If pure, authentic, Indian culture is what you want, the Golden Triangle is where to find it. An assault of colour, scents, and a display of daily life will meet your gaze and give you the adventure into India that you bargained for. Made up of the north-western cities of Agra, Delhi and Jaipur, the Golden Triangle is full of some of India’s best. Deemed “golden” for the rich display of wealth that can be found in each city, the triangle has grown to be a famous destination in the country. Thinking about checking it out? Here is what you need to know.
You may not know this city by name but you sure will know it from photos. This is where the infamous Taj Mahal is located and visited by thousands of people every year. It is also the site of the Agra Fort as well as historic buildings and tombs back from the Mughal Empire. Agra is frequented mostly by tourists looking to get a glimpse of the Taj Mahal but also serves as a great destination to better understand the culture.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Agra is between November and March when the weather is cooler and dryer than the rest of the year. However, this is the peak tourist season for Agra and the city may be extremely crowded. March to June can be extremely hot but if you think you can handle the weather, you might just be able to dodge the crowds.
There are plenty of ways for you to get around Agra once you arrive so you won’t have to worry about being stuck in only one place.
Taxi: Hire a private taxi for the day to take you around to all of the noteworthy sites. Book one of these taxis through your hotel or at a taxi stand that is authorised by the government. You can try some of these private taxi companies; Baba Car Rental, Savaari.com, and India Taxi Online
Rickshaws: This is one of the easiest methods to get you around Agra, especially when going to see the Taj Mahal, where cars are not allowed. These little rickshaws are driven by locals who drive a hard bargain so make sure to haggle and decide on a price before you get in.
What to See & Do
- The Taj Mahal: This well known and immense structure of marble was built by a former emperor in honour of his wife. Dating back to the 1600s, it’s one of world’s most intriguing structures that is visited by millions of people from around globe. Allow yourself a significant amount of time to tour the building as well as the various structures across the stunning property. Take a guided tour or wander around on your own but don’t forget to take a lot of pictures!
- Agra Fort: Made mostly of red sandstone, this defensive structure is a beautiful display of Indian architecture. Built back in the 1500s, it exudes history alongside its artistic design. Self-guided audio tours and fully guided tours of the fort are both available for tourists.
- Tour The Gardens: Spend some time wandering through the scenery of Agra by touring the gardens. First stop at Ram Bagh to see the gardens built by the very first Mughal Emperor and then head over to the botanical gardens of Mehtab Bagh. These gardens offer fantastic views of the Taj Mahal while staying well removed from the crowds.
- Go Temple Hopping: The town is full of gorgeous temples to wander and explore. Start at the temple of Shiva, Balkeshwar Temple and then head over to Mankameshwar Temple, one of the most visited in Agra. Try the Rajeshwar Temple or the Rawli Maharaj Temple for structures with a bit more age.
- Entry to the Taj Mahal includes a bottle of water and covers for your shoes; don’t forget to pick them up.
- Hire a Taj Mahal tour guide directly from the Approved Guide Association of Agra instead of from the hotels.
- You can download an audio tour app of the Taj Mahal through AudioCompass.
Functioning as the country’s capital, the city of Delhi is absolutely bustling. There is a whole lot going on here from government happenings, media and top educational institutions to large-scale tourism, shopping and a culinary scene. It’s broken up into vast and distinct districts with a rich history and plenty to see and do.
When to Visit
October to March is the best time to visit Delhi as the weather is more mild and dry. You won’t be sweltering hot or freezing if you visit during these months.
There are plenty of ways to navigate around this crowded city but just beware that traffic congestion is at an all-time high. Here are just a few ways that you can see the city …
The Metro: This is the most recommended of all travel methods around Delhi. The metro is the most direct and cleanest option for travel. But we felt that taking a not my fault car hire was better for us tourists. The carts are often separated for men and women which make them even more safe and comfortable to ride. Tickets are quite affordable and the easy to navigate chart goes to most districts around the city.
The Local Train: While there are some local trains available for travel, they are not recommended to foreign tourists. The lines do not reach as many places as the metro and tickets cannot be purchased with foreign credit cards.
The Bus: The bus system runs all throughout the city and makes for a decent option if you don’t want to take the metro. Many of them have air conditioning but they tend to be quite crowded. The buses run about every 15-20 minutes and there is an option between the government run buses which are red and green or the privately owned buses which are orange. Taking a government run bus is suggested as they tend to be less crowded and make less stops.
Taxis: A little more expensive but way more convenient are the app-based taxi services. You can find Uber as well and hire them to get to a destination of choice. Another benefit to these services is that you won’t have to haggle for prices, worry about scams or actually deal with the exchange of money at all.
