Few countries in the world offer as diverse a travelling experience to backpackers and other tourists as India. You can spend months exploring the country’s various climates, geography, food and history and barely scratch the surface.
The first point of arrival for backpackers will be the cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. These form the ‘Golden Triangle’ of India’s most visited cities. They lie about 200 to 250 kilometres apart and form the points of an equilateral triangle on the map.
The traffic and noise of Delhi gives Western backpackers a real culture shock. You’ll share the streets with rickshaws, beggars, wedding parties, street vendors and spice merchants.
The Red Fort dominates Delhi and is the city’s most famous and crowded, historical monument. Built by the Mughal emperors to guard the city, it was captured in later years by Sikhs and the British.
Humayan’s Tomb, the grave of the second Mughal emperor, dates from 1570 and was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal in Agra. The Qutab Minar in Delhi is the tallest brick minaret in the world. It was built 1206 for reasons that remain unclear. It could have been to mark the beginning of Mughal rule in India or just for calling the faithful to prayer.
The Jama Masjud in the Old City is India’s largest mosque. A climb to the top of the southern tower comes with the reward of a stunning view over the city. You can see more of Delhi’s bustle at the Chandi Chowk, the Old City’s principal street. One of the oldest markets in India, it sells everything from textiles to computers.
New Delhi, built by the British, consists of straight, broad boulevards. Walk along the main road, the Rajpath, in the evening towards the India Gate. This arch is flood lit in the evenings and commemorates Indian soldiers who died in the Afghan wars and World War I.
Jaipur is India’s ‘pink city’ and the old capital of Rajasthan. The city is surrounded by a huge pink wall with seven gates. It is full of ancient forts and palaces with exquisite decorations. The City Palace, with its magnificent Peacock Gate, was the residence of Jaipur’s royal family. The family’s descendants still live in the Moon Palace by the main courtyard.
The Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds, is not so much a palace as a highly decorated wall. Its name derives from the small windows and screens through which the wind could blow. The Palace overlooks the old city and women from the royal house could watch the street life without being observed.
The Amber Fort is just a half hour’s drive from Jaipur’s city centre on a hill overlooking Maota Lake. This was the seat of the Rajput royal family before Jaipur was built.
Once the capital of Hindustan and today in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Agra is famous for the Taj Mahal. This is the mausoleum built with white marble on the banks of the River Yamuna. It was commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
The centre of the city is dominated by the Agra’s Fort, which stands on the west bank of the River Yamuna. The other famous river monument is the Itmad-Ud-Daulah, or ‘Baby Taj’. Built of marble, it is the tomb of Mirza Ghyjas Beg, the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal.
You can escape the cities for the steep cliffs, waterfalls and mountain air of Darjeeling in West Bengal state in the foothills of the Himalayas. On a clear day, you will be able to see Mount Everest in Nepal.
Built as a hill station by the British, Darjeeling’s world fame comes from its tea. You could go trekking in the hills, take a train or walk through evergreen and alpine forests. Visit Buddhist villages and monasteries along the way through mountains and valleys and see the sunset from Tiger Hill, just 15 kilometres from Darjeeling town.
The hills in Munnar in Kerala state in southern India are also popular with backpackers. There are cardamom, coffee and tea plantations and green hills everywhere. Located at the confluence of three rivers, Munnar was a favourite holiday destination for the British in south India. There are lots of opportunities for trekking and mountain biking.
Eravikulum National Park, about 15 kilometres from Munnar, is home to the Nilgiri Tahr, a species of ibex and other rare animals, butterflies and birds. Arrange a trip when the hill slopes are covered with purple-blue Neelakurinji blossoms. This shrub flowers just once every 12 years and was used by local people to calculate their ageGuest post written by TravelSupermarket, where you can find cheap flights to India.