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THE 5 BEST PLACES TO SEE
Have you always wanted to visit Delhi in India? I have for so long. It has always intrigued me, and I finally got to see and experience this historic, colourful, bustling city for myself first hand. It was so much better than I had imagined. Here is my epic ‘Delhi in a day’ tour, full of culture, amazing architecture, life and soul.
Even though it was the monsoon season and rain was almost a daily feature in July, I didn’t let that dampen my enthusiasm. So I hired a hotel driver for a few hours who was happy to take me wherever I wanted to go around Delhi for the day.
This is my list of 5 places to see in one day, that I think you will be interested in seeing too. They are all easily accessible in a self-guided tour. I’ll give you a bit of background and some spicy details of each site as we go, to whet your travel taste buds.
A Bit About Delhi
Officially, Delhi is the National Capital Territory of India. It is also a city unofficially divided in two – the old and the new. Delhi has existed since 1st century BC/BCE (before common era) when a king by the name of Raja Dhilu ruled the area. Delhi has been ruled by many different empires and kingdoms over its history, as is evidenced by the numerous relics you can see around the city.
Old Delhi, also known as Central Delhi, is the historic centre, and was originally a walled city dating from the 1600’s. Most of the historical monuments and sites are located in Old Delhi. It is not easy to drive in this historic part of town. The roads are very narrow it is chaotic. Often referred to as the soul of India.
New Delhi is an urban district and territory of Delhi, and is the capital of India since its independence from British rule in 1947. Here is the location of the Government of India, with both the Prime Minister and the President using these palatial Secretarial Buildings.
New Delhi has modern architecture, wider roads, and was established by the British. You can see a huge difference between Old and New Delhi.
Experiencing Delhi’s roads when touring around this city is part of the adventure. It’s the first thing you will be confronted with when you leave the airport. Be prepared for the worst and double that!
The road system, and I use the term loosely, is like no where else I’ve experienced in the 4 continents I’ve visited. I thought other countries like Italy and Malaysia were pretty bad, but nothing compares to the ‘orderly chaos’ of Delhi roads. I say ‘orderly chaos’ because the local drivers seem to be calm and in control of the madness.
Honking your horn is not only expected, it’s a must. Also, side-mirrors aren’t used, tailgating is the norm, lane-marking is completely ignored, and indicating is not required. You hardly see any road-rage, or stress by the drivers. They seem to be very accepting of how things are on the roads and just deal with it as best they can.
The traffic congestion in the photo below is a normal day on Delhi roads. I don’t know how anyone gets anywhere on time. They have to allow an extra hour or two in their schedule. You also have two-wheel and three-wheel vehicles on the road. Occasionally, there are other obstacles in the middle of the roads, such as cows, bulls, horses, goats, dogs and monkeys. Drivers have to steer around them, as you can see in the photos above.
This is India! Thankfully, I survived the mayhem, a little dishevelled, but in one piece.
My Delhi In A Day Tour
1. Humayun’s Tomb Complex
First stop on my ‘Delhi in a day’ tour is the grand Humayun’s Tomb. What a fabulous way to start off a tour of Delhi! This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is said to have been the inspiration for the Taj Mahal which was built some 80 years later.
Humayun’s tomb was built in 1570. It sits on 30 acres of land and was the first grand garden mausoleum in India, a style which later became a popular trend with Mughal emperors. Within this palace-like complex there are about 150 Mughal royal family members buried here. Several buildings and monuments exist, mausoleums and arched gateways, including the tomb of a Sufi saint, thus making it an auspicious place for burials.
The main building (pictured below) is a stunning piece of Persian style architecture made of red sandstone and marble, the first of its kind, with a large marble dome on top. This is Mughal Emperor Humayun’s resting place, built by request of his first wife, Haji Begum and took 7 years to complete. She is also buried here.
It has been very well preserved and maintained over the years. A very majestic structure, which set the tone for future Islamic ‘paradise gardens’ to be built. It is stunning and a very peaceful setting, making it quite a popular place for tourists and locals to stroll around. If you love history and architecture, this is a must-see!
