India’s Golden Triangle

 

In recent years a  popular add-on to many Middle East and Indian Ocean cruises has been an inclusive guided tour of India’s Golden Triangle…

 

…and certainly looking ahead these inclusive packages are set to continue.

Having studied a number of these itineraries I have noted that they  generally follow a similar pattern of visits and only the quality of transport,  accommodation and guides appear to make any specific difference apart, of course, from the  amount of time spent at each of the centres.

The vast majority of ‘Golden Triangle’ tours start in Delhi and mostly a follow a similar pattern of visits to popular tourist sites.

However, prior to my recent visit I took the trouble to enquire of our tour company exactly what sites we were scheduled to visit. It became clear that for me personally there were places in Delhi that our guided schedule were not going to visit. Bearing this in mind I set about using the two free days we had in Delhi, prior to the commencement of the official ‘Golden Triangle’ excursion, to plan an itinerary of other sites that were of particular interest to my wife and me…

…plus a little help from the internet and Mr Google…

Research also indicated to us that probably the best way around Delhi was either by taxi or Tuk-Tuk, the latter proving to be the better option when one takes into account the dreadful traffic conditions…

Our first visit was to Lodi Gardens…

Lodi Gardens, located in the heart of residential Delhi,  is a haven of tranquility, serene and peaceful,  spread over some 90 acres and is a popular historical park visited by tourists and locals alike.

The gardens get their name from the four monuments and tombs of the 15th Century Lodi dynasty, the last of the Delhi Sultanate….

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Also in the gardens is the Athpula Bridge…

…a sixteenth-century bridge built during Delhi’s ruler Mohammed Akbar’s reign.

Within walking distance of Lodi Gardens – we had spotted it on our outward journey, was one of Delhi’s more famous tombs, that of Safdarjung…

Of course the entrance doesn’t do it justice …

Safdarjung’s Tomb is a sandstone and marble mausoleum and was built in 1754 in the Mughal Empire style…

Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan, who was popularly known as Safadarjung, ruled over Awadh as an independent ruler or Viceroy.

Quite an amazing building when one considers what little there is inside…

 

….and of course the magnificent ceiling….

That essentially concluded our first day in Delhi and we spent the remainder of the day relaxing around the Regency Hyatt ‘s swimming pool…

 

Buoyed by our Tuk-Tuk success on our first day there was no doubt in our minds as to which form of  transportation we would use for our day two itinerary. And so it was we set off after a leisurely breakfast, by Tuk-tuk, for the Rajpath and India Gate…

We had previously noted that a visit to India Gate was scheduled in our packaged tour, however we had no indication of any timings.  We had picked up that a military style ceremony was to take place at India gate at 11.00 am that morning…

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As it turned out the particular ceremony was the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which happens to be at the base of India Gate…

The ceremony over we next proceeded on our walk along the full length of the  Rajpath…

…in the direction of a set of buildings known as ‘The Secretariat’…

The Rajpath is a ceremonial boulevard which, in the days of the British Raj, was known as the Kings Way. It is lined on both sides by huge lawns, canals and rows of trees and runs from east to west from  India Gate (East), between the Secretariat Buildings …

(Known as the North and South Blocks these long classical edifices are home to the Home, Finance and Foreign Affairs Ministries)

…as far as the Rashtrapati Bhaven in the west. The Rashtrapati Bhavan  was, during the British Raj,  the Viceroy’s House and is now the Presidential Residence..

Most of these buildings, including India Gate,  are the work of the British Architect Edwin Lutyens and a  memorial to him are the ornate gates at the entrance to the Rashtrapati Bhaven, The Lutyens Gates…

To the right of The Secretariat Buildings can be seen the circular  Indian Parliament…

…and the famous Vijay Chowk Fountains…

Having completed this particular area we were pleased to find a number of available Tuk-tuks and, after some hard bartering, we headed off on a rather longish ride to visit first the Akshardam temple…

…and then, on the return leg, the Baha’i House of Worship…

…also known as Lotus Temple…

One of Delhi’s most innovative modern structures, the arresting shape of its unfurling 27-petalled white marble lotus is the centre of the Baha’i religious sect in India.

