Delhi – A Strange Mix of Ancient and The Modern

delhi India gate

Delhi, the capital of India is replete with a surfeit of monuments. Traveling in Delhi will takes you to the era of Rajas and Maharajas. Travel to Delhi, as this bustling metropolis has a lot in its stores with a plethora of luxurious hotels, Delhi’s fascinating nightlife in its various discotheques and pubs.

Summer in Delhi is no joke – from April the temperature climbs relentlessly to more than 45°C (113°F) in May and June and the heat doesn’t really abate until October. Dust storms called loo sweep in from Rajasthan with considerable fury. The arrival of the monsoon, at the end of June, brings intense humidity – the murder rate usually peaks in this month.

From November to March is the best time to visit, with cool but sunny weather. Also, Holi, one of the most exuberant Hindu festivals, takes place around this time, in February or March. October sees the end of the monsoon, but is reasonably pleasant, although the days can still be pretty hot. Nights can be quite chilly in December and January.

The peak tourist season runs from mid-September through March. Travelers should realize that the monsoon can disrupt plane schedules, phone systems, and electricity.

Climate
Delhi’s climate is monsoon-tropical. Cool weather lasts from October to the end of February. At the beginning of June, at which point the monsoon brings rain that lasts until September.

The following are average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for Delhi: December-January 45-73°F (7-23°C); February-March and November 50-93°F (10-34°C); April and July-October 66-97°F (19-36°C); May-June 81-106°F (27-41°C).

Getting there & around

Delhi stands at the western end of the Gangetic Plain, flanked by the states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Travelers to Delhi get two cities for the price of one. ‘Old’ Delhi, the capital of Islamic India between the mid-17th and late 19th centuries, is full of legacies of its Mughal past, including the massive Red Fort and the majestic Jama Masjid. It’s a lively area of colorful bazaars, narrow streets and barely controlled chaos. In contrast, New Delhi, the imperial city created during the British Raj, is composed of spacious, tree-lined avenues and imposing government buildings, and has a sense of order.

The city is expansive but easy to navigate. The hub of New Delhi is Connaught Place, where you’ll find many airline offices, travel agents, restaurants and banks. ‘Old’ Delhi is a couple of kilometres (about a mile) north, and its main thoroughfare is Chandni Chowk. The two main centres for accommodation are Paharganj (mainly budget), near New Delhi Railway Station, and the area in and around Connaught Place (budget, mid-range and top end). There are a number of cinemas, performing arts centres and bars/nightclubs scattered throughout Delhi. The main bus station, the Inter State Bus Terminal, is at Kashmiri Gate, north of the ‘Old’ Delhi Train Station.

Getting There

Delhi is India’s flight centre, with international and domestic flights readily available in a range of costs and comforts plus travel agents queuing up to negotiate a deal. Both domestic and international terminals for the Indira Gandhi International Airport are quite a way out of town – domestic 7km (4.5mi) from the city and international 11km (6mi) – so be prepared for the taxi driver ambush upon arrival. The Inter State Bus Terminal at Kashmiri Gate, north of the ‘Old’ Delhi Train Station, has long distance trips south to Rajasthan and north to Chandigarh, and to the hill stations of Himachal Pradesh. The New Delhi Train Station is as user friendly as such a place can be in India, if you ignore the touts who have all sorts of stories aimed at parting tourists with their money. From here you can organise long-distance trips east across the Ganges Plain to Kolkata, and south to Mumbai (Bombay) via Agra.

Getting Around

Delhi’s bus system is not for the faint hearted, or indeed for those who need to get somewhere on time. The network covers most of the city and is dirt cheap, but is also overcrowded and ramshackle – adventure travel you might say. There are plenty of metered yellow-and-black taxis, but don’t expect the existence of a meter to mean they will be used. Learn to negotiate before you get going. Auto-rickshaws are generally speedy over short distances and less expensive – cycle rickshaws are somewhat romantic, but harder to find now they have been removed from the modern parts of the city. Motorcycle rickshaws are a better bet during busy hours. They have set courses and prices and can muscle their way through traffic as well. Trying to cycle through Delhi streets would be a foolish choice for a traveler.

Delhi Tourist Attraction

The Indian capital is a strange mix of the ancient and the modern. Centuries old monuments rub shoulders with towering glass skyscrapers, spanking new shopping malls reside bang next to ancient architectural wonders and tiny bylanes lead to small houses packed with hi-tech appliances. At nearly every nook and corner of this burgeoning metro, you can get a glimpse of its illustrious and eventful past.

Qutub Minar

By far the best-known landmark of Delhi, the Qutub Minar was built by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak in 1193. It is a 73m high tower of victory, built after the defeat of the last Hindu kingdom by the Delhi Sultanate. The tower has five storeys which keep tapering with height. Each storey has a separate balcony with wonderful views of Delhi from the top. However, due to some nasty accidents, entry to the tower has been banned.

