If it is your first time in India I’d recommend a tour of India’s Golden Triangle, a popular tourist route exploring Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. With a plethora of iconic landmarks and some of India’s best photo spots, India’s Golden Triangle is a great way to get your first taste of an exciting and culturally rich destination! Wondering what to do in India’s Golden Triangle? Keep reading!
While on this trip, I traveled with a tribe of 10. We spent about 8 full days exploring Northern India with a guide, a bus, and a full itinerary, making sure to stop at all of India’s best photo spots. The plan was to add a stopover in Ranthambore for a highly anticipated tiger safari. T
We may have missed out on seeing tigers but we made sure to snap a lot of insta-worthy photos. We had a great time exploring the streets on rickshaws, haggling our way into many magazine-worthy outfit deals, soaking up the culture, trying loads of unique food options, soaking in the beauty of the Taj Mahal and of course taking plenty of photos to document our journey!
Delhi was our base for flights in and out of India. We traveled between cities by mid-size bus along with a local guide. The first day I arrived I was looking forward to soaking up all the culture and attempted to tour the heart of New Delhi. Actually, the first day was spent sleeping and relaxing at the spa, recovering from my intense lack of sleep. BEST decision ever!
My first attempt at exploring Delhi was cut short due to some unforeseen closures. We ended up walking around the area for about an hour getting lost in the streets filled with markets, people, power lines and rickshaws. It was pretty intense and hot but I loved the experience!
What to see in Delhi:
- The Red Fort- Where to go for haggle-free shopping
- Raj Ghat– Memorial site of Mahatma Gandhi
- Jama Masjid Mosque– No cameras here unless you pay additional $300 rupees upon entrance
- Humayun’s Tomb– We ran out of time to tour this but I hear it is a very lovely and peaceful tomb to visit.
What to Know:
- Rickshaw rides around the markets should cost around $200 Rupees (about $4 US dollars) do it once for the excitement!
- You can get Ubers but the streets are chaotic so I’d recommend a private driver if you can
- If your linked Uber credit card does not work, be careful you don’t pay more in cash, drivers can be tricky
- Taxis are known to rip people off and are considered unsafe after sunset
- Be aware of what day temples, forts, and Mosques close. A quick google search will tell you
- The Red Fort is closed on Mondays- no matter what your concierge says you don’t want to walk around the gate
Land of the Taj Mahal and the lesser know but still impressive Agra Fort. This was our 2nd stop on India’s Golden Triangle route, but with some of the most spectacular sights.
The Taj Mahal is such a sight to see. It really is more beautiful in person than I have ever seen in photos. There are a lot of vantage points to the Taj. Among them, the Agra Fort, the Mehtab Bagh Gardens (best at sunset) and also from the Yamuna River….get lucky and catch an “illegal” $15 boat ride for that Insta famous money shot. Rooftops with great views are sprinkled all over the city as well. It’s a no brainer the Taj is one of India’s best photo spots.
What to see in Agra:
- Agra Fort- Fort of historical significance, worth a visit for the Taj views and Mughal architecture
- Taj Mahal– Nough said!
- I’timad-ud-Daulah a.k.a Baby Taj – Tomb of Mizra Ghiyas Beg
- Mehtab Bagh– Gardens with a famous Taj view.
What to Know:
- The Taj Mahal is closed to the public on Fridays. Open only to Muslims for prayer
- No shoes on the marble. You have to take your shoes off to walk along the grounds once you pass the pools
- The gates to the Taj Mahal open at sunrise, lines form by 5 am. Get there by 4 am to be the 1st inline to get people-less photos
- No tripods allowed
- Bags are allowed but are required to be checked in another line. It just wastes time so avoid it.
- If you are flying solo or want creative shots you might not otherwise think about you can pay a local to take photos of you. They will be walking around the grounds just ask one (if they don’t ask you first)!
