The first thing we did in Rishikesh was go rafting. My idea of adventure used to be napping in the outdoors, but I recently spent a week in Malaysia riding rollercoasters for a story (out in last month’s Lonely Planet Magazine) and I have no idea what’s gotten into me. I was more excited about hurtling down the Ganges in an inflatable boat than I was apprehensive. The currents in the icy, positively-Maldivian waters beneath us that day were perfect, gentle enough to relax and enjoy the scenery, interspersed with rapids that were super thrilling.

We stayed at another Leisure Hotels property, Aloha at the Ganges. Though the building itself was a bit of an eyesore, the views simply could not be beat. It was a gorgeous way to wake up every morning and that infinity pool made me want to sunbathe all day (with all my clothes on because it was October and I’m still sane).

We ate exceptionally well in Rishikesh. Though meals in the town itself are all vegetarian, the food is really great. People with special dietary conditions should definitely head to the 60s cafe where there are all sorts of gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan options on the menu. I loved the savoury ragi pancakes, Thai green curry and the apple fritters.

If you miss meat, Bistro Nirvana is located slightly farther out but serves a delicious and varied protein-inclusive menu. The garden is super nice, but the interiors are just incredibly cosy,

I love abandoned sites so I loved (and blogged about) the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram or Beatles Ashram that we explored one afternoon. It’s part of the Rajaji National Park which unfortunately was still shut when we visited for though we did manage to see some adorable chital or spotted deer on the drive through it from Haridwar.

Rishikesh is a popular destination for people interested in yoga and it seemed the right amount of traveller-friendly and easygoing. I would love to go back for a summer retreat.

Dehradun and Mussoorie

I fell ill at the end of my time in Rishikesh but even a fever and foggy head couldn’t keep me from wanting to explore the beautiful halls of the Forest Research Institute when we got to Dehradun. What an incredible place.

Forget all the other natural history museums I’ve visited in far off places, this little known architectural marvel houses a fabulous collection of natural/botanical/forestry related ephemera in its beautiful apothecary-style shelves and wooden showcases. I’d go back just to wander it’s gorgeous halls with their vaulted ceilings. What a shame they don’t allow photography, it’s exactly the sort of space that should be promoted and deserves public support.

Later that day we drove to Mussoorie, where the much loved Ruskin Bond (perhaps their most famous resident) was signing books at the Cambridge Book Depot. I didn’t read any growing up but I don’t think it’s too late to start. His books are rather beautiful - I love that so many are set in the hills but my favourite is A Book of Simple Living.

If you make it to Landour, stop for a meal at Little Llama Cafe, where we feasted on pizza, roast chicken and this view. If this window alone doesn’t make it one of the more wonderful cafes you’ve seen, I want to know where you’re hanging.


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