Humayuns Tomb Delhi

Delights of Delhi While Backpacking

Acclimatise to Delhi and Uncover its Delights

Delhi, India

Like a scabby old dog, many backpackers shudder at the idea of Delhi, and it can be easy to see why, with its deep dirt, incessant horns blaring and smells that can declare all-out war on your nostrils. But if you take a second look, allow yourself to acclimatise, you will find a treasure trove of sights hidden beyond your first impressions.

Delhi’s Backpacker Bazaar – Paharganj Area

As is often the case with the area providing the main stream of backpacker digs, Paharganj can feel pretty grimy. However, on closer inspection, the main Bazaar, which is packed full with the city’s cheapest guesthouses and equally economic eateries (where else can you get a thali – a complete Indian dinner – for under 50 Rupees, about 75p), has everything your average backpacker needs.

The noise in Paharganj seems to barely fall below a din, even when the monsoon is tipping down on the locals and visitors alike. Get used to politely, but firmly, declining the continual offer of rickshaw drivers and shop sellers and you will see that the Bazaar is a fully functioning delight of everyday Indian life.

The pungent aromas of incense burning and glorious sacks of exotic spices will provide a welcome reprieve from the scents that attract flies. Take a post-thali walk, try a freshly-prepared mango lassi and revel in the sights as garlic and onions are traded by the bag load and the occasional cow cuts loose and heads for the (distant) hills. Keep your camera ever ready.

Must See Sights in Delhi

Delhi, India

After giving yourself a day or two to settle into the constant pace of Delhi life, there are many sights to explore. Three of the best are the Red Fort, Jama Masjid and Humayun’s Tomb.

These sights are easily accessed by metro, though be prepared as Delhi’s attractions aren’t always spitting, or indeed walking, distance from the nearest metro. Luckily, there will always be a rickshaw close by, but don’t forget to haggle.

The Red Fort

Quite simply enormous, the Red Fort will transport you back to a time of Mughal wonder. Built over ten years, ending in 1648, the fort walls reach up to 33 metres high in some places. Once inside, there is plenty to see. Hire a guide or dig out your guidebook and give yourself time to take in the age of the varied halls and other features of the fort.

Jama Masjid

Delhi, India

Continuing with the theme of large construction, Jama Masjid is India’s largest mosque. At full capacity, 25,000 people can cram into this mosque. Built around the same time as the Red Fort, Delhi’s sense of age feels omnipotent. For a great view, head up the south minaret. For a visit to the mosque make sure you’re well covered, remove your shoes and get ready to pay the camera charge on the way in.

Humayan Tomb

Whether or not you’re impressed by the fact that Barak Obama visited the Humayan Tomb, you will be awed by the tomb itself. A visit here is a great introduction if you’re heading to the Taj, as this tomb is an early form of the same style. Set amidst beautiful gardens, this is one place in the city to escape the noise of Delhi.

A word of warning – many of Delhi’s main sites are closed on Mondays.

Mahatma Ghandi

If Gandhi is an inspiration to you, or even if you have a passing curiosity, Delhi is the place to be.

Assassinated on 30 January 1948, the residence where Ghandi spent the last months of his life has been turned into a memorial. Poignantly, the path to the place where he was shot (Martyr’s Column) is marked with concrete footsteps. Across town, near the Red Fort, Raj Ghat is home to a black marble platform marking Ghandi’s cremation.

The Taj Mahal – To Daytrip or Not to Daytrip?

Delhi, India

You are in India so, inevitably, you will want to pay a visit to the place which its creator said made "the sun and moon shed tears from their eyes." It is perfectly possible to visit the Taj as a daytrip from Delhi and, indeed, many visitors do – by the train and bus load. However, if time is on your side and you want to avoid being herded on a tour and would like to see both sunrise and sunset at the Taj, a stay in Agra is essential. Three hours by train from Delhi, making Agra a separate part of your trip will let you give Delhi and the Taj Mahal the attention they both deserve.

Delhi’s Nightlife -- Low on the D.I.S.C.O

India is no Thailand. While it is possible to scout out beer, and perhaps even a late night bar or two, you are unlikely to be partying until dawn. With Connaught Place housing the lion’s share of the nightlife, the prices might feel a far cry from the bargain rates of Paharganj. If a bargain is what you are after, a handful of bars near your lodgings offer good priced Kingfisher beer. It is worth noting that most restaurants are unlicensed.

Quiet Lodi Gardens – Tranquillity Amongst Delhi’s Madness

When you reach the point of needing refuge from the sounds of the city, head to the Lodi Gardens. There are tombs-a-plenty inside, but most appealing is the sound of silence, particularly on week days.

Delhi has so much to see, and a bit of peace is needed from time to time to re-gather your strength to complete the sights. Use the Lodi Gardens, see Delhi in its fullness, and enjoy.