Arriving in Delhi was our first ever experience of India. Just one trip, from the airport to the hostel showed us so much about the culture and the roads especially… The 4 marked lanes in the road mean nothing, and you will often find 6 cars squeezing into these, amongst tuk tuks, trucks and buses. Oh and the people just weave around the fast moving traffic, but this is just normal and something to get use to. A few days in and we were both weaving around traffic like pros… well sort of. To be honest I was just pulling Kelly around like a rag doll.
Initial impressions are daunting, and after a long flight it can really take it’s toll on you. But get some rest, and experience Delhi with a fresh set of eyes in the morning. There is so much to see in this magical city, and we did a lot, but we did use 5 days. Here are our top 15 things to do in Delhi (in order of our favourites), along with some handy tips…
1. Akshardham Temple (FREE)
This place definitely takes number one spot for us. It’s FREE to enter, but you aren’t allowed to take any photography inside and you have to hand in your bag/belongings before you enter. This is a pretty secure process as they take a photo of you and your possessions at the desk, we put padlocks on our bags for extra protection.
On entry you are able to purchase a visitor guide for 5rs (also available to download online), which is a worthy piece of memorabilia, plus a great read as you are strolling around the complex. The place is so clean and the gardens are in pristine condition, with gardeners working endlessly. Entering the temple itself is an incredible experience, and I haven’t quite seen anything like it. There are 9 ornately carved domes, and colourful hindu/spiritual paintings throughout. The shrine is the centre piece, and can be admired for hours… the gold statues and walls covered with gems glisten from every angle – it’s a special moment.
Although there was a part of me that really wanted to take photographs throughout, I have to admit, it was actually quite nice seeing everything not through a lens and taking it in. Kelly loved this, as it meant less waiting for me. Plus , towards the end, you are able to get your own professional photograph taken in front of the temple for only 130rs. It’s a nice big print too!
2. The Taj Mahal – Day trip from New Delhi to Agra (1200rs)
We were initially going to spend two days in Agra and get up early to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise, but having booked 7 days in Delhi (which you don’t really need) we changed our plans slightly. This didn’t bode too well with Kelly!
Instead we booked a 6’oclock train from Delhi Train Station to Agra Cantt for a two hour journey and a return sleeper train back which took just over 3 hours. We paid around 1,300 rs each, which was a lot cheaper than we saw elsewhere, and we had plenty of freedom, without the hassle of a tour guide or timescales of a private car.
We actually spent 3 hours inside the Taj Mahal complex, there is a lot to admire! Plus, of course, there are so many photo opportunities to take…. you may have to be a bit pushy at times, which is hard being British, but this is a seventh wonder of the world we are talking about! At 9am the crowds weren’t too bad but by 11.45am the place was buzzing. Get there early!
After our Taj Mahal visit, we found an empty rooftop restaurant for lunch and a tuk tuk to take us around Agra Fort and to a FREE viewing area across the river from the Taj. You can read all about our day trip here…[coming soon]
3. Lodhi Gardens (FREE)
Lodhi Gardens is FREE to enter and there are many entry points. Just lose yourself around these gardens and you will discover several tombs, a lake and scenic garden areas. We spent a few hours here, but could have spent longer watching the birds circle Muhammad Shah Sayyids Tomb. A special place, that we’d certainly recommend seeing.
4. Humayan’s Tomb (500rs)
We visited Humayan’s Tomb after a few hours in Lodhi Gardens, which was a hot time of the day and Kelly was flagging. After seeing so many tombs at Lodhi Gardens, we didn’t feel as if the surrounding tombs in the complex were anything special, however Humayan’s Tomb itself was spectacular.
As you exit the archway on entry to see Humayan’s Tomb be careful of the birds nesting on the ledge. I had my eye in the camera lens, before I heard some Chinese tourists screaming and then felt something warm running down my shoulder. I got a pretty cool photo though, so it was worth it…
Plus doesn’t it mean good luck?
Humuyan’s Tomb inspired the design of the Taj Mahal, so it was interesting seeing similarities with layout and architecture. There are plenty of photo opportunities as well as getting that perfect water reflection shot!
All in all a worth while experience.
5. Qutub Minar (600rs)
This was the first place we visited in New Delhi and we fell in love with this complex. On arrival we were welcomed by really busy queues as it was the weekend, however for us there was a foreigner queue, so we were essentially ushered straight through.
There didn’t seem to be many tourists in the complex for the whole 90 minutes we spent there, which was a little daunting. However this just meant we were asked for many selfies from local visitors, which we didn’t mind.
The complex itself is full with bricked ruins and structures, which surround Qutub Minar – the tallest minaret in the world made up of bricks. We stood and watched the birds circle the minaret and watched planes shoot above.
We’d certainly recommend taking a 10 minute walk to Ahinsa Sthal afterwards, which is FREE entry. Here you can see this temple and Qutub Minar and surroundings from a height.
6. Lotus Temple (FREE)
This temple is stunning and certainly somewhere you should visit to get away from the hussle and bustle of the city centre. Entry is FREE and you will need to take your shoes off before entering. They provide you with bags to place them in. Photos are only allowed outside and you must be silent inside. It’s a beautiful place with pristine gardens.
7. Chhatarpur Temple (FREE)
We didn’t actually go inside Chhatarpur Temple as we arrived quite late, however we visited the white temple next door and the complex across the road, which included the bold red Hanuman Temple and various other temples. This is a must visit as there is lots to see around this area.
