The capital city of India is a glorious concoction of the old and the new. Temples that are centuries old, archaic Muslim quarters, and modern residencies, all exist alongside each other. Home to over a crore people, Delhi is a treasure trove of historic gems, gardens, museums and a thriving food culture. Travel to the metropolis for the vibrant bazaars of Chandni Chowk that give way to Lutyens’ New Delhi, which is the historic heart of the city. For an insight into the legacy of the Mughal era, go to the 16th century Humayun’s Tomb, the towering sandstone mosque of Jama Masjid, and experience the sound and light show at Red Fort. Tourists can spend mornings at the extravagant Akshardham Temple and evenings at the Hazrat Nizam-ud-din Dargah (shrine) that boasts of sufi music and delicious kebabs. Another popular attraction of Delhi are its pulsating markets that sell everything from baubles to handicrafts, sell everything you can possibly think of. Those who have travelled to Delhi for its particular brand of food, will have a lot on their plates. From hole-in-the-wall eateries and local student cafes in North Delhi to lavish restaurants and bars in South Delhi, there is no dish or cuisine you won’t find here. A huge incentive for travellers is the variety of public transport, wherein the Delhi Metro is the cheapest and easiest way to get around the city.
Rajasthan’s opulent capital is a magical land brimming with desert camps and lakeside palaces. Sitting on the edge of the Thar desert and surrounded by the Aravali hills, the Pink City boasts of hilltop forts, bustling bazaars and the best pyaaz kachoris you’ll ever taste. Among the places to visit in Jaipur, the grandiose pink sandstone Palace of Winds, or Hawa Mahal, towering over the hustling streetscapes and the majestic City Palace are the ones attracting the most tourists. The 18th century old astronomical observatory of Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is a UNESCO world heritage site and a major tourist attraction. Perched proudly on the top of a hill is Amber Fort, dating back to the 16th century. The red sandstone structure houses palaces, temples, gardens and a lake inside its premises. One of the most favoured things to do in Jaipur is to walk through the lively Bapu Bazaar, and come out with bags stocked with bandhani-printed sarees, lac bangles, meenakari trinkets and blue pottery. And while you’re at it, shop for some string puppets or kathputlis that make for some excellent souvenirs. Galtaji temple, also called the Monkey Temple, is another must visit. If your eyes just can't get enough, visit Amber Fort, which has its own 600-year-old story to narrate, through its spectacular light and sound shows, cultural performances and folk music. Rajasthani tailored clothes, jewellery and handicrafts are a huge hit as souvenirs, for their exquisite mirror work, embroidery, leather and splashes of colour. Some famous places this illustrious workmanship can be bought from are Rajasthali, Anokhi, Johari bazaar and Sireh Deori Bazaar, but remember to bargain. Central Museum and Albert Hall museum are great places to learn about Rajasthan's rich history and culture and also to buy handicrafts. The Jaipur Literature Festival, the world's largest free literature festival, is dear to almost every bibliophile around the globe. Here, enjoy literature and music, amidst the likes of William Dalrymple, Stephen Fry and many other renowned writers and personalities. The 5-day festival is hosted in Diggi Palace, which gives people around the world an insight into Rajasthan's captivating cultural heritage. For those interested in pampering their palates with the flavourful Rajasthani cuisine against the backdrop of a picturesque village should visit Chokhni Dani. For a regal experience, a stay at the Suvarna Mahal is a must visit.
Home to the grandiose Taj Mahal, Agra’s city echoes of its bygone Mughal era days. Located in Uttar Pradesh, tourists from across the world flock to Agra all year round. Boasting of three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Agra Fort in the city,the white marble architectural wonder of the Taj Mahal and the nearby Fatehpur Sikri. Agra is also dotted with numerous tombs and buildings that have been left behind by the Mughal empire. Agra’s tourism can also be credited to its sweeping gardens of Soami Bagh, Ram Bagh and the most beautiful of them all, Mehtab Bagh. Agra city is also swarmed by a multitude of temples that add to Agra’s vibrant character. The Balkeshwar and Kailash temple on Yamuna’s banks worship Lord Shiva, while the Mankameshwar Temple is loved by the locals for it mellifluous aarti. And while you are in Agra, you should definitely incorporate Sikandra in your itinerary. Akbar’s tomb, or Sikandra lies north to the city, and takes about thirty minutes from Agra. Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb, fondly referred to as the Baby Taj is another must visit.
An ancient holy town and the starting point for pilgrimages to the Kedarnath Temple and the Badrinath Temple, Haridwar is the first recipient of the mighty rapid and revered Ganges, originating from the Gangotri Glacier. Its vast mythological background, beautiful temples (Shanti Kunj Gayatri Parivar), spectacular festival celebrations and the world famous Kumbh Mela (hosted every 12 years) make it a popular destination to be visited from around the world. Haridwar comes alive during sunset, when the evening aarti (ritual of worship) starts at Har Ki Pauri, a ghat (steps leading to a river) and the main attraction of the town where both the Ganga banks are lit up with floating claypot candles and chants of devotees and priests resonate musically throughout the town. The religious city serves no alcohol anywhere and restaurants are strictly vegetarian too, some well known ones being, Big Ben Restaurant, Chotiwala and the Haveli Hari Ganga Restaurant.
Surrounded by the enchanting Aravali hills, Ajmer is a medieval city most popular for the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. Once ruled by Prithviraj Chauhan, the city is a treasure house of Rajput and Islamic architecture. Ajmer, which is located in the heart of Rajasthan, also serves as the base for Pushkar, which is just 11km away. The magnificent Taragarh fort situated on the summit of the Taragarh Hill is an unmissable site for its view of the city. At the foot of this hill is the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, the tomb of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. The large pillars or Kose that you’ll see here actually run till Agra from where Akbar and his queen visited this sanctum. You can also visit the Akbar Fort and Museum for its collection of medieval armour and sculptures. There are several other sites of Hindu, Islamic and Jain religious importance that you can look out for while taking a ride through the city on the horse-drawn tongas. Fill up on delicacies such as the Kesarganj gol chakkar, chaat and kachori at the Pandit Restaurant opposite Daulat Bagh. The women’s market is a hub of traditional lehengas and odhnis. Amidst the old-fashioned and charming city of Ajmer, Ambassador and Hotel Mansingh Palace offer two of the most conventional and luxurious stays.
The melodious chorus of temple bells, the sweet fragrance of incense and the positive energy in Mathura city all come together to offer you an experience unlike another. The most popular temple in the birthplace of Shri Krishna is the Dwarkadesh Temple, which is home to a lovely shrine of Lord Krishna and Radha among other deities. And if you happen to visit the temple during the festivals of Janmashtami, Diwali and Holi, you'll be in for a huge surprise. The energy of the temple and the city will take you by storm and you will fall in love with the small energetic town. The culture of Mathura is perhaps what attracts people to this lovely town rather than its mythological importance, though one can't deny or undermine its mythological significance. Among other places to visit, you can head to Vishram Ghat, Rangji temple and Govind Deo temple. Sacred for both Jains and Buddhists, Mathura sees people from across the world. A meeting point for people from all cultures, there is much to learn and explore in this lovely city. Finding a place to to stay here is not a problem at all since there are a number of small dharamshalas as well as luxurious resorts.