New Delhi is the capital of India and has a lot to offer the tourist. It is a good place to start your tour of India since New Delhi is a major airline gateway into the country. Delhi is an ancient city and has been the capital of India off and on for hundreds of years. During their rule, the British made Delhi their capital in 1911. New Delhi and Old Delhi are contiguous and are one huge sprawling city. However, many of the main tourist sites are grouped in relative proximity to one another, some in New Delhi and others in Old Delhi. For a map of places we visited in India, click here.
Almost anywhere you go, you will see decaying ruins of tombs, temples, mosques, other monuments and overwhelming poverty. Here are a few highlights, and the main things we saw over two days:
Humayun’s Tomb. Humayun was the 2nd Mughal (Islamic) emperor and reigned during the early 1500’s. If the tomb’s shape looks familiar, it’s for good reason. This tomb was the forerunner of the Taj Mahal. The site is large, with a well manicured landscape and a number of other interesting buildings. For more information, see my detailed post on Humayun’s Tomb here.
Purana Qila (or Old Red Fort). This site became the capital of Mughal India in 1526 during the Emperor Humayun’s reign. There are massive walls surrounding the site, just like at the Red Fort (see below). Inside, there are only a few buildings remaining, although the gardens and landscaping also add to the atmosphere.
The Red Fort. This fort dates from the early 1600’s and was founded by Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal. The wall surrounding the fort is 18 meters high (60 ft).
There are a number of interesting structures inside such as temples, reception rooms and out-of-place barracks built by the British during their occupation of India in the mid 1800’s. Note that there is also a “Red Fort” in Agra. Both are interesting, but I found the Red Fort in Agra perhaps a little bit more intriguing with more of the original architecture in tact.
Chandni Chowk. On the western border of the Red Fort is this chaotic market area. If you want to get a feel for the “real” India, take a rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk, a busy marketplace with bazaars that seem to be mainly frequented by locals. Our car driver negotiated a couple of bicycle rickshaw rides for us and this was a great way to tour the bazaars.
We loved just observing the bustle of everyday life and also found some good spice shops here. There was a large weekend market going on while we were there. I could scarcely believe the volume of goods – shoes, clothes, handbags and other items that were on display!
Qutb Minar. I love historical sights and Qutb Minar does not disappoint. The structures (tombs, monuments and mosques) located here date from the late 1100’s. Although the site is known as Qutb Minar, the name refers specifically to the landmark tower and minaret (named after Sultan Qutb-ud-din). There are signs posted in English at most of the major structures.
Mehrauli Archeological Park. Near Qutb Minar is a spread out, park-like area with numerous tombs, palace buildings, mosques, and other structures. This site is largely off the tourist radar. The historical buildings are connected via a system of well-marked trails. If you have the time and are visiting Qutb Minar, it’s worth another hour or two to visit this nearby Park.
In addition to the above, you can also do a “drive by” of Delhi’s modern government buildings, commemorative arches, memorials, and other locations such as upscale Connaught Place (with stately buildings, shops and restaurants).
Getting Around. We just hired a driver for the day. A good local agency to work with is Kumar Tourist Taxi Service. It is also possible to hire taxis from location to location, or autorickshaws. Delhi does have a metro (subway) system as well. There is LOTS of traffic, so it will take time to get from one sight to another. Don’t try to do too much in one day. We were able to accomplish the above in two full days.
Where to Stay. We stayed at the 76 Friends Colony B&B located in South New Delhi. The host was very friendly and the rooms were large and pleasant. They can also arrange transportation for you if desired; however, their rates were relatively high compared to Kumar’s (above).