Asia, India, Travel

Traveling Through India – New Delhi

From the end of October until the first week in November, my other half and I went to India to see his extended family, as well as see some of the most iconic places in the world.  In my last post, I focused on all of the need-to know essentials on how to travel to and from India.  In this post, I’m focusing on all that we experienced in New Delhi, giving you some helpful tips on where to visit, shop, and dine!

Things to See

There is SO MUCH BEAUTY in Delhi!  Most believe that Delhi is overrun with people and debris, which can be true in sections.  However, there are many areas, filled with grass, trees, and quiet splendor as well!  Below are the places we visited, all of which I highly recommend.

Lodi Gardens (free admission)

This was the very first thing we did when we got to Delhi!  The Lodi Gardens are best viewed in the morning – there are far less people, giving you plenty of time (and space) to walk around and enjoy the grounds and temples!

 

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Indira Gandhi Memorial (free admission)

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The Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum is one of the  most powerful museums I have walked through.  Her former home gives you a glimpse into not only how she lived her life, but also how she impacted an entire country. The artifacts included are unapologetic and very emotional, ending the tour with a glass block over the exact part of the walkway she was assassinated on.

Secretariat Building and Surrounding Government Buildings

If you have ever been to Washington, D.C., you will think the buildings here are impressive… until you go to Delhi.  The red sandstone buildings and British architecture are a beautiful wonder!  If you have the time, take a walk around the buildings and down to the India Gate.

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India Gate (free admission)

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The India Gate and its surrounding grassy areas (Krishi Bhawan) are easily one of my favorite parts of Delhi.  People come from all over the world, picnic in the parks, practice yoga, and spend time with friends.  The India Gate is also host to many parades and many protests.  I highly encourage spending your morning or afternoon there, taking in all of the scenery.

Lotus Temple (free admission)

Built to invite all faiths to pray together, the Lotus Temple (Ba’hai House of Worship) is one of the best hidden gems of Delhi!  Once inside, no shoes (they will give you a bag to carry them), talking, or pictures are allowed.  Instead, people come to pray to their own deity, making this one of many places that fosters peaceful coexistence.

ISKCON – a Hare Krishna Temple (free admission)

From the Lotus Temple, you can see the tops of the ISKCON buildings – arguably one of the biggest religious compounds I had seen in Delhi.

While the temple was closed for services, the surrounding areas were available to walk through.  While I have never been to other parts of Asia, the architecture is unmistakable far east influence. It’s stunning and very peaceful.

NOTE: In order to visit the higher grounds, closer to the temple, you must remove your shoes.

Raj Ghat – Gandhi Memorial and Museum (free admission)

Every leader from around the world pays his or her respects to Gandhi when they visit Delhi.  The memorial grounds are simple with an eternal flame, flickering over his tomb. It’s very peaceful.

The museum gives a detailed account of his entire life with artifacts throughout, including the jeep that transported his body.  It’s very powerful and very moving.  If you’re short on time, at least visit the Memorial.

NOTE: No shoes at the memorial.  They will collect them upon entrance and return them to you when you return (it will be a couple of rupees as a tip when you collect them).

Qutub Minar and its Temples (500 rs per foreign visitor)

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In Old Delhi, is a very old and very large UNESCO Heritage site.  Built by the Mughals (Muslims) in 1192, the Qutub Minar and its temples are still standing today, giving visitors a glimpse into India’s very early religious history.  The Minar (tower) is an architectural wonder of the world, still standing upright as though it wasn’t built all that long ago.  Its grounds are very reminiscent of Pompeii to me, as it’s expansive, still much in-tact, and gives you a glimpse into how people lived almost nine centuries ago.

Red Fort (520rs per foreign visitor)

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Much like how important political happenings, take place on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., many important announcements are still made at the Red Fort.  It’s a place where many Indians, from all over India, come here to learn more about their country and how it has evolved.

