If India had to be symbolised by just one place, it would have to be the capital city of Delhi, City of Djinns, and 25 million people. Magical, mysterious, mayhemic, it is the embodiment of everything that is amazing about India. And Yonder is your ideal guide to the best hotels in Delhi.
Old Delhi, the ancient heart of the capital, is a tiny 6sq km enclave huddled around the Red Fort comprising of ramshackled narrow streets alive with rickshaws, men and women going about their daily business, usually in dhotis and colourful saris. Rich in history, like Rome, it bears the hallmarks of the many empires that have possessed it over the centuries.
Delhi is home to a wealthy modern urban elite who live in style alongside the wide boulevards of the pristine embassy district where the foreign residents happily socialise with one another. But it is also of course home to the innumerable people who keep the city’s massive cogs turning. Meeting them, you will usually encounter broad smiles and an eagerness to talk about life in their extraordinary city.
Lightweight tourists make a big mistake in Delhi. They look briefly at the main tourist spots, tussle ineffectively with the touts, and then escape to calmer locations. True travellers, of course, know that Delhi rewards those who linger to explore the lesser known corners.
We love the frenetic energy that keeps this massive city moving. It’s a tremendously exciting place to be. Sure, you can hide away in some exceptional hotels, both ultra-modern and historic, but why would you when India’s pulsating heart is on your doorstep?
Get out, and enjoy this unique experience. The city’s metro is cheap and efficient. But as you are travelling with Yonder, enjoying luxury hotels in Delhi and as your every comfort is catered for, perhaps you would prefer to get around in your air-conditioned car, leaving your driver to negotiate the throngs.
Culture hunters have a field day here. The sites are huge, literally. But let’s start with Raj Ghat, the small and humble spot beside the Yamuna River that serves as a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Come on the right day and you can walk up the ramps to the viewing point overlooking the eternal flame that marks the spot of Gandhi’s cremation in half an hour. On the wrong day, there will be thousands of Indians queuing for many hours for the briefest glimpse.
There are other magnificent sites too: Humayun’s tomb, commissioned in 1569 – with its perfectly symmetrical gardens and the precursor of the Taj Mahal – is located in the centre of Delhi and of course there is a stunning collection of colonial era buildings dating from the heydays of the British Raj with the India Gate war memorial and the government buildings, designed by Edwin Lutyens.
But for those who want an all-encompassing experience, including haggling on anything from beautifully embroidered bed throws to antique furniture or eating the best cuisine in the whole of India, Delhi is the place to be.
And if you still have the energy to mingle with the young hip Delhi crowd, the district of Hauz-Khas will keep you on your feet until the small hours.
Indians have two great obsessions: cricket and Bollywood. Whilst, Mumbai claims to be home to both, Delhi isn’t far behind. If you like the sound of willow on leather, you’ll find the atmosphere at an Indian Premier League Twenty Twenty match like nothing you have experienced before. And speaking of new experiences, a visit to one of the city’s many luxury cinemas to watch a Bollywood movie is one of those slightly leftfield experiences that will stay with you.
Delhi is known as the green city and you’ll soon see it is really is covered in parks, trees and wide boulevards. But if you’re too tired to leave the comfort of your car and dip into the hot, slightly chaotic, outdoors to go walking, there are plenty of other pursuits.
Famous for its shopping, Delhi offers both the refined variety inside huge malls and the vernacular street side stalls. Both have their merits and with a bit of persistence you’ll be able to find anything from beautifully intricate hand-painted tiles to designer handbags (both originals and fake varieties!). Haggling runs through the veins of the city, so be prepared to negotiate hard when buying from street stalls.
Where to start? Delhi has everything. Many of the best restaurants are found in the five-star hotels around the city. Aside from the ubiquitous Indian food, there is everything from French fine dining to superb New York style bakeries in which the best bagels and club sandwiches are a masterpiece.
Many of the luxury hotels in Delhi will tug on your heart strings, or perhaps your taste buds, with their tradition of serving High Tea. Perfectly cut finger sandwiches, glorious scones with homemade jams and tea strained through silver strainers come as standard. Depending on when you hit Delhi, a break from the aromas of curry and a few familiar flavours might just be the order of the day.
Eating in a luxury hotel in Delhi isn’t to everyone’s taste and if you are more a a street food enthusiast, and have the courage, there are endless options, although you will be confined to indian cuisine. And when we talk about street food, it doesn’t necessarily have to be from a vendor with a cart; there are loads of local restuarants in which stunningly delicious curries are served up on simple metal plates whilst you sit out on plastic chairs, with the honking of horns outside.
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