The Golden Triangle is one of the most popular tourist circuits in India and it comprises three historic cities - the capital of India Delhi, the City of Love Agra, and the Pink City of Jaipur. These cities are situated at an equal distance of around 230 km (143 mi) - 240 km (149 mi) from each other, thus forming a triangle on the map. Plus, they are home to a plethora of historical and cultural attractions, which undoubtedly makes them GOLDEN. In short, what awaits your eyes are historic forts, royal palaces, medieval lanes, colorful bazaars, and exceptional views of the rising and vanishing sun. So, if you’re planning to visit the Golden Triangle, check out this itinerary that will allow you to experience and explore the very best of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. Just make sure to plan your trip between October and March, as it is far cooler at this time of the year.
Day 1 to 3: Delhi
Delhi, India’s capital city, is formed by combining several older cities and villages, the oldest of which belongs to the 12th century. Today, the city is home to a plethora of historic, cultural, religious, and recreational attractions that will keep you busy for days on end. In a nutshell, it is a city that is steeped in history and heritage, yet overflowing with modern life and urban chaos.
The first stopover is the Old Delhi, which is the walled part of New Delhi and established by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century. Its chaotic streets and alleyways are choc-a-block with cycle rickshaws, carts, street hawkers, and shops.
Begin your Old Delhi tour from the busy thoroughfare of Chandi Chowk, duck into the bustling bazaars that are dotted with compact shops selling spices, temple statues, wedding items, electronics, books, garments, jewelry, and perfumes. Make sure to pause at one of the many food stalls and savor the local delights such as paranthas (Indian stuffed bread) at Paranthe Wali Gali, Jalebi (deep-fried sweet) at Old Famous Jabeli Wala, kachori (lentil stuffed fried bread) at Jung Bahur Kachori Wala, and chaats (street food) at Bishan Swaroop Chaat Bhandar.
When you’ve had your fill of local delicacies, head to the majestic Red Fort (or, Lal Quila). Built of red sandstone, it was established in the 17th century by Shah Jahan. The fort has been plundered and attacked in the 18th and 19th centuries, but today it stands strong as a testimony of the Mughal grandeur. From there, visit the red-and-white Jama Masjid, which is, perhaps, India’s largest and most impressive mosque. Look for its tall minarets and bulbous marble domes, and dress modestly.
Red Fort & Old Delhi: Half Day Heritage Walking tour
Duration: 5 hours
Take a metro or hop on an auto-rickshaw and head to Connaught Place (or, CP), where big brand retail showrooms, restaurants, cafes and bars dot the colonnaded verandas that surround Central Park. Here, you can shop for souvenirs or buy branded products, visit a religious sanctuary like Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (a Sikh place of worship), the 20th-century Saint Heart Cathedral or Hanuman Mandir; and if you’re into history, visit Jantar Mantar, a fascinating structure established for studying astronomy in the 18th century.
Insider tip: While you’re in the area, make sure to check out the British-era India Gate war memorial and the stately Rashtrapati Bhavan, which are located to the west and east of Rajpath respectively.
Delhi Connaught Place Tour with Hanuman Temple and India Gate
Duration: 6 hours
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South Delhi is one of the most happening locales now, but it also has a plethora of historical monuments that will take you back in time. Must-visits include the 240-foot (73 m) Qutub Minar that stands out with its Indo-Islamic architecture, and the Mehrauli Archaeological Park that contains over 100 monuments (Tip: do check out the tomb of Balban, Rajon Ki Baoli stepwell, and the 16th-century Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb).
Be sure to spend your evening at Hauz Khas Village, which is filled with cafes, bars, independent eateries, and shops selling urban fashion; even if you’re not interested in buying anything, this spot is a joy to visit (and photograph).
UNESCO Heritage Site: Qutub Minar and Mehrauli
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
Lodhi Gardens is home to many monuments that were built by the Lodhi dynasty rulers. Some of the noteworthy ones include the Sikandar Lodi tomb, Bara Gumbad, and Shisha Gumbad. After admiring these historic tombs, head to Humayun Tomb. It was established in the 16th century and contains the remains of Mughal emperor Humayun.
Insider tip: Stop by All-American Diner at the India Habitat Centre for breakfast.
Delhi Mughal Heritage Tour with Lodhi Garden and Humayun Tomb
Duration: 5 to 6 hours
While you’re in the neighborhood, make sure to visit the Nizamuddin Dargah, the mausoleum of the Sufi mystic, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. This place hums with devotees day and night. Catch it at its best on Thursday evening, when the shrine complex resounds with qawwali (devotional songs).
