Delhi in a day

Delhi In A Day

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5 Places You Want To See

Delhi in a day - 5 places you want to see

Have you always wanted to visit Delhi in India? I have. 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 ‘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. This is my list of 5 places to see in one day, that I think you will be interested in 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

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, as it has very narrow roads and alleys, and is quite chaotic. It is often referred to as the soul of India.

Delhi streets
Delhi streets

New Delhi

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 more modern architecture, wider roads, and was established by the British. You can see a huge difference between the old and the new Delhi.

Delhi

Delhi Roads

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 worse 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, 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, as 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 that drivers have to steer around as you can see in the photos above. This is India! Thankfully, I survived the mayhem, a little dishevelled, but in one piece.

Traffic jam in Delhi
Delhi roads – photo credit

My One-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.

Arched gateway

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 on request by 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.

Isa Khan’s Tomb

Delhi in a day
Inside Isa Khan’s Tomb where 6 family members lay

Delhi in a day

Delhi in a day


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.

President's building in Delhi

President's buildings


3. India Gate

Situated opposite the Presidential buildings, India Gate is the national war memorial commemorating fallen Indian soldiers, as well as UK and Australian soldiers, who fought in wars together. 13,218 names of dead soldiers are inscribed upon the 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 built in 1936 that 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 Ghandi in it, but nothing has appeared yet.

India Gate monument

The Canopy and gardens around India Gate

India gate in Delhi
photo credit

Times: Open everyday.

Cost: Free.


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. An aerial view shows how it resembles a flower floating in a garden pool setting. In my opinion it has a similar look to the Sydney Opera House. This temple was built in 1986, made of concrete petals clad in white marble. It is quite a beautiful structure. Indian culture reveres the sacred lotus flower, which symbolises purity and kindness.

The building has 3 sets of 9 petals. 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 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.

I recommend visiting this popular new tourist attraction, which draws people from all over the world.

Open: Everyday, except Monday.

Hours: Summer and Winter times vary, so please check website.

Cost: Free.

Lotus temple in Delhi

Lotus temple in Delhi


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 and 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 and 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.

Red fort in Delhi


There you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading about my one-day Delhi tour. 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.

Namaste.

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25 thoughts on “Delhi In A Day

  1. Amazing information for the one wishing to travel in India especially for the first time. Enjoy reading thanks. I like hiking and trekking on the adventures treks. Thank you so much for giving mind-blowing information about travel.

  2. Your tour looks like a similar one that I took a coupe of years ago, except we didn’t see the Lotus. That is a very beautiful building. I also love what it represents. It looks like from the photos that you got to see a lot of these without tons of crowds. Lucky you!

  3. This is a part of the world I know very little about when it comes to travel. I’ve always been interested in visiting Delhi and exploring India. Looks like a good itinerary and interesting info!

  4. I have to agree with you on traffic though!!! I have been there so many times, and people are really so calm and accepting of the road situation! I am not that patient lol. When I went there for a day, I only had time to see Qutub Minar and Lotus Temple.

  5. India is such an exciting country. I have heard and read so much about it. We even cook Indian sometimes.
    Unfortunately I have never managed to travel to India. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. The driving looks just as I have read about… absolutely nuts! Sri Lanka is probably the closest I have seen to Delhi. It is one of my dreams to go to India and I think I would follow your one day tour exactly. Every single stop is so impressive and interesting. Saved for later!

  7. You had the same observations about the traffic in Delhi as I did in Lima, Peru. Nothing is minded, everyone does what they want, are emotionally attached to their horns yet no one gets upset and no one has a wreck. They’re too used to anything and everything. Our guide even said the only other place you would find traffic like in Lima was in India! Okay, but back on track…great highlights to hit if you only have one day. The architecture is so beautiful there and I would have to hit Lotus Temple and Humayun’s Tomb Complex first because they were my favorites on your list!

  8. Thanks for the great itinerary. I passed through Delhi years ago on my way to Agra but I did not get a chance to explore the city. I definitely want to see the beautiful Humayun’s Tomb Complex next time I am there.

  9. Great tips for Delhi, thanks for sharing! Wow, that picture of the traffic jams. I’ve never seen that many cars on one road. Like you said, how do they get anywhere on time?!

  10. Oh my, when I read the part about the traffic it brought back memories of my time in the Philippines bout 20 years ago. It was the exact same experience! So many cars and no rules but people seem to be just fine. I however thought I was going to die at any minute, lol. I would love to visit Delhi some day. The architecture of the Lotus Temple is gorgeous! I have not heard of this temple and didn’t’ realize it was a new addition to the area.

  11. I like how to say that Delhi traffic is an ‘orderly chaos ‘. I always say the same thing as I belong to Delhi. Humayun tomb complex is one of my favourite places in the city.

  12. Wow the Lotus building is like the Opera House isn’t it. I had seen it several times online but didn’t realise it was in Delhi. I have not made it to India yet. The heat and crowds both scare me a little lol. I will get there one day and this looks like a great mix of old and new.

  13. This is part of the world that I know little about. Hate to admit that, but your photos have intrigued me. It have heard that the culture of driving is not for the faint of heart. I am not sure if any other countries have a different entrance fee for locals and tourists. Interesting. It appears you have highlighted the key attractions and this would be a good guide to those who are planning a trip there.

  14. Note to self: do not even THINK about trying to drive in Delhi. Come to think of it, just being a passenger in the car with an expert local may stress me the heck out!

  15. Great post on Delhi! I’ve been to India a few times and absolutely love it! Some of the best Indian food I had was in New Delhi, oh how I wish I could be back there!

  16. To be honest I haven’t done much research on Delhi and couldn’t tell you what is there (as I look at other places in India I want to do), but after reading this, this has given me a good idea. Would love to check out the Red Fort as I am well into my history.

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