On completion of our visit to the Lotus Temple we returned  to our hotel to prepare for an evening introductory dinner with the remainder of the tour group.

The following day we were split into two groups of 15 and each group was allocated an English speaking guide. After breakfast we left the hotel in coaches to commence Day 1 of our official guided Delhi tour taking in firstly Humayun’s Tomb…

Humayun’s Tomb, built in 1570, by Humayun’s first wife and chief consort, the Empress Bega Begum, was the first of the grand dynastic mausoleums that were to become synonyms of Mughal architecture. It has particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent…

 

It inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal.

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Next up was a return to India Gate. The area around the monument was considerably more crowded than it had been on our previous visit. I took the opportunity to check out the India Gate Canopy…

The empty cupola that lines up a few meters behind India Gate presents a head-scratching mystery to the uninitiated. It does however have considerable significance in that after India declared independence in 1947, the Indian people pulled down the statue of King George V that had stood in the canopy behind India Gate, and left it empty as mute testimony to their struggle and their victory.

There followed  a lunch break at a local restaurant before we next headed for the Qutab Minar complex…

 

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Dating from the onset of Muslim rule in India the buildings offer some fine examples of Afghan architecture. Built in the early 13th century the main attraction is the red sandstone tower of Qutab Minar…

It  is 72.5 m high, tapering from 2.75 m in diameter at its peak to 14.32 m at its base…

The surrounding archaeological area contains funerary buildings, the  Tomb of Iltutmish…

…and the magnificent Alai-Darwaza Gate…  

Seen bottom right in the above photograph the Alai-Darwaza Gate was built in 1311 and is considered a masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art.

On conclusion of our visit to Qutab Minar we returned to our hotel for a free evening.

The following day we began  our journey to Agra. There were a number of stops to be made prior to departing Delhi, the first of which was The Red Fort…

 

…followed by a rickshaw ride through ‘Old Delhi’…

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…where yours truly couldn’t resist taking on the Delhi traffic…

Having fully recovered with no effect on my ‘no claims’ bonus we next headed to the iconic Jama Masjid…

One of the largest mosques in India, it was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1644 and 1656…

The mosque is considered  the best among all mosques built during the Mughal Empire as it has the best mixture of marble and limestone. There are three great gates…

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… four towers and two 40 metre high minarets each constructed of strips of red sandstone and smooth white marble…

Our final stop before heading out of Delhi was at the Gandhi Smriti…

Ghandi Smriti is a museum totally  dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. It is situated on the site where he spent the last 144 days of his life, and was assassinated on 30th January 1948…

 

Visitors can tour the building and grounds, viewing the preserved room where Gandhi lived…

…and the place on the grounds where he was shot…

Our coach journey between Delhi and Agra took just over 3 hours and on arrival we checked into the Marriot Courtyard Hotel…

…where that evening we were served an excellent ‘Al Fresco’ Indian Dinner…

Immediately after breakfast we set off from our hotel for what was promised to be a truly memorable day. Our first of three visits was to

The Taj Mahal…

We spent nearly all morning exploring this iconic ivory-white marble mausoleum…

…and its associated buildings including the Taj Mosque…

…aand the obligatory photo shoots, Group…

…and Couple…

We lunched back at the Marriot Courtyard and on completion spent the afternoon at Agra’s Red Fort…

The fort can be more accurately described as a walled city and was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty until 1638.

Once inside the additional defensive arrangements are clear to see…

It represents the combined efforts of three successive sovereigns, styles of which are represented in different buildings within the City Fort including The Jahangiri Mahal...

This sandstone palace is considered the finest of the fort’s buildings and represents many Hindu styles of architecture.

Built particularly for the royal ladies, The Khas Mahal…

 

…and a little closer…

…which also featured three marble pavilions…

…on a terrace of  white marble, that overlooked the Yamuna River.

