48 hours in New Delhi, India
India. Where do I even begin? The country of my birth, the place I still think of when I say "home" and one of the most Instagrammable places on the planet! During the 2017 Holiday Season, I went on a trip to North West India. We covered 9 cities in about a span of 21 days. Little did I know that through these 21 days, I'd feel, hear, sense not just different cultures and experiences but so many different emotions. I'm penning my journey across these beautiful places for travelers who wish to visit them and also for travelers who have been here but may like to see it from my perspective. Happy reading!
Delhi, or "Dilli" as the locals would call it has been on my places to visit for as far as I can remember. Learning about Indian history growing up, the Mughal dynasty and India's seat of power, Delhi embodies a kind of whimsical yet ancient vibe. Being India's #1 metropolitan city and boasting a population of 4.6 million people, Delhi has grown into an eclectic hub of culture, arts and urban jaunts.
Qutub Minar Complex
Head to the Qutub Complex to check out the Qutub Minar and the surrounding ruins. This place gets crowded quickly so avoid public holidays and head early right after breakfast. Tickets are available at the entrance without much of a wait.
Housed in Mehrauli, the Qutub Minar complex, the Minar-et is a five story tall victory structure and a UNESCO world heritage site. Read more about the history and significance here.
The Qutub Minar complex shouldn't take more than ~1hr. Most Indian monuments also have tour guides licensed by the Tourism of India. Make sure to bargain on their fees though, as with everything in India :)
The tomb of Mughal emperor Humayun was commissioned by his first wife and is located not too far from the Qutub Minar. Starting in South Delhi, we worked our way up through north east in a circle touching all the major historical check points. Read more about the tomb here.
After a quick lunch break at Bengali Sweet House (try Chole-Kulche + Moong Daal halwa) and a drive by India Gate , we headed to Old Delhi. The Indian capital is home to one of the busiest and oldest markets known as Chandni Chowk. This part of Delhi is also where the iconic mosque -The Jama Masjid is located.
A common name for "main mosque of the square", or Jama Masjid, this stunning and historic mosque is an experience in itself. With bustling Chandni Chowk on one end and peaceful prayer offerings on the other, there couldn't have been a more fitting analogy for India - the calm alongside the chaos.
You'll need to take off your shoes outside and leave them with a shoekeeper for a small fee. Head inside and take in the atmosphere of faith. I climbed up 120 steps to one of the four minarets to get a view of the city with Chandni Chowk in the background - worth every "step"!
This jam packed market is like nothing I have ever seen! Having heard so much about Chandni Chowk and kinda romanticizing it in my head, here are some helpful tips:
-Do NOT, and I repeat do NOT try to transport yourself in there via wheels. Get off at the opening on the Red Fort end and walk your way through. Traffic jams in this area are terrible and you will be stuck in the same square foot of space for over an hour. Walking is the best way to explore this square.
-Go before sundown and be vigilant of personal belongings. Avoid the mosque prayer rush
-Grab a snack - get into the "Parathe waali galli" (alley) and enjoy some piping hot pudina parathas. Try and ignore the ahem, not very clean, surroundings - tell yourself the parathas will be worth it!
Red Fort, Lodi Gardens, Janpath & Hauz Khas Village
Our second day was a lot more relaxed with majority of big sights out of the way! After an early breakfast we headed to the Red Fort. I did not take the tour or go inside but you could most definitely hire a guide and do so. Checking that off the list and making our way back down to South Delhi, we stopped by Janpath - another bustling market perfect for Indian street fashion, trinkets, jewelry and those souvenirs to grab for friends and family back home!
The evening ended with a relaxing sprawl and stretch at Lodi Gardens followed by dinner & drinks at Hauz Khas Village.
Hotel Ashok, Chanakyapuri, South New Delhi - This is where I stayed. Medium sized budget (USD 70-80 per night) and a great location close to the major attractions. An Indian and Continental breakfast is included but don't count on loving it!
Kunzum Travel Cafe - in Hauz Khas village and great for an afternoon tea and cookies refresher
Social, in HKV is another popular jaunt for light cocktails and international snack food
Kwality or Haldiram's, at Connaught Place for an authentic Punjabi grub
A paratha or FIVE at Parathe waali gali in Chandni Chowk - your reward for beating through some nasty crowds. Also have the Daulat ki Chaat whilst here - a whipped souffle of goodness!
Before heading to Delhi, I knew of some iconic stores I wanted to drop by. These are a mix of Instagram discoveries and designer stores (to window shop ofcourse)
South Delhi is the best for Indian clothes both a mix of boutique and designer wear.
Needledust in Shahpur Jat, south Delhi for the most iconic Juttis (Indian ballet flats). Honestly, I looked all over my trip for flats like these, but so happy I found these in Delhi - worth every penny!
Ogaan, in Hauz Khas Village all your designer Indian wares under one roof and just a great place to feast the eyes!
Biba, which is found India-wide but the collections in Delhi are a personal favorite
-Take a pollution mask before you go - Indian people reading this, yes you too! The ones you get in India are no good so don't go hunting for one - A regular surgical one is OK too, you will need it
-Uber it, for the most part. The rickshaw (three wheeler) rides are a good one time experience but with the traffic noise and pollution, can wear you out. UBERs are cheap and convenient
-Speaking of noise pollution - take earbuds - no seriously, even Indian people! The traffic honks can get to you after a point
-Bargain like your life depends on it! Chances are if you're white or look like you're not a local, you'll get charged 10x the rate on anything. Rides, wares, you name it! Don't be afraid to cut price by 50% and work your way from there. If you don't reach an agreement, start walking pal - there's more fish in the sea ;)
-Take breaks to eat and drink! The culinary experience is a large part of what makes India so fun to travel in. Enjoy the cuisine and use the time to refresh frequently. The crowds and jostling can wear you out quicker than you'd expect
-For good Instagram photos, get to the historic monuments when they open aka SUNRISE or close to it! Most indian monuments open at the crack of dawn and close by sunset. Considering India's population, those insta moments will get photobombed if you go later in the day so plan accordingly. 7:00-8:30am is a good chunk of time to get photos out of the way!