Beijing is a city steeped in history — it is one of the four ancient cities of China (along with Xi’an, Luoyang and Nanjing), that is best preserved, and famous all around the world. Beijing is the ultimate tourist destination with seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites — the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, the Ming Tombs, the Grand Canal, and the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian — more than any other city in the world. This is evidence of this city’s splendid culture and long history.
They say no trip to India is complete without a stop at the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra. After living in India for 21 years, and visiting India more times that I can count, the Taj Mahal still remained on my bucket list. So when the opportunity to visit India with my husband became a reality, this was naturally one of the top places we decided to see. It was really special that my husband got to visit the Taj Mahal on his very first trip to India. This was truly a dream come true for both of us!
India is a vibrant and lively destination that attracts people from every corner of the world. I don’t think you can ever check off all the amazing places and sights this country has to offer. India is a beautiful land enriched with deeply rooted culture and traditions, and I’m proud to call it my home country.
I asked my soul: What is Delhi?
She replied: The world is the body and Delhi its life. — Mirza Ghalib
Delhi was our first stop in India. The city is popular for its cultural heritage and hosts some of the most famous historical monuments. Most intercontinental flights land in the early hours of the morning, so we tried to rest as much as possible on the flight and started exploring Delhi first thing in the morning. We spent two days in the capital city of India and covered a lot of the main attractions.
Our next stop was Agra. The beauty of Taj has won the hearts of one and all. Being one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it attracts huge crowds throughout the year. However, there is a lot more to the mesmerizing city of Agra, such as Agra Fort and Mehtab Bagh. Agra is about 3-4 hours from Delhi by road. You can attempt to cover Agra via a day trip from Delhi, but we highly recommend spending 1-2 days in Agra.
“The Taj Mahal rises above the banks of the river like a solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time.” —
We are excited to share the details of our trip and our recommendations. Before we get into the details, here are a few pictures that were taken on other side of the Yamuna river at the Mehtab Bagh park. The view of the Taj Mahal from here is truly spectacular!
What to see?
- Taj Mahal — Taj Mahal is an Ode to Love. A magnificent embodiment of Shah Jahan’s deep affection for his wife. This mausoleum is one of the seven wonders of the world. It features stunning architectural elements and ornate gemstone decor. Taj Mahal, is an Islamic ivory-white marble mausoleum on the banks of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal (‘the exalted one of the palace’); it also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan himself. The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”. It is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich history.
Is there a sight more iconic, more beautiful or more spectacular than the Taj Mahal? Quite honestly, we can’t think of one. Nothing prepares you for seeing something you’ve seen a thousand times in pictures. To see it with your own eyes feels unreal. After reading about the history of the monument for so many years, coming face to face with the Taj Mahal was an awe-inspiring experience!
- Qutub Minar — The Qutub Minar is a minaret and victory tower that forms part of the Qutub complex, which lies at the site of Delhi’s oldest fortified city, Lal Kot, founded by the Tomar Rajputs. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Mehrauli area of South Delhi. Qutub Minar is a 240 ft. high tower made of red sandstone and marble. It’s the highest brick minaret in the world and also one of the most famous historical landmarks of India.
- Red Fort & Jama Masjid — Masjid-i Jehan-Numa aka Jama Masjid of Delhi, is one of the largest mosques in India. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1650 and 1656. Jama Masjid is Delhi’s principal mosque, the place where the city’s Muslims traditionally gather for Friday communal prayer. Jama Masjid is Arabic for Friday mosque. The mosque is near the Red Fort, yet another of Shah Jahān’s buildings. The Red Fort or Lal Qila is a historic fort in Old Delhi, Delhi in India that served as the main residence of the Mughal Emperors. Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned construction of the Red Fort on 12 May 1638, when he decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi. Jama Masjid and its courtyard stand on an outcropping more than 30 steps higher than the street, giving the mosque a commanding view of the surrounding area. The longer name, Masjid-i Jahān Numā, translates to “world-reflecting mosque” or “world-displaying mosque.” The mosque was built by a crew of some 5,000 workers. The principal construction material was red sandstone, but some white marble was also used.
