Why anyone who is visiting India for the first time wants to see the Taj Mahal in Agra, the deserts of Rajasthan and the wonderful alleys of old Delhi. It is just like a routine holiday for fellow Indians but for newbies it is the first good thing about India which they want to see. We saw the craze among non-Indians in long queues in morning at the Taj Mahal, craziness after seeing Indian Pancake(dosa) at Indian Coffee House in Jaipur or hopping onto the Delhi metro. However, the hint is pretty clear about where we are up to these holidays – the insanely popular Indian tour, The Golden Triangle. Let’s find out how to imbibe everything in a limited frame of time:
The point A to start with..
First things first, begin your trip from Delhi, it has the capital advantages – cheaper and more reliable flights, trains, buses and cabs to get in and out from here compared to the other two destinations. If you’re planning a road trip, than what can be a better place to flag off the journey by hitting on two of India’s finest roads – Delhi-Agra Yamuna Expressway and the 6-lane NH8 between Jaipur and Delhi where it’s always fun to bustle in the traffic.
Choose your den..
For the accommodation always, always and always opt for a location where most of the places that you want to visit lies, just to make sure you’re at the right time to embrace that early morning view, soak in the sunset or even party late nights. In Agra, you can pick your den at Fatehabad road or Tajganj, which are pretty close to Taj Mahal, railway station, Sadar Bazaar and other places. In Delhi, no place can be better than Old Delhi and Zostel would be the best place to reside in Jaipur – located in J.D.A market and very close to Hawa Mahal. For your information, Zostel is there in Agra & Delhi as well. Want to know more about Zostel, find out here.
Commute within a city..
This is indeed a tricky part, that varies with location and time, in terms of money and availability of the mode of transport, here are the recommendations city wise:
Agra – Tuk-tuk and cycle-rickshaws
Jaipur – Tuk-tuk and buses
Delhi – Rickshaws, Metros and DTDC buses(Buy a bus pass worth Rs 50 and go anywhere in an AC or NON-AC bus throughout the day, ain’t this super cheap?) and Uber cabs sometimes if you’re tired.
Where to go around?
Start your day with Taj
Relax, Taj Mahal doesn’t open at 5am in the morning, the entry starts at 8(is Taj invisible due to morning fog?). Being in the queue with other visitors, then hopping on walls & podiums in the premise with poly-boots at some places and waiting for that perfect picture which you can later flaunt among your friends. If you’re mesmerised by the marble souvenirs, head on to any one of the several souvenir shops around – the candle stands, little lamp post, pen stand have a intricate design that will definitely urge you to take one back home. Make sure to haggle a little here. Morning hunger is well taken care of outside the Taj premise – beda roti in tiny leaf plates and a cup of chai at a local shop.
Dedicate half-a-day to Fatehpur Sikri
Prefer cheap buses than cabs if you’re in a small group
The manager at the hotel and even the local people in Agra were against the idea of taking the bus to Sikri, not only due to less availability and the time constraints of the bus, but with additional excuses such as “bhai sahab, return aate hue bus nahi milegi”(You won’t be able to catch a bus while returning back). Just don’t believe them, local buses run from Idgah Bus stop every 30 minutes from 8am to 8pm at just Rs.40 for the journey. Additional tip, while returning from Fatehpur would be able to board from the starting point, that is inside the market, near masjid area. Just grab a seat and relax on your journey back to Agra. Fatehpur is indeed a huge complex which will definitely exhaust you.
What to ‘not’ miss inside
Roaming inside Buland Darwaza, where the prisoners were kept in few parts whilst some rituals held inside the Tomb of Salim Chisti. Move towards the main campus where you can find Queens’ palaces, Anup Talao(sit around the lake here for a peaceful experience), Diwan-i-khas(interesting architecture), Panch Mahal, a five storied building with each level smaller in size in comparison to lower ones and the game of Ludo on the floors where the king used to play with his queens. Do not miss the fun in the streets of Sikri – shops selling spices, Naankhatai, little and colourful clay toys and any random person reaching you out to be the guide and giving free travel tips.
Patience at Nahargarh Fort
You’re at a point in your journey where the entire city is in your field of view and the world looks like a tiny place. The daylight view is amazing, what about waiting till the dark, to see the entire city shining like a galaxy, tempted? Please stay careful while climbing the walls of Nahargarh!
Time to get lost in Amber Fort
Right from the glimpse of the exteriors you’ll fall in love with the Fort, the long running walls all over the mountain and a shield of fort that is so huge that one can’t wait to enter inside. The climbing routes, narrow streets and fences all around will always keep you engaged.
Chit chat at Jal Mahal
Located on the way to Amber Fort is a palace located in the middle of Man Sagar lake is to enjoy the breeze and a hangout place for locals.
The partial prices at City Palace
For the first time came across varying prices to visit a monument, inner parts of palace, outer parts of the palace and what not. Do not skip – elegant peacock gates(where you have to wait for the family crowd to get away so that you can perfectly see it, don’t worry there are 5-6 doors like this), centrally located diwan-i-khas with some rituals happening and sabha niwas where all the elites used to have their meeting.
Are you intrigued by the architecture of Jantar Mantar?
There are two Sound and Light shows in Hindi and English that run in the evening that depicts the formation of Jantar Mantar – How Sawai Jai Singh followed the celestial coordinate system to form the the world’s largest stone sundial which is well-narrated in form of a story to his son.