Red Fort

Built by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in 1638, the Red Fort is made of red sandstone. The massive walls of the fort, also known as Lal Qila, rise 33m and were designed to keep invaders out. Surrounded by a moat, it became the focal point of patriotic fervour during India’s struggle for freedom. So much so that India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, addressed the nation from the ramparts of the fort when India became free at midnight on August 15, 1947. This tradition continues to this day.

Jama Masjid

This great mosque situated opposite the Red Fort is the largest in India. Capable of accommodating 25,000 believers, it was built in 1644 by Shahjahan. This exquisite mosque has three great gateways, four towers and two minarets constructed of strips of red sandstone and white marble.

Raj Ghat

Not far fron the banks of the river Yamuna, Raj Ghat has a simple memorial to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. A commemorative ceremony is held here every Friday, the day of the week on which he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. Two museums dedicated to the Mahatma stand close by.

Jantar Mantar

Close to Connaught Place stands one of the seven observatories built by Sawai Jai Singh, the astronomer-king of Jaipur.

Where to shop in Delhi

Delhi is a marvelous place for shoppers. The Connaught Place, the colonnaded shopping area in the center of town, offers good shopping. An entire range of Indian handicrafts and handlooms from all over the country can be found at the State Emporia on Baba Kharak Singh Marg and at the Central Cottage Industries Emporium on Janpath. Shops along the Janpath offer garments, leather work, curios, fabric and fine jewelery.

Chandni Chowk the once elegant ‘shopping mall’ of the Mughals is now a frantically busy area, but its little lanes often selling just silks, jewelery, semi precious stones or brassware are fascinating to explore and marvelous for picking up bargains

Palika Bazaar (Underground Market)

Address:Near cnr Connaught Circle & Radial Rd 1,
Connaught Place
A bustling underground bazaar with all sorts of consumer goods (clothing, electronics, fake wristwatches, CDs etc) aimed at Delhi’s middle-class. Tourists are invariably quoted inflated prices, so don’t be shy to bargain.

Sarojini Nagar Market

Address:Sarojini Nagar
Good-value Western-style clothes (seek out the lanes lined exclusively with clothing stalls), that have been dumped here either because they were an export surplus or from a canceled line. Check for holes, faulty zips, crooked seams, stains and missing buttons. Bargain hard. Avoid Sunday afternoons when Sarojini swarms with elbowing shoppers.

South Extension Market Parts I & II

Popularly known as South Ex I & II
Address:Near MG Rd, South Extension
This high-class market is comprised of two enclaves, on opposite sides of the road, each selling designer clothing, jewelery, shoes, handbags and sportswear. Bg’s is strictly chick territory, with a glittering treasure trove of costume jewelery and flashy hairclips.

Ansal Plaza

Address:Khel Gaon Marg, South Delhi
A modern shopping mall squarely geared towards well-to-do locals, with shops selling designer clothes, foreign-brand cosmetics, fashionable costume jewelery etc.

Chandni Chowk

Address:
Chandni Chowk is the old city’s famous shopping street. Here you’ll find carpets and jewelery but you’ll need to search the convoluted back alleys, which is half the fun. There are some good-value silver shops; a pair of silver toe-rings, for instance, can be as little as Rs70.

Greater Kailash’s M-Block & N-Block Markets

Address: M-Block & N-Block, Greater Kailash I
An upmarket shopping enclave best known for its awesome garment and home-furnishings store Fabindia, which has fantastic ready-made clothes that won’t look odd back home. It also sells organic jams and bodycare products. Next door is Cottons, which has a smaller clothing selection but is also worth a peek.

Hauz Khas Village

Address:Green Park
Hauz Khas Village in south Delhi is an atmospheric shopping enclave, although it’s lost the magic of its earlier (less commercial) days. You’ll find designer furniture shops, art galleries and boutiques geared towards the upper end of the market.

Janpath (Tibetan) Market

Address:Janpath, Connaught Place
Beckoning tourists with its shimmering mirrorwork textiles, colorful shawls, brass Oms, psychedelic T-shirts, dangly earrings and trinkets galore, is this touristy belt running north of the Imperial hotel. It has some good finds if you rummage through the junk. Haggle hard.

Karol Bagh Market

Address: Karol Bagh
This middle-class market sells competitively-priced consumer goods, from kidswear to kitchenware. Get spice-happy at Roopak’s (6/9 Ajmal Khan Rd) two side-by-side shops with similar spices. Their namkin (savoury nibbles) are ideal for long train journeys – the roasted green lentils are a healthy alternative to the mostly fried varieties.

Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan

Address:Connaught Circus, New Delhi
Best known for its khadi (homespun cloth) Indian-style clothing, but also worth a visit for its handmade paper, incense, spices and henna. There are also natural soaps that look good enough to eat, from basil and rosewater to mango and mint. The multi-counter purchasing system is ludicrous – arrive early to avoid queues, especially just before the Diwali festival.

Lajpat Nagar Central Market

Address: Lajpat Nagar
This market attracts bargain-hunting locals’ on the prowl for household goods, clothing and jewelery. If you’ve fallen in love with those colorful jangly bangles widely worn by Indian women, you can find them here.