There’s plenty to see and do in India’s Golden Triangle, whether you’re going to be there for a few days or a few weeks. If you’re only there for three days, be sure to spend two of them in Delhi. The other day can be spent in Agra, where you can visit the Taj Mahal. If you have a whole week, add Jaipur and Pushkar or Ranthambore National Park to your itinerary. If you’re lucky enough to have two weeks, visit Keoladeo National Park, the Shekhawati Region, Rishikesh, and Mussoorie as well.
India’s capital, Delhi, is an increasingly cosmopolitan city with great shopping, exceptional restaurants, and some of India’s most interesting historical sights. Here you’ll be able to explore the ruins of well-preserved Lodi and Mughal-era tombs, admire the grandeur of the colonial buildings and monuments in Lutyens’s Delhi, stroll through verdant old gardens, and seek solace at some of India’s most impressive temples—all in the same day. In the evening you can attend an event in one of Central Delhi’s many cultural centers (there’s always plenty to choose from) or dance the night away at one of the city’s many live music venues.
Agra and the Taj Mahal
Agra is home to the Taj Mahal, arguably the greatest ode to love in architectural history, and so much more. This easy-to-navigate city was built primarily by the Mughals, who invaded India in the 16th century and brought with them mind-bogglingly intricate architecture and a passion for beauty. Admire the well-preserved tombs in Agra, and don’t forget to pay a visit to the city’s sprawling fort. The whole area around Agra is filled with interesting sights, from the abandoned city at Fatehpur Sikri to the Tomb of Akbar the Great in the nearby town of Sikandra.
Deep in the desert of Rajasthan, the royal city of Jaipur is chock-full of enchanting old palaces, stunning forts, and beautiful heritage hotels. Jaipur’s old town, dubbed the Pink City for its salmon-hued walls, is a charming conglomeration of historic royal structures and lively handicraft markets. A short drive away, Amber, Jaipur’s ancient predecessor, is home to a series of imposing forts and stunning gardens set against the backdrop of the rugged Aravalli mountain range. Taking an elephant ride to the top of Amber Fort is one of the highlights of many a visitor’s trip to this dazzling city.
Excursions Around the Taj Mahal, Delhi & Jaipur
There are plenty of interesting spots near Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra, and if you have the time, an excursion or two is definitely in order. North of Delhi, Rishikesh is considered the yoga capital of the world and provides a fascinating glimpse into the Hindu belief system. Near Rishikesh, the old colonial hill station of Mussoorie is a perfect place to escape the heat of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Rajasthan’s Shekhawati region is filled with beautiful old homes covered in gorgeous frescoes, and farther south, the incredibly photogenic holy town of Pushkar hosts the world’s largest camel fair every autumn. Outdoorsy types won’t want to miss one of Rajasthan’s national parks: Keoladeo National Park is heaven for bird-watchers, and if you’re lucky, you may spot a tiger in Sariska Tiger Reserve or Ranthambore National Park.
When to Go
India’s high season runs October–March, as this is the time of year when temperatures are coolest. October–November is the most festive time to be in India, especially in the days leading up to Diwali, the annual Hindu festival of light. January can get remarkably cold and foggy. If you want to avoid crowds, September and April are still good times to visit, although both months can get a bit hot. Monsoon season runs late-June–August, and this helps reduce temperatures a bit. Note that some national parks close during the summer and monsoon seasons. During the off-season you can usually haggle for heavy discounts, particularly in Agra and Jaipur. Delhi, on the other hand, welcomes visitors year-round (it is a capital city, after all), and room rates here are pretty consistent throughout the year.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Taj Mahal, Delhi & Jaipur.