- Mughal emperor Humayun’s Tomb — Humayun’s tomb is the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun in Delhi, India. The tomb was built in the 1560’s, with the patronage of Humayun’s son, the great Emperor Akbar. Persian and Indian craftsmen worked together to build the garden-tomb, far grander than any tomb built before in the Islamic world. The tomb was commissioned by Humayun’s chief consort, Empress Bega Begum, on patronage of her step-son Akbar, in 1558, and designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas and his son, Sayyid Muhammad.
- Ugrasen ki Baoli — Agrasen Ki Baoli aka Ugrasen Ki Baoli is a 60-meter long and 15-meter wide stepwell in New Delhi. This is a historical stepwell believed to be originally built by king Agrasen in the 14th century. stepwells were of significant importance in India as away to store water from 7th to 19th century. If you’ve watched the Hindi movie, PK, this should look very familiar. Agrasen ki Baoli is definitely an architectural marvel. It has three stories and 108 steps which goes down to the well. Agrasen Ki Baoli also has a resemblance to the stepwells in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
May we recommend?
- When to visit the Taj Mahal — The summers in Agra‘s heat can be brutal, and we happened to visit during the peak summer, which should be avoided if possible. The weather is warm and pleasant from February through to April and again from October to the cool December. Plan your visit to the Taj Mahal so you can get a view of the Taj in the moonlight, for a truly special moment.
- Best locations to take photos — Get pictures immediately after you enter. As soon as you pass through the gates, you’ll encounter a railing that overlooks the beautiful gardens and reflecting pools that ultimately lead to the famous mausoleum. You can also get great pics from the west side of the complex that offers absolutely stunning views of the Taj. Another secret location that most people are not aware of is on the other side of the Yamuna river called Mehtab Bagh park. We did our photo session at this beautiful park, and the view of Taj Mahal from the other side of the river is truly spectacular.
- Don’t visit on Friday’s — The Taj Mahal is closed every Friday to allow practicing Muslims to come in and worship at its mosque. It’s located directly to the west of the main mausoleum structure, which is closest to Mecca.
- Stay an additional day in Agra — I wish we had spent a bit more time in Agra to catch the moonlight tour, and also visit the Agra Fort, which is arguably just as stunning as the Taj.
Get there early — This is a general piece of advice that we follow for any travel destination. Get to the ticket office early, so you won’t have to wait in crazy long ticket or security lines, and there won’t be crowds of people pushing past you. You’ll also get to see the beautiful marble structure aglow in the early morning light — it is truly special to see the first rays of sunlight crawl up the complex, with almost no one else around.
If you’re traveling to India, visiting the Taj Mahal should be on your bucket list. It is one of the most romantic and opulent monuments on the planet, and one of the 7 New Wonders of the World. You’ll always cherish your visit to the Taj Mahal, and the city of love — Agra. No matter how many times you’ve seen pictures of the Taj Mahal, nothing compares to the overwhelming feeling of bliss that you feel when you see it for the first time in your life. Traveling in India can be a colorful, inspiring and interesting experience. It can also be confusing, chaotic and frustrating. Many love it, some are challenged by it, but no one can come back indifferent. So what are you waiting for? Let your travels bring you to the land of mystery and diversity!
As we always say, Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!
Aurangabad is steeped in history, and home to the first UNESCO world heritage site in India — Ajanta and Ellora caves. This quiet town rose to prominence when Emperor Aurangzeb made it his capital. The city has an architectural heritage that has lasted centuries, making Aurangabad a wonder to explore. Hewn by hand from solid rock, Ajanta and Ellora Caves represent the rich historical culture of India and symbolize the art and skill of Indian craftsmen prevalent in the bygone era. The caves are considered a gem of Indian archaeological history that date back from the 2nd century BC to 10th century AD. These 64 rock-cut monolithic caves were carved over a period of 1200 years, and known for their architecture, sculpture and paintings. Each cave stands out with its uniqueness and bold structure that defines the craftsmanship of the ancient age. Continue reading “Ajanta and Ellora Caves — Ancient Monolith Rock-cut Marvels!”
