The Yonder Guide to a Golden Triangle tour

BY Susan, Yonder destination expert

The Yonder Guide to a Golden Triangle tour

India’s Golden Triangle tour is the perfect introduction for travellers new to this colourful and crazy country that we simply love. It’s one of the best cultural India holidays you can go on and, as bonafide India specialists here at Yonder, we thought it only right that we put together our own guide to help you plan your next culture-filled luxury holiday in India.

What exactly is India’s Golden Triangle?

The three most popular cities for tourists visiting the north of the country – Delhi, Agra and Jaipur – are each some 120 to 150 miles apart and conveniently form an almost equilateral triangle. Between them, they possess a veritable treasure trove of cultural and historical attractions that will leave you aghast and, helpfully, they’re pretty well connected by good transport links – perfect for tailor made holidays to India.

Delhi

The first stop on many luxury India holidays is the country’s chaotic capital of Delhi. An enormous city of almost 30 million people and with the energy and charisma to back it up, Delhi pretty much epitomises all the amazing things that make India, well, India.

Old Delhi is the city’s beating heart. Formed by the different empires that have passed through over the centuries, its narrow streets and bustling markets entwine around its historic Red Fort and are alive with smiling locals dressed in traditional dhotis and colourful saris. Old Delhi covers an area of around six square kilometres and exploring its frenzied networks by rickshaw is a great way to get out there and explore a city that just begs to be explored.

Once you’ve got to grips with the pace of the city by exploring its historical heart, it’s time to take in some of the many cultural highlights of a holiday in Delhi.

Raj Ghat is a humble memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, where the site of his cremation, on the banks of the Yamuna River, is marked by a black marble memorial and an eternal flame that burns in his memory. And Humayun’s Tomb, in the centre of Delhi, is the resting place of the second Mughal Emperor, resembling an elaborate and beautiful palace with traditional gardens.

A walk along the Rajpath – a wide, ceremonial boulevard lined with lawns and trees – takes you past the Secretariat Building and through India Gate – a 1920s war memorial in the style of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe and the similarly named Gateway of India in Mumbai.

If you still have energy to burn after seeing these sites, there’s plenty more of Delhi to discover, including taking in its thriving cricket and Bollywood scenes, haggling hard at its bazaars and exploring the cafés and restaurants of the up-and-coming Hauz Khas district.

Agra

After a couple of hours on the train from Delhi you’ll find yourself in the city of Agra, and, of course, no cultural holiday in India would be complete without a visit to the famous Taj Mahal. Voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it is quite simply one of the most beautiful buildings ever constructed. Magnificent and perfectly symmetrical, it’s flanked by four towering minarets and accentuated with trees, fountains and pools. Its huge white marble domes reflect the light and are said to reflect the different moods of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who built it 400 years ago in memory of his wife Mumtaz – a tale which only adds to the romance. A sunrise visit is recommended to experience the Taj in all its glory and is surely one of the most romantic ways to spend a morning for those on a luxury honeymoon in India.

While the Taj Mahal is certainly spectacular, it isn’t the only site you’ll want to visit in Agra. The city was the capital of the Mughal Empire and the red sandstone Agra Fort was the residence of its Emperors in the 16th and 17th centuries. Just a small part of this huge 94-acre walled city is open to the public, but wander inside and you’ll be treated to a feast of intricate grandeur in its white marble and red sandstone structures and lush verdant gardens.

The ancient town of Fatehpur Sikri is also full of archaeological treasures. Founded in 1571 by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, its sandstone ruins are majestic and include spectacular buildings such as the Buland Darwaza – the highest gateway in the world and a beautiful example of Mughal architecture.

Jaipur

Rajasthan’s glorious walled capital, the famous Pink City of Jaipur, encapsulates the flamboyancy of India’s largest state. There is so much to explore and discover, that a walking tour is one of the best ways to experience all that the place has to offer, from the Old City bazaars to the city’s most famous landmarks.

The Maharajas who built Jaipur were way ahead of their time, and the city’s planned layout and architecture are the reasons why last year it was named as a new entry to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Exploring Jaipur on foot gives you the chance to take in its incredible palaces and forts that sit unflinchingly amongst the markets and mayhem on the streets below.

The City Palace is the first on the list for many visitors, and for good reason. This intricate palace is filled with courtyards, gardens and museum rooms adorned with traditional tapestries and rugs and crammed with artefacts such as ancient weapons and armour.

Jaipur’s most distinctive landmark is the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. The dazzling pink building next to the City Palace was built for the Maharaja’s wives to watch the festivals and life of the city go by below. Another nearby attraction is the city’s royal observatory, the Jantar Mantar, an amazing collection of 19 astronomical instruments and the world’s largest sundial.

Thirty minutes outside of town is Amer Fort. Also referred to as Amber Fort, it is one of the most beautiful hilltop forts in Rajasthan. It’s the main attraction for most visitors and an absolute must-see for any cultural holiday in Rajasthan, and a fantastic way to end your tour of India’s Golden Triangle.

Susan, Yonder destination expert
Susan is a writer and editor long stranded in South-East Asia. In the travel arena, she has written features for in-flight magazines, updated guidebooks to Thailand and Vietnam, and reported for two US newspapers.

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