By Explorer Becky Wicks –
When I first landed in dazzling Delhi my eyes were instantly widened by the sheer choice of things to do. As a tourist I could have been swept in a million different directions, but it was my aim to experience the city like a local. Here’s how I took a more authentic path and made some great new friends along the way.
Old Delhi Bazaar Walk and Haveli Visit
This is a food, heritage and cultural experience all in one go and what’s more, you’ll meet some great people on what feels like an adventure into the Indian unknown. With our expert guide, Raj, who was from a fifth generation Indian family, four other tourists and I walked the busy streets of Shahjahanabad and Chandni Chowk, trying all kinds of incredible foods and getting lost in the bazaars between rickshaw rides.
Raj wanted to take our photo every five minutes and while I was hot and not feeling particularly photogenic, I’m glad he did on reflection because looking back at the snaps I remember what turned out to be a truly incredible, informative day in Delhi that wouldn’t have been as much fun on my own.
Address: Chawri Bazar Metro Station, Outside Exit Gate 3, New Delhi. Phone: +91 98107 50217.
Delhi Shopping Tour
One of the things I really wanted to do in Delhi was get a custom-made skirt in turquoise blue, so when I heard about Ketaki and how she’s been helping people shop and bargain for goods here for the past 10 years, I knew I had to spend the day with her.
She collected me from my hotel and we took a rickshaw while she pointed out sights and smells along the way; it’s amazing how much she knows and her enthusiasm is infectious.
Shopping with Ketaki was so much fun, I didn’t want to say goodbye at the end, but she gave me some great advice for shopping. As well as helping me get the perfect skirt made, she helped me try some yummy local street food for free. I feel like I know a lot more about Delhi and India’s culture in general because of Ketaki. Top marks!
Phone: +91 98106 62484
My first impression of this huge temple was that it looked and felt a little like a Hindu version of Disney World.
While definitely not as off-the-well-worn-path as the other things I did in Delhi, it’s still definitely one of the best cultural experiences I had on my own. Not only is there a boat ride involved, but the 40-minute feature film in the complex gives a great and very cheap insight into the seven-year pilgrimage made by Neelkanth, a teenage Bhagwan Swaminarayan, across the Indian subcontinent.
I went early to miss the huge queues (thanks to Raj’s advice) and spent a while perusing the pretty innards. You’re not allowed to take cameras or phones inside (security is very strict), so sadly I didn’t get any photos. I bet Raj would have managed to!
Address: N. H. 24, near Noida Mor, New Delhi
Phone: +91 99117 88187
Saffron Palate Cooking Workshop
Preeti and her husband are the foodies you want to be friends with. After searching for a good Indian cooking class in Delhi, I spent an amazing afternoon with this husband-and-wife duo, who guided a small group of us around a market to collect yummy, local ingredients.
After that, we headed back to their lovely home, drank mango lassies and got to work preparing five authentic Indian dishes, including dahl, aloo gobhi, cumin rice and gajar halwa for dessert. We also made three kinds of bread – the chapatti was awesome!
More than the food though, which we all sat down to eat together, I loved the chats we had. I learnt a lot about life in Delhi as we all swapped travel stories at the table. It was a real cultural exchange I highly recommend.
Address: R – 21, First Floor, Hauz Khas, New Delhi
Phone: +91 99 71 389993
Best Time to Visit
When to Go
The best time to visit Delhi is between October and March, when the weather isn’t so hot you’ll be sticking to everything.
Where to Stay
Where to Stay in Delhi
Most Delhi hotels can be found in two main, very charming areas of New Delhi and the Old Town. I recommend:
The Leela Palace New Delhi: This lavish looking five-star hotel puts you in the middle of a multitude of things to do in the diplomatic quarter. Walk to consulates and explore embassies, or you can stroll to most other attractions. When you’re done, kick back at the hotel’s Spa by ESPA.
Hyatt Regency Delhi:With four restaurants and an outdoor pool, this five-star hotel in the business district gets full points for luxurious relaxation opportunities and makes a great base. Here you’re just three kilometres away from Sarojini Nagar Market, Malai Mandir and Dilli Haat
Taj Palace Hotel: You won’t believe you’re in the heart of New Delhi when you reach this hotel’s sprawling, gorgeously green, manicured grounds. Your room might have a city skyline view or one of the Central Ridge forest reserve. For cultural fun, you’re just a short cab ride away from Central Secretariat, Delhi Gate and the tomb of Safdarjung.
How to Get There
Most major airlines, such as China Southern Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines operate from Asian destinations to Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi (DEL). If you’re flying on elsewhere, the domestic airport will connect you to most major cities via airlines such as Air India, SpiceJet, GoAir and IndiGo.
Remember, you need a visa to visit India and you will need to leave yourself plenty of time to get one before your trip. An e-Tourist Visa fee is currently US$60 per passenger, but for updated information check here.