If you are traveling to India, a visit to the capital city Delhi is a must. Delhi offers a mix of architecture from the old and the new, taking you back to the lives of Mughal-era kings and queens as well as India’s British colonial past.
A Delhi day tour is a great way to see the most important historical sites. In fact, Sightseeing in Delhi is best on an organized tour, as the city is quite big and the traffic is quite chaotic.
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Delhi Day Tour Visiting Top Sites
India, also known as the Republic of India, is located in South Asia. It is the seventh largest country in the world by area. With more than 1.3 billion people, it is the second most populous country as well as the most populous democracy in the world.
Delhi Delights is a full-day tour available with Delhi Tourism. There are many tours to choose from, but, if you have limited time in Delhi, a great option is the local sightseeing tour. It has seven stops at important locations throughout the bustling city of Delhi.
This is a full-day tour with a lunch break thrown in. For the tour, you’ll meet at the Delhi Tourism office on Baba Kharag Singh Marg. The morning portion of the tour focuses on New Delhi and the afternoon on the Old City. The Delhi sightseeing tour takes place in a large, air-conditioned bus with a guide who shared information in English and Hindi.
I was one of two foreigners on the tour; the other was from Korea. If you want to explore Delhi with Indians, this is the best way. I was really happy I wasn’t on a tour with all Westerners. I learned so much about India– not only from the guide but from the others on the tour. In fact, I had a wonderful family who was visiting from Kerala adopt me for the day. They shared even more details about every location we visited, showed me the best Chai tea vendors and truly made this tour special!
Tip #1 A warning to my Western friends — there are no counting of heads on this tour and no waiting for stragglers!
Tip #2: Make sure to have rupees during the tour. As a foreigner in India, you’ll have to pay entrance fees at some locations. The most I paid was Rs500 (about $8 U.S.).
A Perfect Day Visiting Delhi’s Most Important Historical Landmarks
Morning Tour — New Delhi
New Delhi is the capital of India. It’s located in the north-central part of India. Initially, the capital city of India was in Kolkata, but in 1911 King George V of Britain ordered that the capital be moved to Delhi.
Lakshmi Narayan Temple
The first stop on our Delhi sightseeing tour was at Birla Mandir; a Hindu temple built between the years of 1933 and 1938. The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi had agreed to inaugurate this only on the condition that it be open to all religions.
The main temple is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Narayan (Krishna), with smaller temples on the grounds dedicated to gods and goddesses, like Shiva, Ganesha, Hanuman, Buddha, Durga, and Shakti. It’s the first of the 14 Birla temples built across India and is open to people of all faiths to offer prayers.
The three-tier temple, besides housing idols of various gods and goddesses, is decorated with beautiful wall carvings depicting ancient Indian folklore. The most important part is the Krishna Palace (God of Salutation). There’s an infinite view of the idol in the mirror placed behind it.
The temple grounds also boasts lush gardens and sparkling fountains. You’ll be asked to leave your shoes, cameras, and phones outside the temple on this visit. This is a test of trust (at least to most Westerners) to walk away from valuables. It also meant we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the temple. Trust me that it was beautiful and one of my absolute favorite stops on the entire tour!
Qutb Minar was the next stop on our Delhi tour and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that transports you back 800 years with its history. Built around 1192-1197 AD, the monument faces west for offering prayers.
The Qutb Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world and was built to mark Qutb-ud-din Aibak’s victory over the last Hindu rulers. It’s 73 meters high, with a diameter of 14.32 meters at the base and 2.75 meters at the top. It has six floors — the first three built of red sandstone and the remaining three of sandstone and marble.
The minaret is covered with intricate carvings. As you get closer to the minaret you are able to see it is truly a piece of art.
The area has several other historically significant monuments associated with the minaret — the Qutb complex, including Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Iron Pillar of Delhi, Tomb of Imam Zamin, Tomb of Iltutmish and Major Smith’s Cupola.
