Head off the beaten track to find the most memorable experiences in North India’s Golden Triangle.
The Golden Triangle travel route, whose vertices are Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, is one of the subcontinent’s most beloved tourist trails—and with good reason. Agra’s elegant Taj Mahal, Delhi’s splendid forts, and the “Pink City” of Jaipur with its extraordinary regal architecture, are among the must-sees of North India. However, while you won’t want to miss these highlights, leave time for the Golden Triangle’s lesser-known experiences too, as they’ll turn your holiday into an unforgettable adventure.
Discover off-the-radar sights
Agra has a wealth of astounding sights that get overlooked as the Taj Mahal pulls focus. Few tourists make it to the exquisite 17th century Jama Masjid, one of India’s largest and most beautiful mosques—a harmonious vision of bubble domes and inlaid red sandstone.
The shady Lodhi Gardens of New Delhi are great for people watching in the late afternoon when joggers, couples, and families take advantage of the cooler air. In Jaipur, head out to the mesmerizing zigzags of the historical stepwell Panna Meena ka Kund (northwest of Amer), or take a rickshaw six miles east to the pilgrimage site of Galta Ji, set into a rocky gorge, and popularly known as the “monkey temple.”
Take a trip out of town
It’s well worth exploring beyond the city limits, whether you make it to a chic suburb or the surrounding countryside. From Agra, guided tours offer the chance to explore local villages and experience laid-back rural life—a profound contrast to the fast pace of the city itself. From Delhi, take the metro out to the arty suburb of Hauz Khas, which not only has ancient tombs and monuments surrounding a greenery-fringed lake, but also offers clothing boutiques, art galleries, hipster bars, and some of the city’s best independent restaurants.
It’s worth taking a trip out of Jaipur, too. Hire a taxi for the day to see the incredible Abhaneri stepwell, the finest structure of its kind in India, an extraordinary architectural feat that’s all the more imposing for its remote setting.
Join a themed tour
See Delhi from a different perspective on a walking or cycling tour, with trips on offer around Old Delhi to taste its famous street food and discover the soul of the atmospheric old city. You can also explore Agra and Jaipur in a variety of ways, including early-morning bike tours. Other routes take you around Agra’s lesser-known sights, or to Jaipur’s dusty-pink bazaars where you can visit artist and artisan workshops, passing bookbinders, blacksmiths, potters, and sculptors along the way.
Explore the bazaars
To experience the richness of local life and artisanal craft to the fullest, browse India’s city bazaars. In Agra, Delhi, and Jaipur, these traditional markets are all still loosely divided into categories. Paper goods, fireworks, car parts, pots and pans—all have their own distinct area, and exploring these diverse sections (grazing on street food along the way) will take you to the beating heart of every city. You’ll see local women shopping for bridal decorations, rows of musical instrument shops, and rainbow-bright shimmering sari fabric lining entire streets.
Jaipur’s Johari Bazaar is a center for gemstones, while Bapu Bazaar is the place to go for block-printed clothes and bedspreads. Old Delhi’s Kinari Bazaar is a kaleidoscope of sequins, ribbons, and zari borders, and Khari Baoli is the ancient spice market. In Agra, head for Sadar Bazaar, where you can shop for handicrafts, leather goods, and garments galore.
Go off-piste for the best experiences
Look beneath the surface and you’ll experience some of the most magical sights of the Golden Triangle. In Delhi, visit the Sufi shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin on a Thursday evening for an atmospheric swirl of mysticism, with traditional singers performing qawwali (style of devotional music) to enamored crowds.
In Agra, take in a sunset from a rooftop café amid the historical tangle of Taj Ganj—the old city close to the Taj Mahal. You’ll be able to watch clouds of pigeons take flight as the city’s pigeon fanciers let their birds fly, a centuries-old tradition that dates to the Mughal era. In Jaipur, wander the backstreets to see areas such as Panigaron ka Rasta, where Muslim artisans beat silver into superfine foil used to decorate coveted Indian confectionary.