I am lying on my back, as the swift current of the Ganga carries me past boulder-strewn banks and sand flats. Hilltops and campsites recede into the distance. The roar of the rapids that are driving me along is ceaseless, the perfect accompaniment to my reverie. Suddenly, I hear someone calling my name. The instructor Deepak, wants me to return to the raft before we hit the trickier rapids. I swim back reluctantly, climb in and pick up my paddles, ready to tackle a trio of rapids known as Three Blind Mice.
I am on an eight-kilometre expedition as part of my adventure-relaxation vacation in the Shivpuri-Rishikesh region, widely considered the river rafting capital of India. The excursion has been organised by The Glasshouse on the Ganges, a Neemrana Group hotel, where I am staying for a few days. The hotel gets its name from the modern-looking glass-fronted structure that looks out over the mango and lychee orchards once owned by the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal. The Glasshouse is set just off the Rishikesh-Badrinath Road. It combines an unbeatable riverside location with an understated royal elegance.
The hotel’s private shore is its star attraction. I’d find myself there several times during my stay, in the company of a book, digging my feet into the soft sand, dipping them in the water, or daydreaming in the fading evening light.
The Glasshouse has three suites, eleven rooms, and two tents. Some of the rooms have views of the Ganga, while the others lead out into a private viewing terrace from where you can see the river rush past. The tents, Hoogly and Tamsa, are pitched by the riverside. The suites and Grand Rooms have especially large beds that will tempt you to sneak in a siesta, especially if you’ve spent your morning rafting.
The highlights of the breakfast spread are the plum chutney and apple jam, made with fruits grown at The Ramgarh Bungalows in Nainital, another Neemrana property close by. A well-stocked lunch and dinner buffet is also available at extra cost. Meals are served in the large dining room, which doubles up as a cosy lounge, with comfortable armchairs and sofas.
The staff at the hotel helps organise adventure activities. Apart from rafting, you can also opt for easy treks in the surrounding hills or a drive down to Rishikesh for the evening aartis. As for me, the bodysurfing leaves me wanting more, so I ask them to organise a longer rafting trip that will include some cliff-jumping.
My guide Manas moors the raft a couple of kilometres before entering the calmer, wider stretch of the river. We swim and wade through the river until we reach the base of a roughly 12-foot-high rock. I climb the outcrop, take a deep breath, and plunge into the silvery ribbon below. I am airborne for barely a second before I hit the surface of the river, but it seems like much longer. Emerging from the water, I hurry back to the bank, ready to take the plunge again.
Appeared in the April 2014 as “Riverside Retreat”. Updated in October 2017.
The Glasshouse on the Ganges is located about 10 km from Rishikesh in the Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. It is about an hour’s drive from Dehradun’s Jolly Grant airport, which is connected by daily flights to Delhi. The property organises pick-ups from Delhi (245 km) and Dehradun (45 km) (23rd Milestone Rishikesh-Badrinath Road, Village & P.O. Gular-Dogi, Uttarakhand; +919412076420/+919917191115; glasshouse-on-the-ganges.neemranahotels.com; tents ₹10,000; doubles from ₹9,000; taxes extra).