I could have spent an entire day at this one location. There was so much to see and so many photos to take. Below are some of my favorites.
This mausoleum, dedicated to Safdarjung, Nawab of Oudh, is one of the last big ‘garden tombs’ of the Mughal era, built in 1753-1754 by his son, Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula, in memory of his father.
This Mughal architecture follows an Indo-Islamic style developed by the Mughals across India. The Safdarjung tomb is considered the last structure built in the Mughal architectural style.
The tomb is placed on a high platform surrounded by gardens and a courtyard. The tomb is built of red-and-brown sandstone and has a terrace with a big dome at its center. The two-floor-high, massive gates hold a wonderful view of this gorgeous monument. The façade depicts intricate designs and the rear houses a library.
Gandhi House, earlier known as Birla House, is a museum where Mahatma Gandhi spent his last 144 days. You can see his room as he had left it — spartan, with a simple bed on the floor.
You can take a history walk of his last days on the property, gardens and the place where he meditated. The displays include a vast array of his personal belongings and photographs. This was a fairly quick stop, but very moving and beautiful.
After the Gandhi House, we headed back to the tourism office for a 45-minute lunch at a restaurant called Coffee Home. You can grab a quick bite, or a proper lunch from an endless list of very tasty, but authentic, Indian dishes that include Masala Dosa, Plain Dosa, Sambar Vada, Dahi Vada, Idli Sambar, Upma Sambar, Uthapam and Vegetable Biryani. The food was delicious and I especially enjoyed the Masala Dosa.
Afternoon Tour — Old Delhi
“The fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan founded Old Delhi in 1639, when he planned to shift his empire’s capital from Agra to Delhi,” the guide tells us as we start the afternoon tour.
“A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Red Fort, covering an area of 254.67 acres, was built by Shah Jahan in 1639 and took about a decade to complete. The protective outer wall runs along 2.41 kilometers. The fort was the primary residence of Mughal emperors for about 200 years. This unique architecture is a blend of three different styles — Timurid, Persian and Hindu. The fort and its ramparts are made of red sandstone and have intricate artwork on the walls of the massive octagonal building,” the guide tells us.
A major structure here is the Lahori Gate, the main gate of the fort. Beside this is the Chhatta Chowk, or the bazaar where items the imperial household needed were sold. On either side of the Delhi Gate, another entrance, there are two life-size stone elephants. There are two halls where the emperors used to hold court — the Diwan-i-Aam (for the common public) and the Diwan-i-Khas for a private audience. There are hammams, or royal baths, the Hayat Bakhsh Bagh, or the garden that you find in the northeast and the step-well, known as baoli.
Don’t miss out on the other structures — the Moti Masjid, Khas Mahal, Mumtaz Mahal and Rang Mahal. It is difficult to describe these in words — the paintings and artifacts of the Mumtaz Mahal, or the amazing designs of the step-well, the Khas Mahal, Shahi Burj and others.
As the yellow-bordered Volvo bus rolled westwards down the expansive stretch of Rajpath (read Kingsway), we passed impressive buildings designed by the famous British architect, Edward Lutyens. The guide shared additional information as we passed by some additional iconic spots in Delhi:
“The India Gate that you see in front of you was built as a war memorial dedicated to British Indian soldiers who died in WW-I. Beneath the Memorial Archway is the Flame of the Immortal Soldier, known as ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti’, after the Bangladesh War of 1971.”
“Parliament House, is another gorgeous building and the seat of Indian lawmakers that you see to your right and there’s Rashtrapati Bhavan, built as the Viceroy’s residence, and now the official residence of the President. The main building has 340 rooms over a 320-acre campus, including the Mughal Gardens resplendent with flowers in full bloom.”
This is the memorial where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated on January 31, 1948 and one of the most emotional stops on this Delhi day tour. This memorial was built to pay homage to the ‘Father of the Nation’ of India. The platform of black marble holds the eternal flame and on the other side of the memorial are the last words that Gandhi said, “Hey Ram” which means “O God”. This memorial is also meant to symbolize the simplicity of Gandhi’s life.