While the buildings themselves are in a poor state of upkeep, it is very interesting to see the different political/architectural influences from different periods of rule, including Muslim and British.

Places to Shop

Gaffar Market

The Gaffar Market is in one of the oldest parts of Delhi, and also happens to be one of the largest hubs of purchasing just about anything you could need. You can get lost in the alleyways, checking out all the different stalls, or heading into any number of stores.  BUT, it’s a MUST to bring your A-game when it comes to haggling.  For $150, I was able to obtain a complete, hand-made Lehenga(see below) at New Handloom Emporium, a crystal-covered clutch, a hairdryer, nail polish, and a traditional jewelry set.  To provide reference, it would cost upwards of almost $600-$1000 elsewhere.

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My traditional outfit for a Diwali party

For men, there are great genuine leather shoes, hand-made for about $50 a pair; polo shirts for $15-$20, jeans for $20-$30, etc.

FOOD TIP: Make sure to visit Khurana Restaurant for the best Tandoori Chicken you will ever have.  Do not order anything else.

Lajpat Nagar

Lajpat Nagar sits in another section of Old Delhi and since we went on Diwali, it was mass chaos, due to fire sales.  It is one of the best markets for costume jewelry and textiles.  For $20, I bought to cocktail rings and a crystal hair clip to complete my outfit.  It easily would have cost $40-$50 elsewhere.  I already know I will go back there when I visit India again, bringing a separate suitcase for all the jewelry and home wares I want to buy.

FOOD TIP: Try Bhutta (corn on the coals).  It is the traditional way to cook corn and it tastes amazing.

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DLF Malls

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If you are a creature of comfort and need more modern day shopping facilities, head over to DLF.  It literally houses every brand you can think of, from Tom Ford, to Christian Louboutin, to Louis Vuitton, all the way to Zara (which is where I went).  While I have no idea on prices for most of these stores, I can tell you that Zara is cheaper, based on the dollar conversion rate.  It was also the day after Diwali, which meant big sales!

For The Best Sweets In Town

EVERYONE heads to Haldirams for all of their traditional sweets.  The one in Delhi also has a small cafe to eat there.  I’ve come to love all traditional sweets (that are gluten-free anyway), with my favorite being Burfi.  If you go, ask for the pink and white (coconut) or the traditional silver leaf.  Both are amazing and quite addicting!

Places to Dine

Varq

We were very fortunate to be staying with family during this trip, so most of our meals were at home, with the exception of one very special evening, where we celebrated our first anniversary at Varq.  Located in the Taj Mahal Hotel on Mansingh, this was hands-down the best dining experience we have ever had.  For $300 for two people (with tip), we were treated to a five-course meal, a special anniversary cake, rose tea (with a gift of it to take home with us), and drinks.  I strongly suggest going there for dinner (even if you order a la carte) for not just the food, but the atmosphere, and staff as well.  I’ve eaten at some of the best places all over the world (food is an EXPERIENCE in my opinion – and I live for this), and this was hands-down, the most unparalleled experience we’ve had, to-date.  Rajesh Kumar Singh, the Sous Chef, made sure to visit with us on multiple occasions, during our experience, to not only make sure I understood the ingredients I was eating (I have a severe gluten allergy), but also to ensure that our food was exactly what we had hoped for (which blew away any expectations we might have had).  This was in addition to the extreme kindness of our wait staff, as well as Rashminder Singh – the Guest Service Supervisor, who ensured we were provided with everything we needed.  This is a MUST DO, when in New Delhi.

Havemore

Havemore is literally the only restaurant in Delhi that is open late night. It’s a Chinese restaurant that has been serving the party crowd, since 1959.  Do not leave there without eating the Butter Chicken – it is the best you will find in Delhi.  Our family even took the leftover sauce home to use on rice the next day!

Other Places to Try

Next time we come back, we fully plan on doing a food tour of some of the top places in New Delhi.  If you get there before us, here is a short list of places to try:

 

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