Another magnificent building within the fort is the Diwan-i-Aam…

…or Hall of Audience, where the Mughal Emperors  received members of the general public and heard their grievances. In keeping with this tradition I could not resist holding one such audience with a group of local lads on the Diwan-i-Aam’s pillared interior…

While on the courtyard outside I discovered the grave of John Russel Colvin…

John Russell Colvin  was a British civil servant in India and Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces during the Indian rebellion of 1857.

The Agra fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is just some  2.5 km northwest of its more famous sister monument, the Taj mahal, which can be viewed from the walls…

…and with a little bit of camera zoom…

We spent one further night in Agra before  moving on to our final destination of the Golden Triangle tour, Jaipur.

 

The distance between Jaipur to Agra is 243 km by Road and a coach journey would be expected to take between four and five hours however, some 40 km west of Agra our journey had an important stop: at Fatehpur Sikri…

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Often referred to as the Mughal’s finest Folly, Fatephur Sikri is also known under the modern description… ‘the Deserted Medieval City.’

Unfortunately this magnificent fortified ancient city, an Indo-Islamic masterpiece, was to prove a short-lived (1572 – 1585) capital of the Mughal empire due to its siting  in an area that supposedly suffered from water shortages.  It was abandoned shortly after Akbar’s death.

 

 

However, amongst the many buildings and features  of Fatephu Sikri there is to be found a stunning mosque, still in use today,  three palaces – one for each of his favourite wives – one a Hindu, one a Muslim and one a Christian – and a magnificent ‘pleasure Palace’ adjacent to the harem.

The following are but a few examples of what can be seen on a visit.

Entrance to Joha Bai Palace

 

The Panch Mahal…

Worth a stab at a description. The architecture of Panch Mahal was inspired by that of a Buddhist temples. Renowned for its exceptional architecture, the Panch Mahal is situated close to the harem which, as explained by the guide,  is fitting since Panch Mahal  functioned as a pleasure palace.

 

The Treasury...

 

…with its own descriptive notice…

Worth a note is the kiosk at the left front corner of the treasury…

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A fine example of the dignified style of the period is Diwan-i-Khas, also known as the Hall of Private Audiences…

Effectively a grand chamber where Emperor Akbar held religious and political discussions. The square-shaped structure is equally popular for its intricately carved colossal central pillar…

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…which showcases a  Persian style of architecture. This building really is a must-visit for those interested in the history and architecture of the Mughal Era.

 

Fatephur Sikri is just one fascinating visit with so many buildings and styles to behold: in reality one could write a whole blog on this one visit and it is not to be missed.

Despite  earlier mentioning a problem with water it never the less didn’t prevent one rather grand water feature being built, the Anup Talao or Peerless Pool…

Located in the Mahal-i Khass courtyard, directly in front of khawabgah, Akbar’s private quarters, this is just another of the impressive sites. We were informed that the pool’s central platform once contained a raised seat covered by a pavilion.

 

All too soon we  continued towards Jaipur and, on the way, stopped at the town of Bharatpur,  for an included lunch at the Laxmi Vilas Palace Hotel…

This really was one special place…

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…before continuing on to the Marriott Jaipur…

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The following morning after a hearty breakfast…

…we set off for what was a full-on day.  Our first visit was to Jaipur’s ‘jewel in the crown’, the famous Amber Fort…

Jaipur is the capital of the Indian State of Rajasthan. The Amber Fort is actually located some 11 kilometres from Jaipur near the town of Amer. It is however,  billed as  the principal tourist attraction in Jaipur.

To reach the fort from Amer there are a number of transport options. On disembarking our coach we chose  to travel up to the fort by Jeep…

An alternative was the somewhat slower, but  more traditional Elephants…

…or the budget traveller method, Shanks’s pony. Not exactly recommended when viewed from above…

Such is the importance of Amber Fort that in 2013 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its architecture is a fusion of Rajput (Hindu) and Mughal (Islamic) styles.

