Delhi is a canvas that portrays the complexities, beauty and dynamism of a city. It is India's most historic city, with a past complex, grand, tragic and layered. And if it was gorgeous by day before, at last it's also buzzing by night-a slew of clubs, pubs, stylish lounge bars and discotheques are kept in business till the wee hours.
In Delhi, old and new mix with ease- the historic past coexists with a vibrant present. Here is a melting pot of India's varied regional cultures. Come discover the many cities of Delhi.
The most powerful city in India is only getting more powerful, stronger and better. Welcome to the capital of a 'continent'- a sprawling metropolis in India's North, generously scattered with gardens and monuments, and one of the most beautiful urban centres in the world.
Delhi is built on an ancient site. Mention is made in the Indian epic Mahabharata of a great city of the Pandava clan - Indraprastha. The site of this mythical city supposedly lies inside Delhi.
But Delhi as we know it is primarily a Mughal creation. It is their labour of love, a city where, under their patronage, art and culture reached a zenith. Some of that earlier flavor can still be captured in the Old City.
The earliest reference to Delhi is to the citadel of Lal Kot and the city of Dhilika (c.1052 AD). The Chauhans occupied it during 1153-64 AD, establishing the first proper city here - Qila Rai Pithora. A succession of rulers and cities followed- Qutub, Siri, Tughlaqbad, Jahanpanah, Firozabad and Dinpanah. Remains of all these can be admired to this day. Shahjahanabad is the eight historic city of Delhi and the only one inhabited even today.
Originally Shahjahanabad, Old Delhi was built by the most romantic of the Mughals, Shah Jahan (who also built the Taj Mahal). It contains wonders like the Red Fort, Jama Masjid (the largest mosque in India) and the signature residences of Muslim nobility, the havelis..
The Son-et-lumiere at the Red Fort is a must- watch. Roam around Chandni Chowk, a market with slim, winding lanes-one devoted to books, another to Parathas (fried Indian bread) and so on. The Sunday pavement book bazaar in Daryaganj is a Delhi institution.
The British built New Delhi in the early 20th century. Designed by the British architect Edwin Lutyens, it was to be a symbol of the powerful British Empire. Ironically, the British didn't occupy it long.
New Delhi was conceived as a garden city of tree-lined avenues and lime-washed bungalows designed to handle the assault of an Indian summer. And such it is even today, being one of the few urban settlements in the world where the central parts are cooler than the periphery. From Vijay Chowk, at the base of Raisina hill, one can see a slew of Raj edifices- Rashtrapati Bhavan (the erstwhile Viceroy's Palace, now the residence of the Indian President), the North and South Blocks (housing Ministries), Parliament and India Gate. The road connecting Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate is Rajpath, where the grand Republic Day parade is held.
Monuments major and minor are scattered all over Delhi. Purani Dilli (Old Delhi) is a natural starting point with the most important cluster, described earlier. The Mehrauli area in the far south dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. The exotic minaret - Qutub Minar - an enduring Delhi icon, is located here.
The tomb of the saint Nizamuddin Auliya is a great draw, especially during the annual Urs festival. Nearby is the world heritage Humayun's Tomb. Rajghat is a memorial to the Father of the Nation, the peace apostle Mahatma Gandhi. Jantar Mantar is an observatory that tracks the movements of heavenly bodies, a triumph of Indian astronomy.
Modern- day wonders include the Lotus Temple. Delhi is home to a large community of Sikhs, and they have built lovely gurdwaras here, like Bangla Sahib in Connaught Place (CP). Other sites include Safdarjung's Tomb, Lodhi Garden and the Tughlaqabad Fort.
Like any proud capital, Delhi has its share of excellent and unusual museums. Do visit the National Museum, Rail Museum, International Dolls Museum and the National Gallery of Modern Art.
The Crafts Museum, with its mud architecture, is striking.
Spread over 20 acres at Said- ul- Azaib village near the Mehrauli heritage area, the Garden of Five Senses is not just a Park- it's a celebration of aesthetic expression and appreciation. With majestic rocks standing silhouetted against the sky, the Park, which opened in 2003, is a public leisure space that awakens a sensory response and sensitivity to the environment. Areas of the park include Khas Bagh( a formal garden modeled on the Mughal Garden),a food and shopping court, Trail of Fragrance, Neel Bagh (a pool of water lilies with hundreds of ceramic bells chiming above) and Colour Garden. Around 25 sculptures and murals in the park comprise one of the largest commissions of public art in the country. The garden is open on all days, from 6 am to 9 pm.
