Delhi – Center Of India’s Tourist Attractions
Delhi is the largest metropolis in India by area and the second largest by population. It is not only the capital of India but it also carries enormous historical importance. There are so many attractions and places to travel for a tourist that it may take more than a week for you to visit all the popular tourist sites and attractions. However, the city is modern and getting around is not very difficult. The only problem that a foreigner may face is the overwhelming crowd in many parts of the city; on the other hand the metropolis also offers cool and serene retreats which are best for getting away from the hustle and bustle of this huge capital city.
How to reach
The Indira Gandhi International Airport is one of the busiest, in terms of the number of people present at a place at any single moment, in India. It takes a little bit of time for a new tourist to get used to the overcrowded airport; however it has seen some changes in the recent months and the facilities have improved. It is advisable to avoid peak hours (late night for international & early morning for local) for arrival at the airport since it is extremely crowded at these times. The airport is divided into three terminals and two are for domestic and one for international flights
Getting out of the airport
Much easier if you have already booked a taxi using a private taxi firm or through your hotel. Many hotels provide taxi service to tourists so that they do not have to go through the trouble of finding transport at the last moment. However if you plan to get out of the airport in an ad hoc manner by a taxi then there are two options available for you. Just near the customs clearance gate are two booths, on the either side of the exit; one is the private taxi booth and the other is operated by the police. The private taxi booth is advisable for people who want comfort and air-conditioning. The one that is operated by the police is much cheaper and is a pre-paid service. Keep the receipt with you until you reach the destination and do not tip or pay more than the stipulated amount.
Delhi is connected to almost all the Indian cities by buses; public as well as private, and the numerous varieties of buses available can sometimes confuse a novice traveler. The ISBT or the Inter State Bus Termini are the most common buses and have more than four major terminals in the city. The Kashmere Gate ISBT is one of the largest bus terminals in the city and buses are even available for Nepal. Other major terminals include the Sarai Kale Khan near Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station, the Anand Vihar ISBT which is located near the east bank of River Yamuna (also called swami Vivekananda bus terminus). Bikaner House bus stop connects to Rajasthan and is much cleaner and offers comfortable transport for arrival from, and departure to Rajasthan.
Rail is one of the convenient methods of reaching Delhi and the city has two railway stations; the Hazrat Nizamuddin and the New Delhi railway station. The former is located a few kilometers south of the city and the latter in the central part. Pre-paid rickshaws and taxis are available outside both the stations. The Hazrat Nizamuddin station has trains that leave to the southern part of India and is less crowded compared to the New Delhi railway station. Delhi is connected to almost all the cities in India through an extensive web of rail networks.
Getting around the city is not very difficult as there are numerous options including the Delhi metro that has recently started. Taxis, buses, rickshaws, and trains are available for reaching almost any part of the city. The Delhi metro is in its nascent stages and therefore does not offer an extensive network throughout the city. However, Metros are a good option if you are planning to visit the old city. It is not advisable to travel using trains as these are inconvenient and uncomfortable at the same time. Moreover they do not provide an extensive network and the stations are inconveniently scattered around the city. Buses are another option but these too are cheap albeit overcrowded and extremely uncomfortable if you are not used to traveling in India. Taxi cabs are another way of getting around Delhi and these are the best option if you are on a short trip. The cost is approximately twenty dollars or 1000 INR for twelve hours which covers almost all city attractions. Moreover the radio cab service can be availed of, which is modern and air-conditioned although twice as expensive.
Delhi has great historical importance and has seen many Mughal as well as Indian rulers in its courtyard. However, now the city is mostly made up of migrants from other states and is cosmopolitan in nature.
The Red Fort
The red fort is one of the major tourist attractions and was built by the emperor Shah Jahan in 1648. The fort has endured considerable damage; however many places in the fort are open for tourists and are grandiose in their splendor and design. Some of the places in the fort are Chatta Chowk (covered bazaar) which is a place for hawkers to sell their wares, Diwane-E-Aam (the hall of public audience), Diwan-E-Khaas (a hall for private audience), Khas Mahal (emperor’s residence), and Mumtaz Mahal which was the residence of the royal ladies. The Mumtaz Mahal is now used as a museum for textiles and various handicrafts. The Daawat Khana, roughly translated meaning Culinary House was converted to a tea house by the British and still offers food and refreshments. The fort also has a light and sound show in the evenings which gives a short description of Delhi’s history using lights and short orations.
The Jantar Mantar is a place that has thirteen architectural astronomical devices that were built by Maharaja Jaisingh of Jaipur in the 1700’s. Some of the instruments are designed to measure the time of the day (accurate up to half a second) and depend on heavenly bodies such as the sun for measuring the time. The Jantar Mantar which literally means ‘instrument and formula’ was designed for observing and predicting the movements of heavenly bodies. Some instruments are simple sundials and others are more complex which help in determining the position of stars and other celestial objects.
Humayun’s tomb is one of three sites in Delhi that comes under the UNESCO world heritage sites. The tomb itself is situated in a large red sandstone structure that resembles the Taj Mahal itself. Some even believe that the basic structure of the Taj Mahal was derived from this tomb. The tomb is amidst huge well maintained gardens that flaunt a Persian design with the quintessential Char Bagh (four corners) which adds to its splendor. Other spots to visit here are the tomb of Iza khan who was a court noble who built it in his own lifetime and the West gate that is the entrance for the humungous central garden. Also visit the south gate where you will find fewer tourists which makes it a good spot for taking photographs.