Rickshaws: These three-wheeled carts can make a pretty fun and direct ride to where you need to go. They are typically green and yellow in colour and can hold about three passengers. There will usually be a meter involved to track the price but make sure that the driver agrees to using it before getting in.
What to See & Do
- The Red Fort: Yes, another fort. Don’t worry though, it’s actually one of Delhi’s top attractions and for good reason. Built by the same emperor who constructed the Taj Mahal, this red sandstone structure is almost as awe-inspiring. Finished in the 1600s, the building remains and is available to be toured. Visit the covered bazaar, courtyards, gardens, museums and former living quarters of royalty.
- Humayun’s Tomb: One of the three World UNESCO Heritage Sites in Delhi, this tomb makes a great visit. Tour the complex to check out the gorgeous gardens and the historic tombs.
- Qutub Complex: While you are visiting World Heritage Sites, make sure to add this complex to the list. The complex dates back to the 1200s and has immaculate gardens that are perfect for resting and a picnic. Visit the mosque, see the light show, notice the intricate pillars and wander around the main squares.
- Go Museum Hopping: Like any vast city, Delhi is full of interesting museums. There are plenty to choose from but some of the top institutions include the India Habitat Center, the Gandhi Smriti Estate, the National Museum, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and the Tibet House.
- See The Lotus Temple: It’s one of the city’s most renowned works of architecture and going just for a photo is worthwhile. It’s made of concrete and is shaped like a lotus consisting of 27 petals.
- Go Temple Hopping: Yet again, this is another Indian destination that is chock full of gorgeous temples. You could spend your entire trip just wandering from one to the other and marvelling at their designs. However, here are a few that you should keep on the top of the itinerary; Akshardham Temple, Jama Masjid and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.
- Carrying alcohol on the metro in Delhi is strictly prohibited.
- Never take unmarked taxis as they are more likely to scam you.
- Beware of tourist information stands that claim to be official. They are often trying to scam tourists into paying extremely inflated prices.
- When buying tickets for the Red Fort, make sure to have small bills as the staff is notorious for trying to withhold change.
This 18th century destination is known as the “pink city”. It serves as the capital of Rajasthan and is said to be the first planned city in the entire country. Popular with both local and international travelers, Jaipur is the destination that serves as a gateway between travelers and the cities of the desert. It has a rich and exciting history and is mostly well known for the collection of pink colored buildings that it proudly displays.
When to Visit
The winters in Jaipur tend to be warm and dry, making the months of November through February ideal for visiting. While the weather will be fantastic, the crowds may be a bit much. The spring and summer tend to be unbearably hot so try to avoid visiting during that time.
RTDC Bus: The Rajasthan Tourism Department Corps bus is deemed as one of the best ways to get around the city. Each bus comes with a guide who will fill you in on exactly what you are seeing. There are various kinds of tours so choose one that suits you the most and relax instead of trying to navigate on your own.
The Local Bus: The bus system is not ideal at the moment due to construction but with some careful planning, you can make it to the destinations that you want to get to the most.
Rickshaw: This can be a fun and interesting way to get around the city and can often be quite cheap. However, you need to stand your ground as many of these rickshaw drivers intend to trick or rip off tourists.
Taxis: This option is much more comfortable and convenient than the others although it may cost slightly more. Call taxi companies and arrange a fee over the phone before they pick you up. Also, you can use mobile apps like Uber and Ola for even more convenience.
What to See & Do
- See The Three Forts: Touring the stunning forts should be a top priority on the itinerary of every traveller to Jaipur. Start at the Amber Fort which shows off a Hindu-Muslim design and then head over to Jaigarh Fort, considered the strongest fort in the area. Lastly, pay a visit to the Nahargarh Fort, the smallest but boasting one of the best views.
- Shop at The Bazaar: Located in the centre of the city, this bazaar is where you need to go to get your shopping fix. Each area offers something different from food and flowers to textiles and crafts. It’s the perfect place to try some local food and pick up a few quirky souvenirs to bring back home.
- Go Temple Hopping: The temples can’t be missed so put on your best walking shoes and get ready to take a tour around the city. Visit the Govind Devji Temple, one of the most important in the world before exploring the Moti Doongari which is largely visited by the local people. Make sure to get in a viewing of the Marble Temple as well as the Galtaji, a site of Hindu pilgrimage too.
- Always bargain with rickshaw drivers.
- Haggle for lower prices when shopping in the bazaar.
- Experience the Raj Mandir Theater if you want to really understand the local culture.
The Golden Triangle of India is a place where you can see the major sites, explore the culture and get an overall taste of what this beautiful country is about. It is not exactly a secret thing to do, but it is popular for good reason. Start your trip in the triangle for a true experience in India.