When visiting India's capital city you simply must explore the somewhat crazy and super busy area of Old Delhi. The main sites include the Great Mosque and the UNESCO listed Red Fort. We also stopped to pay homage at the tomb of Gandhi and visited the famous India Gate.
Today, was Christmas Day, which is not a major celebration in Hindu majority India, but it was still a public holiday. Our tour operator, Audley, had set out a fairly leisurely schedule for the day with us not planned to set out on a tour until noon. So, we spent our morning getting settled in and having a civilized, mainly Indian breakfast.
Before setting out to India we had been worried about the pollution levels in Delhi, which has developed an unwanted reputation as one of the World’s most polluted cities. Earlier in November, the pollution levels had reached very dangerous levels, due to the four million cars on Delhi’s roads, particulates from construction, coal-fired power plants and farmers burning their crop stubble. Our concern had been serious enough for us to pack face masks. Luckily, the pollution levels had improved, but there was still a haze and you could smell and taste the air.
Our driver and the guide for our two days in Delhi, Zupaigh (I was not sure of the spelling), arrived to collect us. With the traffic delay, albeit lighter than usual due to the holidays, we still had plenty of time to chat about Indian culture and politics. Karen and I consider ourselves worldly, but we still love to discover more. It was fascinating to get a better understanding of the caste system, which is still deeply rooted in Hindu culture.
The tomb itself is set within a complex with extensive and lush gardens, amongst which are scattered several elaborate tombs. The largest structure is Humayan’s Tomb, a phenomenal structure that is believed to have been the template for the Taj Mahal. Humayun’s Tomb is the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun which was commissioned by Humayun’s first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum (also known as Haji Begum), in 1569-70. It was designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, a Persian architect chosen by her.
The circumstances behind Humayan’s death were unusual. On 27 January 1556, Humayun, with his arms full of books, was descending the staircase from his library when the muezzin announced the Azaan (the call to prayer). It was his habit, wherever he heard the summons, to bow his knee in holy reverence. Trying to kneel, he caught his foot in his robe, tumbled down several steps and hit his temple on a rugged stone edge. He died three days later.
We were given time to walk around the tomb and admire the surrounding views, with the minarets of the other tombs peeking above the trees. Leaving the complex, we did a quick detour to see the octagonal Isa Khan Niyazi Tomb, which pre-dates Humayan’s Tomb by 15 years.
Planning the journey
Timings and Entry Fee of Humayun’s Tomb
Humayun’s Tomb is open from 6 AM to 6 PM. Humayun’s tomb entry fee is Rs.30 for Indian cities and tourists from SAARC nations (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar). While for tourists from other than these nations, the ticket price is Rs. 500 per person.
How to reach Humayun’s Tomb?
Reaching Humayun’s tomb is extremely hassle-free as tourists will find metro station and bus stands nearby. It is located just opposite to the Dargah Nizamuddin. The nearest metro station to Humayun’s Tomb is Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium station on the Violet line, around 2 km away. Another nearby station is Jorbagh metro station on the yellow line, around 5 km away.
Best time to visit New Delhi
While October to March is the best time to visit Delhi because of cool weather. However, some weeks in late November to January should be avoided because of heavy smog cover. February and March have great weather and relatively clean air to travel outside. Delhi experiences extreme temperatures in the summer and winter seasons. The summer months (April to July) are scorching hot in Delhi as the temperature might rise to 45 degrees Celsius. Temperatures fall a little during the monsoon season (August to September) and certain days can be good for roaming around.
Places to visit close by
1. THE RED FORT
Red Fort, popularly known as Lal Quila, is the pride of the nation. It is a historic fort, situated in the older part of the city. Lal Quila served as the primary residence for Mughal Emperors who ruled the city, for about 200 years. It was until 1856 that the Mughals had resided in Lal Quila. Besides, the historical monument also served as the political center of the Mughals.
Red Fort was built under the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the year 1639. It was made on the lines of Shah Jahan’s palace in his fortified capital Shahanabad. It was called Red Fort because of its massive closed walls built in red stone. The palace not only showcases the architectural brilliance of Shah Jahan but also gives a reasonably good picture of Islamic architecture of those times.
2. JAMA MASJID (GRAND MOSQUE)
One of the popular sightseeing places in Delhi that you cannot miss, is Jama Masjid. A religious shrines, it is also popular for its impressive architecture. It is among the largest mosques in India. Jama Masjid Delhi is also known as the Masjid-i-Jahan-Numa, which means the mosque that reflects world. However, the name Jama Masjid is said to have arrived from the word jummah, which refers to the holy gathering of Muslims for praying. It is located in Chandni Chowk, which is another popular place to visit in Delhi, especially if you are a shopping enthusiast.
Jama Masjid Delhi was built during the reign of Shah Jahan while its construction was supervised by the Saadullah Khan.
3. INDIA GATE
A popular monument in India, India Gate stands majestically, presenting an awe-inspiring sight. Formerly known as Kingsway, India Gate construction was completed in 1931. India Gate Delhi has been a symbol of sacrifice and dedication of India soldiers.
Designed by Edwin Lutyens, it was constructed in the honour of 90,000 Indian soldiers who lost their life in the World War I. Also known as India War Memorial, it also has 13,516 names of Indian and British soldiers engraved on its arch and foundations. These soldiers lost their lives during the Afghan War of 1919.
Amar Jawan Jyoti, which is also an important part of India Gate, was built later as a tribute to Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in the Indo-Pakistan War of December 1971.
4. RAJ GHAT (GHANDI MEMORIAL)
The focus of this open-air memorial to Mahatma Gandhi is a black marble platform marking the place where the peace leader was cremated after his assassination in 1948. It’s a peaceful, beautiful site; memorial ceremonies are held on Fridays.
Where to stay in New Delhi
1. HAVELI DHARAMPURA
Set in the heart of Delhi, WelcomHeritage Haveli Dharampura, awarded UNESCO award for cultural and heritage restoration, is nestled among the narrow alleys of Chandni Chowk. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Free WiFi is available.
Red Fort is 1,000 yards from Haveli Dharampura, while Rāj Ghāt is 1.1 miles away. The nearest airport is Delhi International Airport, 10.6 miles from the property.
2. MAIDENS HOTEL
Built in 1903, Maidens Hotel showcases 19th century colonial charm and architecture. It has an outdoor pool, fitness centre and features a coffee shop which extends into a charming, open courtyard. Modern rooms include a flat-screen satellite TV. Free WiFi is available in the rooms of the property.
Just 200 yards from Civil Line Metro station, Maidens Hotel New Delhi is 1.6 miles from The Red Fort monuments and Chandni Chowk (market). New Delhi Airport is about a 1-hour drive from the hotel.
3. BLOOM ROOMS NEW DELHI
Situated in New Delhi, 0.9 miles from Jantar Mantar, bloomrooms @ Janpath features accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking and a shared lounge. This 3-star hotel offers a tour desk and luggage storage space. The accommodation provides a 24-hour front desk, airport transfers, a concierge service and free WiFi throughout the property.