New or Old, Delhi Has Plenty on the Menu

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

 

Chandni Chowk

 

The electrifying atmosphere of the Chandni Chowk
The electrifying atmosphere of the Chandni Chowk

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!

 

Humayun’s Tomb

The Poor Man's Taj--Humayun's Tomb
The Poor Man’s Taj–Humayun’s Tomb

 

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

 

The Qutb Minar. Wanna buy a vowel?
The Qutb Minar. Wanna buy a vowel?

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.

Why The World Heritage List Should Be On Yours

What do the Great Pyramid, Great Barrier Reef, and Great Wall of China all have in common, besides the title “great”? Interestingly, it is the same thing they have in common with the Tower of London, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. Give up? They are all considered World Heritage Sites, a designation by UNESCO-the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Great Wall, Ba da ling Section, Near Beijing, China
Great Wall, Ba da ling Section, Near Beijing, China

Regarding the World Heritage List, UNESCO’s stated goal is to “encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.” In layman’s terms, it seeks to preserve the most meaningful, historic and naturally beautiful places on earth. And while the list’s occupants such as the historic center of Rome, or the Galapagos Islands may be familiar to most people, their status among the world’s premier destinations may be relatively unknown.

When it comes time for me to begin considering ideas for a trip—also known as: always—my first order of business is to peruse a given destination’s World Heritage Sites. It’s been my experience that in the 66 WHS I’ve visited (out of 981 total worldwide) every last one was worth the trip. Most are no-brainers. I mean, who doesn’t visit the Taj Mahal when in India? But there are lesser-known sites that were like finding hidden treasure. A case in point is the Goreme National Park, in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. This unique collection of troglodyte dwellings and surreal rock-formations is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever heard of—let alone visited. So as a rule of thumb, when considering a destination, always check to see if there are any World Heritage Sites within striking distance. Your photo album will thank you for it.

Goreme Open Air Museum, Goreme, Turkey
Goreme Open Air Museum, Goreme, Turkey

To find a complete list of World Heritage Sites along with more information, you can log onto the official web site at http://whc.unesco.org. There is also a fantastic unofficial site at www.worldheritagesite.org where travelers the world over post their comments, observations and words of wonder at these bright spots on the world map. After perusing them yourself, you just may be so moved with appreciation to include one or two of these World Heritage Sites on your next trip at home or abroad.

Have you visited a World Heritage Site? Tell me about it!