India’s Golden Triangle
India is a truly magical country and has been somewhere that I have always wanted to explore. It is also a destination many people feel nervous about travelling to for a multitude of reasons, I know my own mum was more concerned about me travelling here than any other country I have visited over the years. Yes, it is at times very confronting and very different to life here in Australia but isn’t that why we travel?
A popular itinerary for a first-time traveller to India is the Golden Triangle route in the North of the country, this includes Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. And this is the itinerary I chose for my first trip back in August 2013, with the addition of Khajuraho and Varanasi.
You cannot get more of a culture shock than in Delhi! Immediately you will experience the intense heat, smells, crowds, and the constant honking. I absolutely loved it!
My highlight was old Delhi which is the oldest area of Delhi, and it is chaotic! But in the best possible way. We navigated the narrow winding streets on a rickshaw while dodging people, bikes and cows. It was loud and it was crazy but the best way to experience this lively city.
The red fort and Jama Masjid Mosque are also located in Old Delhi, my biggest tip is to visit early in the day to avoid the heat and crowds. Travel with a trusted tour guide and drink plenty of water, we were told that the biggest cause of the dreaded Delhi belly is dehydration.
We took a train from Delhi to Jaipur which is also known as the pink city because (as you may have guessed) most of the buildings in this city are pink. It is also a shopper’s paradise due to the huge number of roadside shops and marketplaces selling everything you could ever need to remember your Indian adventure. Your bargaining skills will be tested here!
You can’t go to Jaipur without visiting Amer Fort, which was built in 1592, Elephants are still being used to transport tourists to the top fort, but this trek can be done on foot also.
Another train ride brought us to Agra.
Agra is all about the Taj Mahal! And to be honest I was not overly excited to visit the Taj, you see so many photos of it throughout the years in perfect conditions and without the crowds that I thought it may be a letdown. I was wrong! Seeing it in person was mind blowing, it is simply gorgeous no matter what conditions or what time of day you visit.
The only downside is that being such a tourist drawcard it brought with it a lot of beggars, many were children and many of them had deformities and disabilities. It was truly heartbreaking and very confronting to see so many people in need of help.
This area is a UNESCO world heritage site which is famous for its erotic temples! There are 25 temples left remaining which were built by the Chandela dynasty between 900AD and 1130AD. These temples have extremely detailed carvings of people and animals on the inside and outside, the most famous are of course the erotic carvings! It is believed that these temples were built to celebrate all aspects of human life and the tantric principles. Some of the carvings sure were eye opening. They were very adventurous back in the day (if you know what I mean).
Varanasi is one of the holiest places in all of Hinduism. People travel from across India to be cremated here and sent into the holy Ganges river.
The best way to enjoy the Ganges river is on a boat ride, unfortunately the Ganges was flooded when I travelled, and it was too dangerous to be in the water due to the debris.
From the water you will have a great view of the Ghats which are bustling with activity during the day, from bathing, religious ceremonies, cremation sites and even laundry.
We spent hours walking through the colourful narrow walkways around Varanasi’s old city, our path often blocked by a lone cow or a funeral procession. I have never experienced anything like this before.
India is a destination that actively engages all of your senses, the colours, the noise and the smells will stay with you long after you return home.
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