Places we visit in India
Delhi is a city where time travel is feasible. Step aboard the sleek and efficient metro and you can go from Old Delhi, where labourers haul sacks of spices and jewellers weigh gold on dusty scales, to modern New Delhi, with its colonial-era parliament buildings and penchant for high tea. Then on to the future: Gurgaon, a satellite city of skyscrapers and glitzy malls. This pulsating metropolis has a bigger population than Australia, and is one of the world's most polluted cities. But woven into its rich fabric are moments of pure beauty: an elderly man threading temple marigolds; Sufi devotional songs; a boy flying a kite from a rooftop.Delhi is a city that has been repeatedly ravaged and reborn, with vestiges of lost empires in almost every neighbourhood. There's so much to experience here, it's like a country in itself!
Pushkar has a magnetism all of its own – it’s quite unlike anywhere else in Rajasthan. It’s a prominent Hindu pilgrimage town and devout Hindus should visit at least once in their lifetime. The town curls around a holy lake, said to have appeared when Brahma dropped a lotus flower. It also has one of the world’s few Brahma temples. With 52 bathing Ghats and 400 milky-blue temples, the town often hums with puja (prayers), generating an episodic soundtrack of chanting, drums and gongs, and devotional songs.The result is a muddle of religious and tourist scenes. The main street is one long bazaar and the town remains enchantingly small and authentically mystic.
Mighty Mehrangarh, the muscular fort that towers over the Blue City of Jodhpur, is a magnificent spectacle and an architectural masterpiece. Around Mehrangarh’s base, the old city, a jumble of Brahmin-blue cubes, stretches out to the 10km-long, 16th-century city wall. The Blue City really is blue! Inside is a tangle of winding, glittering, medieval streets, which never seem to lead where you expect them to, scented by incense, roses and sewers, with shops and bazaars selling everything from trumpets and temple decorations to snuff and saris.Modern Jodhpur stretches well beyond the city walls, but it’s the immediacy and buzz of the old Blue City and the larger-than-life fort that capture travellers’ imaginations.
On the western slopes of the Aravalli Hills, 75km northwest of Udaipur, the village of Ranakpur hosts one of India’s biggest and most important Jain temple complexes.
Beside shimmering Lake Pichola, with the ochre and purple ridges of the wooded Aravalli Hills stretching away in every direction, Udaipur has a romance of setting unmatched in Rajasthan and arguably in all India. Fantastical palaces, temples, havelis and countless narrow, crooked, timeless streets add the human counterpoint to the city’s natural charms. For the visitor there's the tranquillity of boat rides on the lake, the bustle and colour of ancient bazaars, a lively arts scene, the quaint old-world feel of its better hotels, endless tempting shops and some lovely countryside to explore on wheels, feet or horseback.
Deogarh (also known as Devgarh), is a city and a municipality in Rajsamund District in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Formerly the city was an estate of the Chundawat Rajputs. It was one of 16 original feudal estates (thikanas) privileged to wait upon the Maharana of Udaipur and is in a traditional village surrounded by beautiful countryside. At 2100 feet above sea level, expect slightly cooler temperatures here than in much of Rajasthan.
The Jantar Mantar
The Jantar Mantar, in Jaipur, is an astronomical observation site built in the early 18th century. It includes a set of some 20 main fixed instruments. They are monumental examples in masonry of known instruments but which in many cases have specific characteristics of their own. Designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye, they embody several architectural and instrumental innovations. This is the most significant, most comprehensive, and the best preserved of India's historic observatories.
Enthralling, historical Jaipur (Rajasthan’s capital), is the gateway to India’s most flamboyant state. The city’s colourful, chaotic streets ebb and flow with a heady brew of old and new. Careering buses dodge dawdling camels, leisurely cycle-rickshaws frustrate swarms of motorbikes, and everywhere buzzing autorickshaws watch for easy prey. In the midst of this mayhem, the splendours of Jaipur’s majestic past are islands of relative calm evoking a different pace and another world. At the city’s heart, the City Palace continues to house the former royal family; the Jantar Mantar, the Royal Observatory, maintains a heavenly aspect; and the honeycomb Hawa Mahal gazes on the bazaar below. And just out of sight, in the arid hill country surrounding the city, is the fairy-tale grandeur of Amber Fort, Jaipur’s star attraction.
This magnificent fortified ancient city, 40km west of Agra, was the short-lived capital of the Mughal empire between 1572 and 1585, during the reign of Emperor Akbar. Earlier, Akbar had visited the village of Sikri to consult the Sufi saint Shaikh Salim Chishti, who predicted the birth of an heir to the Mughal throne. When the prophecy came true, Akbar built his new capital here, including a stunning mosque, still in use today, and three palaces, one for each of his favourite wives – one a Hindu, one a Muslim and one a Christian (though Hindu villagers in Sikri dispute these claims). The city was an Indo-Islamic masterpiece, but erected in an area that supposedly suffered from water shortages and so was abandoned shortly after Akbar’s death.
The magical allure of the Taj Mahal draws tourists to Agra like moths to a wondrous flame, but the Taj is not a stand-alone attraction. The legacy of the Mughal empire has left a magnificent fort and a liberal sprinkling of fascinating tombs and mausoleums and there’s also fun to be had in the bustling chowks (marketplaces). Agra straddles a large bend along the holy Yamuna River. The Fort and the Taj, 2km apart, both overlook the river on different parts of the bend.
Kurukshetra is a place of great historical and religious importance, revered all over the country for its sacred association with the Vedas and the Vedic Culture. It was here that the battle of Mahabharat was fought and Lord Krishna preached.
Chandigarh, the capital of the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, was designed by the Swiss-French modernist architect, Le Corbusier. His buildings include the Capitol Complex with its High Court, Secretariat and Legislative Assembly, as well as the giant Open Hand Monument. The nearby Rock Garden is a park featuring sculptures made of stones, recycled ceramics and industrial relics.Each sector of the city is self-contained and pedestrian-friendly. Most visitors concentrate their attention on Sector 17 (for shops and restaurants) and Sector 22 (for hotels).
Simla (or Shimla) is the capital of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, in the Himalayan foothills. Once the summer capital of British India, it remains the terminus of the narrow-gauge Kalka-Shimla Railway, completed in 1903and also known as The Toy Train. It’s also known for the handicraft shops that line The Mall, a pedestrian avenue, as well as the Lakkar Bazaar, a market specializing in wooden toys and crafts.