India’s ‘Golden Triangle’ – so named for the wealth of rich architecture contained in its three cities of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra – is deeply etched by decades of passing visitors.
While the architecture is stunning, we’re often told by our guests that they’d like to see more than just architecture. They’d like to get under the skin of the country and have immersive, offbeat experiences with the people and its culture. In response, we invite you to navigate away from the beaten track and discover a refreshing new take on Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. One that still soaks up the most impressive of those decadent buildings yet serves them with a dollop of colour, vibrancy and local flavour. See the Taj Mahal without a jostling crowd in the foreground, discover the buzz of Jaipur’s bazaars, and taste authentic flavours in Delhi. Here’s how to do India differently, with eight of our favourite offbeat experiences in India’s Golden Triangle.
1. Visit the Sikh Temple, Delhi
The Bangla Sahib Gurudwara is a huge Sikh temple and always full of activity – no surprise, given Delhi’s huge Sikh population, most of whom came here as refugees from Pakistan in 1947. This temple in Delhi provides a fascinating insight into the Sikh religion. Balance out the architectural gems of the capital with a stop here to see a flurry of activity and peep into the communal kitchen which serves thousands of free meals a day to anyone and everyone. While nothing beats the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara is a fascinating taste of Sikh culture for those whose travel plans don’t include Amritsar and makes a lively addition to a guided tour of Delhi’s architectural highlights. If you fancy, you can even get involved with preparing the food by helping the volunteers peel, chop and stir.
2. Take a cooking class at Saffron Palate, Delhi
At her home in Delhi’s trendy Hauz Khas area, Ms Neha Gupta hosts cooking classes under the name Saffron Palate. Neha offers a range of options – from a family meal (if you enjoy the eating part more than the cooking!) to our favourite, ‘Spice Knight’, where you join Neha for a walk through the local market to source your produce before cooking together. From delicious Butter Chicken to creamy dals (lentils), bread and rice, Neha will let you in on the secrets of Indian home cooking that you can replicate back at home for years to come.
3. Wander the city with former street kids, Old Delhi
Salaam Baalak Trust is a registered charity in Delhi. They provide care, shelter, food and education to children who’ve sadly found themselves living on the streets of Old Delhi. As a means of funding their organisation, older children residing with the charity operate ‘City Walks’ through the streets of Old Delhi. They’ll accompany you through the labyrinthine-like lanes of the city to one of the shelters to meet the younger children, and may also share their story with you. While not quite as polished as the guiding experience you’ll have with our professional tour escort, a city walk with Salaam Baalak Trust provides a unique insight into the lives of India’s less privileged, and an opportunity to give back.
4. Take our morning market walk, Jaipur
A highlight of their Golden Triangle tour for many Indian Excursions Co guests, our morning market walk in Jaipur whisks you through the bustling bazaars of the Pink City as they wake up. Stops include the fragrant flower market, the wholesale milk market, the vegetable market, and the Govind Dev Ji temple, finished off with a delicious cup of chai (spiced tea) from a famous but inconspicuous chai shop. It provides a fascinating insight into the daily operations of this bustling city and its people, as they jostle to scoop up the day’s fresh produce. You can also catch a group of locals participating in “laughing yoga” in the park!
5. Spend the evening with elephants, Jaipur
Three big things make Dera Amer so unique: Laxmi, Rangmala, and Anarkali. Rescued from a life of shuttling tourists up and down the Amber Fort, these days they are fed, bathed, walked, and generally fawned over, by guests of Dera Amer. You can spend the evening here and enjoy a delicious dinner, or stay the night in one of just two luxury tents.
6. See the Taj Mahal from a secret garden, Agra
While the crowds funnel their way through the security gates of the Taj Mahal’s main entrance, we invite you to sidestep into the stunning yet little-known Mehtab Bagh gardens. Resting peacefully on the banks of the Yamuna river, directly opposite the Taj, Mehtab Bagh delivers an unrivalled (and largely onlooker-free!) view of the Golden Triangle’s most celebrated landmark. While we encourage you to visit the main complex, an additional stop here at Mehtab Bagh – preferably at sunrise, or sunset – is a lovely way to capture the Taj Mahal from another perspective.
7. Experience a block-printing workshop in Bagru
From Jaipur, head over to the nearby village of Bagru for a workshop in traditional block-printing. Bagru is an area well known for its textiles, and here, the Chiippa community creates vibrant designs with a traditional technique dating back over 350 years. Almost everyone in the village is involved in all parts of the process – from dyeing to printing, washing, and drying.
8. Stay in rural Rajasthan
A night or two in the countryside is a fabulous way to round off a tour of India’s golden triangle. It presents the opportunity to relax and unwind, and recharge your batteries before heading home. Most of our guests spend this time indulging in a spa treatment or two and lounging by the pool with a good book. A walk around the surrounding village is also a must. Gandhi famously stated that “India lives in her villages”, and a night or two in rural Rajasthan is a fabulous way of experiencing this facet of Indian culture. It can be a lovely contrast to the thronging cities and is also where you’ll find some of the region’s most elegant hotels, including Samode Palace, Amanbagh and Alila Fort.
If you’d like to have offbeat experiences in India’s Golden Triangle, please do get in touch. As specialists in private, tailor-made tours of this region we’d be an ideal match to assist with your arrangements. Meanwhile, as a starting point, we recommend browsing our best-selling Golden Triangle Tour sample itinerary. You might also enjoy our suggested Golden Triangle Tour with Varanasi, and our Luxury Golden Triangle Tour with Oberoi Hotels.0