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.
Once known as Shyamala, synonymous with Goddess Kali, Shimla has been a summer retreat long before India even gained independence. This famous hill station similarly has a lot of places and things to see untouched by time. For instance, take a vintage joy ride from Kalka station to Shimla in a charming toy train that will take you through towering Deodars, hills and villages. Shimla truly comes alive during winters when a blanket of snow covers it all over making every nook and corner gleam and glisten. One such place is the ice skating rink (natural ice) near Lakkar Bazaar that opens from November to December. More winter sports include skiing, which can be enjoyed 21 km from Shimla in Kufri. Adventure activities such as rafting at Tattapani or a trek to Shali Tibba and Pabbar Valley are also worthwhile experiences. If you are fond of haunted stories and interested in having your own spooky adventure, you'll love Shimla. A lot of people including the renowned Rudyard Kippling (in 'My Own True Ghost Story) have written various eerie stories set around Shimla. A place known most for giving many people the jeepers-creepers is the Charleville Mansion. Another time travelling portal is the antique bookstore, Marina Brothers, located on Mall Road, which is truly a reader and collector's paradise. There are many luxury and budget hotels here, meaning you'll never fall short of options. Popular places to eat include Wake & Bake, Ashiana, Cecil and Minchy's that serve commendable Indian and multi-cuisine dishes and delicious gourmet food.
Chandigarh is India's first planned city, quite distinct from the rest of the country and considerably better organized. It is the capital of both Haryana and Punjab, but the city itself is not part of either state, being a union territory, i.e. administered directly by the central government. It was one of the early planned cities in post-independence India and is internationally known for its architecture and urban design. Chandigarh has various visitor attractions including theme gardens within the city. Some notable sites are Sukhna Lake, Rock Garden, Rose Garden, Parrot Bird Sanctuary Chandigarh, and Leisure Valley. Chandigarh as a perfect city with regards to its cultural growth, modernisation and architecture. Rose Garden is home to over 1,500 varieties of rose and the Garden of Fragrance is perfect for those mind-refreshing walks. Chandigarh has a bustling food scene, home to every cuisine you can think of right from Mediterranean (Kelong, Virgin Courtyard) to Thai (Tao- Bar & Lounge). Some popular places for Punjabi dishes are Punjab Grill and Sher-e-Punjab. Chandigarh is also close to many hill stations such as Solan, Kasauli, Shoghi and Naldehra.
Dehradun is easily one of the most popular hill stations in India. Though easily accessible by all modes of transportation, taking the road would be the best way to experience this heaven. The drive will take you through dense forests on the hilly road and if you're lucky, you might even see a wild elephant or leopard pass you by. The fresh and dewy hill air will infiltrate your lungs and put you in a great mood right away. In terms of things to see, there is Robber's Cave, a river cave formation and Sahashtradhara, which is also a stunning sight of nature consisting of sulphur springs. But more than its sights, Dehradun is the perfect place for a family getaway. After all it has everything that you could need for a relaxing holiday. The town has many vintage bookshops (Natraj Publishers, The English Book Depot), college campuses with hilly backdrops, architectural marvels (such as the Forest Research Institute), alleys filled with quaint restaurants, adventure sports gear shops and forest resorts and hotels to fit every budget. Vishranti, a resort tucked away discreetly in the Sal forests of the Doon valley, deserves a special mention for its beauty and luxury. The city is a haven for foodies as Dehradun offers a lot of variety and affordability in its cuisine. Restaurants and cafes such as Doon Darbar, renowned for devour-worthy Mughlai dishes and The Buffet for its mouthwatering burgers, cutlets and coffee, are popular options.
Amritsar has made a huge contribution to Indian history and is the holiest hub for Sikhs. The name of the city, which means the pool of nectar, is derived from the pool that surrounds the Golden Temple. Though the city is quite congested, it has an air of spirituality and a heart to it. The stunning complex of the Golden Temple, with the Central Sikh Museum, will surround you with a spiritual energy that is hard to shake off. The gurdwara is located at the nucleus of the lake, which glitters like gold after the sun goes down. At every corner you’ll find devotees who have volunteered for either cooking or cleaning the premise. Eat a free meal at the dining hall and make sure you don’t waste any food. The Jallianwala Bagh, from the pages of history, comes to life here. The complex, where around 1500 people were massacred, still has bullet marks all over it. A peek into the well, inside which hundreds jumped to save their lives, is sure to leave you feeling uncomfortable. An hour away from the city is the Wagah Border, where the gates divide Pakistan and India. An evening parade, held before sunset every day, is an experience worth savouring. Amritsar remains incomplete without the lassi with heaps of malai, available almost everywhere. There are endless options to stay in the city but if you want to splurge, consider the Green Acres Haveli and Country Inn Hotels and Resorts.