Top 5 for New Delhi
- Take a day trip to Taj Mahal – it makes for a long day but man is it worth it!
- Take a car ride through the city at some point – you will marvel at how different traffic rules can be.
- Visit the Red Fort
- Visit Qtub Minar
- Sample some delicious traditional food
Hotel: Hotel Shanti Home is an absolutely beautiful sanctuary with wonderful staff, great food, and a good pashmina shop in the reception area to boot. More on that later.
Tips for Travelling:
- Well ahead of time, look up the Visa requirements for India. Unlike a lot of countries, the application cannot be done online, it must be done in person at an Indian consulate, and it requires more information, passport photos, and longer processing times than most visas.
- It’s better to take tours and cars arranged through a reputable source, such as your hotel.
- This is obvious, but don’t drink the tap water. And if you have a sensitive stomach, a lot of the curries here may not agree with you
On the way from Frankfurt to Kathmandu, a friend and I took a three day layover in New Delhi, to break-up the flying time and experience some Indian culture and tradition. Our hotel in Delhi, Shanti Home, was an absolute gem. Nothing like a shanti, this small hotel was wonderfully decorated with gorgeous fabric draperies in vibrant colors and patterns, dark polished wood furniture, stone Buddhas and prayer areas in various areas, and some of the most polite and friendliest staff I’ve ever come across.
The hotel organised our transport from the airport and upon arrival we were greeted with fresh flowers necklaces and tea served in our room. Breakfast, included in the room rate, was fabulous and ridiculously elaborate – starting with freshly baked breads, exotic fruit, yogurt, fruit juices, coffee and tea, and followed up with offers for ALL kinds of hot dishes – crepes, fried eggs, indian stuffed sweet breads, pancakes . . the works. The hotel continued to impress with a private afternoon city tour – our first terrifying experience with Delhi traffic and chaos. I can say that while this city is rich in culture, history, and fascinating things to see, it is really CHAOS. I felt the constant impending doom of hitting a rickshaw, a cow, or another car, all the while careening down narrow streets somehow converted into three lanes, past carts piled high with bags of rice, laughing and running children, lethargic cows, listless dogs, and generally noises and smells from all sides. I am still surprised we weren’t involved in a single accident.
Along with the beautiful room, breakfast, and private driver, Shanti home included a dinner at the hotel with our package as well – served on the rooftop terrace. We were served the most wonderful curry sampler; five assorted vegetarian and meat-based curries, with fresh pillowy naan, rice, and a vast collection of chutneys and sauces. Bursting full and tired, we went to bed. The next morning we were awakened at the crack of dawn to get into the car and drive several hours to see India’s pride and glory – the Taj Mahal. Our guided tour in English was really worthwhile, learning all about the history and symbolism of the palace which contributed a lot to my overall impression. Seeing the Taj Mahal itself was strange – after having seen SO many pictures it was hardly surprising . . . at first. However, up close, it is absolutely incredible – so intricate, so painstakingly thought out, and such a treat for the eyes. Entirely constructed of the most pristine white marble imaginable, decorated with precise stone flowers and designs, all with gorgeous inlaid gemstones and precious stones from local and far-away places. To look at the walls in detail and imagine the time and effort required – it completely blew me away. Due to the sheen of the marble, the palace shines different colours at different times of the day, possible representing the different “moods” of the woman it’s dedicated to, the last wife of Shah Jahan. Regardless, the Temple is really breathtaking and worthwhile visiting.
We departed on our long car trip back to the city, and caught the tail end of the Dussehra festival, commemorating the triumph of good over evil, or when Lord Rama killed the demon king Ravana. The city was packed with people in the streets, fireworks going off, and the symbolic burning of huge paper mache depictions of the evil king. After all the paper statues were burned to the ground, we climbed back into the car for a late supper at the hotel and bed.
Our last day was spent visiting some more traditional sites in Delhi – Qutub Minar, Humayan’s Tomb, the Lotus Temple, and the Red Fort.