Where you want to go for a chance to see Bengal tigers in their natural habitat. Too bad we didn’t see any tigers but we saw plenty of Monkeys.
What to see in Ranthanbore:
- Ranthambore Tiger Reserve-the main reason to spend a few nights here
- Ranthambhore Fort-Best for views of the National Park
- Village woman’s Crafts– Local craft shops that are said to support woman around the area
What to Know:
- Woman craft shops promised hand made goods. With exception of the beautiful tapestries, we saw the exact same items at many other shops throughout Delhi and Jaipur but the craft shops gave the best prices
- They are able to make custom garments in less than 24 hours. You can bring your own fabric or choose from theirs.
- The best time to see Tigers is in the summer because of the heat. They are easier to spot cooling off at watering holes
- The Park usually closes during monsoon season (July-September)
- In recent years, the park has kept certain zones open through monsoon season sparking concern with responsible tourism and the effects on the health of tigers (It’s their mating season).
Some additional thoughts on the above
- If you want to see a Tiger don’t attempt to do it during monsoon season
- Responsible tourism is a good thing 🙂
- Monsoon season means unexpected cancelations of trips due to weather.
- To appease conservationists and abide to mandatory park closings, the park has recently closed zones 1-5 and keeps open 6-10.
- It is common knowledge (to everyone but most tourists) that zones 1-5 have all the tigers. Zones 6-10 have rarely (if ever) had a tiger sighting (according to multiple professional Tiger trackers).
- So why waste time, money and energy on a safari with so little chance of seeing a tiger?
The Pink City is the last official stop on India’s Golden Triangle tour. We hit all the top spots in two days but I recommend staying a day or two longer to really soak it in and take your time.
What to see in Jaipur:
- City Palace aka the Pink Palace– Don’t miss the inner courtyard’s four-season doors
- Amer Fort– a large fortress with a wall of mirrors (Seesh Mahal) and beautiful views of the city from the roof towers
- Stepwell– Panna Meena Ka Kund, walking distance to Amber Fort
- Patrika Gate– Majestic gate in Jawahar Circle
- Hawa Mahal Palace– Also know as the Wind Palace but mostly known as the backdrop to the Insta famous photo spot
- Jal Mahal – Palace in the middle of a lake
What to Know:
- Amber fort is REALLY intense for touts (pushy and aggressive salesmen)
- There are three forts in Jaipur: Amber, Nahargarth and Jaigarh, all relatively close to each other. Amer is the most striking.
- Navigation to the roof top is tough. Pay “a man with a broom” to show you the way
- There are three ways to get to the front gates of Amber Fort, by foot, by elephant or by car.
- Think twice before opting for an elephant ride. There have been multiple reports based around Amer fort and animal abuse for tourism. Many reports have surfaced that these elephants are beaten into submission and forced to work to the point of exhaustion all while living without basic needs. Click on the links at the end of the post to read more.
- Get there early (before security) if you want to walk down the steps.
- In order to get a rooftop photo with Hawa Mahal in the background head across the street to the Tattoo Cafe
- Haha Mahal is much more spectacular from the outside
- Elephants are being abused for tourist rides at Amber Fort, India | World Animal Protection
- Elephants are forced to entertain tourists at Amer Fort |Change.org
- The Connection between tourism and Elephant abuse in India|Huff Post
We toured with Travelology who I actually won’t recommend. Overall, the trip was a great experience. However, with better communication and planning some of the issues we had could have been prevented. We spent about 2 nights in each location and only one night in Agra. India’s Golden Triangle Route can be done in less time if you skip Ranthambore but I’d suggest spending more time in Delhi and Jaipur where there is much more to see.
India is such a unique place. Go with a good attitude, be assertive and firm. Arrive with an openness to experience a unique culture and you’ll leave with an experience you won’t soon forget, for all the right reasons!
If you are looking for more information on India check out this post, Top 10 things I wish I knew before I went to India or have a look at some of my favorite photos in this photo tour Incredible India.