India was on my husband’s bucket list for a few years now, so when the opportunity to visit India became a reality, I quickly made a list of all the places I’ve wanted to visit since I was a child (but we don’t have to tell him that, right?). Jaipur was on the top of my bucket list for India for almost 20 years, so I’m so glad we got do this together. There are a couple of options if you’re planning on visiting Jaipur. The first option is to cover Delhi, Agra and Jaipur together, also known as the Golden Triangle tour in 6-7 days, or the second option is to visit these cities separately. We chose to break it up and cover Delhi and Agra at the beginning of our 3 week trip to India and Jaipur at the tail end of our trip, so we can spend time with our family back home.
Doused in an appeasing blush champagne color, Jaipur, also known as the “Pink City”, is located in Rajasthan, India. The forts, palaces and even the stores in the bazaar are all in pink color, which adds to the charm of the city. Jaipur lies on the edge of the Thar Desert and is surrounded by the Aravali hills. The Pink City is dotted with grand palaces, well-preserved hilltop forts and bustling bazaars. The city is rich in its historical heritage, and every corner is beautiful and colorful. It has a touch of old-world charm in every building, street, store and it’s a visual delight to your eyes.
Resplendent in the hues of its noble and magnificent past, the historic city of Jaipur stands out as one of the most spectacular and culturally vibrant destinations in the world. — Kate Smith
What to see?
Palace of the Winds or Hawa Mahal, was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh for royal women to view the busy streets of Johari Bazaar, while staying veiled behind the jharokhas, a type of overhanging enclosed balcony. The top of Hawa Mahal offers stunning views of Jantar Mantar and the City Palace.
Amer Fort (also known as Amber fort) was built during the 16th century and is located on top of the Aravalli Hills in Amer, Rajasthan. The fort was built using red sandstone and marble, and it was amazing to walk through the many passages and gates; we could have easily explored for hours. Amer and Jaigarh forts are connected by a subterranean passage that was used to escape during wars. Sheesh Mahal or the chamber of thousands of mirrors is the most beautiful of all of the inner rooms inside the fort.
Patrika Gate was one of the most beautiful structures during our trip. The Patrika Gate is the 9th gate of Jaipur. Jaipur city was built based on the principles of Vaasthu Shastra, an ancient Indian science to enhance abundance & prosperity by making auspicious buildings. The number nine holds great significance in our traditions such as the Nine Gates, Nine Planets, Navratri (Nine Nights) etc. It is considered an auspicious number. The planner of the Pink City, Vidyadhar Ji, paid special attention to the number 9 in the city’s architecture.
City Palace is a palace complex situated in the heart of Pink City. The City Palace was once the seat of kings that ruled the region. The palace was constructed by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II and reflects the fusion of Mughal and Rajput architecture. Chandra Mahal (requires additional ticket for entry) and Mubarak Mahal are some of the significant structures in the complex. The royal family still lives in the palace today.
Jantar Mantar is an astronomical observatory located next to the City Palace, so it would be the best use of time to visit both attractions on the same day. Built in the early 18th century, the instruments at Jantar Mantar are fascinating for their ingenuity. The Samrat Yantra located at Jantar Mantar is the world’s largest sundial and it can be used to tell the time to an accuracy of about two seconds in Jaipur local time. Ideally this is a place you want to visit early in the day to allow you plenty of time to see most of it before the sun becomes a negative factor, as it did for us.
Jaigarh Fort located on the outskirts of Jaipur city is home to the large 18th-century weapon – the Jaivana Cannon, which was only test fired once and is said to have a range of ~25 miles. The top of the fort offers 360 degree view of the Jaipur city, which is fantastic! Note that the entry ticket to the city palace is a composite ticket that also gives you access to the Jaigarh fort, so remember to save your ticket.
Birla Mandir is one of the coolest temples we’ve visited so far… Besides being beautiful, the temple has columns all around with various deities and persons from all faiths. The columns include carvings depicting: Jesus Christ, Madonna and Jesus, Saint Peter, Moses with the ten commandments, Swami Vivekenanda, Buddha, Hanuman. This is one of the most progressive temples we have ever seen… so inclusive!