You also get to see the memorials of other dignitaries, like Shakti Sthal (where Indira Gandhi was cremated) and Veer Bhumi (Rajiv Gandhi’s memorial), among memorials of other leaders who, too, were cremated at this spot. The Yamuna river flowing quietly in the distance provides a beautiful backdrop to this scenic and tranquil spot with its many memorials to honor India’s worthy sons of the soil.
The last stop on this Delhi City Tour is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Humayun’s Tomb is an example of Mughal architecture and a first-of-its-kind garden tomb and a symbol of eternal love.
The red sandstone-and-white marble structure was built more than 70 years before Agra’s Taj Mahal and was commissioned by Haji Begum, queen and wife of Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor, around 1570-71.
It’s a 47-meter-high tomb built in Persian style and has a double-dome measuring 42.5 meters, with a magnificent garden that’s divided into four parts with water channels and pathways.
From the 17th to the 19th centuries the garden was filled with the tombs of Humayun’sdescendants and his entourage. Several Mughal emperors are buried inside Humayun’s mausoleum which is considered the necropolis of the Mughal dynasty.
On this property, you’ll also find the Isa Khan Garden Tomb which pre-dates Humayun’s Tomb by twenty years.
Dinner in Delhi
After a day of exploring India, we headed for a mouth-watering dinner at Zaffran Restaurant, a beautiful restaurant serving typical Indian delicacies. All meals are served with dal, or chana (lentils).
I’d strongly advise you to go for the Vegetarian Sheekh Kebab — this exotic dish is cooked over an open charcoal oven, or tandoor, which brings out its smoky flavor along with the flavors of individual spices, like nutmeg, mace, cumin, cinnamon and more.
Also, the paneer Tikka, Tandoors (Broccoli, Babycorn and Bharwan Aloo — all cooked in a tandoor), Chana Pindi, Navratan Korma, Palak Paneer and Karari Bhindi along with a refreshing lime soda.
What You Need For Travel to India
While this might sound obvious, I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from travelers who didn’t have a valid Passport at the time of travel.
- The biggest oversight is knowing your Passport must have at least 6 months to expire to travel to India (and most international locations).
- The next is a traveler not realizing their passport might be expired at the time of travel.
- The third is knowing you must have two blank pages available in your passport. When you begin planning your trip to India, take a look at your passport expiration date and make sure you have two blank pages available.
You need a Visa to travel to India from the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia (as well as many other countries). You can find a full list of countries required to have a Visa for entry to India. Check the rules for your country, but U.S. citizens who want to travel to India for tourist purposes, and who plan to stay no longer than 60 days, may apply for a visa electronically.
This is what I did. The system is fairly clunky and you’ll need to upload a photo and a copy of your Visa. The fee for my Visa was $75 and I received it within two days of applying. You can also use RushMyTravelVisa.com to apply for an India Visa. Their process is guaranteed in 24 hours. Both of these options will get you a visa quickly.
Best months to visit Delhi: Winter (October-March)
What to Pack for a Trip to Delhi
- Get the Eyewitness Travel Delhi: Places to Visit in Delhi
- Bring a good quality mirrorless camera for getting those beautiful photos of Delhi’s historical treasures. I use the Sony Alpha a6000 .
- Tummy issues can happen, so it’s best to bring DiaResQ, Travelan and Imodium.
- You’ll need an adapter. I bought the Ceptics USA to India Travel Adapter Plug from Amazon. I picked up a 3-pack for $9.99.
Read More About India
- How to Prepare for Travel to India for the First Time
- Choosing A Homestay in Delhi for a More Authentic Travel Experience
- 9 Safety Tips for Drinking Water in India
- 10 Reasons To Visit India During Monsoon Season
- 52 Tips for Traveling to Northern India
Thinking about visiting Delhi? Ask your questions in the comments below!