New Delhi Travel Guide
The City of Djinns*
New Delhi is India’s capital, and your most likely Port of Entry.
For many Delhi is just a staging post before launching off on their India adventure – perhaps into the hills for trekking or a yoga and meditation retreat, or to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, or the intensely spiritual experience that is Varanasi, or into the deserts of Rajasthan with its imposing forts and palaces and colourful people.
But New Delhi is a brilliant tourist destination that deserves at least 2-3 days just to visit the highlights – indeed, it has more world heritage sites than any other single place in India.
Its strategic location has ensured that New Delhi has always been an important location in North India, the site of as many as 7 cities over the millennia. Having always been a major centre of commerce and trade, New Delhi is a melting pot of cultures and immigrants from all over the sub-continent and beyond – Afghans, Tibetans and more.
*City of Djinns is the name given to Delhi by author William Dalrymple. A highly recommended book.
You will most likely arrive in Delhi by air, landing at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Before you exit the airport, you might want to take a nap, especially if you arrived late at night and your hotel booking starts the following morning. You may also want to consider getting a SIM card for your phone and changing some currency.
Even if you have not arranged an airport pick-up in advance, there are several options for traveling to your hotel from the airport. You can consider a pre-paid taxi, a metered taxi, or even a radio taxi service like Uber, as well as buses and of course the Airport Express Line of the Delhi Metro
You can read about these options in detail in our Arriving in Delhi page.
Delhi in One Day
Delhi certainly deserves more than a day to even see the well known attractions. However, if you’re really pressed for time and can spare no more than a day, our 1 day tour of Delhi is a good way of seeing the three major World Heritage Sites (Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb) sites. The itinerary also has the advantage of proceeding from the earlier monuments to the later ones, so you can see the progress of history and architecture as you go along.
You will need to keep the visits to each of the monuments relatively short (use our Lite Tours), if you are to cover all the places on the itinerary.
Suggested Alternative: If you don’t want to cram everything in one day, you could consider either Day 1 or Day 2 of our Delhi in Two Days itinerary.
Delhi in Two Days
The two day itinerary for Delhi is more leisurely, and allows you to spend more time in the various monuments, as well as spend some time exploring the city. If you have only one day, but do not want to cram the day with too many sites, you could consider either of the days on this itinerary as a worthwhile 1 Day tour which will give you a flavour of Delhi.
Day 1 focuses on South Delhi, taking in Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, the Lodhi Gardens, Khan Market and the National Museum.
Day 2 starts with a morning visit to Akshardham Temple, after which you spend time exploring Connaught Place – Delhi’s premier shopping and meeting place with a colonial touch plus the Gurudwara Bangla Saheb – a grand Sikh Temple. You then proceed to Jama Masjid and the Red Fort, followed by an evening exploration of Chandni Chowk.
Either of the days of this tour can be taken up as a One Day tour of Delhi.
Delhi’s attractions are mainly concentrated in 3 areas – Old Delhi, South Delhi and New Delhi. The first 2 areas give you a window to the history of the different cities built here starting with the Tomar Rajputs in AD 736 ending with the defeat of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah. Key attractions in Old Delhi include the Red Fort (Lal Qila) – a monument that has seen dizzying heights of power followed by a steep fall from grace and terrible tragedy, Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque and the markets in the various bylanes of Chandni Chowk. All of these attractions are close to each other and can be covered in half a day if you are short of time.
If you are spending 2-3 days in Delhi, make a trip to South Delhi to visit the Qutub complex, a 12th century World Heritage site which is surprisingly still intact and Humayun’s Tomb, India’s first garden tomb, and a worthy precursor to the Taj Mahal – built in the year 1571 around seventy years before the Taj. If you have more time to kill, use it to explore Lodhi Gardens and Hauz Khas Enclave.
Surrounding and immediately south of Connaught Place is New Delhi, built by British imperialist architects Baker and Lutyens. Its primary attractions are the architectural gems centered around Rajpath and Rashtrapati Bhavan, official residence of the president of India. Other attractions in this area include museums (choose the National Museum!) and a number of religious places – Akshardham Temple, Lakshminarayan Temple or Birla Mandir and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib – each will leave you with new knowledge and insight into a great religion of the world.
Like any great city of the world, Delhi is fairly easy to get about in once you get the hang of it. Having a data connection on your mobile will help find out routes and to get your bearings.
The best way to go places in Delhi is the Metro. The metro has truly transformed commuting in Delhi with its amazing connectivity. Most places to visit are close to or within a short autorickshaw (tuk-tuk) ride from a Metro station.
Delhi also has great taxi options with apps like Uber and Ola making it super simple to get a cab ride safely.
For more information read our post about getting around