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India’s capital city of Delhi is a city unlike any other in the entire world. Unique in many ways, Delhi is a melting pot of cultures, architecture and history that any curious traveller would want to immerse themselves in at least once in their life. Delhi (New and Old) is not a city for the fainthearted and if you’re claustrophobic, it will most definitely test your limits as you make your way through the tight knit streets, bazaars and crowded tourist attractions.
The contrast between New and Old Delhi is strong and a must see for any visitor to the bustling city. Old Delhi, with its tiny maze-like streets, alleyways and markets used to be an industrious part of the city in the 17th-century and now, even though still very much busy with shops of all sorts, is crumbling and looks as if you’ve stepped back in time, which adds to the charm of this part of the city. New Delhi, formed by the Brits back in 1911, is full of grandiose government buildings and new age architecture, many roundabouts and well planned park areas.
South Delhi is jam packed with gorgeous leafy green parks and green areas where people can chill out under the shade of some trees to escape the brutal heat during the hotter months. Until my recent trip, I had no idea that Delhi was actually considered one of the greenest capital cities in the entire world with approximately 22% of the city covered in greenery! Acting as the “lungs” of Delhi, the added greenery helps filter out some of the heavy smog in the air without a doubt.
Read more: How I Spent Two Weeks Travelling In India
In a city as huge and as populated as Delhi (approximately 18.6 million people!!), you’ll most definitely not have enough time to see it all in two days. If you aren’t part of an organized tour, your best bet is to research places that you absolutely want to see within Delhi and break your sightseeing into sections like a travel ninja!
We unfortunately had a late arrival into Delhi, so our first day there was quite a write off, but the second day, we hit the ground running and saw as much as we could given our time in this bustling metropolis.
So, without further adieu, I give you some sites to see if you ever find yourself exploring Delhi.
Rickshaw Ride Through Old Delhi
Hopping on a bicycle rickshaw and making our way through the teeny tiny streets of Old Delhi was one of my favourite activities while exploring Delhi. The streets are narrow, businesses are abundant, motorbikes are whizzing by and electric wires are hanging above you, tied in many knots, which almost creates a canopy over the streets below. It’s loud, it’s raw and it’s a part of the culture in Old Delhi that you shouldn’t miss. We took a bunch of rickshaws through the historic Chandni Chowk area where we got to see the 17th-century streets of Old Delhi up close and personal.
Wander The Spice Markets
Get ready to cough and sneeze your way through Old Delhi’s spice markets. No really, you’ll be coughing and sneezing like crazy as the spices fill the air while you wander by the shops. Stopping into a spice shop in Old Delhi is a must. Filled with turmeric, cardamom seeds, loose leaf teas, cinnamon sticks and everything else you could imagine a spice market would have, if you’re a chef wannabe and love to cook, you’ll feel as though you’ve gone to culinary heaven. All of the spices in the shops can be bought whole, or ground up and packaged to take home and ready to use. I picked up some ground turmeric, ground cinnamon and some delicious smelling loose leaf blueberry tea. The spices are packed in air sealed bags, so they are travel friendly and you should have no issues bringing them home with you…just don’t forget to claim it with customs. 😉
Situated high above the streets of Old Delhi, this beautifully designed mosque is India’s largest and can hold up to 25,000 people at one time. Jama Masjid is oriented toward the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which lies to the west and is comprised of numerous styles of architecture ranging from Islamic architecture, Mughal architecture and Indo-Islamic architecture. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1644 and 1656 at a cost of 1 million rupees. Women must be covered, but don’t worry because they have coverage attire for you to wear at the door. You also have to pay a fee to bring your camera inside, so I decided just to enjoy the complex and leave my camera behind in the bus for this particular site.
Attend Qawwali To Hear Sufi Music At Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah
Sufi music is a devotional style of music performed by the Sufi Muslims found throughout Asia. Qawwali is the most well known form of Sufi music and can be heard at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi, which is visited by thousands of Muslims every week and also sees a fair share of Hindus, Christians and people from other religions enjoying the music and festivities among the crowd. Nizamuddin Dargah is the dargah (a shrine built over the grave of a revered religious figure) of one of the world’s most famous Sufi saints, Nizamuddin Auliya. Come sit down and enjoy the music and the buzzing atmosphere, but remember to show respect, as it is considered a religious area. Women must have their heads covered, so be prepared with a scarf, or pashmina when planning to join the crowds.
Humayun’s Tomb looks more like a grand palace than a tomb. Located in the eastern part of Dehli, Humayun’s Tomb is one of the best preserved Mughal monuments and has a striking resemblance to the famous Taj Mahal. This stunning mausoleum is the first example of Mughal architecture in India and was built to honour Mughal Emperor Humayun by his widowed wife after he tumbled down a massive flight of stairs and fell to his death. The grounds surrounding Humayun’s Toms are also spectacular. The Arab Serai Gate, was built between 1560-61 and has a commanding presence standing 14 metres high. The gateway led to the walled enclosure where the Persian craftsmen were housed when they came to build Humayun’s Tomb. Built out of red sandstone and white marble inlay work, it certainly is an impressive addition to the grounds. Another beautiful feature within the ground is the West Gate, which stands 16 metres high and is the main entrance to the World Heritage Gardens of Humayun’s Tomb.
Qutb (Qutub) Minar
The Qutb Complex in Delhi was one of my favourite sites within the city. The complex consists of monuments and buildings from the Delhi Sultanate at Mehrauli in Delhi in India. The standout feature of the complex is the Qutb Minar, which was built in the early 13th-century, is made of red sandstone and towers over the people below at 72.5 metres high. Tapering from 2.75 metres in diameter at its peak, to 14.32 metres at its base, the Qutb Minar is definitely one of those monuments that will make you feel small as you stand at the base and gaze up. Take an hour, or so to meander through the ruins and admire all of the beautiful details that were done completely by hand.
The India Gate
As you drive through the streets of New Delhi, you may notice something that looks like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The India Gate was built to commemorate the Indian soldiers that fought and lost their lives during World War I and was designed by British architect, Edwin Lutyens. We only had a chance to drive by, so the only photo I could snap was from our bus window, but it was definitely a structure that I did not expect to see in the middle of New Delhi.
Other sites that I wish we had time to see were The Red Fort, Rajghat, Hauz Khas Complex, Fatehpuri Masjid and Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir. Delhi is such a massive city with so much to see and so much to do and a lot of travellers tend to overlook the big city and head to other parts of the country. Although Delhi wasn’t my favourite place during my trip and it will put every single one of your senses into overdrive, but I truly feel that if you are coming to India, you need to really experience India for all its got, crowds and all because there is always beauty within the chaos.
Have any of you guys been to Delhi? If you have, what were your first impressions upon visiting? Are any of you from Delhi? What are your favourite off the beaten track things to do and see in your city? Post it in the comments below! xo
I travelled to India with Vivid Life Journeys in partnership with Toerboer based in South Africa and Ashoka Holidays based in Jaipur, India.