An Unforgettable Evening at Nizamuddin Dargah
Duration: 2 hours
Day 4: Agra
The best way to get to Agra from Delhi is by train. There are several trains throughout the day and it will take just two hours to reach the city. You can buy the tickets on the Indian Railways website or other user-friendly travel websites like makemytrip.com, yatra.com, etc. If the trains are reserved, you can take a bus, which is perhaps the cheapest way to get to the city from Delhi. Alternatively, you can hire a private taxi, although it will get heavy on the pocket, and will take around three hours.
Agra’s main attraction is unsurprisingly the magnificent Taj Mahal, which is considered the greatest mausoleum of love. It was constructed by Shah Jahan for his third consort, Mumtaz Mahal. Stone carvings and exquisite calligraphy adorn the facade of this white marble monument. Try to visit early in the morning to escape the crowd and the heat (the monument is closed on Friday).
The red-sandstone Agra Fort nearby is also worth a visit. Inside, don’t miss the Musamman Burj, an octagonal marble tower where Shah Jahan was incarcerated during his twilight years by his son. It is believed that he could view the Taj from here. Right opposite the fort is Jama Masjid, where the domes are inlaid with beautiful zigzags of marble. There’s also a market adjacent to the Masjid if you wish to indulge in some retail therapy.
Insider tip: Take a side trip to the deserted yet well-preserved town of Fatehpur Sikri, which is less than 50 minutes from Agra by car. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it comprises palaces, a mosque, and a harem. The highlight is the spectacular Bulund Darwaza, the arch leading to the palace. Standing 177 feet (54 meters), it is considered to be the highest gateway in the world.
Taj Mahal and Agra Fort Private Tour: Delhi to Agra Transfer
Duration: 12 to 14 hours
Day 5 to 6: Jaipur
With its historical forts, royal palaces, colorful shopping, expansive food scene, and vibrant cultural life, Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is undisputedly one of the most beautiful places to visit in India. Every neighborhood has its own distinct character. For instance, its old walled quarter is filled with pink-hued buildings, hence it’s called the Pink City. To delight the travelers, the city has something to offer everyone.
At the heart of Jaipur lies the Pink City, which is home to two of the most important historical sites - the City Palace and Hawa Mahal. The City Palace is known for its stunning architecture, which is a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal styles with a touch of European influence. One of the main parts of the palace that is worth checking out is the Chandra Mahal. It has a museum on the ground floor that is open for visitors and contains an impressive collection of royal memorabilia, while the royal descendants still live on the rest of the six floors above. To the south of the palace lies Jantar Mantar, which contains huge astronomical devices that tell the time and even gauge the intensity of the monsoon.
To the east of the City Palace lies Hawa Mahal which was constructed for the royal women so that they can watch the city life below discreetly. The palace is particularly known for its design - its exterior has over 950 windows adorned with intricate latticework to allow the wind to pass through the building and cool the interior, hence giving it the nickname ‘Palace of Winds’.
Insider tip: Jaipur is known for its bandhani tie-dye and block-print work, and the best place to buy these is Bapu Bazaar, which is located on the southern side of the Pink City (Word to the wise: bargaining is the name of the game here!). If you’re looking to get some gemstones and silver jewelry, head to the Johari Bazaar nearby. There are several eateries and food stalls lining these bazaars, so make sure to gorge on some delicious Rajasthani food.
Private Full Day Tour of Jaipur with Guide
Duration: 8 hours
Day 6: Take a tour of Amer Fort
About 11 km (7 mi) from Jaipur lies the city of Amer, which is famous for its Amer Fort, also called Amber Fort. The fort houses many opulent palaces, temples, and elaborate ramparts, all of which exude royal splendor. The ‘Sheesh Mahal’ inside the fort is a must-visit for its ornate interiors complete with mirrors and colored glass inlaid into its ceilings and walls. You can reach the fort by riding on a regal-robed elephant or simply climbing up the stairs.
Insider tip: Visit Galta Ji temple, which is about 30 minutes’ drive from Amer Fort. It comprises several temples that are constructed into a narrow rocky ravine. The Monkey temple (also known as a Sita Ramji temple), filled with hundreds of rhesus macaque, and the Sun temple (also known as Surya Mandir) atop the Aravalli hill are not to be missed. While you’re here, make sure to bathe in the Galta Kund, which is considered to be the holy tank.
Although it is entirely possible to explore the ‘Golden Triangle’ on your own, most travelers opt to go with a private or guided tour for the comfort and convenience it affords.
4-Day Private Golden Triangle: Agra and Jaipur from New Delhi
Duration: 4 days
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