Constructed from  sandstone and marble, Amber Fort consists of a series of four courtyards, palaces, halls, and gardens. At its entrance lies the primary courtyard, known as Jaleb Chowk…

 

Moving one courtyard higher one finds a particular impressive structure, the Diwan-i-Aam…

…or Hall of Public Audience. Built by Mirza Raja Jai Singh between 1631-40 it has forty pillars and is a best example of intricate craftsmanship at the fort…

This courtyard also grants access through the pretty impressive Ganesh Pol Gate entrance…

…to Aram Bagh (Garden of Pleasure)…

…where the major attraction is the Shesh Mahal or Diwan-I-Khas…

… or the hall of private audience.

Constructed during the period of Mirza Raja Jai Singh  it was also known as  Jas Mandir due to the intricate and beautiful mirror glass work on its walls and ceiling…

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The upper part of the Diwan-i-khas is known as Jas Mandir and is spell-binding in the intricate floral designs with glass in them.

The final courtyard and notable palace is that of  Raja Man Singh…

 

…with its marble Baradari Pavillion central on the courtyard…

Once again it is impossible in one blog to illustrate the whole visit experience which was quite frankly pretty stunning.

Departing Amber Fort we headed back towards Jaipur stopping fo another included lunch at the Trident Hotel on the banks of the Man Sagar Lake…

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A fortunate place to stop for lunch as it gave us the opportunity to take in the lake’s stunningly picturesque Jal Mahal Palace…

… which is an architectural showcase of the rajput style of architecture…

Our day was completed with a coach tour of Jaipur with visits to another architectural gem, the Hawa Mahal…

 

…commonly referred to as the ‘Palace of the Winds’.and the Jaipur City Palace…

 

Once the seat of kings, it was from here that they ruled the region of Rajastan. Once again we found the palace a vast complex displaying a fusion of architecture including Indian, Mughal and Rajput. Here is just a small flavour of those styles…

Chandra Mahal…

 

Mubarak Mahal…

…and a Diwan-I-Khas…

 

We eventually returned to the Marriott Jaipur for a well earned rest and another excellent evening meal.

So that concludes this particular guided experience of India’s Golden Triangle. Of course different tour companies will no doubt place different emphasis on each of the visits though it is hard to imagine that any of my included sites were to be left out.

Some companies will also complete the tour with a coach transfer back to Delhi for those heading on to linked ocean cruises – that’s a 4 hour plus road journey. In our case we stayed overnight in Jaipur and flew the following morning to Kolkatta – but that’s another subject for a future review.

 

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©2018 – 19 * Solent Richard’s Cruise Blog * All Rights Reserved

Duplication in part or whole without prior written consent is prohibited by international laws.

 

Disclosure to potential conflict of interest:

It is common throughout the travel industry for travel journalists and many cruise bloggers to be provided with complimentary cruises for the purpose of their reviews.

Solent Richard has no ‘conflict of interest’ as he is not an accredited journalist, he pays for his cruises, and is happy to confirm that all his reviews are his own given without fear or favour.

7 responses to “India’s Golden Triangle

  1. Brilliant photos as usual Richard. This is on my bucket list but I feel as though I don’t need to go as much after looking at so many lovely places you visited. I save all your reviews and look at them occasionally as they have a very therapeutic effect for me. Keep them coming.

  2. Hello Richard

    We have just returned from a cruise visit to Hawaii and wish to thank you for your recommendation of the tours – Roberts to Waimea Canyon and from Hilo Big Island Aina Tours. Both small groups and good value.

    Regards

    Paul

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  3. That’s fantastic Richard. Just got it done in time before your next one😉 Speak soon P&V x

    Sent from my iPad

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  4. Enjoyed your review and outline of your itinerary for India’s Golden Triangle. Would love to know which company you were with and what time of year. It looks like good weather and not overcrowded. Thank you, higmerle@aol.com

    Sent from my iToy

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  5. Another great review Richard. Brought back many happy memories of our tour of India in 1996. I must look at our photos sgain when we get home.

    John

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