Delhi is an explosion for the senses. It is chaotic, colorful, and thoroughly charming.
It has never seen a decade without turmoil, and is almost as old as time itself; and although it has not always been the capital of India, Delhi has always played a major role in its history.
As a result, Delhi has turned out some of the most amazing architectural delights throughout antiquity and has become a time warp between the past, and present. Here you will witness extremes of both wealth, and poverty, religion, and spirituality and where I hope you will start your love affair with India!
Best Time to Visit:
High season is from March to October (Autumn- Winter) when weather is at its nicest. Temperatures can drop to the single digits in January but warm, sunny afternoons remain. Most Indians relish these months which are a far cry from the 50-degree, scorching days of summer.
Day 1: New Delhi, Lotus Temple, and Agrasen Ki Baoli
Ease into Delhi by spending your first day relaxing at the Lotus Temple, and learning the haunted history behind the Agrasen Ki Baoli.
Located in New Delhi, the Lotus Temple is a relatively new building, although still remarkable in its architecture. It was built in 1986.
Here, the lush gardens are eternally peaceful, and will make you forget you are in one of India’s most chaotic cities. Bring a picnic, explore, or sit and meditate. As the Baha’i’s preach inclusiveness, the house of worship is open to everyone, regardless of faith. In fact, during prayers, they read passages from the books of other major religions. Then ending in their own Baha’i book of faith.
The reason that the lotus flower is a powerful symbol for the Baha’i peoples is that they believe that people are like the lotus. In a pond of black water, the lotus, like people can rise above darkness and bloom. There is a small information center with exhibits at the entrance of the park.
Next, grab a rickshaw to the Haunted Stairwell for a glimpse into India’s past. It should take no more than 20 minutes door to door.
The Agrasen Ki Baoli Stairwell is a little-known attraction in the heart of New Delhi, especially among foreigners, and is a designated monument by the Archeological Survey of India. It is somewhat of a lover’s spot for locals despite its daunting history, and you will find a number of them holding hands, and huddling together to take photos.
Rumor has it that when the well filled with water, it allured victims to jump into its depths. More popularly though, it is said that the small archways lining the stairwell were at one time used to house prisoners. When the rains came and the stairwell once again flooded, the prisoners were left to die. Today, the baoli does not flood due to the surrounding development and efforts of the municipality.
Although many question the legitimacy of the hauntings, there is no denying the architectural beauty of the old Baoli.
End your evening watching the Bollywood flick, PK. Which is responsible for the insurgence of tourists to Agrasen Ki Baoli. Or hit up one of Delhi’s innumerable Indian restaurants for dinner. A favorite is the Delhi Canteen at 30, Malviya Nagar Rd, Corner Market, Sadhna Enclave, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi
Day 2: Red Fort, Old Delhi Street Food, Khari Baoli Spice Market
Today explore one of the country’s most popular attractions, Delhi’s Red Fort. The fort housed the Mughal emperors from 1648 to 1857, and is so grand, it is difficult to imagine that it was built so many years ago. It is highly recommended that you get a guide inside the walls of the Red Fort. The architecture is astounding but only really comes alive when you understand the cultural influence behind each room.
Next, head west just outside the Red Fort, and stroll along some of Delhi’s oldest streets. They date back to before, Emperor Shah Jahan established the city and the Red Fort. The streets embody the pandemonium of Old Delhi. They are also alive with street food vendors. So, don’t hesitate to try the innumerable varieties of curry, paratha, and chai. A good rule of thumb, to avoid Delhi Belly, is to only go to vendors busy with Indians, and ensure the chai is good and hot.
Continue walking to the Khari Baoli Spice Market. It is a short 30-minute walk or rickshaw drive from the palace, and the largest spice market in Asia.
Sacks of rich reds spices, yellow turmeric, and innumerable seeds line the market walls and shops. It is a great place to gather ingredients to make your own cup of chai at home or buy gifts of spices for loved ones.
Once you’re done your shopping or sight-seeing in the market, ask around or if you spot them take the stairs to the top of the roof of the spice market. Here you will get a quiet, sprawling view of the city, and Fatehpuri Masjid Mosque below.
If you wish, descend and visit the Fatehpuri Masjid Mosque for an up-close look or grab a tuk-tuk to your hotel.
Day 3: Tomb, India Gate, and Sikh Temple
Start your day at the India Gate with a cup of steaming Chai, and a breakfast paratha from one of the many vendors alongside the towering monument.
The India Gate was erected in 1931 to commemorate the thousands of soldiers who sacrificed their lives for their homeland during the third Afghan War, and the Great War. It is made of black marble and often likened to the Arc de Trimpone in France.
Marvel at its greatness, finish up breakfast, then head to another of Delhis gems, Humayun’s Tomb.
The tomb is for Jahn Shan’s grandfather- the emperor who built the Taj Mahal. Its shares a number of architectural similarities with the great tomb in Agra, and it is one of the best-preserved examples of Mughal architecture in the world.
Again, a guide is recommended to truly understand the premise and its cultural history. Since Humayun’s Tomb is one of the first major architectural feats of the Mughals in India. Your guide will mention much about the exterior influences to the Mughals particular brand of architecture.
Finish off your stay in Delhi by visiting Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. It is the second largest Sikh temple in India. Upon arrival, you will be directed to the foreign visitor’s center where you will leave your shoes, and be instructed to don a bandana to cover your head regardless of your gender. The greeters are eager to answer any questions about the Sikh religion that you may have.
Then, take your time exploring the temple, and its beautiful courtyard. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty then you may help out in the soup kitchen too. Near the exit of the Sikh Temple, there is a kitchen that serves food to those in need. The temple can get quite busy so if you don’t see it right away, ask around and you will be pointed in the right direction. Once inside you are encouraged to help out in one of the food stations, where they typically serve a traditional Thali dish.
The chapati station is a friendly choice. The men and women around the station will patiently teach you to properly roll out your pieces of dough. You might even make a new friend or two!
You could spend a lifetime in Delhi, and still never see it all. However, this should give you a good head start. Don’t head into the city with any pre convinced notions, and enjoy!