The quest for eternal bliss and the need to feel being close to God finds people embarking on a spiritual journey. Some of the most sacred places in India are dotted along the course of the holy Ganges river, and offer more than just an opportunity to ring the bells of their temples. The entire atmosphere in these destinations seems to be charged with divine positive energy, and everything including the air and the natural surroundings seem to purify and cleanse the mind, body and soul. Let’s look at the top 7 places where people have claimed to experience inner peace and found purpose and meaning in life.
'Discover the other side of you’
Rishikesh is regarded as the yoga capital of the world, and has several yoga centres for those wanting to learn the art and meditate. As the city is located in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas in the state of Uttarakhand, it is referred to as a gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas. This destination draws tourists not just to take a dip in the Ganges, meditate, and discover Ayurveda and spa therapies, but also to get a taste of adventure sports. This is where you can have a fling with bungee jumping, white water rafting, kayaking, rock climbing and trekking. Experience the soothing, healing and invigorating effect of its surroundings, and realise your true potential.
The best time to visit Rishikesh is from the end of September to mid November, and from March till the end of April. The Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport, around 35 kms away from Rishikesh.
For big savings, book your flight to Dehradun now. Make your stay in Rishikesh comfortable by putting up at The Bungalows River Front, or OYO Premium Luxurious Shivpuri.
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Situated at an elevation of 3,100 m above sea level, the peaceful city of Badrinath is one of the most popular of the four Dhams in Uttarakhand. Get enchanted by its temple, and its famous valley of flowers, which happens to be a UNESCO world heritage site. Besides exploring glacial sites, you can enjoy a warm relaxing and therapeutic bath at 45oC in a natural hot water spring at Tapt Kund. Those seeking adventure can also opt for skiing, white water rafting, and trekking. The best time to visit Badrinath is from September to October, and from May to June. The Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport, a little over 310 kms away on NH 7, but the drive promises to be pleasant and scenic, and your visit to Badrinath will be worth it.
For a memorable stay in Badrinath, book the Sarovar Portico Badrinath, or The Tourist Rest House Badrinath Devlok by GMVN. To see others, click here.
‘Feel closer to God’
Kedarnath lies in the Garhwal Himalayas at a height of 3,584 m above sea level in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand, near the Mandakini river. This is one of the busiest pilgrim destinations within the Char Dhams of the state, known for the Kedarnath temple. However, due to harsh climatic conditions, the temple remains open only from the end of April till the end of October. Visit the Deora Tal lake for a panoramic view of the Himalayas in the backdrop, or simply choose to trek while inhaling the cool, pure mountain air.
The best time to visit Kedarnath is during May, June, September, and October. The Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport, around 270 kms away by road, from where you can drive down to Gaurikund, which is the last motorable point. From here, it is a steep but mesmerizing 14 km climb to Kedarnath, and you can choose to trek, go on horseback, or take a ride in a palanquin.
For lowest airfares to Dehradun, click here. Save more when you couple it with a hotel booking. Kedarnath offers a luxury stay at the Shivalik Valley Resort and the Chardham Camp Guptkashi.
‘Be a part of history’
Also known by its erstwhile name Prayag, this happens to be the second oldest city in the country, while also being regarded as the holiest. Capture a rare view of the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and invisible Sarasvati rivers at Triveni Sangam. Be there to see the entire city come alive during the religious six-yearly Kumbh Mela or the twelve-yearly Maha Kumbh Mela, the largest religious gathering in the world. Take a dip in the holy Ganges, just as millions of pilgrims do to wash away their sins and free themselves and their ancestors from the karmic cycle of rebirth. Allahabad has its own airport, offering easy connectivity with other cities.
Get the best flight rates to Allahabad, and get yourself a value saver deal at Hotel Prayag Inn, Hotel Yatrik, OYO Rooms Rambagh, and also on other hotels.
‘Cut-off from civilization… only to find yourself’
Gangotri is a pilgrim destination at a height of over 3,400 m above sea level on the banks of the river Bhagirathi in Uttarakhand. The best time to visit Gangotri is during May to September. Nevertheless, if you are visiting this place in the winter months, make sure you visit the famous and natural Jalmagna Shivling, which can be seen only in winter when the water level recedes. This is the place where Lord Shiva is believed to have released the river Ganges in ancient times from his matted hair, for it to begin its journey at Gaumukh, within the Gangotri glacier.
Soak in the peace and natural charm surrounding the majestic snow-capped mountains, glaciers and valleys, and feel one with God. If you are planning to trek to the protected area of Gaumukh, which is 18 km from Gangotri, you will need a pass, which is issued at the Gangotri National Park, or alternatively in Uttarkashi. The Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport to Gangotri, around 250 kms away, from where you can drive down and break the journey for an overnight’s stay in Uttarkashi.
For an overnight stay in Uttarkashi, book the Shikhar Nature Resort, Tourist Rest House Gangotri by GMVN, or Hotel Kalindi. For a full list of hotels, click here.
‘Allow the sacred Ganges to rinse you of all impurities’
Oscar winning actor Morgan Freeman, who visited Varanasi while shooting for National Geographic’s documentary series ‘The Story of God’ found this city fascinating. Also known by its erstwhile name Kashi or Benaras, this city in Uttar Pradesh is India’s oldest and considered to be the spiritual capital of India. Situated on the banks of the river Ganges, this place draws pilgrims from all over the world, intending to wash away their sins and attain salvation.
Take an invigorating dip to feel what it is to be blessed. You can also source a yoga master to help you unlock the power and treasure of the ancient practice of meditation and exercise. The best time to visit Varanasi is from November to February when the temperature is pleasantly cold. Varanasi offers easy connectivity and a wide range of hotels to choose from. Travelers can enjoy direct flights to Varanasi.
‘Let a hundred lamps kindle hope in your heart’
Haridwar means a passage to the Gods. This is one of the holiest cities in India, and one of the most-visited. This is located in Uttarakhand, where the clear water of the Ganges descends down the mountains to the plains. Immerse yourself into the very heartland of India’s culture and soak in the pious atmosphere through meditation. At Har ki Pauri, you can participate in the ceremony of the Ganges.
Witness the mesmerizing sight of beautiful oil lamps and marigold flowers being set afloat by devotees in the evening, lighting and enlivening the banks of the river. On key festival days, this place sees over a million devotees attending. The best time to visit Haridwar is between March and June when the temperatures are not too hot or cold. The rainy season can be avoided as most of the religious activities during the season are paused. The Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport, just 20 kms away from Haridwar.
Choose to stay at the Classic Residency, Crystal Ganga Heights, or the Le Roi Hotel in Haridwar. For more options, click here.
The best thing about most of these destinations is that besides invoking spirituality, they are incredibly scenic. It’s hard to miss that mystical charm of the mountains, glaciers, ghats, rivers, and valleys. The pictures are uplifting enough for the avid traveler to plan the next trip here.