Delhi Pictures, India

Isa Khan's tomb, Delhi, India

Isa Khan’s octagonal tomb, constructed in 1547, Delhi, India.

Delhi Attractions

India’s capital city, Delhi, is maddening, chaotic, polluted and crowded, but – unlike Mumbai – also offers the resilient tourist a good variety of places to visit and tranquil spaces.

The most congested but lively and colourful part of the city is Old Delhi, particularly around Chandni Chowk bazaar area, while just southwest of there is the more spacious and British colonial section of New Delhi, with plenty of attractions. New Delhi is officially the name of the capital of India but few people aside from bureaucrats (who are not, let’s face it, really people), take any notice of the prefix.

The rest of Delhi is a vast, dull mass of residential living ranging from seething slums to modern, pricey apartment enclaves and mega-rich mansions.

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb, Delhi, India

The tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun, begun in 1562, is a magnificently restored complex of red sandstone buildings that pre-date and set the style for the Taj Mahal and are the earliest example of Persian influence in Indian architectural design.

This ‘Dormitory of the Mughals’ (due to more than 100 graves in the complex) includes the great Bu Halima Gate, the Char Bagh Gardens (Persian-style), an Arab Rest House, the fine little white tomb of Isa Khan that pre-dates Humayun’s Tomb (photo at top) and many finely detailed ornaments such as the doorway below.

Red Fort

The Red Fort, Lahore Gate, Old Delhi, India

The Red Fort main entrance, Lahore Gate, Old Delhi. Photo by Angelo Giampiccolo

Built by Shah Jahan of Taj Mahal and Agra Red Fort fame, the Red Fort in Delhi (aka Delhi Fort) is disheveled but still houses some worthwhile sights including the Diwan-i-Khas (photo below), Diwan-i-Am (Public Audience Hall), Mumtaz Mahal (Jewel Palace, the harem, now a free museum of textiles and weapons), the Naqqar Khana Gate (Drum House), Daawat Khana small palace that now serves refreshments to exhausted visitors. . .

Arab script around the small side door to Humayun's Tomb, Delhi, India

A small side door to Humayun’s Tomb. Photo by Rene Drouyer.

Diwan-i-Khas, Red Fort, Delhi, India

Diwan-i-Khas, the Emperor’s Private Audience Hall, all in marble, Red Fort. Photo by Hans Rosbach

Lakshmi Narayan Temple

Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Delhi, India

The Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Connaught Place, Delhi.

Also known as Laxminarayan Temple or the Birla Mandir, this Hindu temple dedicated to Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. It’s full of shrines and pictures with a large and calm garden behind it. Take off your shoes before entering but keep your wallet ready!

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

Another magnificent temple complex in Delhi is the Sikh religion’s Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, a grand whitewashed building topped with a golden dome. It’s near Connaught Place and once inside, there are guides to assist foreign tourists. There is a huge pool of holy, healing water and an enormous dining area where anyone can eat a simple meal free of charge. The guards look tough as nails but are actually talkative, cheerful and full of information.

Everyday Street Scenes

a street off Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India

A street off Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

If you plan to visit in Delhi’s wintertime, note that nights and early mornings can be heavy with smog as locals use open fires to keep warm. Tourists with breathing problems or chest complaints, beware.

A Delhi street barber shop, India

A Delhi street barber shop.

A street soup kitchen, Delhi, India

Mmm, yummy, soup for lunch.

Don’t necessarily avoid street food, but try to eat food that you see cooked freshly in front of you. Do avoid buffets as you never know how long the food has been lying around or how it was prepared.

The Metro/Underground/Subway, Delhi, India

Delhi Metro

What better way to travel around an overcrowded, overheated, less-than-pristine city but in the air-conditioned cleanliness of the new Delhi Metro/Subway/Underground train.

The Metro is magnificent but frequently packed and Indians don’t have the same idea of ‘personal space’ that westerners do. Women who feel uncomfortable should use the female-only carriages on each train.

Baha’i Lotus Temple

The Baha'i Lotus Temple, Delhi, India

Delhi’s Baha’i Lotus Temple, open to all and free of charge. Good place to hang out then. Photo by Paul Prescott.

Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar, sandstone tower, south Delhi, India

Qutub Minar, south Delhi, India.

Built in the 11th century this intricately carved, 72m high sandstone minaret was the first monument built by a Muslim invader, the ex-slave Qutb-al-Din. The largest mosque in India is the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, built by everybody’s favourite Emperor, Shah Jahan.

India Gate

India Gate, New Delhi, India

India Gate on Rajpath avenue in New Delhi and its surrounding grass is a popular destination for Indians on hot evenings and holidays.

Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory

Jantar mantar, Delhi, India

Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. Photo by El Tonio.

Also called the Yantra Mantra, this astronomical observatory was a pre-cursor to the Jaipur Jantar Mantar, constructed in 1724 by the Jaipur Maharaja on the instructions of Emperor Mohammed Shah, another of the Mughal moguls.

Akshardham, the largest Hindu temple in the world

Akshardham, the largest Hindu temple in the world, New Delhi, India

The brilliant Akshardham, the largest Hindu temple in the world and loaded with interest, Delhi. Photo by Swaminarayan Sanstha.

Tourists visiting the Akshardham Temple should expect a long wait to pass through security, but it’s well worth it. No cameras, phones or handbags are permitted in the main areas and must be deposited in lockers.

The massive complex is a feast for both eyes and soul, but not short of modern technology. The temple complex and gardens are free but it’s definitely worth paying to see the exhibitions such as sound and light shows, an Imax theatre, musical fountains and even robot presentations, all very hi-tech but presented with an unusual spiritual dignity.

Everything is on a grand scale, from the exquisitely carved stonework to the solid gold statues, and offers a fascinating insight into Indian history, culture and religion.

Get there by Metro. It’s cheap, clean and efficient and the Akshardham Metro station is only a short walk from the complex.

Lodhi Gardens and tombs

The Lodhi Gardens, New Delhi, India.

The Lodhi Gardens with a handful of tasteful tombs in 90 acres of refreshing greenery, are a breath of fresh air in a hectic world. They’re south of India Gate in New Delhi. Photo by Ajay Bhaskar.

Getting around Delhi

Metro

The new Delhi subway service works brilliantly though the network is not yet fully open. Trains are fast, cheap, cool and efficient. It definitely pays to find a hotel/guest house near a Metro station.

Buses

As usual bus travel is the cheapest and least comfortable option, whether it’s for getting around Delhi or travelling to/from other destinations in India. Buses go everywhere but are generally horribly crowded, hot and piloted by crazed, race-car rejects.

Taxis

Relatively cheap and commonly hired for the day, there are four possibilities.
1) Pricey, modern, air-conditioned vehicles, roughly double the fare of. . .
2) Old fashioned black-yellow Ambassadors, with no air-con and frequently dodgy meters. Cheap, but best to fix the fee before setting off in case of fiddles.
3) Auto-rickshaws, super cheap but smelly, nauseating motion, possibly unsafe and with a tendency to try to rip-off foreigners, so haggle before travel and if there’s a problem go to the nearest tourist police (who are surprisingly efficient. . . try that in Mexico! ).
4) Cycle Rickshaws are great for short distances and for appreciating the environment but tourists need to fix a price in advance.

Rail

A slight complication with train travel is that they run to one of four stations on Delhi – New Delhi (central) and Delhi Junction (Old Delhi) are the main targets for tourists and both served by Metro Line 2;  Anand Vihar station heads east and is connected to Metro Line 3 while Hazrat Nizamuddin goes south with no Metro stop. This last one is the station to use for trains heading for south India.