The Golden Triangle of India consists of three cities that make a triangle on a map: Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. This famous triangle is considered “golden” because of the wealth of landscapes found in this small area as well as the historically and culturally important sites found within.
India has a dense population of over 1.2 billion, so everywhere you go will feel a little frenzied. For example: 4 lanes of traffic squeezed into only 3 lanes, vendors selling wares in the middle of the street, and cows and pigs roaming freely through the towns. However, experiencing all of this is part of the fun and creates a sense of adventure.
If you book a tour to the Golden Triangle, chances are you will experience most of the things below, but if you don’t they are worth seeking out on your own.
1.) Taj Mahal
Known far and wide as a symbol of absolute love, the Taj Mahal is far more enchanting in person than a photograph could ever portray. It took 20,000 people 22 years to build this masterpiece, and every aspect is perfect: perfect white marble, perfect symmetry, and perfect reflecting pools. The Taj Mahal is actually a tomb, not a residence, which was built for the emperor’s 3rd and favorite wife who died at the age of 39 while giving birth to her 14th child. The emperor’s story is bleak (he was jailed by his son for spending too much money on the tomb), but he ultimately got to lie beside his beloved wife.
2.) Amber Fort
It’s hard to believe this cheerfully yellow fort built on a commanding hill was commissioned in 1592. The architecture and sheer size of it is unbelievable: there is a large, meticulously groomed garden, two courtyards, two palaces, and the journey to the fort entrance through the Sun Gate is unforgettable. The top level of the fort affords an incredible view of the city of Jaipur, including the 10 kilometer wall complete with picture-perfect watch towers that surrounds the city.
India’s food is enhanced with a magnitude of tantalizing spices that makes sampling the cuisine feel like a party in your mouth. It’s also a vegetarian’s paradise with so many non-meat options to choose from. However, when not accustomed to Indian food, it can wreak havoc on a Westerner’s tummy. Gradually introduce the glorious curries into your diet, stay away from fresh fruits and veggies, ensure you eat in clean restaurants, and you shouldn’t have any problems. From my experience, the more spices the bigger the mouth party!
No matter where you are in the world, the markets are always fascinating, and this was no exception in India. The markets were abundantly colorful, selling gorgeous scarves and fabrics, hand carved wood décor, lovely jewelry, and cheap Taj Mahal replicas, of course! Hard bargaining is a must, and vendors will follow you for blocks if they think you’ll buy something in their shop. However, think of shopping as a game and don’t let it drain your energy because even though it is hard work, you can get some beautiful handicrafts for just a few US Dollars. All of my Christmas gifts for less than 50 USD?! Yes, please!
5.) Tuk Tuk/Rickshaw Ride
Many Western visitors to India’s Golden Triangle go on a package tour. If you go on a tour you might notice that the coach bus becomes a sanctuary to escape the chaos of India’s street traffic and persistent souvenir vendors. But, don’t miss out on some of the culture you traveled so far to experience. A great way to feel like a local for a short time is to take a tuk tuk (3 wheeled auto rickshaw) or bicycle rickshaw ride. You get the opportunity to get on the ground level and see things just as the locals do. For a special treat, take your ride through the narrow streets of a city to see how daily life unfolds there.
6.) Qutb Complex
The Qtub complex was built in the 12th century and houses India’s first mosque, which is a converted Hindu temple, and more famously houses the Qtub Minaret. The minaret (stand-alone tower) was built as a victory tower. Not only does it impress due to its age but also because it was hand-carved by chisel. Even though entering the minaret is closed to visitors, it’s still interesting to know there are 370 steps to ascend to the top.
7.) Raj Ghat Memorial
This serene memorial celebrates the contributions Mahatma Gandhi made to India. The large black marble platform was built where Gandhi was cremated following his assassination in 1948. An eternal flame stands over the memorial and the simple, yet beautiful complex is enclosed by a wall. Visiting is a somber yet peaceful affair, but it’s a great way to show appreciation to the man who peacefully championed civil rights and helped gain India independence.
8.) Agra Fort
Believe it or not, there are other attractions in the city of Agra besides the Taj Mahal. One of them is the Agra Fort. This impressive red sandstone fort was built in 1573 and was the capital of the Mughal Empire until 1638. It is where Shah Jahan (who commissioned the Taj Mahal) lived until his death. The fort is really an enclosed city that encompasses 94 acres, and the towering walls that surround it are 70 foot tall.
9.) Tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah
This magnificent tomb is otherwise known as the “Baby Taj” because it is said this over-the-top embellished marble tomb was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. It was completed in 1688 after only 6 years of construction for the parents of the 4th empress of India. Amazingly, over 37 types of semiprecious stones were inlaid into the marble. This tomb is much less busy than the Taj Mahal, so you get a chance to enjoy the perfectly manicured grounds and beauty of the tomb without fighting a crowd. Sunset at this site is spectacular as the last rays of the sun seemingly light up the tomb from within.
10.) Fatehpur sikri
The Mughal emperor that commissioned the city of Fatehpur Sikri led an interesting life. He married a Muslim wife, a Christian wife, and a Hindi wife, and he created his own religion that was a blend of these three religions. Unfortunately, his 16th century city was completely abandoned after only about 14 years of inhabitance. It is said the wells dried up and forced the emperor and his people to move in 1585, leaving a perfectly preserved city to this day. The red stone buildings are beautifully carved and many fine and delicate details are still in-tact such as the mirrors of the Muslim wife’s palace and the fresco paintings in the Christian wife’s palace.
If you’ve never visited India before, the Golden Triangle should definitely be on your list. Even though the triangle encompasses a small portion of the country, you will have the opportunity to visit multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites and experience the richness of India’s culture.
I absolutely loved my trip to India and would go again in a heartbeat. I loved learning about everything from the Hindi religion to the marriage ceremony to their education system. Do yourself a favor and book a tour to India. It’s a culture lover’s dream!