Rishikesh, also known as ‘The Gateway to the Himalayas’ is an enchanting city seven hours north of Delhi, which is known for its yoga, ashrams and picturesque setting.
Having already visited Rishikesh during my first trip to India, I knew that I had to show my Mum this stunning, spiritual and enlightening place – there is something about Rishikesh which is special. It tugs at your heart-strings for no apparent reason and you leave a more revived and content person than you arrived.
Therefore, on my second visit I was keen to get more involved in the yoga and meditation side of the city, which led my mother and I to Rishikesh Valley…
After a ten kilometer taxi ride (approximately half an hour) along the tortuous, rough roads of the Himalayas, we were relieved to reach our destination in one piece – especially as it was Christmas Day!
Set amidst the adventurous side of the area (white water rafting, bungee jumping etc.), Rishikesh Valley is simplicity at its very finest.
As we entered the adorable village, we admired the area, which we would be calling home (and boy did it end up feeling like home) for the next four days.
The rustic huts, made from jungle grass, mud and clay were sprinkled throughout the village. The yoga and meditation room, which had a breathtaking view of the Himalayas and contained yoga mats, a Buddha’s head (I’m a sucker for a good Buddha’s head), a music player and colourful sheer fabric draped across the room, was situated in the middle of the complex. And the outdoor communal area consisting of a charming, rickety tree house (for the owner’s daughter) and a cute swinging chair, lay adjacent to the river Ganges.
After being shown around by our high-spirited and welcoming host, Anand (this man has the friendliest smile I have ever seen) and having followed the pebble lined path to our hut, we entered our room. In front of us lay a charismatic four-poster bed draped in vibrant, Indian fabric, creating our very own cosy den, a couple of cupboards and an en suite (of the bucket for a shower variety). The room even had its own private, quirky stone terrace, surrounded by jungle-like foliage and the magnificent backdrop of the Himalayas – it was basic bliss.
Once we had settled, we ventured to the communal area to indulge in our Indian Christmas lunch.
As Rishikesh Valley is a little out in the sticks, when you book your stay you are offered a choice of packages, all of which include three organic and vegetarian meals a day (get ready to eat till your heart’s content!). Check out their website for more information about the different packages they offer.
Far from our usual conventional Christmas lunch, we wolfed down a heavenly mixture of freshly made dal, Indian spiced vegetables, rice, salad and chapati – they don’t let you go hungry at Rishikesh Valley!
Shortly after our chapati food baby had dispersed, Anand’s beautiful wife came over to talk to us about the package we had booked and told us a little bit about the area (we opted for the four days, three nights yoga and meditation package, which included accommodation, three meals a day, yoga at sunrise, meditation at sunset and an Ayurvedic Massage all for an unbelievable 8500 rupees per person, approximately £25 per person a day!).
The amazing thing about this place is that there is no pressure, no plans, no internet – you are at one with nature and it is just incredible! Therefore, it was entirely up to us when we had our massage or ate our food…
After an afternoon of relaxing, reading and reluctantly writing an essay for Uni (I couldn’t complain though – my surroundings were a far cry from the depressing four walls of the library), we cocooned ourselves in the snug blankets left in our room (be warned – December in Rishikesh is COLD at night) and waddled to the yoga and meditation room for our first taste of meditation.
Neither of us had ever properly meditated before therefore, we were very curious to see what it had to offer.
Anand led both the yoga and meditation classes and he was amazing. He explained the advantages and the importance of each posture or sequence we were doing, he pushed us as far as we needed to be pushed but never too far and he had a passion and enthusiasm for spirituality, which was enlightening. By the end of our four day stay my Mum could stand on one foot without wobbling (don’t laugh, it was a proud moment for her…) and I could do some weird move that resulted in my legs being hung around my head (an undignified yet proud moment for myself).
In both cases, we had progressed in both meditation and yoga and we only had Anand’s tough love to thank for that!
We ended Christmas Day wrapped up like pigs in blankets (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), huddled around a fire, eating a scrumptious dinner and enjoying the company of the other guests and Anand and his wife. After an hour or so of exchanging travelling stories and learning about Rishikesh Valley, my mother and I called it a night and toddled back to our hut.
To our surprise, five minutes later there was a knock at our door and there, stood on our porch, was one of the young boys who worked at Rishikesh Valley smiling and holding two hot water bottles in his hand – hospitality at its very very best!
We ended Christmas Day spooning our hot water bottles feeling toasty, joyful and blessed to be staying in such an extraordinary place.
It is hard to put into words how hospitable, friendly and caring the people at Rishikesh Valley are. In just four days we were made to feel as though we were a part of the family and I genuinely couldn’t recommend this place enough!!
When we eventually had to leave our new-found home I was overwhelmed by emotion and once again, I didn’t know why… was it Anand and his families kindness? Was it the spiritual bliss of the yoga, meditation and scenery?
Or, was it simply, the power of Rishikesh?