Seeped in history and culture, the Golden Triangle is an epic journey through some of the most remarkable monuments in the world. This compact all time classic trip will take you through the cultural kaleidoscope of medieval and modern India in its multiple facets. Be it the hectic pace of Delhi with its magnificent ruins, colonial past and bustling markets, or the architectural splendour of Taj Mahal in Agra, or the remarkable elephant ride to the colossal Amber fort in Jaipur or experiencing rustic life in Choki Dhani, the Golden Triangle fascinates both the beginner and the seasoned.
Welcome to Delhi! As you meet our trip leader at the airport and experience your first encounter with this bustling metropolis, you drive to the luxurious hotel and settle down. After lunch, we drive through the wide boulevards of Delhi, passing through the Rashtrapati Bhawan that houses the President of India and the Indian Parliament, till we reach the solemn gates of Gandhi Memorial Museum. This historical place was the last abode of the Father of the Nation besides being the place where he was eventually assassinated. The Museum houses rare photographs, paintings, frescoes and other educative materials on Gandhi, in addition to preserving the personal meagre belongings of this great man whose existence was once described by Einstein as “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth”.
This is followed by a visit to the iconic India Gate – a 42 meter high Arc –de – Triomphe located in the heart of Luytens’ Delhi and erected in the memory of seventy thousand Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting the First World War.
Evening will see us relaxing in the quaint Dilli Haat, an open air craft and food plaza, showcasing the handicraft and cuisine of different states in India. Run by Delhi Government Tourism Department to promote local craftsmen from different parts of India, Dilli Haat is one rare place where one can explore different aspects and styles of Indian handicrafts and buy some souvenirs at reasonable prices.
Today we explore a yet another aspect of Delhi! Post breakfast we drive to the famous Bangla Sahib Gurudwara. Located at the heart of Delhi, this famous gurudwara was constructed in 1783 and is associated with the eighth Sikh Guru Harkishan. Like most gurudwaras, Bangla Sahib hosts a large sacred pond, a prayer house and a Langar, or the community kitchen, where everybody is fed irrespective of religion and social status. While we submerge in the divine chants and prayers that play in the background, we are mesmerized by this unique display of devotion and community service. We visit the community kitchen to see how meals are prepared for the thousands of devotees that throng to this place every day and for those who want to explore Indian spirituality and religious aspects of life, a small labour service in the community kitchen can be remarkably uplifting.
From this, we move to the lanes and by lanes of Old Delhi, or the real Delhi as claimed by the connoisseurs. Sitting on a pedal rickshaw, we manoeuvre our way through this remarkable ocean of humanity and explore a part of Delhi that usually does not find a place in standard trip itineraries. A visit to Asia’s largest spice market can do wonders to our olfactory senses. As we engage ourselves with the traditional spice traders and understand how this becomes the melting pot of spices from all over the old world, we are slowly drawn in to a period that is frozen in time. An elaborate Indian lunch in a famous restaurant on the busy street and we are set to go for our next destination.
Humayun’s Tomb, our post lunch destination, was built in 1569 by the widowed queen of emperor Humayun of the Mughal dynasty and is said to be the first distinctly Mughal architecture in India. A mix of Persian and Indian style, the mausoleum is a delightful experience, and is also claimed to feature a perfect dome and a precursor of the more famous Taj Mahal.
After spending a wonderful hour here, we drive to our next destination – Qutub Minar. Commissioned in 1199 by Qutubuddin Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, Qutub Minar was built as a victory tower. At 73 meters built in red sandstone and marble, Qutub Minar is a UNSECO heritage site and was the tallest free standing tower in the world for many centuries. The complex hosts quite a few graves and mosques dating back to the early Sultanate period and the famous iron pillar of Emperor Ashoka with edicts written in ancient Bramhi script.
After breakfast, we drive up to Jaipur. Located at a distance of 268 kilometres from Delhi, Jaipur as described by Lonely Planet is “Rajasthan’s capital, an enthralling historical city and the gateway to India’s most flamboyant state. The city’s colourful, chaotic streets ebb and flow with a heady brew of old and new. Careering buses dodge dawdling camels, leisurely cycle-rickshaws frustrate swarms of motorbikes, and everywhere buzzing auto rickshaws. In the midst of this mayhem, the splendours of Jaipur’s majestic past are islands of relative calm evoking a different pace and another world”. After check in to our rooms in one of the best locations in the city and a leisurely lunch, we are ready to explore the splendour of Rajputana.
