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The Golden Triangle is one of the most popular tourist routes in India and takes you through the three northern cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. These ancient and iconic cities, which form a triangle when linked by land on the Indian map, are all very different and therefore offer visitors a diverse and fascinating taste of India. While Delhi lures with attractions of Mughal and the British era, Agra showcases the glory of Mughals, and Jaipur stands as a symbol for the grandeur of Rajputana. Highlights are aplenty and include soaking up the atmosphere at the iconic Taj Mahal at sunset, watching the pink colours of Jaipur at dawn and immersing yourself in the hum of daily Delhi life. The best time to visit India’s Golden Triangle from October to Mid-April, when temperatures are usually a comfortable 22-30°C. October and November bring festival time, with Diwali (the festival of lights) offer up exciting celebrations around the capital. Visiting during the festival of Holi in March is also a great experience, as you can partake in the famous colour-throwing ceremony. During the summer months of May and June temperatures can rise to 45°C, so travel during these months is often best avoided. Whereas during July through until September you can benefit from low-season prices and less tourists, however, the monsoon does have the potential to disrupt your travel.
As part of your Golden Triangle holiday, you’ll get to explore India’s sprawling capital; a city alive with sights and sounds. Wonderfully chaotic but steeped in history, the contrasting atmosphere between Old Delhi and British-built New Delhi offers up plenty of photo opportunities. Tucked away within the bustle of the capital, you’ll find tombs, temples and ruins that are centuries old, and the city has plenty of hidden surprises to keep tourists entertained.
Delhi is also renowned for it’s many culinary delights, with everything from cheap street food snacks to Michelin-Star experiences. As the cuisine is so diverse many visitors opt to embark on a food tour in Delhi, which can give tourists a fascinating insight into local eateries off the beaten path. There are also local cooking classes available, for those wishing to perfect their culinary skills and learn some delicious Indian recipes.
For shoppers, Delhi is a treasure trove with everything ranging from street markets to designer high-end malls. The colourful bazaars make a great place to pick up souvenirs and to experience shopping like a local.
In contrast to the city’s ancient history, Delhi also has a growing nightlife scene, with fashionable bars, chic cafes and modern clubs.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Mehrauli area of Delhi is one of the city’s top attractions and boasts the title of the tallest brick minaret in the world. Standing at 73-metres tall, this majestic building built by the Sultans of Delhi contains five floors and 379 steps. Constructed in 1192 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak of the Ghurid dynasty, but not finished in his lifetime, the minaret has impressively survived the ravages of time and offers up a magnificent example of Indo-Islamic Afghan architecture. The construction of Qutub Minar took 28 years to complete and as well as its impressive architectural shape, the walls feature intricate carvings and inscriptions of the Quran.
The Qutub Minar is part of a larger complex, where you’ll find some of the finest displays of historical monuments in the capital. Spread over an expanse of 100 acres, you’ll discover over 40 renovated ancient monuments, including the tombs of Sultan Iltutmish, Ala-ud-din Khilji and Imam Zamin. There’s also a mosque displaying a beautiful blend of Indo-Islamic architecture at the foot of the minaret which showcases the strong influence the Mughal Empire had on Indian culture.
Many India Golden Triangle Tours offer tours of Qutub Minar, or it is easily accessible by public transport:
By Metro: The nearest station is helpfully called Qutub Minar metro station (on the yellow line), and is located under 10-minutes-walk away.
By Bus: The following bus routes pass near Qutub Minar: 413, 523, 534A, 539
Chandni Chowk (which translates as Moonlight Square) is one of the oldest and largest markets in the capital, and is located close to Old Delhi Railway Station. Chaotic and colourful, the lively market sells a whole array of items, ranging from authentic Indian spices to electronics, perfume, clothing; plus, a delicious selection of street food.
Dating all the way back to the 17thcentury and built by Mughal ruler Shah Jahan, the historic market has retained its charm throughout the years. Divided into several narrow streets, the market has hundreds of shops selling a wide range of items at affordable prices. The market is a great place to practise you haggling skills and items can often be significantly reduced from the original price with a little effort. For tourists visiting Delhi as part of a Golden Triangle tour, Delhi will often be your last stop before the flight home, which makes Chandni Chowk a great option for picking up souvenirs for loved one.
If you build up an appetite after all that shopping, then Chandni Chowk is renowned for its fantastic street food. Tandoori chicken, marinated goat, rice dishes, paratha flatbreads, Lassis and traditional curries are all on the menu.
