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India's Golden Triangle
Each end of the Golden Triangle brings with it something unique. Delhi is a complex, cosmopolitan hub, known for its robust nightlife and food culture, as well as some of the country’s most impressive Mughal architecture. Agra is wrapped in tradition and home to the Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Colorful Jaipur is often referred to as the Pink City, for the pink sandstone facade of its old walled town, and is home to some of the most stunning palaces and forts you’ll ever see, as well as a network of bright bazaars that offer everything from precious gemstones to hand-dyed scarves.
Over the centuries, Delhi has entertained warring dynasties, visionary rulers, a colonial power, and pioneered the freedom struggle. Explore these different eras, from the 15th-century Lodhi Gardens and ruins, to the Mughal emperor residence of the Red Fort, to the colonial-era splendor of Rajpath, with its array of impressive buildings and landscaped gardens. Jaipur has her own story, one of pink sandstone and opulence. This is a land steeped in royalty—of palaces and forts (particularly the Amber Fort) and an old city encased within pink walls. Finally, you have Agra, home to the marble Taj Mahal, a memorial for the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan's beloved late wife and one of the finest monuments in the country.
The Golden Triangle is known for its Mughlai and North Indian cuisine—rich, creamy curries such as dal makhani (lentils) and butter chicken, plenty of chickpeas and lamb, tandoori dishes, and kebab skewers, all served with a choice of flatbreads and a variety of rice preparations. No meal is complete without a tall glass of lassi, a yogurt drink. The region is also known for its thriving street food culture. These quick meals, often known as chaat, are easy on the pocket and packed with taste. A good chaat dish combines sweet, savory, and tangy flavors. Try the region’s signature chole tikki: potato patties served with a hot chickpea curry and tangy chutney, garnished with onion rings and coriander.
There may be history, politics, religion, and family, but nothing drives passions here quite like Bollywood movies and cricket. Impromptu cricket matches take over small streets and open squares, while Bollywood songs blare out from rickshaws and loudspeakers and ricochet around cities. There is no escaping either, so give in and enjoy. Watch a movie at one of the plush cinemas in any city (usually located in a mall), or watch a game of cricket at the stadium; if you’re lucky, the fast-paced short format (T20) might be whipping up a frenzy at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, or at Jaipur’s Sawai Mansingh stadium.
The shopping in Delhi and Jaipur begins on the street and extends all the way to the upscale boutiques. Delhi swears by Connaught Place and Khan Market for soft furnishings, retail garments, and tailor shops. For more eclectic fare—think bohemian kaftans and beaded sandals—try Janpath's Indian and Tibetan stalls. Delhi’s state-run emporiums are a good bet for quality Indian handcrafts: carpets, metal, and woodwork. Similarly, the bazaars of Jaipur are a must-experience. They line the streets and squares of the old quarter, and are great for dyed fabrics, leatherwork (including footwear), and antiques. Jaipur’s famed gemstone workshops are also worth a visit. Haggling is expected, the only exception being the emporiums and malls.
The best time to visit is from October to March. Summer temperatures reach over 100 degrees and winters go down to 40 degrees and below. Fly in via Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport, and out from Jaipur’s Sanganer International Airport. An advance visa is required by all nationalities. Get around in private and public taxis, and in rickshaws. (Delhi also has the Metro.) It is possible to get by on English. All local transactions require the Indian rupee, and ATMs are readily available. Hotels, big stores, and emporiums accept credit cards, but bazaars might not. It is common to tip 10% at restaurants. Electricity is 220 volts; bring suitable adaptors if necessary.