DELHI IN A DAY
Delhi, the capital city of India is situated at the banks of River Yamuna in North India. Delhi is one of the oldest cities in the world and comprises of two contrasting yet harmonious parts- Old Delhi and New Delhi.
When many people think of visiting Delhi, they immediately associate with the Taj Mahal, as did I, but with Delhi traffic the journey there and back can take between 8-10 hours! That said there is so much to discover right in the madness on central Delhi.
Delhi is home to three World Heritage Sites – Qutab Minar, Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb, all of which you can see in the one day.
Since I was travelling alone, I decided to hire a local Indian guide which cost around $20 USD (INR 1500). He stayed with me for the entire day and guided me through each of the sites.
Here, is my whirlwind tour of Delhi in a day and a suggested itinerary if you are looking to visit.
Start the day at Qutab Minar (Minaret of Qutab), which is one of India’s most famous attractions. The famous 234 feet stone tower displays the beauty of Indo-Islamic Afghan architecture. It was constructed by Qutab-ud-din Aibak and later completed by his successor Iltutmish in 1192. The architecture of this site was absolutely incredible and something I was not expecting to see in the heart of the city.
After sightseeing of Qutab Minar, head to New Delhi’s Central Vista – the Rajpath. To one side of Rajpath is the majestic India Gate and to the other Rashtrapati Bhawan (President’s House).
THE INDIA GATE
The India Gate serves as the venue of India’s Grand Republic Day Parade which is held on 26th of January every year. The 42 meter high India Gate was built in 1931 as a war memorial to pay tribute to 90,000 Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting World War I. The names of all those 90,000 soldiers are inscribed on the arches of India Gate.
Unknown Soldier is an inverted rifle crested by a soldier’s helmet placed on a marble cenotaph in the center of India Gate with ever burning Amar Jawan Jyoti eternal flame, guarded by the ceremonial guards drawn from the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. President of India, Prime Minister of India and visiting state guests pay homage to Amar Jawan Jyoti on ceremonial state events
PRESIDENT HOUSE AND VIJAY CHOWK
Spread over 330 acres, Rashtrapati Bhawan was originally designed by the renowned British Architect Edwin Lutyens as the official residence of the Viceroy of India during the British rule. Rashtrapati Bhawan is now the official residence of the President of India. It houses 340 rooms spread over four floors. The famous Mughal Gardens in Rashtrapati Bhawan cover an area of 15 acres and have 160 celebrated varieties of roses besides other rich flora and fauna. Circular building of the Parliament of India is situated close to Rashtrapti Bhawan. This majestic building was designed by British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbet Bajker.
Change of Guard Ceremony is held at Rashtrapati Bhawan by the elite President’s Body Guards on horseback and army brass band in full regalia every Saturday morning.
President House Change of Guard Ceremony Timings:
8:00 AM to 8:40 AM – 15th March to 14th August
9:00 AM to 9:40 AM – 15th August to 14th November
10:00 AM to 10:40 AM – 15th November to 14th March
OBSERVATORY AND HUGE SUN DIAL
Jantar Mantar has a large Sun Dial and one of the World’s Oldest Astronomical Observatories. Jantar Mantar has captivated the attention of architects, artists, and art historians the world over. It was built by Sawai Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur in 1734. It has 5 astronomical observatories, each with a specialized function for astronomical measurement of celestial planets and stars. Jantar Mantar displays the scientific acumen of medieval India. Open space near Jantar Mantar is now the designated venue of political demonstrations.
HEADING TO OLD DELHI
Now is the time to see the Red Fort, which is the most spectacular piece of Moghul architecture in Delhi. The magnificent Red Fort, popularly known as Lal Qila is situated on the banks of River Yamuna in Old Delhi. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who also built the wonder of the world, the unparalleled Taj Mahal. Being a historic monument with highest pedestal, Red Fort plays host to the Prime Minister of India who addresses the nation from its ramparts on India’s Independence Day, 15 August.