What to do?
Shopping in Jaipur: It is a known fact that INDIA is a shopper’s paradise and Jaipur is no exception. You can find a variety of beautiful items such as jewelry, handicrafts, textiles, furnishings and much more on display in the street bazaars and emporiums. Some of Jaipur’s best bazaars can be found within the old city. We visited Bapu Bazar and Johari Bazar during our trip. Bapur bazaar is an excellent place to find local Rajasthani products such as Mojari footwear, Rajasthani clothes, souvenirs etc. Johari Bazaar consists of rows upon rows of jewelry shops, embroidered apparel, precious stones etc. Be prepared to bargain if you plan on shopping at these bazaars. As an alternative, you can visit the emporiums where the prices are fixed. If shopping is not your thing, we still recommend you visit the bazaars for a first-hand experience of the city’s tradition of craftsmanship and experience the true essence of Jaipur at its best!
Elephant ride to Amer Fort: So we hired an elephant to ride up to Amer fort, but it was not an easy decision. We did our research before the trip, and we felt better knowing that the Jaipur government has imposed limits on the number of rides per day and the number of people the elephant can carry. Amer Fort has also made major changes in the treatment of their elephants and ensures that they are well protected. So is it OK to ride a horse, but not an elephant? There is no easy answer and to be honest, we aren’t sure if we would do this again. Elephants are beautiful beings and we love all animals. The other available options if you choose to skip the elephant ride is to either walk up to the fort (keep in mind that it’s an uphill hike plus walking around Amer Fort on its own would take 1-2 hours) or hire a taxi. You can choose what works best for you.
What to eat?
We decided to play it very safe when it came to food during our Jaipur trip. We are NOT kidding when we say this… We ate the exact same food at the exact same place for lunch and dinner for all 3 days of our trip. The name of the restaurant was KHANA (meaning food in Hindi) and it was located right across from our hotel. They served a quick and deliciously fresh North Indian thali, a meal made up of a selection of various dishes which are served on a platter, so we were able to maximize the time spent outside. The sweet lassi at this place was to die for, it helped calm our stomachs and also give us some relief from the scorching heat in Jaipur. So why not eat the same amazing food again and again?
How to save money?
Now, how do you save money at a tourist location? The sales people would take one look at my Venezuelan husband, and we had a zero chance of bargaining with them. The bazaars of Jaipur are catered for tourists and they know that you are from out-of-town or out of the country, so just be prepared to spend your money. And it’s okay for them to make a little additional money from the tourists, but just make sure that they aren’t ripping you off. Be patient in your bargaining and walk away if the price is not moving, if they chase you it typically means they have not reached the bottom price.
If you are planning on spending a few days in Jaipur, you’ll save money by buying the composite ticket, which gives you access to the following monuments in Jaipur – Amber Palace / Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, Albert Hall and Nahargarh Fort.
May we recommend?
- Our #1 recommendation is to time your travel during the cooler months as it can get really hot during summer. It is ideal to travel between September and February and do not attempt to do what we did… It was a mere 112° F (43° C) during the day when we were in Jaipur (not very smart, but our travel dates didn’t allow it).
- Be mentally prepared to be swarmed by men selling trinkets who won’t accept no for an answer, and men offering to be your tour guides for a cheap price. This is common at most tourist locations in India, but they seemed extra aggressive in Jaipur. The best thing is to ignore everyone and keep walking. It does get annoying, but don’t let it ruin your experience. You have one chance to make this a beautiful memory, so don’t let anyone ruin it.
- Remember that there’s no such thing as a public bathroom or a clean bathroom (if you’re lucky enough to find one) once you step outside the hotel. Be prepared is all we can tell you. TMI? Well, you’ll thank us for this little bit of advice.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times for pick pocketers and other unsavory characters. Always carry your wallet in your front pocket or in a special hidden pouch. Avoid street food, do not drink anything but bottled water that you open and avoid ice in your drinks.
To summarize, we had an amazing time in the Pink City! Jaipur stands out as one of the most spectacular and culturally vibrant destinations in the world, so check it out. You’ll love this location as much as we did!
As we always say, Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!