Qutub complex The Qutub Minar
The Qutub complex houses the famous Qutub Minar which is a tower built by Qutubuddin Aybak. The tower was one of the tallest structures in the world when it was built (1193-1368). The structure is also surrounded by beautiful gardens and old ruins which make it an ideal picnic and relaxing place.
The Iron Pillar
The Iron pillar, as the name itself suggests, is a seven meter high pillar built by Chandragupta II in 400 A.D. This pillar has puzzled many metallurgists around the world as it still stands after 1600 years without any significant damage.
This is one of the oldest mosques in the city and was the first mosque in Delhi; now in ruins it still attracts many tourists from around India and the world. Even today, the ruins of the mosque have exquisitely designed engravings which were carved centuries ago.
This city is dotted with monuments that are symbols of India and carry national as well as patriotic importance.
Rajpath is the parade road that leads to the Rashtrapati Bhavan which is the residence of the President of India. The India Gate is also nearby that is a stunning view in itself at night with decorative lighting.
The Nehru house was the residence of the first prime minister of India and is also known as ‘Teen Murti Bhavan’. The place is well preserved and is open to the general populace without any fees or charges.
The India Gate
India Gate is a structure in remembrance and honour of the British Indian Army soldiers who died in World War I and in the Afghan War. There is also an eternal flame called Amar Jawan Jyoti or the Immortal Soldier. This place is dedicated to the Unknown Soldier with a rifle and a helmet standing upright besides the flame.
Delhi was and still is one of the dynamic cities of India and is home to many religious monuments which are tourist attractions as well as places of worship.
The Lotus Temple is a 27 leafed concrete structure that is surrounded by gardens and lush greenery. However, there is very little inside the temple itself and is open all year round. There is no entry fee or charges so you can spend an hour in the temple if you want tranquil surroundings.
Gurudwara Sis Gunj
This is a Sikh place of worship where their ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded on the orders of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. It is a stones throw away from Jama Masjid and has a calming influence due to its peaceful and tranquil ambience.
Opposite to the Red Fort and located in the old city this Mosque is one of the ‘Must see’ places in Delhi. The mosque is open to anyone and there is no entry fee; however you may be charged five to ten American dollars to carry a camera inside the mosque. Tourists are also allowed to climb the minaret for a better view for a small amount.
ISKCON (Hare Krishna Temple)
One of the most famous temples around the world, ISKCON is a center for Krishna consciousness and also provides multimedia entertainment shows. The place is also famous for the Govinda’s restaurant and offers various delicacies among sweets.
Sacred Heart Cathedral
This is one of the biggest churches as far as structure is concerned and is the headquarters of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese. The church is also a ‘must visit’ location because of its stunning architecture and design. It is located near cannought place and is very close to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib which is also a place of worship and a tourist attraction.
Delhi offers a vast array of products and goods for tourists as well as local residents. The place is full of shopping malls and bazaars that sell handicraft items and other hand made goods. Some of the places for shopping are Cannought place, Khan Market, Palika Bazaar, Paharganj Market, Janpath and Chandani Chowk. All types of products from antiques to branded modern goods can be procured in these Bazaars
Delhi is famous for its handicrafts since many people from nearby places come here to sell their fine art to foreigners and Indians alike. Some of the best places to find handicrafts are Cottage Emporium at Cannought place, the State Emporium at Baba Kharak Singh Marg, and Delhi Haat. Delhi Haat is a place where many fairs are conducted and crafts can be bought at a bargain price if you are ready to spend time and energy. The fairs provide an opportunity for artists to directly sell their goods to customers in order to cut out the middleman and are beneficial to all the parties.
As the city is the capital of India there are a plethora of hotels available in the city from small lodges to luxurious suites in five star hotels. Some of the better places to unwind and relax are the Taj Mahal [1, Mansingh Road], The Taj Palace [Sardar Patel Marg], Le Meridian [Windsor palace], and The Ashok [50-b Chanakyapuri]. These are all luxurious hotels; however some of the mid range hotels include the Cabana hotel [Greater Kailash 1], Hotel Ashiana [50 Ara Kashan Road, Ram Nagar], Delhi Homestay [near the Airport], and India Luxury Homes [S 504 Greater Kailash I]. There are cheaper hotels compared to these but are not recommended for families and foreigners as they are usually dirty and unhygienic. Avoid staying at a lodge or a small hotel if you are visiting with your family or are visiting India for the first time.
Delhi is the epitome of Indian culinary delights and is abundant with all types of Indian as well as continental cuisines and recipes. From the traditional Chaat and Golgappe that are sold by street vendors to the palatable luxurious desserts of the five star hotels, these delicacies are made to stun and mesmerize you with their uniqueness and taste. For continental delicacies, the best places to visit are the Taj Hotel and The Oberoi. Both are five star hotels that offer authentic continental food. If you are in search of local restaurants that can give you a taste of the neighborhood flavor then the Bukhaara [Maurya Shereton] and Punjabi By Nature [11 Basant Lok, Vasant Vihar] are a couple of restaurants that are apt for foreigners and people with disposable income. Other quality restaurants that are less costly are Karim’s [Jama Masjid, Gali Kababian] and the Club India Café [4797, Second Floor, 6 Tooti Chowk].
Other places of interest
Delhi is located in such a manner that it is easy to get away from the maddening crowd to other places that offer peace and tranquility. Some of the locations that are not more than a day’s journey from Delhi are Jim Corbett National park, Nainital, Rishikesh, Shimla, and Bharatpur Wildlife Sanctuary which is located in Rajasthan. These places are comparatively less crowded and provide nature’s splendor and peaceful surroundings. However most of the national parks are meant for people who are ready to spend a little more and are best visited during the off-season.