I’m not going to lie to you, India was on my travel list, but it was really really far down. The funny thing is I don’t know why it was such a low priority for me. Maybe it is how huge the country is or how intimidating planning a trip there seems. But now that I’ve been all I want to do is shout from the rooftops how amazing India is (and immediately book a flight back).
If you don’t know where to start I humbly suggest India’s Golden Triangle. It connects Delhi, Jaipur and Agra (aka the Taj Mahal) giving you a taste of India that, if you’re anything like me, will leave you wanting more. Here are just a few of the jaw dropping sights to see along with some tips I learned along the way.
The Taj Mahal tops any list of India. It is one of the most visited and photographed buildings in the world for good reason. I’m not kidding when I say it will leave you breathless when you see it in person. The grounds are open from sunrise to sunset and the cost is hefty to enter (around $17 USD). I know it’s hard on vacation, but get out of bed before sunrise and get in line at one of the two entrances. Not only is it a little less crowded but you also get the added bonus of the rising sun turning the stones a shade of pink that is almost impossible to capture in pictures.
There are millions of tips out there for visiting the Taj, but if you only listen to one let it be this one: Visit the Gardens of Mehtab Vagh (also called moon garden) at sunset. It is one of the most spectacular views of the Taj and is consistently empty.
I promise you though; India is not just the Taj Mahal. Leave a lot of time to visit Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi.
The actual tomb resembles the Taj, but the grounds are just as stunning with many acres to explore.
Take a drive around the India Gate, a memorial to 82,000 soldiers of the undivided Indian Army who died in the First World War. It is modelled after the Paris Arc de Triomphe.
No cameras are allowed inside, but definitely visit Akshardham Temple, which is Delhi’s largest cultural and arts center. The grounds surround an intricately carved temple that was built in the 1500’s by religious volunteers. Ask a driver to take you to the bridge overlooking the temple to snap a few stunning shots.
City Palace is in the middle of Jaipur and has a throne room that is, well, fit for a king. The outdoor pavilions are also real lookers with their beautiful chandeliers.
Amber Fort (sometimes referred to as Amber Palace) is right outside Jaipur and requires a full day if you really want to explore it completely. The ancient wall runs a couple of kilometers around the entire compound and was built to resemble the Great Wall of China. Inside, don’t miss the entrance to the palace which is full of intricate stonework.
Even if you cannot afford to stay at Rambagh Palace in Jaipur make a reservation for Suvarna Mahal, the royal dining room inside. The whole palace was still in use up until 1953 when the Maharaja himself converted it into a hotel. Arrive to your reservation a couple hours early and explore the well-kept grounds and palace before dinner.
If you travel from Jaipur to Agra, I suggest hiring a private driver (it is just as cheap as a train ticket). Along the way visit Chand Baori and Fatehpur Sikri. Chand Baori is a step well built between 800 and 900 AD. It is incredible in person to see something so old and well maintained.
Fatehpur Sikri is a 16th century city that was founded by a Mughal emperor and then abandoned.
And then there is the Qutub complex. Your first gasp will go to Qutub Minar – the largest brick minar in the world that was built a cool 900 years ago.
But then you will continue to gasp as you walk around at the rest of the ancient ruins that are just as old.
My favorite was the tomb of Iltutmish. The tomb was constructed on the king’s order 5 years before his own death in the 1500’s and is decorate with ancient Hindi inscriptions from floor to ceiling.
There is also Lodhi Gardens, which is a large public park in Delhi. The well maintained park is open from sunrise to sunset and has a special yoga lawn, a running track and tons of ancient ruins between beautifully designed gardens. I promise this place will become your most liked Instagram shot.
There are quite a few ruins to choose from, but my favorite thing is just a normal park for locals. Plus there are cheap ice cream stands at every entrance.
If I haven’t convinced you to hop on the next plane out to India then maybe it just isn’t for you! But if you do want to head to India and don’t know where to start, you can check out other India posts here or see my blog for some great resources on everything you need to know.