Delhi India – Top-10 Tourist Attractions
India is perhaps the most vibrant, colourful and diverse country in the world. It is therefore very easy to assume that Delhi, its capital city, would embody these values. And Delhi does that, and more.
What to expect
Delhi has a very rich cultural history. It has been the capital of many dynasties who founded a home in India, and they have all left a mark on this beautiful city. From the India Gate, the red fort, Jama masjid to the Cyber city, parliament house and embassy area, there are many tourist attractions and travel destinations in Delhi. On the numerous trips that we have made to the city, we have witnessed many places and here is a list of top 10 tourist attractions in Delhi.
1. Lotus Temple
If you look upon the Lotus temple and mistake it for the Sydney opera house, you wouldn’t be the first. But this is a special place in Delhi. The Lotus temple is a temple which belongs to the Bahai faith, and the thing that attracted us most to this top tourist attraction is the fact that it proclaims unity of all people and religion. The temple itself is majestic to look at. There are 27 free standing structures covered in marble and shaped like petals which just makes the structure look magical.
What we found the most striking aspect was that not only is the temple open to people from all religions, but the respect that everyone shows inside the temple. It is easy to feel the faith and devotion inside and is a true spiritual experience. The structure itself is surrounded by serene gardens and calm ponds which just add to its aura of spirituality. The Lotus temple is often a place we visit to connect with our inner self and it stay open from 9 am everyday till sunset and there is no entry fee. If nothing else, the temple is worth visiting because it is a symbol of unity and that spirit is something all of us should adopt.
Another must visit place in Delhi is the Akshardham mandir. It is a relatively new tourist attraction in Delhi, having being opened in 2005. Although it is technically a Hindu temple, but Akshardham has transcended into a spiritual and cultural centre. The main attraction is the temple itself, a 141 foot structure constructed from Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian carrara marble. It is stunning to look at, to say the least, and the intricately carved flora, fauna, dancers, musicians and deity just add to its awe.
Akshardham is worth a visit simply for its amazing architecture. 234 beautifully carved pillars, 9 domes and a mind boggling 20,000 statues of hermits, devotees and teachers adorn this beautiful structure. There are also a number of things you can do here like visit the hall of values, witness the journey of Lord Shiva as the Neelkanth in the theatre, experience Vedic India through a 15 minute boat ride or just laze around in the garden and enjoy the musical fountains. The temple is open from 9.30 am to 5.30 am on all days except Monday and entry into the temple is free, although the various exhibits charge a small fee. The heavenly beauty and displays of Indian culture make Akshardham a must see structure in Delhi.
3. Humayun’s Tomb
Delhi has been the capital for many dynasties, including the mighty Mughals. Therefore, there are also a number of tombs of various rulers that have been constructed here. But Humayun’s tomb is one of the most spectacular ones. It is easy to see similarities between Humayun’s tomb and the Taj Mahal, and the reason for that is that the tomb served as the inspiration behind it. But Humayun’s tomb has an identity of its own and was the first of the number of buildings in India that followed the Mughal architectural style. We were fascinated to learn that it was the Emperor’s wife, Bega Begum, who commissioned the building which was built by the Persian architect, Mirak Mirzya Ghiyas.
The 47 metre structure, built form red sandstone and white marble is capped with a double layered dome and it absolutely took our breath away. The entry to the tomb is INR 500 for foreigners, though Indians can get in for just INR 30. The tomb is open for visits from sunrise till sunset and the best time to witness its true beauty is in the golden hours of late afternoon.
4. India Gate
One top tourist attraction that we always visit in Delhi is the India Gate, especially during the night. The structure is a war memorial, built in the honour of those brave Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the First World War. As we looked upon the structure, and saw the names of each of them etched in the structure, we couldn’t help but be moved by a deep sorrow and wonder about the futility of war. The poetically placed gun and helmet and the forever burning flames in the middle of the structure just add to the aura of the place.
The structure itself is magnificent, and reflects the grandeur of the architectural style of Sir Edwin Lutyens.
The India gate is lit up magnificently at night and looks absolutely stunning. It is one of the favoured travel destination for all travellers to Delhi and the sprawling lawns near it are an ideal picnic spot. There are a lot of ice cream sellers who set up their carts near it and enjoying an ice cream with a view of the India Gate is almost a custom in Delhi. It is always open and there is no entry fee. Do visit India gate whenever you are in Delhi as it is an experience worth remembering.
5. Nizamuddin Dargah
Nizamuddin dargah is the mausoleum of one of the most influential Sufi saints, Nizamuddin Auliya. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Delhi and also hosts the tomb of Amir Khusro, a renowned poet. It is a beautiful and sacred place with lattices, marble arches, courtyards and a majestic looking dome. A number of people, us included, often pray for the things we most want here and tie a red ribbon to the lattice as a show of faith. And what’s more, a lot of those prayers do get answered. The charm and beauty of the dargah can be gauged from the fact that it has served as an inspiration and location for many Bollywood films.
