India’s capital city, Delhi, is simply spellbinding. It is fair to say that, upon first encounter, Delhi will assault your senses. The bustling streets, enthusiastic street touts and melee of stalls, vehicles and people, will leave you more than a little dazed. However, with its brilliant colours, rich variety of smells (some more appealing than others) and myriad opportunities to explore, this vibrant city will entice, delight, and leave you enchanted.
The streets of Delhi are filled with a veritable babel of voices; you will catch words of Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and English floating above the sounds of stall holders, music and traffic. Delhi is essentially split into two discrete sections: Old and New. New Delhi was built by the British, as the imperial capital of India, and is spacious and a little more cosmopolitan than rambling Old Delhi, which was the capital of Islamic India. The best way to experience Delhi is to dip into both parts of the city, as each offers distinct yet equally captivating experiences.
Direct flights to Delhi will bring you to New Delhi Airport, about 15 km from New Delhi. There are plenty of taxi services, or you can catch the newly upgraded Metro, which runs regularly from the airport to central points of New Delhi.
Winter in Delhi is cool at night, dropping as low as 2 or 3 degrees, with temperatures rising to around 17°C in the day. During the summer months (from May – August), temperatures reach mid-to-high-thirties. If you are looking for cheap flights to Delhi, the best months to plan your trip are September – November, when it is pleasantly warm but not too busy, or March – April, when average temperatures are around 25°C and Delhi’s flowers are in full, dazzling bloom.
India is renowned for its incredible architecture, and Delhi offers you a beautiful selection of opulent buildings. Delhi has been the centre of India’s political power for over four centuries, and its architecture represents a rich history of supreme cultures, ranging from imperial Mughal architecture to the gothic style favoured by colonists.
Perhaps the most famous monument in Delhi is the Red Fort, which is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Red Fort Complex comprises the fort itself, named for its imposing red sandstone walls built in 1638, and which are 33 metres tall and over 2 km in length, and the adjacent Salimgarh, which was built in 1546. The complex represents previously unknown levels of opulence and are considered to be the pinnacle of Mughal architecture. It exudes the romantic magic of India’s heritage, which seamlessly fuses historical fact with captivating mythology. If you visit the Red Fort Complex, and don’t mind crowds, stay for the sound and light show, which lasts for an hour each evening. The light show is conducted in Hindi and English and times vary, according to the time of year, so check before you go.
Built in 1870, Humayun’s Tomb was the Indian subcontinent’s inaugural garden tomb. The building itself was the inspiration for a number of major architectural projects of the era, including (and culminating in) the Taj Mahal.
Delhi’s old and new architecture tells a story of romance, love, war and peace. From imposing minarets, such as Qutab Minar to stunning temples like Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, and modern pieces such as Bahai Temple, each piece forms part of India’s beautiful story. Whether you factor them into your trip to Delhi or not, make sure you at least take a moment now and again to stop, look around (and up) and acknowledge the immense passion, faith, skill and imagination that has gone into each and every building.
Delhi’s shopping opportunities know no bounds, and you can indulge in retail therapy unlike anything you have experienced before. Dilli Haat is an open-air food market selling food and crafts. Amid the kaleidoscope of colours and sound, don’t be afraid to barter for gifts and mementoes to bring home.
Standing alongside each other, the government-run State Emporiums bear treasures from around India, and are a great way to get an idea of the wares on offer, as well as what you should reasonably be paying for them. The Central Cottage Industries Emporium is also a government initiative, but is the slightly wealthier sibling of the State Emporiums. This veritable Aladdin’s cave sprawls over several levels; crafts here are slightly more expensive than elsewhere, but for choice, it is unrivalled. Feast your eyes on a dazzling array of handcrafted toys, jewellery, textiles, carvings, and more, before stopping off at the Smoothie Café downstairs for a much-needed drink!
Meanwhile, Khan Market is the most popular place to shop among expats and wealthier residents. A shop in Khan Market is prime real estate and their price tags match. Despite the elevated prices, this is a great place to find quality clothes and crafts, as well as good places to eat and drink.
As you may expect, in Delhi you will taste Indian cuisine the likes of which you have never tasted before. Dilli-ki-Chaat, Delhi’s renowned local street food, can be found in abundance in Old Delhi and is a great way to sample the many dishes on offer. Chickpeas feature heavily; ground, spiced, or stewed, served in hollow dough as golgappas, or fried in wafers with yogurt and chilli (papdi). For a true insight into the roots of Delhi’s food, take a trip to Khari Baoli Road, home to Asia’s largest wholesale spice market since the 1600s. Alternatively, venture to Gadodia Market, the more modern 1920s equivalent, where you can see giant sacks of spices being sold and transported. If you feel daunted by the sheer scale of the market, and the inevitable crush of people, there are a number of group tours that will guide you safely through the delights of the spice markets. There are also several cookery schools, some of which take you to the food markets to shop for ingredients, before bringing you to your instructor’s home, where you will learn to prepare authentic Indian dishes.
On your trip to Delhi, you will undoubtedly, at some point, be confronted by the undeniable poverty of some parts of the city. This poverty and Delhi’s rich cultural heritage, all form part of the patchwork that make the city so alluring. You can arrange slum tours and find out ways of donating constructively to beggars and those living in poverty, and buying from street stalls will allow you to contribute to the local community. Delhi is undoubtedly gritty, but it is also rich, vibrant and incredibly beautiful. Only when you look past the grit will you see the truly stunning gems that lie just beneath its surface.
If you want to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, Travangelo can help you to find cheap flights to Delhi.