Despite being told the contrary, I found Delhi great for sightseeing.
Delhi gets a bad rap from India sightseeing enthusiasts. Many people told me that the capital city of India held nothing interesting for tourists; that it was smoggy, industrial, and boring compared to the cities in its environs. When I decided that I would base myself in Delhi and make side trips to Jodhpur and Agra, even Liebling (who’s been to India before) told me I was making a big mistake. “You need two days, in Delhi, max,” he admonished. “There are way cooler places to see”.
But, in all honesty, I just didn’t feel like making my short 9 day trip complicated and exhausting by endeavouring to add a bunch of these “cooler places” to my itinerary. I silently started making a case for an extended stay in Delhi: my plane landed and departed from from there, and I had already arranged to spend three days in Agra and another two in Jodhpur with a stay in Delhi in between. A friend of mine lives in Delhi and one of the main reasons for my trip to India in the first place was to spend some quality time with her. I started weighing the pros and cons until there was no question: I would spend four days sightseeing in Delhi.
So what is there to see? It turns out there’s a lot, so much that I had to be selective with the way I spent my time. In the spirit of my recent 48 hours in Barcelona post, I figured I would offer up some options for sightseeing in Delhi.
I found this massive garden-tomb just as impressive as the famed Taj Mahal in Agra– despite having no idea who Humayun was (I found out he was an emperor in the 16th century). I never knew this place existed before planning my stay in Delhi, which is kind of mind-boggling given the sheer size and majesty of the complex.
Call me superficial, but ever since I saw a photo of this Baha’i house of worship, I’ve wanted to take see it in person (and take my picture in front of it). Whether or not you’re a believer, I personally think that the temple is worth a visit; a feat of architecture, for some reason this flower structure reminds me of Sydney’s Opera House. Am I crazy?
Hauz Khas Village
I wrote about going for dinner in this neighborhood — besides being an up and coming hotspot for all you bona fide and wannabe hipsters (the village is filled with artisan shops and cool cafes), there are tons of independent fashion boutiques for shopaholics like myself. (I’m kind of mad that I went in the late evening when most of the clothing stores were closed!)
These gardens were the one of the first things I saw upon my arrival to India. Tranquil and green, the gardens house a variety of structures (mostly mosques and tombs) that date back to the 15th century. A stroll through Lodi Gardens is a great way to spend an afternoon; and if you’re hungry and have a bit of cash to burn I would suggest you eat at the restaurant on the grounds, which is also called Lodi. It’s a bit pricey but I decided to treat myself after a long day of pounding the pavement.
This fancy schmancy hotel’s decor harkens back to India’s colonial past and is a good place to wander around for an hour or two if hefty price tag for the room deters you from booking a night’s stay. Eating in one of the hotel’s restaurants is also an option; my friend and I had a tasty (if a bit overpriced) meal at The Spice Route, which specializes in Southeast Asian cuisine.
It’s ramshackle, it’s crazy, it was such a cool experience that my day running around the streets in the oldest part of Delhi really merits it’s own post (I’ll get around to it at some point).
Other experiences I recommend
Sightseeing in Delhi can get tiring: the city is massive and spread out, and the heavy traffic during certain hours of the day is a real problem. These days, I find that running from monument to monument can become tiresome/mindless for me so I sought out a few experiences during my stay that allowed me to recharge my batteries while experiencing the culture.
See a Bollywood movie. My friend suggested we go see a Bollywood movie and I couldn’t be more thrilled. For the life of me I can’t remember the title of the film we saw but there was tons of dancing and singing and overacting (helpful when the film is completely in Hindi!). I never thought to go see a movie but now I see that it was a fantastic idea.
Do a yoga class. India is the birthplace of yoga, and there are many studios in Delhi where one can drop in and attend a class. I’d never done yoga before (crazy, right?!) and think it entirely fitting that I had my yoga initiation in India. I followed my friend to her yoga studio, but a quick internet search will yield a number of places that have classes in English.
Do an Indian cooking class. I didn’t have the chance to do this but think it’s a fabulous idea if you’re looking to do something a bit different. I found this class on Tripadvisor and it looks excellent. I love Indian food and think this would be a powerful experience whether or not you’re a foodie.
Have you ever been to Delhi? Any other things to see and do that you’d like to add?