The Golden Triangle


precious sights on a perfect circuit

India’s Golden Triangle refers to three prestigious points in Northern India: New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, which conveniently form a neat triangle on the map. It’s a golden one, though, because the highlights, stop-offs and UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this circuit are precious and prized: the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, the pink city of Jaipur, dazzling Delhi, palaces, forts, abandoned cities... Don’t be put off by the notion of ‘tick box’ tourism, either – all the Golden Triangle’s sights are genuine must-sees that are all uniquely moving and memorable – and do embrace this route if you’re new to India. It’s a country that’s vast and overwhelming, but the Golden Triangle eases you in. Rather than the full banquet that is India, the Golden Triangle is a perfect portion, with just the right balance of cultural sustenance, all delivered in a very digestible week.

How can I explore the Golden Triangle?


Organised small group tours can lead you around the Golden Triangle in a week, travelling between the highlights by road. Purse friendly holidays are available that stay in budget hotels to keep costs down, but without scrimping on all the splendid sights. Or you can opt for a tailor made trip, travelling with a driver in your own private vehicle, and perhaps staying in wonderful heritage properties, too.

Tours tend to begin and end in Delhi, travelling to Agra in Uttar Pradesh and onto Jaipur in Rajasthan. One of the reasons this triangle is golden is because drive times between these highlights and cultural hotbeds are relatively small, for a country the size of India. Delhi to Agra takes about four hours, Agra to Jaipur around five and Jaipur back to Delhi is roughly six hours.
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Allow another week and throw in a domestic flight or two and you can explore further afield, to the Thar Desert for a camel safari, or to the beautiful towns of Jodhpur and Udaipur. Or dip south to Ranthambore National Park, around 180km from Jaipur, where 62 tigers and a host of other exciting wildlife lie in wait.

Highlights of India’s Golden Triangle


India’s capital New Delhi is the start point for most Golden Triangle trips, and its wonderful Mughal period architecture has the golden touch. The city is bursting not only with food (Chandni Chowk market is a must), but also three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Humayun’s Tomb, the extraordinary Qutub complex with its elegant 12th century minaret, and the Red Fort. Don’t miss the Jama Masjid, either, one of the largest mosques in India.
Agra in Uttar Pradesh is home to the world famous Taj Mahal, the white marble mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his beloved late wife. It is one of the finest things to come out of the Mughal architectural period, together with the nearby Agra Fort, although be aware that until April 2018 the main dome of the Taj Mahal will be undergoing mud pack therapy to restore its original colour and will be covered in scaffolding.
Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan and nicknamed the pink city, thanks to the sandstone and paint that blush across its buildings, temples and monuments. Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, is one of the city’s standout architectural wonders, but remember to tear yourself away and travel to the gorgeous Amber Fort, too, just 11km away. Already a cultural gem, Jaipur’s starry status went through the roof after the success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, set among its flower markets and bazaars.
Not far from Agra, en route to Jaipur, lies the World Heritage Site of Fatehpur Sikri. It was built as the fortified capital of the Mughal Empire, but abandoned in 1585. It’s still something of a ghost town, although its mosque, the Jama Masjid, built by the Shah Jahan in 1685, is still used and its bazaar and stunning gardens are all full of life. See it at sunset when its red sandstone architecture glows gorgeously.
The beautiful Ranthambore National Park is a short detour off the Golden Triangle, but worth going out of your way for, since Bengal tigers, sloth bears, nilgai antelope, sambar deer and jungle cats make this place home. If time allows, fit in two safaris, to really immerse yourself in this unique centre of conservation. Once a hunting ground for Jaipur’s Maharaja, it’s one of the last places on earth to see tigers.

Best time to go to
the Golden Triangle


The best time to visit the Golden Triangle is October to mid April, when you can expect temperatures of 22°C – 32°C.There is lots of walking and exploring involved while you’re here, which is no fun in extreme heat, so avoid May and June which can hit 45°C. The influence of the Himalayas means Delhi can experience freezing spells in January and February, while the monsoon, even if only in short bursts, can lead to floods from July to September. October and November are festival time, with Diwali always a delight, as is March, when Holi brings the famous colour throwing fests.
Photo credits: [Top box: bjoern] [Thar Desert: Abigail Becker] [Taj Mahal: Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble] [Jaipur - Hawa Mahal: Ziaur Rahman] [Ranthambore National Park: Wildnest Travel & Photography] [Holi Festival: J.S. Jaimohan]

Written by: Joanna Simmons
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