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Where do we start with Delhi?! At first glance it’s a chaotic, congested and noisy city home to an overwhelming 40,000,000 people. The ride in from the airport to your hotel will be one to remember. Traffic jams create a raucous chorus of yelling and fist pumping drivers, motorbikes dart in and out of gaps precariously close to death, mobs of touts knock on your windows demanding money, food, clothes, or anything you have to offer (but don’t!), and unless you’ve had your agent organise a nice air conditioned transfer, then the heat is oppressive. This will be a complete culture shock. However that can be a good thing! The city is also the pride of India. There’s a staggering array of historic buildings, amazing food, an uncountable number of unique cultures, super cheap shopping bazaars, eons of history, and so much more to discover in this city.
Delhi is a very old city, thought to be right up there with the likes of Babylon and Jerusalem as one of the oldest in the world. You don’t get a history that long without a few tumultuous periods, and Delhi has certainly had its share. The city has been invaded, razed, and rebuilt at least eleven times throughout its history. Most of these were by local Indian rivals, but the Mongols, Persians and of course the British have all ruled over the city too. As a result, Delhi has a surprisingly large amount of ancient structures to be seen.
Old Delhi is at the centre of the city and is home to most of the must see structures which include three UNESCO World Heritage listed sites, the Red Fort, Humayan Tomb and the Qutb complex. The Red Fort is a massive fortified city that you can spend hours exploring. The distinct red walls give it its name, and encloses a city that used to be the home of the emperor. Today the buildings inside the fortification are in varying states of decay, but restoration efforts continue. If you don’t have time to head out to the Taj Mahal, then Hamayun’s Tomb is a good alternative. This tomb is also built of distinct red sandstone and features a giant white dome similar to the Taj. Finally at the Qutb complex you’ll find beautifully carved Qutb Minar, a 73 metre minaret-like stone tower. Throughout the complex are many more fascinating towers and tombs.
As Old Delhi is the main tourist attraction in the city, the meals found here are more meat based than typical Indian food which leans towards vegetarian based meals. Old Delhi is famous for its street food too, however be warned, the infamous Delhi Belly does strike nine out of ten travellers to India. Read more about Delhi Belly here.
New Delhi is often described as a separate city, however it’s completely enveloped by Delhi and essentially is what we would call a suburb. This part of the city was built by the British and is now most famously home to the government of India. Set out in much more pleasant, uncongested way, New Delhi is also home to several must see sights. The most famous sight is probably India Gate, a large war memorial similar to Arc de Triomphe in Paris. But the many fine government buildings are beautiful too, with a distinct European style to them.
If you want to get a bit cultured, then there’s one thing for it, Akshardham. The impressive building looks like an ancient temple, but was actually built in 2005. It houses a staggering collection of Hindu and Indian artefacts and retells centuries of Hindu and Indian history. Surrounding the temple are beautiful gardens with many sculptures of iconic Indians such as Mahatma Ghandi. Then there’s the Lotus Temple. This stunning building is a Baha’i House of Worship which has quickly become a major tourist attraction. The 70,000,000 visitors it gets every year make it one of the most visited buildings in the world, and greatly dwarfs the 5,000,000 people who follow the Baha’i Faith!
Shoppers, be prepared to haggle. And haggle hard! The city’s many markets and bazaars sell everything from cheap knock offs to the real thing, and prices vary wildly. In Old Delhi, Chandni Chowk is a real must. This bazaar has a complete range of goods from shawls and clothing, to electronics and all sorts of weird and wonderful foods and spices. Be sure to keep your wallet and phone close to your body, this crowded bazaar is a pick pockets dream. The Sarojini Nagar Market is an awesome spot for bagging some clothing bargains. Many major international brands have their clothes made in India, and any that don’t pass the quality check end up here, so it’s all the latest fashions by the big brands, but without the price tags. Finally, if haggling is not your thing then heading to a State Government Emporium is for you thanks to their fixed prices. The various emporiums usually specialise in a certain type of good, so ask your concierge which one you need to head too before leaving.
Of course there’s plenty to see further afield from Delhi, with the Taj Mahal being the major attraction. Read about the Taj Mahal here.
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