Delhi is split into two parts: New Delhi, is
India’s capital and the seat of government. It's a modern
city, with spacious parks, wide tree-lined boulevards, and the characteristic
style of ‘Lutyens’ architectural design; ‘Old’
Delhi, on the other hand, is a city several hundred years old,
teeming with narrow winding streets, mosques, temples, and bazaars.
Not to be missed sites include the Red Fort and the nearby
Jama Masjid (India’s largest mosque) both constructed
in the mid-seventeenth century in the prime of the Moghul Empire.
Also noteworthy is the Qutab Minar’s soaring tower
erected in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din following the defeat of Delhi's
last Hindu kingdom. At the foot of the tower is the Quwwat-ul-Islam
Mosque constructed in the same period using stone taken from
destroyed Hindu temples.
Delhi draws the best musicians and dancers providing a perfect opportunity
to hear the sitar, sarod and the subtle rhythm of the tabla,
and also to see a wide variety of dance forms, each with its own
costumes and intricate language of gestures. Theatres and cinemas
screen films from all over India, and the city boasts some of the
country’s finest restaurants offering numerous styles of regional
To the east of Delh lies the state of Uttar Pradesh, through
which flows the sacred River Ganges. Constructed along its
bank is the spectacular city of Varanasi, India’s holiest
Hindu location. The town itself is a maze of winding streets, with
many shrines and temples. Along the river is a series of ghats,
which at dawn, are thriving with pilgrims and holy men performing
ritual ablutions and prayers.
Delhi sits at the apex of the ‘Golden Triangle’ –
an area teeming with ancient monuments and sites. In the southeast
lies Agra, city of the fabled Taj Mahal. This spectacular
mausoleum was constructed by Shah Jahan as a monument to his wife,
Mumtaz, who died giving birth 1631. Shah Jahan was later sent to
prison by his own son in the nearby Red Fort, another popular
attraction, whose massive red sandstone walls extend over 65 feet
high and measure 1.5 miles in circumference.
Additional landmarks are Akbar’s Palace, the Jahangir
Mahal, the Pearl Mosque, and the octagonal
tower Mussumman Burj. One hour outside Agra is Fatehpur
Sikri, the town built by Akbar as his new capital but deserted
after only a few years. This town is now only a ghost town but is
definitely worth a visit if you have time.
The southwest of the triangle is Jaipur, a gateway to the
desert state of Rajasthan. Named the ‘Pink City’
because of the distinctive color of its buildings painted for the
visit of Britain's Prince of Wales in 1853. Jaipur is a town of
broad, open avenues and numerous palaces. The Amber Palace,
just outside the city is impressive, and the facade of the Palace
of the Winds inside the city walls is an essential photo opportunity.
Also worth visiting is Jai Singh’s City Palace and
the Jantar Mantar Observatory.
To the southwest sits the most romantic city in Rajasthan, Udaipur,
constructed around the charming Lake Pichola and is famous
for its Lake Palace Hotel; it has been designated the 'Venice
of the East'. To the north, in the middle of the Rajasthan desert,
is Jodhpur, with its colorful, winding lanes and towering
Near Ajmer is the small lakeside town of Pushkar.
It is a place of religious significance for Hindus and it is here
that every November the spectacular Camel Fair is held. Jaisalmer
is an attractive oasis town, once a stop over on the old caravan
route to Persia. Its attractions include the camel treks out into
the surrounding desert.
South of the ‘Golden Triangle’
is the huge state of Madhya Pradesh. Its most popular attractions
lie near the northern frontier. Less than 160 kilometres (100 miles)
away Agra is the grand ruined fortress at Gwalior. To the
east lies Khajuraho with its famous temples and friezes of
sensuously depicted figures – not to be missed.
About 320km (200 miles) north of Delhi is Shimla, the greatest
of all hill stations, surrounded by scented pine forests and the
lush beauty of the Kulu Valley.
Jammu and Kashmir
In the far north, stretching into Central Asia is the far reaching
mountain region of Kashmir, previously a popular summer resort
(visitors are now recommended to seek government advice prior to
visiting this area), and the valley of the River Jhelum.
The gateway to the region is Jammu, a town surrounded by
hills and lakes. The temples of Rambireshwar and Raghunath
are among its most note worthy sights.
Jammu is the railhead for Srinagar, the ancient Kashmir capital
, and popular resort of the Mughal emperors. It was they who constructed
the many gardens and waterways gardens around Lake Dal, highlighting
the natural splendor of the area. Attractions include the houseboats
where visitors can stay on the lakes surrounded by scenery so beautiful
it is known as ‘paradise on earth’.
Srinagar is also a convenient starting point for journeys to Gulmarg
and Pahalgam. Gulmarg has superb trout fishing, and the distinction
of having the highest golf course in the world. From here there
are fine views of Nanga Parbat, among the highest mountains
in the world. It is an ideal place from which to take treks into
the hills and mountains. Pahalgam is another well known hill
resort and base for pilgrimages to the sacred cave of Amar Nath.
More exotic, though not as easily accessible, is the region of Ladakh,
beyond the Kashmir Valley. It is a mountainous region on the edge
of the Tibetan Plateau, which is still mainly Tibetan in character.
The capital, Leh, is located high in the Karakouram
mountain range, through which passed the old Silk Road from
China to India and Europe.
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