8. Jama Masjid (FREE)
Jama Masjid is one of the largest mosques in India and definitely worth the visit. Entry is FREE, however be wary of the scammers at the door. Firstly we got charged 300rs to be able to take photos (which I think is legit), then we got charged 50rs each for a robe to cover up (even though Kelly had one herself) and then the guy looking after our shoes wanted to charge another couple of hundred rupees, which we got In an argument about and handed him 20rs in the end. This wasn’t the initial experience you want when visiting a place, so it kind of put a dampener on the visit. However the mosque itself is stunning in architecture. You don’t need any longer than 30 minutes here.
9. Garden of Five Senses (35rs)
This garden is a nice little getaway and a very well kept place. We visited here on a weekend, and the place was full with couples, which was romantic. You have to pay extra to take photography, but so many people seemed to be doing it without paying the fee.
There is food on site, and I consumed my first Indian burger, which was really tasty!
Worth a visit, but you don’t need any longer than 45 minutes here.
10. Markets & Bazaars (FREE, unless you spend ;))
We have put this last on the list, as our intention of this trip wasn’t for shopping, and having two overweight backpacks to lug around, we didn’t want to add to this. However, that said, we did visit several markets and bazaars and were fascinated by the range of items for sale.
In the bazaars you should expect to pay a premium to that on the market, however the quality is far more and they do offer something different. You will find fine jewelry, silk, handcrafts, paintings, clothing and much more in the bazaars. Whereas on the markets you will find ‘Nike’ trainers for 400rs (£4) and ‘Ray Bons’.
We did have a little fun bartering, and this becomes common on everything you do in India. We purchased Harry Potter & The Cursed Child book for 400rs (£4), some ‘Ray Bons’ for 250rs and an ‘Adidas’ vest for 150rs. We paid less than half the original asking price on all items!
11. Get a Tuk Tuk (Pay no more than 100rs)
Tuk tuks are really useful in Delhi, especially for getting down those small, narrow roads. They are everywhere, so you will never have trouble finding one. Riding in a tuk tuk is a great experience, as you weave around traffic and cows, whilst grasping the sights before your destination. We never paid any more that 100rs for any tuk tuk trip in Delhi, and always bartered.
We actually found a tuk tuk driver near India Gate who offered to be our driver for 90 minutes, for just 50rs. He took us to the parliament area, a sikh temple, various bazaars and then to Rajiv Chowk. He even took photographs for us.
He did ask us if we brought anything from the bazaars and was constantly on the phone. So I’m guessing he’d get a commission from any purchase we may have made. We didn’t buy anything and actually gave him 100rs in the end, as we felt this was fair.
12. Ride the Metro (9rs upwards)
The metro is the cheapest way of getting around Delhi. With plenty of stops to choose from, we found ourselves using the Metro almost every day. We initially paid 150rs for our card each, which included 100rs of travel topup. We only topped up a further 100rs each throughout our trip. The metros are efficient and are a fun way of quickly getting around the city.
13. The Red Fort (600rs)
The Red Fort is certainly impressive from the outside, it’s massive! However on the inside we were somewhat disappointed, especially for the price we paid. Once inside, you will find yourself wondering throught the decorative archways and around the small Mughal palaces, which there are only a few. A lot of the inside was derelict and under construction. Considering this was one of the main tourist attractions, we didn’t really rate it.
14. India Gate (FREE)
India Gate was a lot busier than we had assumed, and there weren’t too many tourists about. Just like everywhere in Delhi, there were street vendors trying to sell you photographs and keyrings. It was great seeing all the local visitors taking pride in the gate and grabbing photos with it. After our visit to the gate we were going to embark on a 2 mile walk to the parliament area which you can see in the foreground on the same road. However the option of a tuk tuk won this time around.
15. Chill in Hostels in New Delhi
We stayed in two hostels for our trip to Delhi, one down south (Madpackers) and one higher up (Hindustan by Backpackers). In Madpackers there was a lively environment of tourists coming and going, with stories being shared across beers and Netflix. Hostels can be a great platform for sharing experiences and deciding what to do next. In fact we changed our plans completely after our visit to Madpackers, and hearing that Varanasi is a must visit.
We have compared both hostels for you, based on our experience…
Madpackers Hostel Review (£7 per night)
- Friendly staff and a hostel dog
- Toilet paper provided and showers cleaned regularly
- Lively common room with like-minded guests. Netflix on TV.
- Large shower facility and hot running water.
- Lockers strong and safe
- Staff very busy, but helpful. They kept trying to sell the tours
- Great kitchen facility
- Great location, two metros close by
Hindustan by Backpackers Hostel Review (£6 per night)
- Friendly staff and a better hostel dog
- Not clear what’s included for your money. Had to ask for toilet paper and towels each time. Weren’t shown all facilities, had to discover ourselves
- We didn’t see many backpackers and the common room was often occupied by the Indian staff living there. Indian flicks were therefore always on TV.
- Shower facility with bucket for drainage. Water was always cold.
- Lockers require thicker padlock, and would be easy to unscrew and get in to.
- Staff very helpful in helping us book trains and order sim card. Didn’t try hard selling us anything
- No real kitchen facility. Fridge turned off and full of bugs
- Great location to city centre
Although daunting at first, we had a fantastic time in Delhi. There was plenty to see which meant lots of tuk tuking, metroing and walking. It was a shock to the system, seeing how poor parts of this city are, but this is the life these locals have always known. That be said, there are areas that are more modern, such as Connaught Place. These two worlds make Delhi the vibrant city it is today, and everything seems to work.
Here’s a little video we put together of our visit to New Delhi…
Up next… Varanasi.