Delhi is the capital of India, its political and cultural center, and home to 12.5 million people. It covers an expansive area and lies on the banks of the River Yamuna. The city has been continuously inhabited since the 6th century B.C. and is home to numerous ancient and medieval monuments, archaeological sites and remains.
During the Mughal Empire Delhi was encircled with a wall and served as the capital. After the British East India Company took control, the capital was moved to Calcutta. However, in 1911 Delhi was returned its capital status by George V. During the 1920s New Delhi, was built to the south of Old Delhi and in 1947 India gained independence from British rule.
In the 1990s the city was faced with serious environmental issues and was named as one of the world’s 10 most polluted cities. However, since buses and taxis have made the transition to run on compressed natural gas, the situation has improved significantly.
Today Delhi is a vast multicultural and cosmopolitan metropolis, where people come from all over the country to live and work. Due to the comparatively high income of its population, Delhi has become a major cultural, political, and commercial hub of India.
Most recently, Delhi was vastly revamped in readiness for the October 2010 Commonwealth Games. Much of the city’s infrastructure was renovated and expanded with a new Metro line, the streets were cleaned up and new accommodation became available.
Delhi summers last from early April to mid-October and are humid and very hot. The most significant feature, however, is the monsoon that occurs in mid-summer. March to May see the highest temperatures and the monsoon sets in at the end of June, lowering the temperatures but increasing humidity. Winters are brief, lasting from late November to January, and are characteristically foggy.
January average temperature 14 deg Celsius 23 mm rainfall February average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 20 mm rainfall March average temperature 22 deg Celsius, 15 mm rainfall April average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 10 mm rainfall May average temperature 32 deg Celsius, 15 mm rainfall June average temperature 33 deg Celsius, 69 mm rainfall July average temperature 30 deg Celsius, 201 mm rainfall August average temperature 30 deg Celsius, 201 mm rainfall September average temperature 29 deg Celsius, 122 mm rainfall October average temperature 26 deg Celsius, 18 mm rainfall November average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 3 mm rainfall December average temperature 15 deg Celsius, 10 mm rainfall
Delhi is served by the Indira Gandhi International Airport. It was renovated and modernized and a new International Terminal added in 2010.
The easiest way is to arrange transport is in advance as part of a hotel booking. Otherwise a cab can be obtained from one of the prepaid taxi booths located in the international terminal.
Delhi metro has a vast network; it is cheap, fast and easy to use.
Most Delhi taxis are reliable, but they are old and lack air conditioning. They are equipped with meters but it is better to agree on the price in advance. Avoid unofficial taxis. Cars with a driver can also be hired, and this is a better and faster way of seeing the sights as they are scattered widely around the city.
These distinctive yellow and green vehicles are better for shorter trips and can take three passengers. The rates are much lower than a taxi’s.
Pedal-powered rickshaws with the passenger seats in the back and driver in front are good for short distances and to use in Old Delhi. Negotiate the price beforehand, as there are no meters.
Delhi is not suitable for pedestrians, sights are far apart and road signs few. There is also the added complication that tourists will undoubtedly be accosted by beggars and touts.
Delhi is well connected with buses. They are very cheap but not comfortable and difficult to use.
Trains are less useful, and offer limited commuter services.
The beautiful and serene Lodi garden is a great place to take a morning walk, as is popular with the people of Delhi. Some like to jog there and some simply go to watch the world go by. The park offers a tranquil respite from the busy metropolis – except on Sundays when it is quite crowded with visitors. The park is also home to the tombs of the Sayyid and Lodi rulers, and the 15th century Bara Gumbad mosque.
Address: Old Delhi Open: Tue – Sun: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
This fort complex was constructed during the 17th century by the emperor Shah Jahan to keep out invaders. It dominates the skyline of Old Delhi and stands as a symbol of the power and wealth of the Mogul empire. The complex features splendid buildings of intricate design and was once the home of Emperor Shah Jehan.
Address: Old Delhi Open: daily - closed during prayer times
This is the main mosque in Old Delhi, as well as the largest and best known in India. It can hold 25,000 worshipers. The mosque was completed in 1656, and was commissioned by the emperor Shah Jahan, who is also responsible for the construction of the Red Fort and much of Old Delhi. It stands on two hills, has three gateways, four towers, two minarets, and a massive courtyard where the main prayer hall stands. Visitors can climb the 122 narrow steps of the southern tower to take in a magnificent view of Old and New Delhi.
Open: Mon- Sat: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
The bazaars that surround Chandni Chowk (Moonlight Square) situated in Old Delhi, are an essential Delhi experience. Their vibrant colors and smells are a true feast for the senses, and there are a myriad of shops and stalls selling a huge array of goods. Naya Bazaar, on Khari Baoli, is the spice market, where a multitude of spice heaps in colorful piles tempts the passers by. Chor Bazaar behind the Red Fort is open on Sundays and is a flea market for second hand goods. Chawri Bazaar features shops selling brass and copper statuettes of Buddha, Vishnu and Krishna.
