last from October to February. This is the best time to visit Haridwar while Rishikesh remains pleasant throughout the year and can be visited anytime though the rainy is best avoided.
Indian citizens do not require any special documents to travel to Haridwar and Rishikesh. Foreign nationals must carry a valid passport with Indian visa.
Places to Visit
There are a number of interesting places to visit in Haridwar and Rishikesh. The Har ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar is the most important place to visit and take a dip in the holy Ganga. A stone bearing the footprint of Lord Vishnu is located here. Ganga Aarti is organized every evening at this ghat.
There are a number of important temples in Haridwar. The Chandi Devi temple marks the spot where Devi Chandi killed the two demons Chanda and Munda. The Mansa Devi temple is dedicated to Mansa Devi. The Daksheswara Mahadev temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and attracts thousands of pilgrims, especially during the festival of Shivaratri. Other temples of Haridwar are the Bilkeswar Mahadev temple, the new Jain temple, Hari Har temple and Pawan Dham temple.
Kankhal is another important religious spot in Haridwar. It was said to be the kingdom of Daksha Prajapati – the father of Sati who was Shiva’s wife. Daksh mandir and Sati Kund are important sights here.
There are a number of ashrams in Haridwar. Spiritual activities are often organized in these ashrams. The most important ashrams are Anandmayi Maa ashram, Shanti Kunj Ashram etc.
The Neel Dhara pakshi vihar is well known for the variety of migratory birds that visit the area. It is a great attraction for nature lovers.
The beauty of the surrounding mountains is probably the greatest attraction in Rishikesh. The Triveni ghat is the most popular bathing spot here. The Neelkantha Mahadev temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and attracts devotees during Shivaratri festival. There are several ashrams in Rishikesh as well. The most important of them are Sivananda Ashram, Swarg Ashram, Gita Bhawan etc.
Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula are two huge iron suspension bridges restricted to pedestrians and cycles. A spectacular view of the mountains, the river and the town can be obtained from these bridges and they are important tourist attractions.
There are several activities that you can try out in Haridwar and Rishikesh. Watching the famous Ganga aarti at the Har ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar and floating earthen lights and garlands of marigold is a must. A dip in the Ganga in Haridwar is not only holy, it is also the cleanest option compared to other holy places like Varanasi or Allahabad. When the twelve yearly Kumbh Mela is held, millions of devotees arrive in Haridwar for the holy dip.
Meditation is an important activity in these towns. Instructors are available to teach you the techniques of meditation so that you can relax and get rid of stress. Astrology and palmistry are very popular in Haridwar. Many people have their birth charts and horoscopes prepared and interpreted here.
As the town is set in the lap of nature, biking and cycling are popular activities here. Bikes are rented out and guides are available.
Lectures on Hinduism and spirituality are a new trend which has developed in Haridwar and Rishikesh. You can attend these lectures to understand the essence of India.
Adventure sports are highly popular in Rishikesh. Rafting, rapelling, trekking, bungee jumping and cycling have become major attraction in Rishikesh.
Ayurveda is well developed here. You can take Ayurvedic treatment which is often recommended along with Yoga and meditation.
There are several spots of tourist importance in the area surrounding Haridwar and Rishikesh. The Rajaji National Park is situated 25 kms from Rishikesh and has a variety of wildlife including elephants, deer and birds. Rishikesh is also the starting point of yatra to the four pilgrim spots of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
The famous dargah of Piran Kaliyar Sarif lies 18 kms from Haridwar and is visited by both Hindus and Muslims. The beautiful hill station of Mussoorie lies 80 km from Haridwar and attracts tourists from India and abroad because of its natural beauty. Finally, an excursion to Devprayag located 95 kms from Haridwar offers breathtaking scenery. It is the confluence of the Bhagirathi and Mandakini.
Food and Accommodation
Non vegetarian foods are not allowed in Haridwar and Rishikesh. However, since they attract Indian as well as foreign tourists, a variety of cuisine is available. Hoshiyar Puri, Mohan Puri, Mathura Wala, Chandra Mohan dhaba etc are well known eateries in Haridwar. The well known restaurants in Rishikesh include Ramanas Garden, Honey Hut, Ganga View, Swiss Garden, Serene Garden etc.
The Ashrams offer budget accommodation in Haridwar and Rishikesh. In addition, there are several hotels. Haveli Hari Ganga, Ganga lahari, Country Inn suites, Park Grand, Santosh Residency etc are leading hotels in Haridwar while the important hotels in Rishikesh include Vasundhara Palace, Divine Resorts, Ganga Kinare, Himalayan Hideaway etc.
Safety and Security
Since thousands of Indian and foreign tourists visit these holy towns every year, the level of safety and security is quite high. Still, care should be exercised especially while taking a dip in the river because often there are strong currents.