A visit to Chandni Chowk may be included in your Golden Triangle tour, but if not it’s easy to reach:
Metro: The market is situated close to the helpfully named Chandni Chowk metro station (on the yellow line).
Bus:The following bus routes pass Chandni Chowk: 138, 442, ML-96, ML-11, 567, 861A, 753 and 159
Located a short walk from Chandni Chowk, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is open every day aside from Monday. This historic and picturesque structure gets its name from the red coloured sandstone that the Mughals used to construct it during the 17th century. In more recent times, the fort has become famous for being the location where the Prime Minister delivers his annual speech. Every year, on the Independence Day of India (15th August), the Prime Minister hoists the Indian national flag above the main gate of the fort (Lahore Gate) and delivers a speech that is broadcast nationally.
The Red Fort is not only about the beauty of the fortified wall, the interior consists of 254 acres of land, spanning 2.4 kilometres and offering further attractions including palaces, halls and museums. There is also a famous Red Fort Light and Sound Show, that takes place in the evening at different times throughout the year. As well as avoiding some of the heat, this popular one-hour music and light show gives an interesting insight into the fort’s history. It’s also a chance to marvel at the colourful lights that illuminate the fort in radiant colours against the night sky.
A tour of the Red Fort is often included in Golden Triangle Tour, or details of how to reach it are below:
Note: The Red Fort is closed every Monday.
Metro:The closest metro station is Chandni Chowk (on the yellow line) – from here, exit from gate 5 in the station. It’s about a 20-minute walk, or alternatively you can hail a rickshaw or taxi to transport you to the fort.
Bus:The following bus routes pass by the Red Fort: 273 and 104
Spread over 90 acres, this beautiful green space in Delhi offers a great place to unwind, feeling a world away from the bustle of the city. This lovely park was originally named after the Lady of Willingdon, the wife of the Marquess of Willingdon, who was the Viceroy of India from 1931 to 1936. Inaugurated in 1936, Lodhi Garden is a lush escape, with shaded gardens boasting over 100 species of trees, and 50 species of birds and butterflies.The park attracts both locals and tourists, and has been the setting for many an Indian movie. During the spring the green gardens burst to live with colour showcasing an array of different flowers, including pansies, roses and sunflowers.
As well as it’s lush surrounds, the park is also home to a selection of historic 15th-century Mughal monuments. In the centre of the gardens sits Bara Gumbad (Big Dome), a beautiful structure that dates back to 1494 and contains a mosque. Then, opposite Bara Gumbad you’ll find Shisha Gumbud (Mirror Dome)which houses the tombs of an unknown family and is thought to have been constructed between 1489 and 1517. You’ll also find the grand structure of Mohammed Shah’s tomb (1450) and the fortress-like tomb of Sikandar Lodi (1518). On the eastern side of Sikandar Lodi’s tomb, Athpula, an eight-piered stone bridge, is also well worth a visit.
A visit to Lodhi Garden is often part of a Golden Triangle Tour, or details of how to reach it are below:
Metro:The closest metro station is Jor Bagh Metro Station (on the yellow line), about a 15-minute walk away from the garden.
Bus:The following bus routes pass close to Lodhi Garden: 522, 522A, 522SPL, 588, 615 and 970
Located just over 200 kilometres south of Delhi, the city of Agra is world-renowned for being the site of the Taj Mahal. Every year this UNESCO World Heritage and Wonder of the Worldattractsmillions of tourists from all around the world, keen to witness the structure with their own eyes. The city often gets overshadowed by the fact it holds the Taj Mahal, however, there are also other things to do in Agra. Aside from visiting the Taj Mahal, if you have a few days to spend in the city then Metab Bagh(known as Moonlight Garden) is well worth a visit and is part of a series of parks built by Emperor Babur. The park offers fantastic views of the Taj Mahal.
There are also a fantastic range of restaurants in Agra, from cheap local hangouts to more upmarket tourist spots. Many of the high-end and tourist hotels in Agra also boast their own restaurant which can match the quality of some of the city’s independent restaurants.
World-famous, the Taj Mahal is an ivory-white, marble mausoleum that sits in the south of the city of Agra. With its romantic history and worldwide status, it’s a staple on many tourist’s bucket lists. The building was commissioned in 1632 by a heartbroken Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favourite wife, a Persian Princess who died giving birth to their 14th child. The Taj Mahal now also holds the tomb of Shah Jahan, who is rumoured to have never fully recovered from his grief.
Often considered the most beautiful building in the world, the Taj Mahal has been well preserved and its interior boasts exquisite marble inlay work. A must-see feature of any Golden Triangle Route, a visit offers a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of one of the world’s most famous pieces of architecture.