Royal movie-time at Raj Mandir
Fantasy a movie inside a palace? There you are at the most prestigious movie theatre in India, an imperial staircase, big chandeliers and the entire atmosphere inside is a wonder in itself.
Wander around Hawa Mahal
Located in the middle of JDA Market where one can roam around the market, buy traditional clothes, footwear and antiques. Do bargain for every item that you buy and if you’re tired do take a rickshaw ride on this road.
The healthy mornings at Lodhi garden
Want to get rid of the Delhi belly? Do you think Delhi is all about the food jazz? No that’s not all, it is also surrounded by fitness freaks who pay the morning visits to this place – Laughing yoga by groups of aged people, stretching exercises by gang of women, PDAs around the Bada Gumbad(a historical monument), happily roaming bird-watching enthusiasts and much more can be relished inside the Lodi garden and the best part is that all this is free of cost.
Appreciate the beauty of Humayun Tomb and enjoy Qawali at Nizaamuddin-auli dargah
Choose an evening time to get this tempting deal but only on Thursdays as Qawali takes place on this day of the week only. The beautiful red-sandstone tomb with a long water run way and intricate carving is a symbol of love. At walking distance is the dargah, just walk towards JLN stadium to find it.
Anytime at India gate (excluding midnights)
Signature place of New Delhi that is crowded at most times with people of all age groups from an old couple eating road-side chana to a family boating in the children’s park to the bikers/cycling club riding around to the college-gang clicking selfies everywhere to the little kids skating at jet speed. All in all a place for super entertainment.
Loose yourself at Rahagiri days
Held at almost all major parts in New Delhi, Connaught Place being the major hub. Early morning fun activities such as dancing(from bollywood to contemporary to aerobics), yoga, games, etc are organised to kick start the Sunday.
What to eat?
Spend an evening just eating in Agra!
Evenings must be spent eating in the streets of Sadar Bazaar, there is a small lane in this shopping zone where you can find all sorts of snacks – Aloo Tikki at Agra Chat House, Momos, Baraf gola, Kulfi, Kathi rolls, burger and a lot more to end the tiring day with happy stomach.
Indian coffee house followed by Lassiwala, MI Road, Jaipur
Both the places are located on same street, so grab a dosa and filter coffee in Coffee house and then a kulhad lassi at the Lassiwala, there are 3 Lassiwalas adjoining each other. The one where the ‘Lassiwala’ is written in Capitals and silver ink along with ‘since 1944’ on a black boarding is the genuine one.
Lal Maas at Niros, Jaipur
Located on MI Road as well, is a sophisticated dining place which serves the best Lal Maas(Mutton) in town – medium spicy and not-so oily. Do order Gulab Jamun afterwards for the sweet tooth.
Rajasthani Thali at Chokhi Dhani
Uber cabs are easily available from all parts of Jaipur to take you to the place that in itself is a plethora of Rajasthani culture from folk dances, souvenirs, culinary delights, village experience, fortune-tellers, elephant rides and a lot more. The Thali here which starts at Rs 600 is totally worth it.
The finest sundaes at Jal Mahal ice cream parlour
A very ancient ice-cream parlour that is like a post-dinner meetha-craving fellas one-stop for Jaipurwallas. They have a huge variety of fruit ice creams. Recommendations are Fruit Loop sundae, classic Anjeer and Rajbhog.
The good-old-food street of Delhi
Chandni Chowk is all yours to hunt food for the day; from early morning Kashmiri ‘Noon’ chai to finger-licking meat dishes at Karim’s, a jalebi full of desi-ghee at Jalebiwala to the parantha wali gali there’s a lot to keep the stomach occupied.
Drink your heart out at Hauz khas
This is the party house of Delhi with a lot of pubs, from budget to premium and from bars to the quirky drinks. Hauz Khas Social, Summer house cafe, Imperfecto, Lord of the Drinks Meadow and Vapour Bar exchange are few places which should not be missed.
Dhaba hopping in midnight
The small outskirts of Delhi are no less in terms of food, after taking the whole day exploring Delhi, ride to these Dhabas with your gang for the ultimate fun and food. Here are the recommendations.
What other places you can add to your trip?
You can find a lot of places along the Agra and Jaipur route such as Bharatpur for it’s wildlife sanctuary, Karauli for a village experience and Dausa for the picturesque temple. Hence, bus is the best option to reach these places, as the bus frequency from the local bus stop is quite good. If looking for a little more comfort, grab a bus from any private travel agency, which will cost you merely Rs. 400 to Jaipur in a NON-AC bus with comfy seats.
Be aware of..
The prices charged by everyone from food commodity to the travel expenses, do cross check the distance in latter cases. A rickshaw guy wanted Rs 500 for a mere 3km ride, but after argument which was followed by his fowl talk, I still had to pay Rs. 100 for such a small distance. So try to settle the price beforehand and also bargain as much as you can on any souvenir as well. The prepaid taxi board outside the Agra railway station will also serve as a shock to you.
Warnings about guides..
Do not rely on any person that comes your way as a guide, as most of them are just doing this for the heck of money with no genuine knowledge about the place. Either buy an Audio guide or hire authorised guides from trusted sources. Here are the types of guides you’ll come across in your Golden triangle tour and the tiniest among them is showing his skills below:
Do dedicate at least 4 days to this tour, carry a small backpack and enough of water everywhere you go. Also, let us know what do you think about the Golden triangle tour in the comments section below.