Our city exploration of Delhi was the pre-program of our train journey through Rajasthan with the “Palace on Wheels”, which you can read in another Blog. However as Delhi is one major arrival hub for foreigners into India you also might start your personal Indian holiday here and therefore I have separated these days into a single Delhi Blog.
So what to say about Delhi – of course it is first of all one of the monster cities of India – dirty, loud, crowded and with lots of poverty. However as Delhi is also the capital and the centre of the Indian government system it also has some real organized features and is surprisingly green with lots of open spaces (except in the area of Old Delhi).
Where to stay
So like in any other metropolitan city you have a wide choice of national and international hotel chains. We were staying at the Hyatt Regency Delhi (www.hyatt.com), which is already an older hotel, but still in good shape and with renovated and spacious rooms. Located in the heart of Delhi´s business district it is only 15 minutes away from the airport.
The hotel has a nice outdoor garden area inclusive of a pool.
Breakfast was great with lots of choices for every national and international taste. Also the healthy corner was impressive.
For lunch and dinner you have a couple of in-house restaurant options from which I liked the Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant the most. The Chef´s know their job here very well and you can observe their cooking skills while sitting around the live cooking stations.
What to do
When setting up your program for Delhi – you have two major parts – Old Delhi with some stunning monuments and the lively Bazar area plus New Delhi with all its government buildings and museums.
In general you can visit Delhi on your own by foot, metro, taxi and cycle rickshaw (especially in the older parts). If you like it more organized and with a proper guide there are several agents offering guided tours in groups or with a private guide.
If you want a private guide I can recommend you Dr. Brahm, who did an excellent tour for us. You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org
I also came across some interesting websites for tours/tour packages in Delhi:
www.urbanadventures.com – for all kind of tours in and around the city
www.delhifoodwalks.com – Indian cities are a food lovers paradise, especially street food can be divine. However for a western stomach these foods might be a real challenge, so an organized tour might be a good possibility to try all these delicacies in a safe environment.
www.realitytoursandtravel.com – for interesting slum walking tours. For sure Indian slums are heart-breaking and it is a critical question to show this like a tourist sight. But for open-minded travellers I think it is a unique opportunity to learn also about this side of life in India and to support these poor communities as the agent is donating parts of your tour money back to the slums.
Whatelse to see
Is one of the oldest mosques in India. It was built during the Mughal Dynasty and the red sandstone and white marble features are stunning. The mosque can hold up to 25000 worshippers within the courtyard. Outside of prayer times the mosque is open for the public. Long conservative closing is required, however you can also get long covers and scarfs for the ladies directly at the mosque.
Chandni Chowk Bazar
Outside of the mosque the lively Chandni Chowk Bazar area begins – a walk through there will be an experience that you will never forget – if you survive…..joking :-) But it is indeed not a bad idea to hire a cycle rickshaw to navigate through the maze of tiny roads, all crowded to the maximum. If you emerge yourself in this exotic street chaos you will be totally taken away from the ambiance: street noise, calls for prayers from the mosque, traders trying to catch the attention of the passers-by, swearing rickshaw drivers and touts trying to lure tourists into their stores.
Streets are narrow and packed with people and vehicles of all kind. Plus above, you will have adventurously looking electricity wires and monkeys playing hide and seek.
Like in all oriental Bazars even the greatest chaos has its order, so you can find certain streets dedicated to different products like household items, clothing, steel & iron products, silver and gold jewellery and so on. Best part for me is the Spice Bazar, which is the largest Spice Bazar in India and rich in colours and flavours. Some of the spices are so intense that you hear a non-stop sneezing around you and you will experience that yourself. In some streets it seems that there is no air circulation anymore.
Red Fort of Delhi
The Red Fort of Delhi is located next to the Bazar and holds a museum within. However as we had the visit of the Red Fort in Agra later on our trip, we skipped the Fort here in Delhi.
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Temple (www.dsgmc.in)
That´s a not to be missed experience in Delhi. The temple is one of the most important Sikh Temples in Delhi and whole India. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion with its origin in the Punjab region of India, implementing elements of Hinduism as well as the Islam.
The temple is open to the public. You only have to place your shoes in the locker rooms and ladies have to wear a head scarf. Afterwards you can wander around in the temple complex. The white marble and mysterious background music makes this already a very special experience.
But don´t miss to visit the large temple kitchen area. Every day thousands of meals are prepared here from volunteers that are given out to poor people regardless of their religion, gender or cast. If you want you can even participate in the cooking process.
If you like to have a tourist-stomach friendly lunch between your visit of Old and New Delhi, I can recommend the Imperial Spice Restaurant (www.theimperialspice.com), which serves very tasty Indian food. It is located in Connaught Place, which is also a nice area to visit with its many global chain shops, vintage cinemas, bars and Indian restaurants all centered on a ring of colonnaded Georgian-styled buildings.
Gate of India
This well-known Arc-de-Triomphe styled symbol of Delhi is a favoured picture stop for tourists. The gate is a war memorial and located on the eastern edge of the so-called ceremonial axis of New Delhi. Around you can find a large parading street, government buildings and a park, where street vendors sell some of the popular North Indian street food.
Akshardam Temple (www.akshardham.com)
This temple is still not on every must-see list in Delhi as it is quite new, but it is a stunning complex and was my highlight in Delhi. So I recommend not to miss it. It is a Hindu Temple like no other. Immediately when you reach this spiritual complex you will be soaked into its mystic atmosphere. The entry procedures are well organized and very strict – no bags, cameras or phones are allowed inside the whole campus. You need to leave them all in the safety room at the entry gate.
The temple has stunning carved features on the outside made from sandstone and marble and the main inside prayer hall is really breath-taking. Believe me, all the gold and marble art work will blow your mind away. The temple has been opened in 2005 after 300 000 000 million of working hours in which 8000 volunteers from all over the world have been participated. Apart from the main temple there are various other exhibition halls plus if you visit in the evening hours you can purchase separate tickets for the water & light show at the temple fountain. The temple is very popular among the locals, so expect waiting times during peak hours as well.
As no pictures are allowed in there, I can unfortunately not really show you how great this experience was. But to give you some idea I have photographed a picture book from the souvenir shop.
This 73-meter high minaret is part of the Qutub complex on the outskirts of Delhi. 379 steps lead inside to the top of the tower. However after a tragic accident in 1981 where the lightning inside the tower went off, causing a stampede that resulted in 47 fatalities mainly school children the tower has been closed since then to the public. The complex around are mainly ruins, but is very picturesque.
The complex does not only have human visitors......
Humayun´s Tomb (www.delhitourism.gov.in/delhitourism/tourist_place/humayun_tomb.jsp)
Is another picturesque sight of Delhi. This magnificent garden tomb is the first example of Murghal architecture in India.
Gandhi Smriti (www.gandhismriti.gov.in)
Is an interesting small museum dedicated to the life of Mahatma Gandhi. It is also the location where Gandhi spent his last 144 days before he was assassinated in the garden of the premises on the 30th January 1948.
Above was a quick 2-days program for the Highlights of Delhi. Of course there is so much to see in a mega-city like Delhi, but for lots of tourists Delhi will be only the entry point into the country and time will be restricted there, so it is a great choice to get the feeling of this buzzling city.