Things to see in Delhi
India | Delhi
Thanks to its international airport offering flights to most countries of the world, many tours in India will start or end in Delhi. So, before continuing the tour in India, why not stay in Delhi a couple of days to see the many things that the city offers?
DELHI: WHAT TO SEE IN OLD DELHI AND NEW DELHI
Delhi is the capital of India and one of the most populous cities in the world, with an estimated population of over 20 million of inhabitants. Although Delhi is located outside of Rajasthan, we are including the city in this travelogue, because its international airport is the ideal starting and end point for most tours in Rajasthan: Jaipur is in fact located just 6 hours away by car, with the opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal along the way (many tourists choose this route instead of taking a connecting flight to Rajasthan).
Delhi is one of the oldest cities in the world inhabited from very long time. The city is home to many monuments declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, but offers also traditional bazaars, as well as temples, lot of museums and souvenir shops selling any kind of local handicrafts. Delhi is also one of the best places in India to try Indian cuisine in one of the many restaurants recommended by specialized guides.
Therefore, Delhi it's not just a simple stop-over simply because the international flight lands there, but it's an excellent opportunity to extend a Rajasthan tour among lot of interesting tourist attractions. The main things to see in Delhi are:
- Delhi Red Fort. The Red Fort, also known as Lal Qila , dates back to the 17th century and consists of a complex of palaces, residence of the royal families, protected by by imposing fortified walls. The Red Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is probably the most important tourist attraction in Delhi, which should not be missed on any city tour.
- Jama Masjid Mosque. The Friday Mosque, more properly known as Jama Masjid , is the main mosque in Old Delhi and was commissioned in the mid-17th century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jajan. The vast courtyard in the center of the mosque can accommodate up to 25,000 people.
- India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhavan. Known as Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India includes apartments, gardens and offices, located on a 130-hectare (320 acre) estate. Not far from the President's house, other buildings dating back to the last century, house ministers and other politicians. On the opposite side, we find the India Gate, a triumphal arch built in white stone, 40 meters high, erected in honor of the Indian soldiers who died during the First World War and subsequent war.
- Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Museum. Known as Gandhi Smriti, the memorial-museum was built where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948 on his way to evening prayers. The museum houses a large collection of photos and personal items.
- Humayun Tomb. Also known as Humayun Mausoleum, the complex houses buildings related to the burial of Mughal emperor Humayun, commissioned by his wife around the mid-16th century. The main tomb of the emperor is surrounded by a large Persian-style garden, unusual in India at that time.
- Qutb Minar. It is an archaeological complex that houses the ruins of various buildings dating back to the XII century, including an amazing minaret 72.5 meters (239.5 feet) tall, with a 14.32 meters (47 feet) base diameter. Absolutely not to be missed during any city tour.
- Bazaar by tuktuk. On a city tour in Delhi, visitors should not miss a ride to some bazaar (traditional market where everything is sold: spices, vegetables, meat, fabrics, silverware or even jewelry). Moving through a bazaar by tuk tuk is a thrilling experience, definitely to be tried.
- Taj Mahal. India's most famous monument is a 3-4 hour journey from Delhi and can be visited on a day tour. Having more time, in addition to the Taj Mahal of Agra, visitors may also enjoy the nearby ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri. If on the way to Rajasthan (or returning), these attractions are conveniently located along the road connecting Jaipur and Delhi.
To visit Delhi, limited to the attractions listed above, it will be necessary to plan at least one and an half day (except the Taj Mahal which requires at least an additional day, or two days if you also want to visit Fatehpur Sikri). However Delhi offers many other attractions and many museums, which may require several more days for a complete visit. The best and fastest way to move around in Delhi, is by a car with driver at disposal throughout the day, even better also with a professional guide (the cost is not excessive when compared to other cities in the world: many travel agencies have day tour packages even for solo travelers, alternatively you may contact the concierge of the hotel where you are staying).
The best time to go to Delhi is from October to March, as for the rest of northern India (however, in the colder winter months, some fog is quite frequent and may limit the visibility too much).
But now let's see some photos of Delhi taken during our city tour
The tour in Delhi begins by visiting Jama Masjid
, or Friday Mosque
, the main mosque in Delhi. The construction dates back to the mid-seventeenth century and is located in Old Delhi. The large central square can accommodate up to 25,000 people. The two minarets 40 meters (131 feet) tall and are built in red sandstone inlaid with white marble, like the domes, the colonnade and all the other structures.
