They say the best things come in threes – never more so than when it comes to India’s Golden Triangle. Stretching between the three most visited cities in the country's north-west – Delhi, Agra and Jaipur – it’s one of the country’s most popular tourist circuits and a classic introduction to this vast and varied country.
Take a week out to explore – either by car or rail – and the three cities will be sure to deliver when it comes to bustling street life, peaceful havens, culture shocks and architectural marvels galore. Be sure to stop along the way and relax with a cup of chai – India’s traditional sweet, milky tea… Here are our top tips for enjoying the gems of India’s Golden Triangle!
Old and New Delhi unite
Almost all international visitors arrive in the chaotic and intoxicating capital city of India which is home to 15 million people and where the historic city of Old Delhi sits right next to its modern and orderly counterpart, New Delhi.
In the old city, visit the numerous World Heritage Site monuments built by the Muslim Mughal rulers (descendants of the Mongol Empire) who ruled northern India in the 16th and 17th centuries. The most magnificent are the mighty Red Fort, the residence of the Mughal emperors for nearly 200 years, and the 370-year-old Jama Masjid – India’s largest and most impressive mosque. Close to the Fort is Chandni Chowk market, which is said to be the most bustling part of the city – not one for the faint-hearted!
Other highlights include the superbly landscaped Mughal garden tombs – Humayun’s Tomb, the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent and a precursor to the Taj Mahal; and Safdarjang’s Tomb, the last monumental garden-tomb of the Mughals.
Built by the British to be the capital of British India in 1911, head to New Delhi to enjoy tree lined boulevards, upmarket shopping malls, grand administrative buildings and foreign diplomatic missions. The colonnaded facades of the Connaught Place are particularly impressive – once the commercial centre of New Delhi and showpiece of Lutyens’ Delhi, which is named after leading British architect Edwin Lutyens. The area is easy to find and instantly recognisable on a city map – simply look out for a large concentric ring road and radial roads spreading out in all directions.
Stay at Radisson Blu Hotel New Delhi Dwarka while discovering these landmarks!
Tickled pink in Jaipur
Known as the Pink City after its pink-washed buildings (pink is associated with auspiciousness and hospitality for its Rajput rulers who descended from Hindu warrior ruling classes of North India), Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan (literally the Land of Kings) and India's largest state by area.
The top monuments include Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), an ornate five-story building designed to allow the women of the royal household to observe the street in anonymity; the sprawling 18th century City Palace where the Jaipur royal family still resides; and Amber Fort, a massive fort-palace complex built in a hybrid Hindu-Muslim style. Meanwhile, to best appreciate the picturesque views of the surrounding hills, why not ride on elephant back up to the gate?
Other sights include Jantar Mantar, a World Heritage Site and the largest of five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh during the period 1727-1734; and Jal Mahal (Water Palace), a Rajput-style palace that sits in the centre of the Man Sagar Lake and is prettiest after the summer monsoons as the lake swells with water.
Jaipur also offers shoppers a wide range of locally produced textiles, blue pottery, handicrafts, housewares and contemporary art by eminent and emerging Indian artists.
Radisson Blu Jaipur is located close to the city center and will suit well as your base during your stay in Jaipur!
Enjoy the jewel of Agra
While there’s certainly more to Agra than the Taj Mahal, it remains the city’s key attraction and for good reason too – the semi-precious stone encrusted white marble mausoleum is widely regarded to be the pinnacle of Mughal architecture.
Originally commissioned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (who reigned from 1628-1658), in the memory of his third and favorite wife Arjumand Bano Begum, some 20,000 masons, painters and other craftsmen from India, Central Asia and Iran were involved in the 22-year construction of the 42-acre (17-hectare) complex that was completed in 1653.
Meanwhile, the other two World Heritage Sites that can also be found in Agra are the massive red sandstone 16th century Agra Fort, which was in fact originally a walled palatial city, and Fatehpūr Sikrī, a city which served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585.
Agra is also famous for its gem stones (although it’s worth being on watch for scams), and beautiful craftwork including marble, jewelry and ethnic.