New Delhi will make your head spin. But in a (mostly) good way. The noise, those vibrant colors, the smells (both good and bad) that permeate the city, and all of those people. Holy $*#%–there are just so many people–everywhere– all of it will send you reeling. I don’t think we’ve ever encountered so much stimuli in one city before. Not even while visiting some of the world’s most populated cities like Bangkok, Cairo or Istanbul, have we felt so overwhelmed. Intriguing. Daunting. Vivid. Complex. Unique. Can one place really be all of these? And all at the same time? Apparently, yes. Within minutes of being in Delhi, you immediately learn just just how fascinating and multi-layered this place really is.
We spent two days in New Delhi as part of our tour of the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur–more about those two cities in future posts) before heading south to Ahmedabad for the most incredible wedding we have ever been (not exaggerating in the least, by the way). Being that it was November and I was already pushing it with taking off multiple days during the school year (a big no-no in the education world), I had to be strategic in my planning and maximize every minute of our time in India. We chose to use the travel company, Viator, to tour the Golden Triangle. Whether you love tours or hate them, the truth of the matter is that India is an enormous and convoluted country and if you are limited in time, arranging an organized tour is definitely an option worth considering. India is not a country where you want to rent a car–the traffic and number of drivers is astounding–it’s just not wise to try to navigate and traverse the chaos of the streets and highways on your own. Many say driving in India, unless you are a native, is nothing short of being suicidal (seriously, that’s how insane the driving is–words cannot even begin to explain). And for about $25-30 USD, you can hire a private driver for an entire day in Delhi–honestly, it’s the best $25 you will ever spend. Trust me.
We opted for a private tour, which was the perfect option for us. For many travelers, prices in India are shockingly low and you can travel quite luxuriously for a fraction of the cost that you would spend in many other countries. Our Viator tour was outstanding and extremely affordable–for about $1300 USD total, we had our own driver and tour guide (a different local guide for each location–all three guides were knowledgeable, professional, and friendly) for four days, four nights accommodations in four and five-star hotels, breakfasts, all airport/hotel transfers, and most entry fees. A private tour not only provided us with comfort, ease, and peace of mind, it also afforded us the huge advantage of flexibility and input. Unlike most group tours, because it was only the two of us, we had much more say in how we spent we each day and of course, had our guides’ undivided attention. I highly recommend a private tour, especially if you are short on time, and/or are feeling a bit overwhelmed with planning your trip and navigating this vast country.
Upon our arrival in New Delhi, we were transported to the lovely Maidens Hotel and were pleased with our spacious and comfortable room. Service was great and breakfast was good. A welcoming haven within this hectic city, this hotel exudes old-world charm and elegance.
First stop…Chandni Chowk: New Delhi’s popular and ridiculously bustling market bazaar that’s been around for over three hundred centuries.
Rickshaw riding throughout the market: a little bravery goes a long way here
My favorite place in the market: The A. Kumar Trading Co. Spice Market, Khari Baoli Road
I may have bought some spices and teas. Just a few. I couldn’t help myself…I love me a good spice market.
We traded the chaos of Chandi Chowk for the tranquility of Lodi Gardens. Spreading over ninety acres, these gardens provide an oasis of serenity amidst the bustling city. We loved wandering aimlessly alongside the locals and really enjoyed the gardens’ expansive greenery and historical monuments. The park is dotted with tombs of Sayyid and Lodi rulers and a beautiful mosque. Well worth a visit.
Indian Accent Restaurant: Hands-down the best meal of our trip and one of the best meals of our lives. It’s currently ranked #77 on the San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant 2015 list (slight obsessed with this list, by the way)–I cannot recommend this restaurant enough. Considering the quality of the food and service and its place among the world’s best restaurants, it is extremely affordable, especially when compared to many of the other restaurants on that list. Good news–I read that Indian Accent recently opened a second location in Manhattan–a tad closer for us Western Hemispherers to get our Indian fix.
Jama Masjid: The largest mosque in India is a peaceful reprieve from the surrounding bedlam. This sprawling mosque is massive–it can hold up to 25,000 people! Before entering the mosque, visitors are required to remove their shoes and cover themselves with provided robes. You have to pay a 300 rupee (about $4.00 USD) “camera charge”regardless of whether you are using a camera or not. This historical mosque is both impressive and somewhat mesmerizing–even if they do take advantage of tourists by charging them their ridiculous photography fee.
Raj Ghat: A pretty and peaceful park that serves as a memorial to Mahatma Ghandi. The black marble platform marks the location of his cremation.
India Gate: A war memorial dedicated to the 82,000 soldiers who lost their lives during the first world war.
Rashtrapati Bhavan: The president’s mansion
I think this last photo pretty much sums up the uniqueness of New Delhi. There aren’t many places in this magnificent world of ours where you can be driving in a city of nearly ten million people, weaving in and out of traffic, all while cruising alongside an elephant. Just another day in the life and on the streets of Delhi.
Planning Your New Delhi Trip:
If your schedule is flexible, then I highly recommend traveling to India in November and/or December for incredible weather. We were there in late November and each day was sunny around eighty degrees (F), with no humidity. Let me repeat: no humidity. I mean, I was able to wear my hair down throughout the entire trip! That’s big, people. Huge! A glorious time of year for sure.
Around New Delhi:
People Who Love to Eat Are Always the Best People:
And Just in Case You’re Hungry:
*We traveled to India in Fall 2015.