Qutub Minar // © 2013 Deborah Dimond
Shopping at the Delhi Haat // © 2013 Deborah Dimond
Lotus One Restaurant // © 2013 Thinkstock
Humayun’s Tomb // © 2013 Deborah Dimond
The Red Fort // © 2013 Deborah Dimond
New Delhi is an exciting, vibrant and bustling city, but during my recent visits to India, I noticed that many of my fellow travelers were overwhelmed by the busy day-to-day activities of this industrious city. Whether it was the vendors aggressively bartering their wares, the beeping of horns, drivers’ creative maneuvering of the packed city streets or the pungent exotic cuisine, I saw many travelers wilt by the end of the day, looking dazed and confused. For such clients, a tour to three UNESCO World Heritage sites is a safe bet as they will discover quiet tranquil gardens while wandering through historic sandstone ruins. These activities can help acclimate first-time visitors and get them up to Delhi speed. When I toured these sites last fall, I decided to make my trip even easier by hiring a driver and an air-conditioned van for the day from Asia Travel & Tours.
1. Qutub Minar
The Qutub Minar is one of the tallest minarets or spires in India at just over 237 feet. Built in 1052, it was constructed as a watch tower with a dizzying 379 stairs to the lookout. However, visitors are no longer allowed to climb to the top, but the exterior of the magnificent fluted pillar is a site to see. Its marble and red sandstone is covered in intricate carvings and verses from the Koran. Sitting at the base of the Minar is one of India’s first mosques — the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid.
2. Shopping at the Delhi Haat
Catering to Western travelers, the Delhi Haat Craft Cottage Industries complex is a one-stop shop for Indian goods. The vendors occupy a labyrinth of stairs and chambers offering a wide assortment of textiles, art, furniture, food and accessories. Visitors are beckoned from the punishing heat and offered a beverage as they browse. With an ice cold beer in hand, I sat comfortably as shop clerks brought out exotic saris, tasty masala tea and overly elaborate costume jewelry. As always, buyer beware. If the price of the item sounds too good to be true, most likely it is. Often the gold bracelet is only gold plate. Skip a future headache — only buy what you can carry and skip the offer of shipping items back to the U.S.
3. Lunch at the Lotus
Located next door to Delhi Haat, the Lotus One Restaurant offers traditional Indian cuisine in a clean, cool atmosphere. It’s a convenient place to nibble on naan bread or to try chicken tikka masala before more sightseeing.
4. Hanging Out at Humayun’s Tomb
For busy travelers such as President Obama, whose recent travels to India did not permit time to visit Agra and the Taj Mahal, a trip to Humayun’s Tomb is a good substitute. The structure is best known for influencing the architecture of the famous landmark and for bringing Persian style to Delhi. A quiet 30-acre garden surrounds the tomb and offers a quiet spot in a bustling city.
5. Ready, Set, Red Fort
The Red Fort is an enormous, noisy, bustling complex but, nonetheless, it’s an amazing place to see. Built by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in 1648, the colossal fort is surrounded by 1½ miles of towering sandstone walls. Inside, visitors can tour the remains of ancient halls, palaces and formal baths. At the southeast end of the grounds is the Mumtaz Mahal archaeological museum exhibiting artifacts and textiles from the Mughal period. To make the most out of the experience, encourage clients to pay for the audio tour.