Isa Khan’s Tomb
Other tombs here include that of Afghan noble, Isa Khan and family. This Mausoleum was built about 20 years prior to Humayun’s tomb in 1547, has its own enclosed garden and is another prime feature in the complex. It is Afghan style architecture, made out of grey quartzite, and also incorporates Hindu and Persian features.
I found myself lost in the relics and ancient buildings here, as there is plenty to explore and learn about this fascinating time in Indian history.
Times: Open everyday, sunrise to sunset.
Cost: Indians INR 35, Foreigners INR 550.
2. Presidential Buildings
Next stop on this tour of ‘Delhi in a day’ is the majestic compound of the President of India where he has his residence and offices. Originally built for the Viceroy of India in 1929, today it is now known as Rashtrapati Bhavan, since independence of India from the British in 1950, when the first president Dr Rajendra Prasad moved in.
It’s a vast property of 330 acres, and 340 rooms, which makes it one of the biggest homes of any world leader!
Certain parts of the buildings are open to public viewing, as per the schedule on the website. Prior bookings for tours are essential. I didn’t take a tour, as timing wasn’t feasible on my one-day tour of Delhi.
Open: Times for tours vary, so please check website.
Cost: Free to wander around outside. Tours INR 50.
3. India Gate
Situated opposite the Presidential buildings, India Gate is the national war memorial. This commemorates fallen Indian soldiers, as well as UK and Australian soldiers, who fought in wars together. The names of 13,218 dead soldiers are inscribed upon the gate. Built in 1921, this huge monument is 42 metres high. The gardens surrounding it are popular picnic grounds, and at night the arch is lit up.
Through the arch in the photo below you can see a Canopy. This was built in 1936 and used to house a statue of King George V, Emperor of India at the time. However, after India’s independence the statue was damaged and defiled by protestors and had to be removed amid much controversy. Since 1968, the cupola has remained empty. There was talk of putting a statue of Gandhi in it, but nothing has appeared yet.
Times: Open all day everyday.
4. Lotus Temple
The Lotus Temple is a fairly new addition to the Delhi landscape and is shaped like a budding lotus flower, hence the name. The building has 3 sets of 9 petals. An aerial view shows how it resembles a flower floating in a garden pool setting. Indian culture reveres the sacred lotus flower, which symbolises purity and kindness.
I even went inside to see the lotus flower from within. Unfortunately, no photographs are allowed in the temple. But let me tell you, it has a very high ceiling with light coming through the opening of the lotus petals.
In my opinion it has a similar look to the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
This temple was built in 1986, made of concrete petals clad in white marble. It is quite a beautiful structure.
This modern architectural and engineering structure has won awards around the world. Some have even gone so far as to call it the Taj Mahal of the 20th Century. It is one of several Lotus Temples in the world, but the only one in Asia.
Equality of all religions, and a oneness of mankind is expressed here through worship and readings of the Bahai faith. In fact, I found it interesting that here they recite teachings from all religions, and in all languages. Everyone is welcome, and there are no clergymen, no music (only singing), no rituals and no sermons.
I recommend visiting this popular new tourist attraction, which draws people from all over the world, and that’s why I included it in my ‘Delhi in a day’ tour.
Open: Everyday, except Monday.
Hours: Summer and Winter times vary, so please check website.
5. Red Fort (Lal Kila)
Final stop on my ‘Delhi in a day’ self-guided tour is the historic Red Fort in the old part of Delhi. It was built by the Mughal dynasty in the 17th century. The fort was the residence of the emperors and their families for almost 200 years. The original build was commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan who later had the Taj Mahal built. Also, the same architect as the Taj Mahal was involved in designing both.
Built from red sandstone with white marble inlaid, it used to have a silver ceiling. It is typical of Mughal style architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The whole site is 255 acres and is a huge tourist attraction in Delhi.
It is open to the public and is used for ceremonies and formal occasions. There are light and sound shows on daily too. Please check website for times, as they vary through the year.
Hours: Open everyday except Mondays, 9.30am to 4.30pm.
Cost: Indians INR 35, Foreigners INR 500.
There you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading about my tour of Delhi in a day. Are you inspired to visit some of these places? Or have you been to any of these already?
I would love any comments you may wish to leave in the box below.