Delightful dining at local fare, this is the order of the day. Delhi has some of the best restaurants offering every major international cuisine from across the globe.
Radisson Hotel Delhi: For visitors flying into Delhi, Radisson Hotel Delhi is the perfect choice. Afive- star deluxe hotel, with a fine selection of restaurants and just minutes from the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Radisson is sure to suit your needs.
The Great Kabab Factory: Truly a Mecca for all Kabab lovers, the restaurant offers the largest variety of Kababs complimented by a wide selection of Indian breads, lentils and biryanis. Open, for dinner only, from 7pm to 1pm.
I'Ching: Treat your taste buds to some authentic Chinese cuisine. Enjoy the view of a landscaped Chinese Garden while relishing the widest selection of seafood and vegetarian dishes prepared just for you.
Italianni's: Famous for its Italian cuisine, it features an array of regional Italian dishes with a unique wine list to compliment the food.
Other equally excellent restaurants at the hotel are the NYC-the 24 hour Fun Café, the Coffee Shop, the Savannah Bar and the Tea Lounge.
For ethnic Punjabi cuisine step into Punjabi By Nature, a restaurant cum bar located both in Vasant Vihar and Noida which serves many delightful culinary adventures.
For Delhi's definitive culinary experience head for Karim's, in a narrow lane south of Jama Masjid.
Delhi is a city devoted to shopping. There are markets everywhere- some are hundreds of years old-like Chandni Chowk. Designed as a set of concentric circles, Connaught Place (C.P.) is located in the heart of the city. The colossal white colonial- style buildings house fancy shops and restaurants.
The ever-popular Dilli Haat is a six- acre retreat of landscaped brick and terracotta, displaying various crafts, cuisine and cultures of ethnic rural India.
There's good news for shopaholics. A state government directive now allows shops to stay open till 11pm. Many markets have welcomed the move. A Night Bazaar – just for tourists- is also on the cards.
A range of festivals held in Delhi encapsulate not just the delights of this city but the flavours of an entire nation. Look out for Folk Music, Kite, Theatre, Jahn-e-Khusrau, Chandni Chowk , Qutub and – yes- Mango festivals. There's even a Sherbet Mela and a pageant of the flower-sellers called Phoolwalon- ki- Sair. The Trade Fair and Auto Expo are events on a massive scale.
Do local sightseeing with ITP. Included are all the major sights. The morning half includes Jantar Mantar, Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Qutub Minar, Bahai's House of Worship (Lotus Temple) and Safdarjung's Tomb. The tour continues post-lunch to the Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Rajghat and Humayun's Tomb. Also on offer is a Same-Day Trip to Agra and a one- and- a –half day tour of Haridwar and Rishikesh. The three- day Golden Triangle tour takes in Agra and Jaipur together.
There are over 15 golf courses in and around Delhi, making it a great destination for leisurely golfing include the holidays. Golf courses the Delhi Golf Club, Army Golf Club, Air Force Golf Club, Qutub Golf Course and the Noida Golf Course. New golf resorts include the Classic Golf and Country Club, the DLF Golf and Country Club, Golden Greens, and the Jaypee Greens Golf Resort.
Delhi has the best hospitals and medical facilities in India. The government- run All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is the country's premier health institution. But what's really attracting visitors from all over the world is the slew of private hospitals that have opened up all over Delhi in recent years. Here international level healthcare is provided at affordable prices.
With India Tour Packages, you don't just explore Delhi, you discover India as well. On offer are many exciting ex- Delhi getaways in the surrounding states. There are tours to shrines like Badrinath and Kedarnath, hill jaunts which take you to Shimla, Manali, Dharamshala, Dalhousie and Mussoorie and popular destination in Rajasthan and Gujrat. Three exciting new getaway packages are Delhi- Amritsar- Wagha- Chandigarh (four days), Delhi- Anandpur Sahib- Jwalamukhi- Dharamshala- Kangra (four days) and Vrindavan- Gokul (same day) .
Delhi is a destination for the adventure- loving too. A water-sports and leisure complex at Bhaleswa lake offers hovercraft and shikara rides, water scooters, canoeing and pedal boating. Fibreglass boats can be hired at Rasad Nagar lake, India Gate water channels, Naini lake, Old Fort water channels and Hari Nagar lake. Fun- filled camping packages are offered at Azad Hind Gram. Trekking is offered in the Himalayas, which are near the capital. Rock climbers can put their skills to the test at Delhi Tourism's Adventure Park, Lado Sarai. Rock- climbing experiences (one to four days) are offered at Dhauj in adjoining Haryana. Parasailing is organized at Safdarjung Airport.