A visit to City Palace is an experience in itself. Starting from 18th century, the City Palace was built over centuries yet the architectural flavour remains an eclectic mix of Persian, Mughal and Rajput palace traditions. A complex of courtyards, gardens and buildings, the City Palace is the most impressive building in Jaipur and continues to house the former royal family.
After a quick lunch, we move to yet another wonder of Jaipur – The Jantar Mantar. Located next to the City Palace, this is an observatory begun by Jai Singh in 1728 that resembles a collection of giant bizarre sculptures. Built for measuring the heavens, the name is derived from the Sanskrit yanta mantr, meaning ‘instrument of calculation,’ and in 2010 it was declared as an UNSESCO World Heritage site.
The evening is an unstructured time as we freewheel in the shops and curios of Jaipur that sell a large variety of artefacts and other traditional items including enamelwork, embroidery, pottery, woodwork, jewellery, puppets, block-printed sheets, miniatures and many more.
After a quick break and freshen up at the hotel, we drive to a fascinating dinner at Chokhi Dhani. Chokhi Dhani is more than just an open air restaurant. It is a concept that captures the essence of a Rajasthani culture. With its frescoed walls, murals, lamp walls, live performances of traditional folk music and an elaborate traditional cuisine laid out in much the same way as used to be centuries ago, Chokhi Dhani is much beyond a dining experience.
After breakfast, we set out to one of the most exciting parts of the trip. This is an elephant ride to the famous Amber Fort. Built by Man Singh, a trusted lieutenant of Emperor Akbar in late 15th century, Amber Fort is located on the periphery of Jaipur and overlooks the security of the city. The elephant ride to this fort had been a traditional practice offered to state guests. The elephant is managed by a mahut (trained pilot) and two guests sit on a wooden arrangement set on the top of the elephant.
The aesthetic ambiance of the fort is seen within its walls. Constructed of red sandstone and marble, the attractive, opulent fort cum palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. It consists of the Diwan-e-Aam, or "Hall of Public Audience", the Diwan-e-Khas, or "Hall of Private Audience", the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace.
With the visit to Amber fort, it is time to bid farewell to Jaipur. After lunch, we drive to yet another fascinating part of the trip – Agra. Located at a distance of 243 kilometres from Jaipur, Agra was the traditional capital of the mighty Mughal Empire. Again quoting from Lonely Planet, “The magical allure of Taj Mahal draws tourists to Agra like moths to a wondrous flame. And despite the hype, it is every bit as good as you have heard. But the Taj is not a standalone attraction. The legacy of the Mughal empire has left a magnificent fort and a liberal sprinkling of fascinating tombs and mausoleums, and there is also fun to be had in the bustling chowks (market places).”
After reaching in Agra, we check in to the hotel, have dinner and sleep tight for an early day tomorrow.
As the trip draws towards its end, we approach the climax of the trip in the form of a sunrise visit to the famous Taj Mahal.
Widely considered as the most beautiful building on earth, the Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the fond memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth. Shah Jahan’s reign is considered to be the golden age for India and the Taj is perhaps the epitome of that. Nearly twenty thousand workers and experts drawn from all over India, Central Asia and even Europe took 21 years to complete the monument and it is perhaps as beautiful today as it was when it was built. It is said that Shah Jahan, who was imprisoned in the Agra Fort by his ambitious son Aurangzeb, spent his last years looking longingly at his beloved monument from a dark window from his prison cell.
After our visit, we return to hotel for breakfast and check out. Post this, we move to the Agra Fort. Built largely with red sandstone by Emperor Akbar, the Agra Fort is undoubtedly the finest Mughal fort in India. Originally located next to river Yamuna, the fort has the typical Diwan i Am (Hall of Public Audience), the Diwan i Khas (Hall of Private Audience) which incidentally has the famous Peacock Throne, numerous other buildings, open courtyards, corridors, mosques and the quaint Shish Mahal- a large hall that was inlaid with tiny mirrors and used for amusement.