Here and there in Delhi, it is not uncommon to come across snake charmers
The tour in Delhi continues by visiting what is perhaps the most important attraction in the city: the magnificent Delhi Red Fort, or Lal Qila.
The complex dates back to the 17th century and its name comes from the red sandstone that was used extensively for its construction.
From the ticket office, visitors walk for almost two kilometers alongside the imposing fortified walls, before arriving at the main access portal.
Shortly after entering the Red Fort, visitors will see the Diwan-i-Am, the pavilion of the imperial audiences, where the emperor's throne stands out. The throne is a structure made of white marble decorated with very detailed bas-reliefs.
In the Red Fort there are a series of white marble pavilions
decorated with bas-reliefs and inlays, which had different functions. Mumtaz Mahal
and Rang Mahal
were residences for women, while Khas Mahal
housed the imperial chambers, with bedrooms and prayer rooms. Particularly beautiful is the Diwan-i-Khas
, or private audience room, richly decorated and used for ministerial meetings.
Inlaid marble is an amazing art that requires a very long and patient work.
To draw a single stem of a flower, dozens of small fragments of stone might be needed, which are assembled together with such skill, that the subject seems to be painted on the marble rather than inlaid into.
Some inlays were made with precious stones such as lapis lazuli, while decorations with gold leaf were not uncommon. But unfortunately lot of artwork was stolen during the past centuries.
The Moti Masjid
, or Pearl Mosque
, was built in 1659 as the private mosque of Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan's successor. It has three white marble domes and a facade similar to a fortified city wall.
is the residence of the President of India
: access is usually not allowed, but visitors may admire the huge dome of the main building from a distance. Around it there are other government buildings dating back to the last century, and with a short walk, people may get to India Gate
, a 40-meter high triumphal arch built in memory of the Indian soldiers who fell in the First World War and several subsequent wars.
The Raj Ghat
Memorial is a Mahatma Gandhi mausoleum
and has a marble platform located where he was cremated on January 31, 1948. All around there is a beautiful garden that gives a feeling of peace and serenity.
During a trip to Delhi, visitors should take the opportunity to visit at least one temple.
The Shikh temple in Delhi has a white marble entrance decorated with floral patterns, while the ceiling of the prayer room is completely covered by gold leaf.
In the courtyard, a ghat (stairs leading to sacred waters) is frequented by faithful.
As in most temples in India, photography is forbidden inside and along the ghat.
is a mausoleum of the Mughal emperor Humayun, commissioned by his wife and dating back to the 16th century. It is built in red sandstone and decorated by white marble, and is surrounded by a classic Persian-style garden. The main building sits on a raised platform and has a facade with numerous niches with symmetrical geometry.
Red sandstone and white marble used at the same time, creates strongly decorative contrasts that enhance the symmetry of the structure.
occupies the main room of the sanctuary. The actual tomb, as usual for Mughal, is stored in a crypt below the building. Subsequently the mausoleum was also used to house the cenotaphs of the emperor's wife and for other members of the royal family.
An important tourist attraction in Delhi, not to be missed, is the 12th century archaeological complex of Qutb. Among the ruins, the minaret of Qutb (or Qutb Minar), is an imposing 72.5 meters (239.5 feet) tall structure, with a 14.32 meters (47 feet) base diameter, but just 2.75 (9 feet) top diameter. It has balconies on each floor and the facade is decorated by beautiful bas-reliefs.
The archaeological complex of Qutb
houses also the base of another imposing minaret
, never completed.
Quwwat al-Islam Masjid, also known as the Qutub Mosque or the Great Mosque of Delhi, is probably the oldest mosque in India, as it dates back to the late 12th century. The vast courtyard is surrounded by columns and domes finely inlaid with patterns typical of the Indian tradition.
The archaeological complex of Qutb
, with the imposing minaret dominating the horizon.
The tomb of Iltutmish, dating back to the early 13th century, houses the remains of the third sultan of Delhi and consists of a red sandstone building covered with bas-reliefs and calligraphic patterns, while the cenotaph is made of white marble.