Many people who come to India end up on the pathway of the Golden Triangle. This has its reasons and they are justified. Most people cannot get away from work for longer than a week, maybe two weeks at best. There is loads to see and do in a small amount of time and it is a great way to get a glimpse if India’s unique and diverse culture. This article will give you a taste of traveling this area with a couple of suggestions of things to do beyond it if you have time.
New Delhi is the starting point for many tourists coming to India. This insanely busy city will have you immediately knowing that you are in a country unlike any you have likely experienced before. The streets are packed with people, vendors, tuk-tuks, taxis and pretty much anything else you can imagine. Despite its chaos, Delhi does offer quite a few things to do and see.
India Gate and and Connaught Place are a good place to start. This is the largest war memorial in India and directly connected to Connaught Place. This area is a good spot to get a feel for Delhi’s culture. Plenty of shopping and bars and restaurants to spend a few hours walking around and grabbing dinner.
Old Delhi for a day of sites including the Jama Masjid (largest mosque in India), Red Fort and the absolutely crazy Chandni Chowk Market. Cover your belongings in these endless and narrow rows of shops as its always best to be safe.
To see a different and more modern side of Delhi, check out the area around the Lotus Temple and the temple itself. A bit away from the chaos and crowds of Old Delhi, you can find some higher end cuisine and shopping around here.
Typically, after a couple days in Delhi, most tourists head to Agra and the Taj Mahal. Plenty of options to get there including private driver, Uber or taxi. We recommend taking the 5 hour train from Delhi to get some more cultural experience and mingle with the locals. There are a few things to do and see around Agra including; Agra Fort, Wildlife SOS (animal sanctuary), and the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah. Here, we are going to focus on the best way to see the Taj Mahal.
Important things to know about the Taj is that its hours vary based on sunrise time. If you ask your hotel or tour operator, they will be able to guide you on this for the time of year that you arrive. We were there in late January and the morning was extremely foggy! Being that morning is typically best in order to minimize crowds, we ended up going then and going again later in the day when it cleared up. The tickets for the Taj are only valid for 3 hours (if you stay longer you pay more upon exiting) so we had to buy them twice. It was worth it! The Taj Mahal will have anyone feeling like they are walking into a postcard. The symmetry, the translucent marble, the history and the well-manicured grounds make for a special time within the gates. Some more tips we like to share:
- Enter through the east gate for less lines
- Sunset can be spent across the river for a different perspective, just ask a Tuk-Tuk driver to take you to the “sunset spot” and they will know. Otherwise, we recommend one of the many rooftop bars near the Taj.
- There are audio tours available in Apps that you can download before going if you don’t want a personal tour
- Bring hand sanitizer and TP, just in case!
After a day or so in Agra, you can hop on another 5-hour train to Jaipur! This old city (known as the Pink City due to its color) is the capital of the state of Rajasthan, but does not feel as busy as the other cities. After the chaos of Delhi and the constant barrage of sales people in Agra, it was a nice breath of fresh air (literally considering we had low pollution in Jaipur) and there was plenty to do and see! We had the good fortune to find a nice dinner spot near our accommodations and caught a local musician and belly dancer performance at the restaurant, which was amazing! If you have a day or two here, these are the sites we most recommend:
- Amer Fort
- Hawa Mahal
- Jala Mahal
- City Palace
- Chand Baori – Stair well
There is plenty more to do and see here, but this will be a great way to start an adventure around the city. Tuk-Tuks are the main way to get around unless you book a tour, but as with most of India be ready to negotiate those prices!
After some time in Jaipur, most people head back to Delhi and end their trip. We, however, would like to suggest adding some time if you can and visiting the following places to dive even deeper into the culture.
Either before or after you go to Agra, take an overnight train or a flight if its easier and head to the ancient and spiritual city of Varanasi! This city is so unique and will test your ability to handle culture shock! Set on the banks of the Ganges river where Hindu pilgrims bathe as a sin cleansing ritual and families come to perform funeral rites. Visit a few of the many temples the city has to offer and one evening rent a boat and have a local row you to witness one of the funeral ceremonies along the shores of the river. We felt we learned a lot about celebrating life rather than mourning death and cannot recommend spending some time here enough.
The next place we added to our trip and would highly suggest to you, is Jaisalmer in the western desert. This is another overnight train ride from Jaipur and is only a couple hundred Kilometers from the border of Pakistan, but is so worth the efforts of getting to! It is called the Golden City due to its limestone architecture. The city is dominated by the fort which sits atop a hill and has you overlooking the vast desert landscapes surrounding. Just spending a couple of days roaming around the fort and city, relaxing at a coffee shop people watching and sleeping in a homestay that is centuries old would be enough here, but we think you should do more! Take a day and a night if you can and head out for an experience in the desert dunes. You can ride a camel, watch a colorful sunset over the sand, have a homemade dinner made over a warm fire and listen to locals singing songs of their past. It is truly amazing to experience and despite its distance from pretty much anything, Jaisalmer must be considered.