CHANDNI CHOWK – THE CHARM OF OLD DELHI
Situated opposite to the Red Fort, Chandni Chowk literally meaning Silvery Intersection is one of the business and oldest marketplaces in Delhi. The best way to explore Chandin Chowk is through a rickshaw ride. Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India is on a walking distance from Chandni Chowk. Digambar Jain Mandir (Jain Temple), Gurudwara SheeshGanj (Sikh Temple) and Gauri Shankar Temple are all situated in Chandni Chowk.
Thereafter, head to Lotus Temple, the most remarkable architecture of Bahai Faith in India offers a visual delight. The temple provides serene environment for meditation, peace and wisdom. It is open for the visitors from all religions.
Your next destination is Humayun’s Tomb, which was built by Hamida Banu Begum in 1569, wife of Emperor Humayun. It was the first Garden Tomb built in Indian subcontinent. Humayun’s Tomb introduced the four-quartered garden concept into Mughal architecture, which was later implemented in its full glory in the construction of the renowned Taj Mahal in Agra. The water channels at the garden reflect the four rivers that flow in Jannat, the Islamic concept of Paradise.
Construction of Purana Qila (Old Fort) was started by Humayun in 1533 AD and completed by Sher Shan in five years’ time. Purana Qila offers a blend of Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture, arches and domes. Pedal Boat facility is available in a lake adjacent to the Old Fort.
During my recent visit to Humayun’s tomb, I got chance to mingle with the local school students. They were so cheeky and playful and jumped to pose in my photos at any opportunity.
Now is the time to reach Vishwa Shanti Stupa (Buddhist Chorten for Universal Peace) in the Millennium Park on Ring Road for some spiritual rejuvenation. It is 74th in the series of Stupas built all around the world. The Stupa has a White Dome with a glittering Gold Spire which is the most conspicuous landmark of the Millennium Park. His Holiness Dalai Lama inaugurated this Pagoda as a symbol of Universal Peace in 2007. The Stupa is open for people of all faiths. There is breathtaking landscape and an 85 acre elongated Indraprastha Park (IP Park) with lush greenery all around.
SWAMINARAYAN AKSHARDHAM MANDIR
Your last destination of Delhi in a Day Tour itinerary is Swaminarayan Akshardham Mandir, the place of Hindu worship which is one of most recent additions to Delhi’s key attractions. The temple with its breathtaking grandeur presents a perfect blend of spirituality and beauty. It is made with intricately carved sandstone and marble. It took the colossal devotional efforts of 11,000 artisans and 8,000 volunteers from across the world who put 300, 000, 000 voluntary hours into its construction.
Key attractions of Akshardham Mandir include step-well styled courtyard, Swagatam, water bodies, thematic gardens, Abhishek Mandap, exhibits, cultural boat ride, giant screen film, musical fountains, Garden of India, lotus garden, and water shows. Each element of Akshardham Temple has spiritual significance and a visit to the temple will leave you spiritually enriched.
Cabs and car rentals are easily available for travelling within the city, including Uber. I was able to arrange a private car service to take me around the entire day from my hotel. I found this a really convenient option as the driver took me around from location to location and waited for me as I explored the venues at my leisure. It also made me feel more comfortable given I was a women travelling alone in a foreign city.
DELHI TRAVEL TIPS FOR TOURISTS
- Be sure to always carry a printed copy of your itinerary. Guards stand at the front of airport entry and will refuse access if you do not have this.
- Attend a Delhi wedding and at least one festival (Diwali, Holi, Vijay Dashmi, Garba Dance, Republic Day Parade).
- Opt for GPS enabled buses and taxis such as Uber.
- Beware of touts at airports and railway stations.
- Drink only bottled water, inlcuding to brush your teeth. Nothing worse than getting Delhi Belly.
- Keep emergency contacts.
- Avoid lovemaking in public.
- Bargain everywhere.
- Concept of personal space is almost non-existent.
- Women travellers – dress sensibly.
- Carry insect repellent.
- Carry toilet paper.
WHERE TO STAY
Here are a few 5 star hotels that I would recommend while in Delhi.
DELHI IN A DAY WRITTEN BY MELANIE DUCA