Empty corridor in an abandoned Amber Fort. Rajasthan, India

India Golden Triangle Tour - Sightseeing Guide

March 05, 2015

The Golden Triangle corridor is a popular tourist trail consisting of Delhi - the capital of India, Agra - where Taj Mahal is and Jaipur - capital of the state of Rajasthan. The 'Golden Triangle' tour is one of the most popular tour plans among foreign tourists who wish to experience 'classic India'. Majestic forts, Indian royalty, history and heritage are all that's on offer in the Golden Triangle tour package. Although it mostly covers north and central India, if it's your first time in the country, the Golden Triangle tourist trail should fulfil much of the expectations and stereotypes you had about India.

Most Golden Triangle tour packages consist of more or less the same sights and activities. Here is our run through of what most people will see in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, followed up with other attractions and activities at each destination to help you expand your knowledge and see a lot of more along the way.

Delhi

Humayun Tomb, Delhi.
Humayun Tomb is one of the popular attractions you must see when you are in Delhi.

Your flight will most likely land in India's capital city, New Delhi. Why is it called New Delhi and not just Delhi? Because there exists an Old Delhi, which is a rustic part of the city, famous for its chaotic markets and amazing street food. Old Delhi's notable attractions include the Jama Masjid - the biggest mosque in Delhi, Khari Baoli - Asia's largest spice market and the street food of Chandni Chowk (yes, that is the attraction here).

Delhi's other popular attractions include Red Fort, Raj Ghat (a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi), Qutab Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, India Gate, Jan Path and India's parliament building - which comes under New Delhi.

What more to see in Delhi

Delhi is home to some of the largest places of worship for any Indian city. The Lotus Temple is a futuristic-looking building (completed in 1986) and a place of worship for the global Bahá'í Faith. Famous for its lotus-inspired structure, the Lotus Temple is one of Delhi's most famous attractions. For something more traditional in design, visit Swaminarayan Akshardham, a stunning temple complex that showcases India’s ancient architecture in all its grandeur. Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is Delhi's most prominent gurudwara - a place of worship for people of Sikh faith.

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, Delhi
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is Delhi's most prominent gurudwara - a place of worship for people of Sikh faith.

Not too far from Humayun's tomb is Lodi Gardens, a serene park to relax in if the hustle and bustle of Delhi's streets get a little too much. If you want more Gandhi history, then one must visit Gandhi Smriti, where the freedom fighter lived before his death. Sadly, it was here where the 'Father of the Nation' was assassinated on January 30, 1948, and the park mildly re-creates those final footsteps.

Agra​

Taj Mahal, Agra
The best time to witness the majesty of India's iconic monument is to visit the Taj Mahal early morning.

You next stop on the Golden Triangle tour will be the city of Agra. Home to the Taj Mahal, this wonder of the world is the main reason why every tourist visits Agra. The best time to witness the majesty of India's iconic monument is to visit the Taj Mahal early in the morning. Because Taj Mahal, being the popular attraction that it is, can get very crowded later in the day. (Note: Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays).

Recently, Taj Mahal is open for night viewing. Visitors are allowed between 20:30 to 00:30 every night, but we suggest only going on a full moon night. Not only does a full moon offer photographers enough light to capture rarely ever seen photos of Taj Mahal in the dark, but on a clear night, the white marble of the Taj Mahal just glows under the moonlight, giving visitors an exclusive look at this manmade wonder, and a truly romantic moment very few can claim. Check the official website for the full moon calendar.

What more to see in Agra

Tomb of Akbar the Great in the Red Fort, Agra, India
If you spend an additional day in Agra, you could check out Agra Fort - a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Agra offers more attractions beyond Taj Mahal. If you spend an additional day in Agra, you could check out Agra Fort - a UNESCO World Heritage site, Tomb of Akbar the Great (in Sikandra), the splendid Dayal Bagh which also houses the impressive Radha Swami Temple.

A stop over many foreign tourists like to make is at the Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. Largely an orphanage, many visitors come with gifts for the children, many of whom were abandoned and found on the streets. Donations are welcome but never enforced. It may not be a touristy thing to do, but past visitors vouch for the great work by the nuns.

An hour's drive north of Agra is the district of Mathura. It is considered to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna, one of the most revered Indian gods. Therefore Mathura has several grand temples in his honour, offering visitors a look at Hindu places of worship - a change from the Islamic architecture that dominates Agra. For more Hindu spirituality, 2 hours west of Agra will get you to the holy city of Varanasi.

Jaipur

Elephant rides to Amber Fort in Jaipur, India
Elephant rides to Amber Fort is one of the experiences what Jaipur offers.

Dubbed the 'Pink City' of the state of Rajasthan, Jaipur's popular tourist trail include stops at Hawa Mahal, Amber Fort, Jantar Mantar and the City Palace. But before one even gets to Jaipur from Agra, visitors often drop by Abhaneri and Fatehpur Sikri. Abhaneri is a village famous for the Chand Baori step well, an amazing work of ancient Indian engineering. 100 feet deep, the Chand Baori step well is quite a sight to behold. Fatehpur Sikri on the other hand was the capital of the invading Mughal Empire. Much of the imperial complex now resembles a 'ghost town'. Fatehpur Sikri Palace, Panch Mahal and the Buland Darwaza are the main attractions here.

What more to see in Jaipur

For a down-to-earth market experience, Johari Bazaar is filled with colourful ornaments, traditional clothes, Indian jewellry, and many other items that would make for great souvenirs. For something a little bizarre, visit the Galta Monkey Temple, located just outside Jaipur city. This less frequented temple (by humans) has three sacred pools of water, one of which has been taken over by hundreds of monkeys that congregate there to swim - and to be fed by the tourists who are amused by what they see. From hill-top Nahargarh fort, you can view the whole city of Jaipur.

Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur, India
From hill-top Nahargarh fort, you can view the whole city of Jaipur.

Other sights worthy of attention in Jaipur include the Albert Hall Museum, the all-white Birla Mandir hindu temple and Jaigarh Fort. If the elephant rides at Amber Fort left you wanting more, Jaipur now has a few privately-owned elephant parks that allow visitors to get up close and personal with gentle elephants. Activities at such parks include getting to feed the elephants, bathe them and of course, ride them. But be warned, after the success of one such establishment (Elefantastic), many others have come up in Jaipur promising such elephant experiences but at hugely inflated prices. Please remember that the welfare of the elephants ultimately needs to be taken into consideration.

If you are done with Jaipur and have a few days to spare, you have all of Rajasthan to explore. Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer are all amazing places in their own right.

Why do the Golden Triangle tour?

The Golden Triangle tour is popular for a reason. The entire route is over 1000 kms long and most people spend a week covering all three major destinations. At the end of your journey, you can't help but feel like you have gone back in time. Much of the attractions are historical in nature, but these monuments stood the test of time and still stand tall amidst the maddening development India's growth has brought about to its cities.

If you would like to escape to India's wilderness and see tigers in their natural habitat, spare a day or two for Ranthambore National Park - one of the finest tiger sanctuaries in India and a 4 hour drive from Jaipur. One can even do the Golden Triangle tour by special trains, such as the Palace on Wheels. A truly royal experience, the Palace on Wheels is a luxurious tourist train taking guests back to the days of the maharajas and British royalty, and the staff seek to treat you as such.

No matter how you get around the Golden Triangle, rest assured tourists can experience 'classic India' in a matter of days. A tour that showcases the nation's ancient history, it's greatest monuments and gives tourists a good glimpse of north India in general. In conclusion, there's no better way to start your India experience than with a Golden Triangle tour!

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