Less accomodation options, less hippie feel, less hang out
This area is generally known as Ram Jhula but to be exact it is the Swargashram area. Swargashram is a small, self-contained area with acommodation - hotels, guesthouses - and restaurants, ashrams, shops, and a small market. With the concentration of yoga and meditation retreats, ashrams and temples, the area is popular with foreign yoga students as well as Indian pilgrims. Venturing out to other parts of Rishikesh is also easy from here with the many public transports like autorickshaws available just across the Ram Jhula bridge, shared taxis plying between Ram and Laxman Jhula at the back end of Swargashram as well footpaths connecting the two areas.
If you like the convenience of having everything near you and to stay in a quieter area, Swargashram is recommendable although accommodation choices are more limited. Some newer guesthouses also seem to be often booked out by yoga groups. Therefore, if you come during peak travel season and would like to stay in Swargashram, do book your accomodation ahead of arriving. You can check out your options while you are here should you decide to stay longer. Most accommodations here tend towards the mid-range budget. Ved Niketan Ashram located at the end of the town is the only gem here for budget bagpackers if you can bear with less clean and more basic rooms without hot water. The atmosphere in the peaceful ashram, however, more than makes up for this. Yoga classes are also available here at minimal charges.
Ganga aarti offering.
Taxi boat to Swargashram.
Public transport, however, are usually not allowed to come into Swargashram, so you will mostly likely be dropped off on the opposite side of the Ganges and the walk to the guesthouses here is a good half hour at least. The only way to avoid the walk across the bridge is to take privately hired car services from wherever you are and agree with the driver to drop you in Swargashram, often at additional charges. Hotels and guesthouses here can also arrange that for you.
A variety of restaurants, bookshops, provisions shops, fresh fruits and vegetable stalls, tour agencies, ayurvedic pharmacies and other tourist shops selling items like clothes, jewellery and religious items, can be found here. These shops and services are also available in the main Laxman Jhula area. What may be lacking in Swargashram/Ram Jhula for tourists looking to chill out and relax are the cosy, hip cafes and restaurants, which are available in other areas, especially in main Laxman Jhula.
Swargashram has a generally more traditional vibe and feels less hip. You can sense this even with the local shop and restaurant owners who are often native to the area (this may not always be the case in the other areas). The crowd that stays here tend to value the many yoga and spiritual related activities in the area over looking for places to hangout. The compact arrangement of places in Swargashram makes it easier to run from morning yoga to pre-lunch Hindi class followed by after mantra singing class and evening yoga. If you like to pack your day in and take part in several things throughout the day, staying here and taking part in activities in the same area makes it less stressful than crossing the bridge back and forth to get to different places, bearing in mind you will be dealing with Indian traffic and crowd. And if you like the thought of sitting along the Ganges and contemplate about life, then there are many uncrowded spots where you can sit rather undisturbed as compared to other more crowded areas over at Laxman Jhula. As only motorbikes are allowed through the small Swargashram market where most daily activities take place, the area also feels relatively less noisy and more peaceful (except during peak pilgrimage season).
Parmath Niketan Ashram, Swargashram
New bridge at the end of Swargashram.
For the foreign tourist who hasn't even arrived here, the Swargashram area is well-known for two things - the annual International Yoga Festival which takes place at the Parmath Niketan Ashram, and the Beatles ashram. The festival brings in many renown teachers from around the world and hundreds (or thousands?) of participants. The highly popular event gives yoga enthusiasts a chance to experience a bit of everything yoga but the town does become a tad too crowded. With the many temples and ashrams in this area, the long pilgrimage months starting from spring to late summer/early autumn also bring thousands of local pilgrims to the holy town daily. If you are visiting during the festival or the pilgrimage months, do remember to book your accommodation in advance and also bring along your well-practiced patience.