Being the final resting place of the famous Sufi saint, it is safe to assume that the dargah would be home to some soul stirring music and you would not be disappointed. Concerts of qawwali, a musical form, is held here every Thursday and we have often found ourselves losing track of time as we listen to the captivating tunes of the songs played here.
Nizamuddin Dargah is open from 5 am to 10 pm on all days except Thursday, when the qawwali program is held. In case you do plan to experience the soulful music here, we advise you to go a little early as it tends to get crowded.
6. Qutab Minar
No trip to Delhi would ever be complete without a visit to the Qutab Minar. It is the tallest brick minaret in the world and was built in 1206. An interesting fact we learnt from one of the guides was that although it’s construction was started by Qutb Ud-Din Aibak, it was completed by his successor, Iltutmish. And later, when a lightning strike destroyed its top storey, Firoz Shah Tuqlak, the then ruler of Delhi, repaired it and added another storey.
A closer inspection of tower itself reveals a number of inscriptions which reveal the history of its construction and the renovations that followed. The structure is magnificent to say the least with 5 tapering floors made of red sandstone and marble. In 1828, Major Robert Smith installed a cupola over the fifth story which was later taken down and installed on the ground and is now known as Smith’s folly. There is a lot of history surrounding the Qutab Minar and learning it makes for a fascinating experience.
There is an internal staircase which connects the different floors and goes right up to the top. Unfortunately though, on 4th December, 1981, the lighting on the stairs failed and a stamped ensued to get to the exit. The loss of lives during the accident led to the staircase being closed for visit. Entry is open to the Qutab Minar from sunrise till sunset for a fee of INR 500.
7. Red Fort
The red fort is a sprawling campus which used to be the primary residence of the Mughal rulers in India. The magnificent structure, built in 1638 has walls which spread over 2 kilometers! We were astounded by the grandness of the Red fort with its many iconic structures like the Lahori gate, Delhi gate, Diwan-i-Am, Rang Mahal and Hayat Baksh Bagh among others. It has been designated as a UNESCO world heritage site and one can discern the influence of Timurid and Persian architectural styles in it. If you happen to be in Delhi on 15th August, the independence day of India, red fort is something you must experience as the Prime Minister hoists the Indian flag after an awe striking ceremony.
The 1857 sepoy mutiny saw the Red Fort being ransacked by the Indian forces and many of its structures were damaged. But the fort itself remained intact and has today become one of the most visited tourist attraction in Delhi. It stays open from Sunrise till Sunset with an entry fee of INR 500.
8. Jama Masjid
The largest mosque in India which can hold up to 25,000 devotees, the Jama Masjid is not just a place for Muslims to revere but for people of all religions. Its sprawling courtyard is crowned by a beautiful building with three domes and was commissioned by Shah Jahan, the builder prince. The structure is made of red sandstone and white marble, and is an absolute wonder to look at.
Once we found out that we could climb the southern tower, we were astounded by the breath-taking view that it offers of Delhi. A word of caution though. One needs to cover their heads, legs and shoulders before being allowed to enter the mosque and you should keep that in mind. There is no entry fee, but if you want to click a few pictures, a fee of INR 300 is levied. The mosque is open every day till sunset with the exception of 12.15 pm to 1.45 pm when it closes for prayers.
9. Rashtrapati Bhavan
When we first laid our eyes on the Rashtrapati Bhavan, we could help but be blown away by its majesty. The awe inducing structure stands on a sprawling ground covering 330 acres. What makes it even more stunning is the vast Mughal gardens, which houses a number of varieties of flowers. It is also the official home of the President of India and consists of 4 floors with over 340 rooms which used a mind boggling 700 million bricks.
The august building houses a number of tourist attractions like the President’s buggy, Gandhi Walk, replica of the President’s study and others. The place is open from 9 am to 4 pm everyday for a small entry fee of INR 50. We advise you to be a little careful though as the place is heavily guarded and even the smallest hint of any untoward activity will get you into a lot of trouble.
Perhaps one of the greatest men to have walked the Earth in recent memory is Mahatma Gandhi. His ideals, beliefs and dedication were hallmarks of a man who showed the world the power of peace. And such is his power, that even in death, the place where he was assassinated has become a symbol of peace. The Rajghat and the Gandhi Smriti are hallowed grounds for all. Much like himself, his memorial is also beautiful in its simplicity as a black marble marks the spot where he was cremated. The memorial is surrounded by a beautiful park where trees have been labelled after other world leaders and there is also a museum dedicated to him. One can also visit the room where he slept in, which has been maintained exactly as it was when he graced it with his presence. Rajghat is a must see place for people visiting Delhi just to pay respects to Mahatma Gandhi. It is open from 6.30 am to 6 pm and there are no entry fees.
These are just some of the many places worth visiting in Delhi and if you are ever on a tour to this beautiful city, this list is a good starting point.