Transportation to the Taj Mahal is often included as part of a Golden Triangle Tour, and can often work out to be the most cost effective. For other methods of travel see below:
Note: The Taj Mahal is closed every Friday to anybody not attending prayers at the mosque.
By Train: The quickest route by train is the Shatabdi Express, which takes two hours, leaving Delhi at 6am. Alternatively, there is the original Taj Express, which takes three hours to reach Agra (times vary).
By Taxi:A more expensive option is to take a taxi from Delhi to Agra. The roads between the cities are good so this is a viable option, but expect to pay upwards of £70 (ten times the cost of the train).
Dubbed the ‘Pink City’ due to its beautiful terracotta buildings, Rajasthan’s colourful capital is home to a wide selection of incredible architecture. This long-established tourist destination, which forms an important part of any Golden Triangle tour, is packed full of historic sites. At the heart of the city, you’ll find the old walled quarter, which is home to colourful market stalls and beautiful buildings. Whereas towards the south of the city, you’ll find leafier less-populated suburbs. The outskirts of the city are also well worth exploring and are dotted with intriguing temples.
This majestic structure is Jaipur’s star attractions, and is located in a small town, 11 kilometres from the centre of Jaipur. The palace was constructed in the 16th century by Raja Man Singh, but also underwent extensive renovations by Sawai Jai Singh in the 18th century.Built in yellow and pink sandstone with white marble, this extensive palace structure is divided into four sections, each of which has its own courtyard. Inside, the various sections boast impressive decor, ranging from mirrored mosaics to intricate carvings, Hindu scriptures and beautifully painted ceilings. Built on a slope, the fort also offers visitors incredible far-reaching views across the surrounding hills and valleys of the Aravalli range.
Like the Taj Mahal, the Amber Fort and Palace also showcases an evening Light and Sounds show. Well-organised, the show tells you the story of the Rajputs and the grand lifestyle of the royal family. The rocky walls of the Amber Fort also make a great backdrop for the colourful lights, which look nothing short of beautiful in the darkness.
The Amber Fort & Palace is a popular attraction in Jaipur and often included in a Golden Triangle tour.
By Taxi:About a 12-minute drive from the centre of Jaipur, a taxi ride should cost you around £3 and is the fastest way to get there.
By Bus: Buses run from Ajmeri Gate in Jaipur, cost around £1 and take around 30 minutes.
The famous Hawa Mahal Palace(Palace of Wind) is an iconic structure made of red and pink sandstone that dates back to 1799, when it was constructed by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh. Its unusual architecture and detailed design is a stunning example of unusual Rajput architecture and local artistry. Often noted as being Jaipur’s most distinctive landmark, the colourful building has honeycombed hives that span an impressive five floors.
Inside you’ll find a small museum and some impressive relics. As you climb the narrow corridors and enter into the open, you’ll find wide spaces with stained glass windows and hues of pinks and yellows. The top floor of the building offers incredible views of the nearby City Palace and Jantar Mantar Market.
Located quite centrally in Jaipur, Hawa Mahal is usually easy to reach from most tourist hotels in the city, and either a short taxi or rickshaw ride away. It sits beside other less-known attractions such as the City Palace and Jantar Mantar Market and therefore makes a good location for a day of sightseeing. If you book a golden triangle tour then one or all of these attractions may be included in your package.
From Jaipur Railway Station: Hawa Mahal is around a 12-minute drive from the station (depending on traffic). Bus routes are as follows: 1, 1A, 2, 3 and 9A.
From Amber Fort & Palace: A taxi ride from Amber Fort & Palace will take around 30 minutes.
Most Golden Triangle tours offer additional extras to the usual Delhi, Agra and Jaipur route, which are a fantastic idea if you wish to explore further or extend your trip. See some of the various options below:
Many holidaymakers opt to twin a Golden Triangle tour with a tiger safari in the famous Ranthambore National Park in North India. It offers tourists the unique opportunity to see endangered tigers in the wild.
Goa is famed for its sandy beaches and laid-back holiday vibe, which makes a nice contrast after time spent exploring India’s historical sights. It’s also a great way to unwind after a busy time sightseeing through the Golden Triangle.
Some holidaymakers decide to opt for a twin-centre holiday, incorporating the beautiful country of Nepal, usually at the beginning of their trip. It offers a fantastic chance to see the vibrant capital Kathmandu, visit the famous elephants of Chitwan National Park and enjoy the mountainous beauty of Pokhara.