The Golden Triangle is the most popular tourist route in India, and for very good reason. Delhi, Jaipur and Agra are three cities that capture your imagination and take you into the fascinating, decadent and passionate world of the Mughals and maharajas. What they left behind is some of the world’s best architecture, from the Qutab Minar in Delhi to the Amber Fort in Jaipur and of course the Taj Mahal in Agra. Even if you have only five days, here’s how you can see the highlights of the Golden Triangle.
Day 1 and 2 : From Ancient to Modern Day Delhi
Most Golden Triangle tours start in Delhi, and rightly so; the capital city is truly spectacular. If you only have a couple of days in Delhi, then you really don’t have time to spare, so head straight to Chandni Chowk. The centre of Old Delhi, this market was created by Shah Jahan in 1650 A.D., and is still one of the most vibrant parts of the city. The narrow alleyways are filled with stalls selling spices of every scent, cloth, electronics as well as a lane that is famous for selling any kind of parantha you desire. Chandni Chowk is an experience that makes you feel truly alive!
Stop for lunch at Karim’s, famous for its mouth-watering kebabs, and then head to the splendid Red Fort or Lal Qila. Built on the banks of the Yamuna, this incredible example of Mughal architecture has a wall that extends over 2 kilometres. The palace walls and public halls were once adorned with precious stones of every hue. Close your eyes and imagine how these walls once glistened.
Nearby is the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India that can hold up to 25,000 people! Whilst its size alone is massive, the beautiful blend of intricately carved white marble and red sandstone makes this site just incredible. Wander through the courtyard and catch a glimpse of the Red Fort in the distance. Then walk up the narrow spiral staircase of the minaret to get the best view of Old Delhi.
If you still have some time left, do visit Raj Ghat, the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi. In the evening, head back to Red Fort to see the popular Sound and Light Show.
The next day, start early and head to Mehrauli, home to the Qutab Minar complex. This UNESCO World Heritage site is amazing. The way the minar reaches up towards the sky almost defies logic. Over 72 metres high, construction on this structure commenced in 1193 A.D. In the same complex, you can also see some Mughal tombs, and an iron pillar that dates back over 2,000 years. The pillar continues to mystify scientists who marvel at how it was cast to perfection.
Head back into Delhi for a short break and picnic at Lodhi Gardens. From there, visit Humayun’s Tomb, one of the most spectacular monuments in Delhi. Set amongst huge gardens, and with intricate carvings of stars, this is a site not to be missed.
In the evening, stop at India Gate just as night falls to see it lit up in all its glory. You can also snack on chaat and enjoy the carnival atmosphere here.
Day 3 - The Incredible Taj Mahal
The next morning, get up early for the drive to Agra. On the way, stop at Fatehpur Sikri, the ancient fortified city that was once the capital of the Mughal Empire. The fort provides an insight into the life of Emperor Akbar, with homes for his Hindu, Christian and Muslim wives, and a spectacular masjid. Take your time and explore this city before continuing to Agra.
Agra is of course home to the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This iconic monument is simply breathtaking in real life. Built by Shah Jahan as a memorial for his favourite wife Mumtaz, this is sure to be the highlight of your Golden Triangle trip.
After you have wandered through the grounds of the Taj Mahal, visit Agra Fort, where his ruthless son Aurangzeb held Shah Jahan captive. It was here that he would gaze across the river to the Taj Mahal and remember his beautiful Mumtaz. In the evening, dine under the stars like an emperor at Esphahan Restaurant in the luxurious Oberoi Amarvilas.
Day 4 and 5 : The Pink City of Jaipur Awaits
Your journey to the Pink City of Jaipur commences early. Once you reach Jaipur, the Old City is the best place to begin. The Hawa Mahal is an iconic building that hides many secrets of the ladies who once lived here. Through the small windows or jharokhas, the women were able to secretly observe life outside their palace. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear them whispering and giggling to each other as you wander through the halls of the Hawa Mahal.
Nearby is the City Palace, which blends Rajasthani and Mughal architecture perfectly. From its brightly painted Pitam Niwas Courtyard, with reliefs that represent every season, to the intricately engraved armory room, the City Palace will give you a peak into the elegant world of the maharajas. If you have enough time, you can also visit Jantar Mantar, which houses a collection of some of the most fascinating scientific instruments. Don’t miss the sundial that has a 27-metre high gnomon.
Bright and early the next morning, drive to Amber. Amber is 11 kilometres from Jaipur, and was once the ancient capital. This golden fort was built in 1592 A.D. by Maharaja Man Singh and even today, has remnants of the spectacular mirror-work and paintings that once adorned this structure. You can walk up the stairs to the fort, but the best way to get there is like royalty, on an elephant. From atop this magnificent beast, you can see the view across the hills and surrounding region. Take your time and enjoy this fascinating ancient city; wander through the town behind the fort before heading back in to Jaipur. Perhaps, take out time and do some shopping in Jaipur; the area is famous for its ethnic handicrafts, silver jewelry and semi-precious stones that are polished nearby.
In the morning, you will be ready to head back to Delhi. Whilst it may have only been four days since you left, you will return a different person as the Golden Triangle undoubtedly leaves a lasting impression on all who visit.
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