When I was planning my trip to India, the only reason I included Delhi was because it would be our port of entry. I thought anything worth seeing would be in Agra, Jaipur or scattered around Rajahstan. I thought Delhi—New or Old, would be worth little more than a day’s attention, with more important sights lying further afield.
I thought wrong.
To my surprise and delight, Delhi had some world class attractions that I’m glad I didn’t miss. And to make sure that you don’t miss them the next time you happen to be in the Indian capital, I’ve included some high points here
Literally at the doorstep of the impressive Jama Masjid—the largest mosque in India—this ancient bazaar was among the highlights of my entire trip. If India has been described as an assault on the senses, then the Chandni Chowk would be an upgrade to aggravated assault with the intent to overwhelm. This labyrinth of impossibly narrow alleyways jam-packed with rickshaws, vendors and pedestrians is fertile ground for a complete sensory overload. Between the colors of the bangles and saris stacked to the ceilings, the omnipresent honking of horns (a phenomenon repeated all throughout India), the smell of frying samosas mixed with diesel fumes, and the dramatic absence of personal space, if you don’t find your senses engaged at full throttle then you’d probably better start checking for a pulse.
As I sat there, crammed up against my wife in the back of a rickshaw and staring up at the frightening web of electrical wires crisscrossing overhead, I thought to myself: What a wonderful introduction to India!
This monument to love was a forerunner to the bigger and bolder Taj Mahal, sharing many architectural similarities as well as its common theme—in this case it was the wife building the monument for her deceased husband. Strolling the expansive grounds and taking in the extensive artistry, a visit to Humayun’s Tomb is a foretaste of a visit to Agra, and a worthy site in its own rite. There’s little wonder the UNSECO World Heritage List thought so as well.
Qutb Minar Complex
On the outskirts of the city lies the Qutb Minar Complex—a series of ancient buildings built at the onset of Islamic rule, with every square inch adorned with flowing characters. The highlight here is the tower itself—73 meters of sandstone and marble in five sections—certainly a marvel of engineering considering construction began in 1193 CE. Admiring the handiwork and pervasive abundance of ornamentation here and elsewhere, I found this area enchanting and a fantastic palate for some great photo ops.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what there is to see and do in Delhi. There’s the India Gate, Raj Ghat, Lotus Temple, Red Fort, along with all sorts of modern conveniences and shopping malls. Plus Delhi boasts an efficient and clean subway system, which ironically was the most orderly and hygienic place I encountered in the whole country. So if Delhi is your port of entry, make it a point to stick around for a day or two to take in its multitude of sights. New or Old, there’s plenty on the menu.