Are you going to Haridwar at this age? This was the question asked by many of my friends when I was booking my tickets to Haridwar. I know most of you also thinking the same about Haridwar but I will prove you wrong by end of this travelogue!
Few months back, my father shared his wish to visit Haridwar to take a holy dip in river Ganga as he never visited this place earlier. He is 62 years old and due to his health, he cannot go with sangh (a group pilgrim tour) or any other such group tours being organized by local pilgrim travel operators. I quickly said, letâ€™s go! But when I started thinking more about Haridwar, I was like; what will I do for 5 days in Haridwar? This question encouraged me to start finding natural places which I can explore with my father during my trip to Haridwar and Rishikesh.
I booked return tickets in Ahmedabad-Haridwar train and started collecting as much information as I can. During this R & D time, I learned a lot about some interesting places to visit near Haridwar and by time of tour, I was even more excited as compared to my father!
We boarded a train on 22nd February 2015 from Ahmedabad at 10:00 AM morning; we booked 3 tier AC coach which was very clean and decent. Here is the route of Ahmedabad-Haridwar train:
I enjoyed meeting new people en-route and had great discussion with many people visiting Haridwar. The entire day we traveled in train and reached Haridwar railway station at around 12:30 PM next day.
We reached 12:30 PM and took a lunch at Gujarati restaurant which is around 5 minutes walking distance from Haridwar Railway station. You can easily find decent Guajarati food at just Rs.50 to Rs.100 per person. If you are visiting Haridwar first time, you can also find various Dharmshala's around Railway stations.
As this was my first visit, when I hired an auto to Gujarati restaurant; he asked for 100 bucks. I bargain and he was agree at 50 Rs! I was bit surprise and took an auto. It took around 10 minutes in auto to reach the place. En route I was closely monitoring market and I felt something tricky but ignored. After our lunch, when we came out of restaurant and walk towards nearest auto stand; within 5 minutes, we were at same auto stand from which we took an auto earlier! I learned first lesson in just 30 minutes.
Then I did some inquiry at local shop about auto fare and I learned that the local transportation through auto rickshaw is very cheap and frequent in Haridwar. You can reach at any place at max Rs.20 per person.
I am operating one Yoga website where we are covering useful stories about yoga. Few months back, I covered one International yoga festival which was held in Haridwar and had a good conversation with Dr. Chinmay Pandya who invited me to visit Haridwar.
During my research about places to stay, I wrote an email to Dr. Chinmay for suggesting some decent places nearer to Ma Ganga. He was very supportive and invited us to stay at Shantikunj Ashram in Haridwar and experience the true Ashram life. I accepted the invitation and we stayed in Shantikunj for 3 days!
During these 3 days at Shantikunj, we experienced divinity, discipline and silence which you can hardly feel in our routine life. Here is one photographs of Shantikunj Ashram I clicked with permission:
Shantikunj Ashram was established by Pt. Shriram Sharma Acharya in 1971 in Haridwar and now it is headquarter of All World Gayatri Pariwar (AWGP). You can find more information about Shantikunj Ashram and different activities carried by AWGP on their official website.
During my stay at Shantikunj, I got an opportunity to visit Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya. I visited various universities till date but this was very different. The only university in India offering various courses on Yogic science, Indian culture, alternative therapy etc. You can find more information about DSVV on their official website.
Next day, we got up early in the morning and inquire for the nearest Ganga ghat. I learned from local that, there are various Ganga ghats in Haridwar but Har Ki Pauri is very popular and crowded. There was one more Ghat nearer to Shantikunj Ashram named â€œSaptarshi Ghatâ€ which is around 2KM from the place we stayed. I used to get up early around 6 AM and go for morning walk to this ghat. I really enjoyed being in nature where you can feel the real silence and the voice of river flowing in front of you. The water level was very low during this time but the place was very calm at early in the morning. Checkout this click of one panding chanting slokas from Bhagvad Gita. I had a good conversation with him about the history and mythology connected with Haridwar & Rishikesh.
During these 2 days, we took holy dip in Ma Ganga and had a great divine experience during Ganga Aarti at Har Ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar. If you are visiting Haridwar, you must go for evening Aarti takes places every day. I strongly recommend reaching this place by 6:00PM and take your seats as it become very crowd at the time of Aarti.
Look at this million dollar smile!
Today we left for Rishikesh early in the morning and check-in at Rishilok (Garwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd). It is budget hotel with basic amenities with decent garden area. The staff was very supportive who also helped me to plan my River Rafting. We visited Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula in Rishikesh and then I did River Rafting in Rishikesh for around 24 KM. My river rafting experience was amazing; water was chilled and it was raining that day. I even got a chance to jump in to the river and flown with the boat for around 1 KM.
At the evening, I went for a walk in Muni Ki Reti area to bus stand area. I personally feel that the Rishikesh is very safe and lively city in which you can roam around city without worry. Here the click of one temple in Muni ki reti area:
If you love nature and adventure, Rishikesh is the place for you. You can even find hundreds of yoga classes teach different types of yoga every day. I could have spend more time in Rishikesh but my due to time constrain I had to left for my next expedition on next day morning.
This was the biggest thrill of our trip! During my R & D, I learned about Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand. Spread in over 820 Square KM, famous for elephants and various other wild animals.
I had a wordd with Mr. Manoj Kulshreshtha, who is trained Plant Breeder and Geneticist and had worked as a scientist in Rajasthan Agriculture University for developing new crop varieties. He is the owner of Wild Brook retreat, a unique and eco tourist lounge surrounded by virgin forest area. Wild brook retreat is around 14 KM from Rishikesh and very nearer to Chilla gate of Rajaji National park.
Eco-tourist cottage at Wild brook retreat were very unique and equipped with all necessary amenities. The food and services was very impressive and we really enjoyed our stay between jungle areas. Here are my clicks during my stay at Wild Brook Retreat near Rajaji National park at Chilla range.
Had a delicious breakfast prepared by Virendra at Wild Brook retreat and left for Haridwar in gypsy. Due to forest area and rocky terrain you will have to hire a gypsy or other vehicle which can easily commute in such area.
We board our train to Ahmedabad at Noon!
In-short, the trip was really amazing in which I met many nice people and got a chance to explore some amazing places near Haridwar & Rishikesh.