GUIDE TO BACKPACKING DELHI
The word 'deli' in the Turkish language means 'mad'. Hence the affectionate nickname of 'Deli Delhi'. For a first-timer in India, Delhi is an apocalyptic, full-frontal assault of the senses that can leave many visitors exhausted, confused and massively overwhelmed. The sheer amount of people combined with an endless orchestra of car horns whilst navigating people, bikes, 10 year olds riding scooters, rickshaws on the pavement and an array of livestock and wildlife is the very definition of culture shock. But isn't that what travelling is all about? Experiencing other cultures? So, whilst Delhi may be some peoples definition of a nightmare, for those willing to embrace it, the experiences will leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.
India's capital city has a lot to offer and its a shame that most people only stay for a few days before venturing on. Wether you're here for a day, a week or even longer, our guide will help you get the best out of your backpacking Delhi adventure.
Lotus Bahai Temple
The Lotus Temple is one of the most amazing places we have ever been to. Not because of its far-reaching, green gardens or architectural beauty, but because of what it stands for and symbolises. India is one of, if not the, most religiously diverse countries in the world. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and many others have coexisted together for many years and the Lotus Temple is a marvellous testament to that. The temple is a house of worship where believers of any faith can get together to pray, worship or mediate. The rest of the world could learn a lot from this approach.
Visit the Taj Mahal
An absolute must-see and probably the first item on the list of anyone visiting Delhi. The Taj is located in the city of Agra, a 2 hour train ride away from Delhi. We all know the story of the Taj, built by 20,000 labourers over a 20 year period as a monument to and resting place for the emperor's favourite wife who died whilst giving birth to their 14th child. The end result is nothing short of spectacular and the opportunity to walk the grounds and see the structure with your own eyes is well worth 1,050 INR (£11.80) entry fee.
Experience the cuisine
Indian food is amongst some of the very best in the world and India's capital is the perfect place to get your fill. The smell of spices that will have your mouth watering in no time fill the streets. You'll find food carts lining every street, restaurants on every corner and secret hole-in-the-wall joints hidden in the maze of backstreets. For an unbeatable Indian culinary experience be sure to check out Delhi Food Walks. Foodie-in-Chief Anubhav and his team know all there is to know about Delhi and its eateries. Join one of their walking tours to sample some of Delhi's incredible food. Have a sneak peak at Delhi Food Walk's IG to get your motor running.
The Red Fort
One of the most iconic sights within the city itself is the imposing, red sandstone fortress. Within the walls is the old city called home by the emperors of the Mughal dynasty for nearly 200 years. The entry fee is currently 650 INR (£7.30) although, as with most attractions in India, the cost of admission for foreigners seems to increase month by month. Once inside there is plenty to explore and you can learn a lot about the history of the city.
Get lost in Old Delhi
Old Delhi is one of the most interesting and charismatic parts of the city. If you're like us, and you enjoy submerging yourself into the culture and experiencing life as a local, then Old Delhi is the place to go. It's where you'll find the best places to eat, some of the coolest markets and it has the best and liveliest energy out of anywhere else we went in Delhi. You'll find many points of interest here, including Asia's largest mosque, the red fort and the spice bazar.
Check out New Delhi
The differences between Old Delhi and New Delhi are pretty astonishing. Instead of tight and dusty alleyways New Delhi has wide and clean streets. Instead of lively markets there are government buildings and fancy residencies. Instead of cheap food carts there are cafes and restaurants. Is New Delhi is a sign of things to come for the rest of Delhi? We're not too sure, but its certainly worth checking out. The art gallery, Swaminarayan Akshardam and India Gate, the war memorial, are not to be missed.
Volunteer at a community kitchen
There are many of these community kitchens across the city and symbolise all that is right with the world. Anybody can come along, grab a plate and enjoy a meal at no cost whatsoever. The larger kitchens can serve up to 25,000 meals per day. Yes, you read that right, 25,000! They run entirely on donations wether that be food, money or time. To witness the scale of these operations, how efficiently they run and how much people pour their heart and souls into providing meals for those who need them is a truly humbling experience.
Be a backpacker in Paharganj
When backpacking Delhi, there's a very high probability that you'll be staying in, or at the very least visiting Paharganj. There are dozens of hostels, cheap restaurants and markets up and down the main road and all the side streets. The hustle and bustle never seems to stop here and you can spend hours strolling around and taking in the madness. It's centrally located and super close to one the main train stations. The beggars, touts and hassle can get a little annoying, but you'll need to learn how to deal with that to survive India.
Where to stay?
Speaking of Paharganj, you absolutely have to stay at Smyle Inn. This hostel is more like a hotel with its clean and spacious rooms, super fast WiFi and helpful and friendly staff. You can enjoy the free breakfast to the sights on their rooftop and their in-house agency can assist you with booking flights, trains, buses and tours. Located on a rare quiet side street, Smyle Inn provides you a safe haven from all that's happening outside, it's the perfect place to enjoy your stay in Delhi.