India Gate is the country’s national monument, erected in honor and memory of the Indian soldiers who died in World War I and the Afghan Wars. It stands in the heart of New Delhi, and measures 42 meters in height. It was once the crossing of several major roads but is now closed to traffic.
Presidential Palace / Rashtrapati Bhavan
The official residence of the President of India lies in the heart of the area known as Lutyens' Delhi and is the largest residence of any Head of the State in the world. The palace was designed by the British architect Edwin Landseer Lutyens, who held a key role in the planning of the city. The building’s design is grandly classical and uses colors and details inspired by Indian architecture.
National Gandhi Museum
Address: Rajghat, New Delhi Email: email@example.com Open: 10:00 am - 5:30 pm (Monday closed)
Indians affectionately call Gandhi, ‘the father of the nation’ and he is commemorated in the Museum, which houses a rich collection of relics, books, journals, documents, photographs, audio-visual materials, exhibitions, art pieces and other memorabilia closely connected with Mahatma Gandhi. The museum is also developing into a centre for the availability of Gandhian and related literature. It provides also publications, studies and information on Gandhi, his associates and the struggle for freedom.
The National Museum is a fascinating place and one of India’s finest museums. It houses thousands of exquisite works of art, both of Indian and foreign origin covering more than 5,000 years of cultural heritage. The collections cover a broad range of fields including archaeology, jewelry, fine arts, decorative arts, manuscripts, Central Asian antiquities and warcraft. Among the notable exhibited items are silk paintings from the 1st century A.D., tribal masks and sculptures, textiles, musical instruments, old coins, miniature paintings and weapons.
New Delhi hosts a myriad of events and festivals held throughout the year, from traditional and religious to cultural and commercial.
Date: October or November Location: throughout the city
Diwali is the most popular traditional festival in India. It has its roots in Hindu mythology and is celebrated each year for 5 days in October or November with much grandeur. Also known as the festival of lights because of the thousands of diyas (small oil lamps) lit in every home. The light signifies a bow to God and is supposed to bring joy to a person’s life. It also brings hope of finding light in the darkness and happiness through enlightenment. During the festival the cities all over North India are turned into a carnival, houses are decorated with lanterns and candles and the streets fill up with stalls selling food and all sorts of other goods. Firecrackers are fired off and people exchange sweets and gifts.
Holi is a colorful Hindu festival celebrated at the end of February or beginning of March. Its origin is ancient and celebrates the triumph of good over bad. At the start of the festivities bonfires are lit to chase away the evil spirits. Next morning people chase each other on the streets and throw colorful pigment at each other.
Independence Day Celebrations
Date: August 15
Independence Day is a very important day in Indian History and commemorates August 15, 1947 when India was freed of British rule which had lasted for over three hundred years. Celebrations include flag hoisting, singing of the national anthem and processions at the Red Fort.
Garden Tourism Festival
Date: February Location: Talkatora Gardens
The festival is truly a feast for the eyes, as the Talkatora Gardens display hundreds of flowers and exotic plants accompanied by cultural performances and other entertainment.
This festival is unique to Delhi and attracts mango growers from all over the country who gather to showcase their best accomplishments.
International Trade Fair
Date: 14 November Location: Pragati Maidan
The International Trade Fair is an important annual business event that attracts businessmen from all over the country. It runs for 13 days and is an important attraction in the city.
India is a hierarchical society so the eldest or most senior person should be greeted first. Shaking hands is common, especially in the cities and in more educated circles, where people are used to dealing with westerners. Avoid public displays of affection, as these are seen as impolite and rude. Bargaining is common in shops and markets. Indians are very curious about personal things and asking extremely personal questions is not seen as impolite.
Also, Indians are reluctant to say ‘no’, which means, if something is not available they will give an affirmative answer, but will be deliberately vague about the specific details.
Gifts: Care should be taken when giving gifts to either Hindus or Muslims. For example, do not give anything made of leather to a Hindu. Similarly, avoid presenting Muslims with anything made of pigskin or alcohol. People usually do not open the gifts upon receiving them. Wrap gifts in yellow, green or red colors, as these are deemed lucky. Do not give frangipani or white flowers because these are used at funerals. If you are invited to an Indian household, bring sweets or flowers.
Many visitors who come to India for the first time become victims of scams and touts that are prevalent in Delhi and the rest of the country. Someone new to the country should not make this obvious as it will mark them as a prime target for scammers.
Any unsolicited advice for directions or travel should be rejected out of hand. Advice from taxi drivers about a destination being closed or dangerous should also be viewed with suspicion. The best person to ask for directions is the traffic policemen that stand at road intersections.
Women travelers should note that Delhi is becoming increasingly unsafe for women. It is best not to be out alone at night. It is also wise to dress conservatively and to perhaps carry a mace spray.
Any money, cards, passport and tickets should be kept in a well hidden money-belt. Only a small amount of money should be easily accessible. Note that pickpockets operate everywhere.
Extra caution is needed when changing money or making any cash transaction.
The best time to visit Delhi is between November and March when the weather is warm and sunny but not too hot. Avoid Delhi in summer, as it experiences intense heat and temperatures of 45°C and beyond, frequent dust storms and high humidity.