Step aside Lonely Planet; Dear Mum’s 15 hottest hints for Rishikesh has landed. This list won’t tell you where to stay or how to fill your day, things like that change as often as one’s morning constitutional in India. What follows is the most up-to-date and thorough review of life’s little bonuses in Rishikesh, the things that will save a bad day and really top off a good one. Read on and share this stuff far and wide; it is your cheat-sheet for Rishikesh’s secrets, painstakingly gathered over 3 months of wandering between yoga and cafes.
Best street chai – Mr Chai Guy
Cross Laxman Jhula bridge to the eastern side, take a left and head towards Trayambakeshwar temple. Opposite the temple is a long row of street stands. Pick any; I’m sure they’re all the same! Our Mr chai guy is the second to last vendor and his 10 rupee chai is a spicy, creamy, daily joy.
Best Indian local restaurant food – Purple Dhaba
On the Eastern side of Laxman Jhula bridge take a right and walk 50 metres. You can’t miss the dough slapping sound of naan being made. Everything we tasted here was amazing, but pay particular attention to the aloo jeera.
Fastest WIFI and quietest restaurant with the friendliest staff and Ganges view – Holly Bolly
Holly Bolly is still new, which means it’s quiet and super clean. The food is awesome, the toilet is 5-star, the internet is lightning quick and they have a generator; reliable electricity is a daily struggle in India.
The best way to find Holly Bolly is to first find The 60’s Cafe (also known as Cafe Delmar/Beatles Cafe). From there walk uphill about twenty metres and on your left is a small, stepped alley. Head down and into the cafe.
Best non-Indian, cereal based breakfast – Holly Bolly
The muesli is epic. Everywhere has its own version of muesli but Holly Bolly uses the best honey, the nicest curd and adds amaranth as a cheeky surprise. It’s amazing.
Best non-Indian Israeli based food – Namaste Cafe
Israeli style food is more common than Indian food in Laxman Jhula! And I must say, it is often a nice alternative to the constant onslaught of curry, chapati and naan. One mouthful of the shakshuka at Namaste Cafe and you’ll be back for its homemade sauce, egg and hummus combination many times more.
Namaste Cafe is in the heart of Laxman Jhula tourist strip, you can’t miss it.
Best sizzling vegetable plate – Zorba Cafe
No words can do this meal justice; comfortably our favourite non-Indian meal in Rishikesh. It has salad, home cut chips, tasty seasoned vege’s and hands-down the best vegetable pattie we’ve ever laid lips on.
Zorba Cafe is also in the heart of Laxman Jhula’s busy restaurant strip.
Best nacho snack and edible salads – Little Buddha
Little Buddha is about as popular as western restaurants get. It’s big and busy, and for us a little too crowded and dinghy. But everyone seems to love it. Eating salad in India is Russian roulette at the best of times but the Little Buddha salads were very kind to our bowels. And the nachos are top notch.
Little Buddha is in the Zorba Cafe / Namaste Cafe area.
Nicest tattoo artist – Below Zorba Cafe
I can’t remember the name of our artist or his shop, but it sits below Zorba Cafe. We decided during our final dinner to get tattoos; the artist had already gone home but after a quick phone call he returned, smiled and delivered on his promise of a quality, clean, safe and relaxed tattoo experience.
Best fly-covered cake range – Pumpernickel German Bakery
This place is a little further along Laxman Jhula’s tourist strip. You can’t miss it though, the big window stocked full of tasty treats is guarded by sleeping dogs and more often than not a cow, blocking the entrance waiting for scraps.
Here you’ll find the best menu of gluten-free options around and a great coffee. What you’ll also find is a cake filled window buzzing with most of Rishikesh’s flies. But don’t be alarmed, we ate here almost every day and all is well.
Try the buckwheat pancakes or Nepali breakfast, they’re both so tasty.
Most western friendly coffee/chocolate combination – Honey Hut (Laxman Jhula)
This is on the western side of Laxman Jhula, just before the square. It has a very western feel (kind of like Starbucks), which is despised by as many as it appeals to. But what they do best is a chocolate-coated cake ball with ice cream. Add that to a coffee, the complimentary English papers and a quiet, air-conditioned room and you’ll be back frequently.
Tastiest south Indian food – Mamta Restuarant
The dosa / uttapam range is impressive, damn cheap, and the flavours are mind-boggling. We struggled to walk past without stopping in for a quick snack.
Mamta Restaurant is the first stop downhill from the lower Laxman Jhula taxi stand.
Deepest, most professional and best value massage – Tattva Ayuverda Centre
This is in Laxman Jhula, between the bridge and the main restaurant strip. The price varies for who walks in, when they walk in and what they want. We haggled a deep tissue massage for 600 rupees early in our stay and kept returning to the same price. Every Sunday was massage day and every Sunday the massage was better than the last.
Number one barber – Mr Barberman (no idea what his name is)
Find the turn off to Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram from Rishikesh road and go about 5 metres. There on your right, tucked away under a staircase is the best of 5 barbers I tried in the area. He charges 50 rupees ($1AUD) for a foam, shave, moisturise and face massage. His shop is awesome mix of Bollywood, cricket, men drinking chai and quality barber workmanship.
Best range of tourist-friendly products – the organic stores
They sit alongside one another at the turn off from Rishikesh main road towards Laxman Jhula. Everything you could possible want is in these two stores. Soap, shampoo, flaxseed, coconut water, homemade condiments, essential oils, yoga mats, chips, coffee, incense, neti pots, homemade cookies, raw cakes, washing powder, toilet paper, etc, etc, etc, the list goes on. Literally everything you’ll need to make your stay just that little bit more comfortable is in these two shops.
Most westerner-friendly yoga ashram – Anand Prakash
Follow the signs, they’re everywhere. If you miss the signs, follow the westerners dressed in stupid pants and other “enlightened” attire. Anand Prakash offers a bed, 2 yoga lessons and 3 delicious sattvic meals for 800 rupees per day. It really is amazing value. The ashram is very quiet, very respectful and full of westerners enjoying somewhat of an authentic experience. I have never been to a genuine ashram so I can’t say how authentic this place is but we got the feeling that it was a kind of halfway experience for westerners interested in that direction and need a place to begin their path. The definitive daily structure does make you feel a part of a greater movement, and the freedom to come and go keeps you level-headed, with the exception of some. Overall, our 2 weeks there was a great experience; full of learning, practicing and loving.
Best anatomy and alignment focused yoga – Yoga Vini
Yoga Vini is just north of the eastern side of Laxman Jhula bridge, underneath the temple. If you’ve had enough of the yogic based yoga classes and want to work more on alignment focused asana practice, this is your place. Mitra has a deep and profound knowledge of movement and is focused on teaching correct progression in your asana. He’s kind, welcoming, funny and driven and the small class size allows focus on each individual. His classes are only 200 rupees and typically run for 2.5 hours! It was a genuine pleasure to spend one week under his guidance.