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While foreigners flock to Rishikesh in search of enlightenment, Haridwar is the real spiritual deal. At the point known as Har-ki-Pauri, the Footstep of God, the Ganges officially leaves the Himalaya and enters the plains, and millions of Hindu devotees descend on Haridwar every year to wash away their sins at this auspicious location. Ashrams and yoga centers abound, but devotees are required to follow strict rules governing diet and behavior, and most travelers prefer to leave the austerity to hardened practitioners. As well as observing the mystical goings-on on the river, visitors of all nationalities come to Haridwar to embark on ...

While foreigners flock to Rishikesh in search of enlightenment, Haridwar is the real spiritual deal. At the point known as Har-ki-Pauri, the Footstep of God, the Ganges officially leaves the Himalaya and enters the plains, and millions of Hindu devotees descend on Haridwar every year to wash away their sins at this auspicious location. Ashrams and yoga centers abound, but devotees are required to follow strict rules governing diet and behavior, and most travelers prefer to leave the austerity to hardened practitioners. As well as observing the mystical goings-on on the river, visitors of all nationalities come to Haridwar to embark on trekking tours to the Char Dham, four sacred temples high in the Himalaya. The state government also arranges rafting trips on the Ganges and tiger-spotting safaris in nearby national parks. Festivals in Haridwar are riotous affairs — held every 12 years, the Kumbh Mela attracts upwards of 60 million pilgrims, and even the annual Kanwar Mela in July can see a million devotees. Rishikesh is just an hour away by bus, so many people day-trip from there, enjoying a quiet night's sleep away from the hectic hustle and bustle.

Joe Bindloss
About the Expert

Joe Bindloss has written more than 30 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, Time Out and other publishers, with a focus on Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and island nations.

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Joe Bindloss for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh approximately 130 miles from Delhi
  • Language: Hindi, Punjabi, Garhwali and English
  • Currency: Indian Rupee
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    September to November and March to May offer the most comfortable temperatures, or come for the Kanwar Mela in July.