India is truly an incomparable and incredible travel destination. A kaleidoscope of landscapes, magnificent historical sites and royal cities, misty mountain retreats, colorful people, rich cultures and festivities. From the majestic Himalayan ranges in the north to the endless golden beaches in the south, it is home to over a billion people – a study in contrasts.
For the perfect introduction take a trip to the heart of India or the Golden triangle, this covers New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Each city has its own unique identity made up of a combination of different sights, sounds and experiences. Delhi, modern and cosmopolitan, is the capital city and cultural, political, and commercial centre of India. Agra showcases Taj Mahal and the opulence of the Mughal Empire while Jaipur is reminiscent of the medieval Rajput culture. Being popular tourist destinations, all of these cities have good hotels and tourism facilities too.
With blistering hot summers and freezing winters in this part of India, spring and autumn are the best times to travel. This is also the time for the biggest festivals of Holi and and Diwali. Enjoy the joy and festive celebrations, taste traditional cuisine, visit historical monuments and go crazy shopping!
The first stop and hub for international visitors is Delhi, with its spanking new airport. William Darymple’s ‘The City of Djinns,’ inhabited since the 6th century BC, is built on the ruins of seven previous cities. Delhi – a city of spectacular contradictions, ancient and medieval monuments that stand proud in the midst of contemporary infrastructure and modern malls with regal dignity.
Visit Red Fort, Jama Masjid and Chandini Chowk in Old Delhi and then to Raj Ghat, Qutub Minar, Chhattarpur Mandir, Humayun’s Tomb, Purana Qila and Nizammudin Auliya’s Mausoleum.
Other contemporary tourist attractions are the lotus Baha’i temple, recently constructed Akshardham Temple, Japanese Garden and the Garden of Five Senses.
Enjoy endless shopping for crafts, jewels, gadgetry, textiles and every conceivable item that you can hope to find in a marketplace. Scour the streets of Old Delhi bazaars that sell everything from ethnic jewelry, saris, dress materials, textiles and brocade aglitter with sequins, beads and embroidery. Other bustling marketplaces are Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Karol Bagh and Connaught Place. Do go to the Dilli Haat crafts bazaar for ethnic regional handicrafts.
Then on to visit the Taj Mahal at Agra, which is 196 km from Delhi and connected by a variety of transport options. Travel back in time to an era dominated by great Mughal kings who were die-hard patrons of art.
The Taj Mahal, built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Begum, is made in white marble, delicately carved to give an impression of a soft white cloud settled on the banks of the shimmering Yamuna. The best time is to see it glowing like a pearl on a full moon night, majestically on the banks of the river Yamuna, reciting the eternal poetry of Love.
Other attractions are Agra Fort, Itmad-Ud-Daullah’s Tomb, Chini ka Rauza, Fatehpur Sikri and Akbar’s Tomb at Sikandra. It’s like being caught in a golden time warp while shopping for miniature Taj Mahals, marble cases with inlay-work and textiles, especially the ‘chikan’ embroidery work on organza cloth, that Agra is so famous for. Popular shopping hubs in Agra are: Raja ki Mandi, Kinari Bazaar, Sadar Bazaar and the Taj Mahal Complex.
The last and most colorful stop is the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur, royal capital of Rajasthan, a spectacular vision in dazzling pink. Jaipur is based on ancient Hindu treatise on architecture ‘Shilpa Shastra,’ and is a brilliant example of medieval Indian architecture.
The City Palace complex is a labyrinth of carved stone palaces, towers and stunning courtyards ornate with water fountains and sculptural grandeur. The ‘Hawa Mahal’ looks like a delicate pink ornament. Explore intimidating fortresses, lavish havelis, royal cenotaphs and Rajputana architectural marvels of ‘Jantar Mantar’, Moti Doongri, Nahargarh Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Jai Mahal Palace, Vidhyadhar Bagh, Kanak Brindavan, Albert Hall and Rambagh Palace.
At a distance of 11 kilometers from Jaipur city is the awe-inspiring Amber Fort, which can be reached on the back of an elephant slowly walking uphill and offers you breathtaking views of the approaching royal fort and shimmering lake below.
Shop for crafts at the bustling Jaipur bazaars and watch artisans making jewelry, tie-and-dye textiles and earthenware. Enjoy folk dance and music performances and see puppet shows as you listen to legendary tales of valor and love.
Packed with splendor of culture, décor & history, the Golden Triangle is the most popular tourist circuit. Every city offers its unique blend of sights, sounds and experiences, from the opulence of the Mughal Empire to the vibrant life of modern India…a land where the ancient and the contemporary exist side by side to lend an extraordinary vitality, texture and poetry to life. It will stun you with modernity, embrace you with warmth, and overwhelm you with hospitality. Truly Incredible India where ‘Atithi Devo Bhavah’ or where ‘Guest is God’
India isn’t just a holiday….it is an experience.
by Poonam Sagar