National Geographic Traveller (UK)


Taking in myriad forms of architectu­re, including Mughal forts, mausoleums, havelis, palaces, mosques and temples, the Golden Triangle route between Delhi, Agra and Jaipur is a journey into India’s history, craftsmans­hip and culture


Getting to know Delhi

India’s capital city, built and rebuilt upon the rubble of Sufi shrines and Mughal tombs, is home to bazaars, swathes of jungle and parks with bougainvil­lea-draped tombs. From Haveli Dharampura — a boutique hotel in a restored 19th-century mansion in the heart of Old Delhi — it’s a 10-minute walk towards the sound of hissing karahis in the food haven of Matia Mahal Bazar, where mutton burra kebabs and silk-soft roti are served at Karim’s. Lodhi Gardens is a popular spot for dawn joggers and evening amblers, while Sunder Nursery feels like a national park due to the 40 varieties of butterfly that flit between flaming gulmohar trees, ponds and flowerbeds. For a nightmarke­t experience, head to Dilli Haat, an openair bazaar where crafts and snacks from every Indian state include Mirzapur rugs, camel-hair blankets, mirrored bedspreads and Assamese steamed fish. havelidhar­ sundernurs­ delhitouri­

Moving on to Agra

The daily Gatimaan Express, the fastest train operating in India, departs from Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin station just after 8am. This service, with its wide, comfy seats and wi-fi, takes just one hour and 40 minutes to pull into Agra Cantonment station. Sipping milky coffee and snacking on cutlet sandwiches, passengers watch as the BMWs and malls of Delhi morph into bullock carts and maize fields.

On arrival in Agra, you can take a taxi to the Itmad-ud-Daulah tomb, a Mughal mausoleum known as the Baby Taj, which overlooks the Yamuna River. Follow this with a wander around the gardens at Mehtab Bagh before the midday sun hits its peak. It’s typical to visit the Taj Mahal at dawn, but nothing beats the sight of the world’s most magnificen­t mausoleum by moonlight. For five days a month (on the night of the full moon, two nights before and two nights after), eight groups of a maximum of 50 people are granted entry between 8.30pm and 12.30am. With so few visitors, a hush falls on the grounds as the Taj basks in a blue glow.

An early morning departure for Jaipur Dawn trains offer travellers front-row seats to the performanc­es that they would miss by air or car. Departing Agra at 6am, the Agra Fort-Ajmer Intercity SF Express rolls west into Rajasthan as shutters fly up on shops, chaiwallah­s ladle steaming yards of tea into glasses, and wet-haired schoolchil­dren wave from buses. In just over four hours, the fast service reaches Jaipur Junction, from where it’s a short auto-rickshaw ride into the heart of the Pink City, so named due to the unusual pigment in its sandstone palaces, houses and ramparts. Home to artisanal jewellery, the ancient art of block printing, and striking blue pottery, Jaipur is a shopper’s delight.

Base yourself at the five-star Leela Palace hotel, take a tour of Amer Fort, then visit

Ridhi Sidhi Textiles on Amer Road for blockprint­ed quilts, placemats and pyjamas. For funky shirts, trousers and hats, ask for Sachi Badaya, the owner’s niece, who set up her own boutique during lockdown. Finally, stop by Ram Gopal Blue Pottery, where Garima Saini and her father Gopal make everything from chest-high urns to toothbrush holders, coasters and doorknobs. To make the most of the Indian train experience, choose the daily Ranikhet Express to return to Delhi. Leaving at around 3.30pm, the slower service allows passengers to snooze in a berth, wander the aisles and bask on the steps in the warmth of the evening sun as the train winds through the desert. @ridhisidhi­textile @bisoubysac­hi @ramgopalbl­uepottery

Clockwise from top left: A travelling ticket inspector, fondly known as a ‘TT’; the Taj Mahal in Agra, built in the 17th century by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz

Mahal; a tabla player greets guests at the Leela Palace hotel, Jaipur; visitors bring offerings to

Galtaji Temple, Jaipur

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom