The Golden Triangle is India’s famous tourist route, and for good reason. The route connects the popular destinations including the capital city of Delhi to Agra and Jaipur. Each leg of the route is approximately 4-6 hours to drive and slightly less by rail. On the Golden Triangle route, you will see huge forts, magnificent palaces, bustling bazaars and more. Every person I asked that had done the Golden Triangle loved it and after experiencing it myself I have to agree – it is a must see! So here is my quick guide to the Golden Triangle to inspire you to visit India!
WHEN TO VISIT INDIA
The best time to visit India and tour the Golden Triangle is between October and March. These months have the most pleasant weather and this is when the flowers are in bloom. Try to avoid the hot summer months and monsoon season, which is late May through to early October. I visited during December and did not see many tourists – it was wonderful!
THINGS TO NOTE BEFORE VISITING INDIA
It is worth remembering that if you are a foreigner in India, especially a woman, staring and people taking photos of you is inevitable, especially at these popular tourist spots. Some people ask others do not.
Carrying a scarf with you is a good idea for when the air pollution gets bad towards the end of the day. In Delhi, sometimes ‘hazardous’ air pollution levels can be reached. It’s also convenient if you are visiting somewhere that requires you to cover up.
GOLDEN TRIANGLE STOP 1: DELHI
Delhi has great flight routes from the UK and seems to be the cheapest airport to fly into, so is probably the best place to start depending on where you are travelling from. With a population of over 19 million people, it is easy to imagine just how busy it is. Uber works well as transportation to get to all the sightseeing spots within the city. However, the driving and traffic is some of the worst I have seen, especially in the city centers, and some Uber’s don’t have seatbelts.
When booking transport to your next destination, remember that trains need to be booked well in advance. The average train ticket is about 450 INR. Ask your the receptionist or host in your accommodation to help you out with the train booking, as it can be a little bit complicated. Otherwise, you can ask your hotel to book you a driver but that is much more expensive, around 7,000 INR to go from Delhi to Agra.
THE RED FORT
The Red Fort is situated in Old Delhi on the banks of the Yamuna River. The monument gets its name from the walls of red sandstone that encloses the complex. It has two main gates, the Delhi Gate and the Lahore Gate. It used to be the residence for the Mughal royal family but has now become a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its historical and cultural significance.
THE LOTUS TEMPLE
The Lotus Temple is a relatively new temple compared to others in India, as it was completed in 1986. Be aware it is closed on Mondays. The temple is adherent of any faith with visitors able to visit, pray or meditate and there is no entry fee.
Jama Masjid is one of the largest mosques in India, just west of the Red Fort, a few minutes walk away. However, be careful as there are some very busy roads to cross. It is open every day of the week, but tourists are not allowed inside the mosque during prayer hours. It is free to enter but 300 INR if you are taking photos. You should also wear an outfit that covers your shoulder and legs, otherwise you can get a robe there. This is one of the places I had the most requests for photos and sometimes you are not asked.
Akshardham Temple is a magnificent Hindu Temple well worth a visit. Photos and phones are prohibited when visiting this temple and are required to be left in storage before entering the vicinity. The light show takes place after sunset and should not be missed. It should be noted the temple is closed on Mondays.
THE INDIA GATE
The India Gate is a memorial to the 70,000 Indian soldiers killed in the First World War. It is located at the heart of New Delhi. Expect this to be very busy, but the best time to visit is at night, where it is lit up beautifully.
GOLDEN TRIANGLE STOP 2: AGRA
Agra is the home of the Taj Mahal. One of the wonders of the world, and I can confirm it is just as beautiful in real life! There is not much else going on in Agra so 1-2 days here would be sufficient to see the Taj Mahal during sunrise and sunset is ideal.
The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum of white marble decorated with calligraphy, semi-precious stones, and inlay work. It took around 20 years to build, starting in 1632, by order of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan also built the Red Fort and Jama Masjid, amongst others.
The Taj Mahal suffers from deterioration from the air pollution and it has undergone conservation work in order to preserve its integrity. If you are lucky enough to be in Agra during the full moon, there are designated night tickets available on the day of the full moon as well as two days before and after. You can also take a boat tour during sunrise or sunset along the Yamuna River, where you will have the luxury of being the only boat in the water as only one is allowed! Book in advance here.
GOLDEN TRIANGLE STOP 3: JAIPUR
Otherwise known as the Pink City for its beautiful pink architecture, Jaipur is also a busy city like Delhi, with over 3 million inhabitants, located 167 miles from Delhi.
The Amer Fort and the Amer Palace are located just outside Jaipur city center in the town of Amer, easily reached by taxi or Uber. If you are tempted by the elephant ride to the top, it was revealed that the elephants are chained with painful spikes and forced to work by carrying tourists. I urge you to read more about why you should never ride an elephant. This significant mistreatment of animals really is not worth it, there is always the option of a jeep or to take a leisurely walk. You might also be lucky to come across the cutest puppies on the walk up as I did.
Hawa Mahal is located at Badi Chaupar in the walled Old City. You can browse in the many bazaars before you reach the Hawa Mahal. The best views are from any of the rooftop cafes across the road. If you look carefully, you will see the stairs leading to the Wind Café or the Tattoo Cafe. To enter the Hawa Mahal, you will need to go behind the structure; this is also worth a visit.
If you are looking for some Italian cuisine in a beautiful setting, I loved visiting Bar Palladio Jaipur.
ADDITIONAL STOP – RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
I also made a quick stop through Ranthambore National Park between Agra and Jaipur, in the Sawai Madhopur district of southeast Rajasthan. You can reach Ranthambore by rail, with the closest railway station at Sawai Madhopur. While the Park is not technically within the Golden Triangle, I couldn’t pass up on an opportunity to try and see a wild Bengal tiger!
I was lucky enough to see one in the distance as well as antelope, summer deer, jungle cats, and crocodiles. It takes a few hours of travel further south of Jaipur, but I definitely recommend making the stop if you have some time in north India. I completed these four areas in 9 days. I did two safaris as the first time, and while I didn’t see a tiger the first time I was lucky enough the second time. Seeing them in their natural habitat was an amazing experience and much better for their welfare than seeing them captive. There are over 80 tigers within the 392 square miles of the national park.
There are two safari operators – Gypsy and Canter, with Canter seating 20 people and being the slightly cheaper option. However, Gypsy is a bit more comfortable with fewer people on the tour. You can book in advance on TripAdvisor yourself, or ask your accommodation reception or host to do it for you when you arrive. I found they were always happy to help.
The Golden Triangle is an amazing experience and I highly recommend planning a visit if you get the chance!
I hope this article helps you to plan your own visit to India’s Golden Triangle. If you have questions, tips or updated information about visiting the Golden Triangle, please share them with readers in the comments.
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