I lived in India for a couple of years and people always ask me what they should see. I have a hard time because India is huge, you could spend time up in the Himalayas, floating down a river in Kerala, visiting amazing beaches, visiting a tiger safari, or hit some of the most beautiful temples in the world. However if you can only visit India for a few days you may want to do what many people call the Golden Triangle.
The Golden Triangle takes you to New Delhi (the capitol of India), Agra (the Taj Mahal), and Jaipur.
Most international flights will arrive to Delhi in the late night or early morning hours so make sure you have your hotel booked and then you can catch a cab to your hotel from inside the airport and get ready to start an amazing adventure unlike any other. India is an amazing place to travel but can be a bit hard on foreigners.
There are quite a few things to do while you are in Delhi. You can either take a taxi everywhere or I would suggest hiring a driver for the day. Your hotel can help arrange one and it will really make your trip less stressful.
- Old Delhi
Visiting Old Delhi is amazing experience. Spend time walking or taking a rickshaw through the crowded streets. Spend time buying spices like Saffron, saris, and tons of other wonderful Indian souvenir items. Make sure to look up at the wires above you, when they need a new line, they just add a new line instead of combining them. Make sure you leave before dark.
- Red Fort
Built in the 17th century Red Ford was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. You can visit Red Fort on your way back from Old Delhi. The cost is 250 Indian Rupees for foreigners or 10 Indian Rupees for Indians.
- Swaminarayan Akshardham
Built in 2005Swaminarayan Akshardam is a pilgrimage to Indias cultural traditions and values. Akshardham is open Tue-Sunday from 9AM to 7PM. The site is free to visit but if you want to view the exhibitions there is a fee of 170 Indian Rupees. You are not allowed phones, cameras, or any other electronic items.
- Qutab Minar
A UNESCO Wolrd Heritage Site Qutab Minar is 238 feet high and has other ancient ruins near the complex dating back to 1190 AD. The cost is 250 Indian Rupees for foreigners or 10 Indian Rupees for Indians.
- Lotus Temple
Built in the shape of the lotus flower, the temple is the last of the seven Major Bahai’s temples built around the world. The temple is made of pure white marble and is surrounded by nine pools of water. The temple is free to visit.
- India Gate
In the center of New Delhi sits India Gate, sort of like the Arc-de-Triomphe in France. India Gate was built to commemorate the 90,000 soldiers from the British Indian Army in WWI and the 3rd Anglo-Afgan War.
The next stop on India’s Golden Triangle is Agra. You can either hire a driver to take you on this part or all of your journey or take an Indian train. The journey is about 2.5 to 3 hours by car. There are two main sites to visit in Agra the first is the Taj Mahal and the second is Agra Fort. If you have time you can enjoy the sunrise or sunset from the Taj Mahal.
- Taj Mahal
Many people believe that the Taj Mahal is a palace but actually the Taj Mahal was built as a tomb for Mumtaz Mahal by her husband Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The structure was completed around 1653 and took almost 20 years to build. The tomb is built using marble and tons of precious and semiprecious gemstones like turquoise, lapis, coral, onyx, among others. There are gardens and a few other buildings on the site. You can also look across the river where the king was going to build a black Taj Mahal but he was imprisoned by his son before he could see that come true.
The Taj Mahal costs 750 Indian Rupees for a foreign tourist or 20 Indian Rupees for an Indian citizen. You can also hire a guide once inside for a few dollars to tell you all you could ever want to know about the site.
- Agra Fort
About 2.5 km from the Taj Mahal sits Agra Fort. The fort sits on 94 acres and is semicircular. The fort played an important part throughout Indian history in the area. You can also hire official tour guides at the complex to show you around.
The entrance fee for foreign tourists is 300 Indian Rupees and for Indian citizens it is 20 Indian Rupees.
The “Pink City” is a must see for anyone visiting India. The city is walled within pink gates. You can either continue on the train or again use the same driver for the whole trip. I think having the same driver is a great and cheap option and I would recommend that over the train any day for this Golden Triangle trip. The drive from Delhi is 4 hours. Once inside the city you can spend time shopping, or walking around, looking at all the vibrant colors. Also make sure to visit Jantar Mantar a World Heritage Site.
We spent the night just outside the gates of Jaipur in a great little hotel that felt like it was an old palace called Shapura House; however there are lots of hotels like this in the area.
After visiting Jaipur and Agra return to Delhi and you will have gotten a glimpse into India and what it has to offer. After returning home I went back a few summers later and backpacked with my roommate for 2 months across the country of India and I felt like I barely even scratched the surface of what this country has to offer.