When we left NYC to travel full time, we had a few destinations around the world that we knew we wanted to prioritize. One of them was India, and specifically during the Holi Festival. So many destinations around the world feel pretty heavily influenced by western culture, and we had heard that India was about as authentic as it gets- so we couldn't wait to get there and see if for ourselves! We partnered with India's number One airline, Jet Airways to explore a few cities in this incredible country, and we're so excited to share our India Travel Guide with you!
We only had about 10 days to spend in India between a few jobs, so we decided to spend all of our time in the area called "The Golden Triangle" in the North. It's made up of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, and is a pretty standard circuit for people visiting India as there is so much culture and must-see destinations packed into the area around these 3 cities. You can travel between each city by car, but we had a mix of flights and hired drivers, which we thought was a good mix. Jet Airways flies all over India, and we had a consistently good experience with them each time (You can read our full review of Jet Airways here).
Most countries will need a visa to visit India, and you'll want to plan ahead as it takes time to process the visa. It's a bit of a complicated process online, but we applied for the E-Visa On Arrival about one week before we left, and needed to bring our printed approval letter to the airport to board our flight. The approval came in our emails 2-3 days later. It cost us about $75 per person and we paid online with our application. Once you land in India, you proceed to the Visa On Arrival counter and get the official stamp there (again with the necessary approval letter) and that's it! We applied for our e-visa here.
India was truly one of the most beautiful, epic places we've ever visited. You see things that you don't see anywhere else like cobra charmers and exotic Rajisthani palaces and camels and cows and elephants in the streets. The sunsets and sunrises are hazy and pink and pure magic, and the food is insanely good. It was also pretty challenging- we felt that we had to be on guard all the time, and as a non-indian a lot of people try to trick you or rip you off (like almost anywhere you travel in the world). It's sensory overload and a bit of culture shock, and after 10 days of waking up at sunrise to explore until late at night, we were ready to get back to something more relaxed and familiar. During our time in India we were shooting lookbooks and social content for 11 fashion brands as well as working with multiple hotels and travel companies, so our experience was quite a bit more full on than most. If you can take it a bit slower and really enjoy your time in each destination with some built-in time to rest and refresh, we'd highly recommend it.
We've broken our guide through the Golden Triangle up into our 3 locations in the order we explored, and tried to give you as much info as possible. Let us know if you have anything to add in the comments below!
N E W D E L H I
Delhi is the capital in India's North, and the geographical top of the Golden Triangle. This bustling, crazy city is divided into Old Delhi (the walled city established and built during the Mughal Empire in 1638) and New Delhi (built during the British Occupation in 1911). We loved it for the amazing history and good public transportation, big-city feel and amazing North-Indian food.
What We Saw:
Red Fort- Delhi's Red fort was built in 1639 and served as the primary residence of the emperors of the Mughal dynasty for 200 years. There is so much incredible architecture to see inside of this heritage site!! The grounds themselves are huge and there’s unlimited amounts of photo opportunities everywhere you turn. It does tend to get pretty crowded so if you are planning to shoot here, we would suggest the earlier the better. That goes for pretty much any iconic spot in India. All of our best shoots were at sunrise, which is easy to do when every sunrise is as beautiful, hazy, and magical as they are in India! We went to the Red Fort during midday and it was really hard to get a good shot, but the good news is that the lighting at sunset was absolutely stunning!
Qutub Minar- The Qutub Minar is a UNESCO World Heritage site constructed in 1192, and is one of the earliest surviving Mosque complexes in the India subcontinent. It was stunning! The minar itself was quite striking but we found the entire complex mesmerizing and beautiful. We visited and shot around 10am or so and it wasn't too crowded, so this would be easy to do after a sunrise location if you're putting together your own itinerary.
Humayun’s Tumb- The tomb of Humayun is another UNESCO World Heritage site, constructed for the Mughal Emperor Humayun in 1569-70 by his first wife and chief consort. There was literally SO much to see here… it gets really crowded so plan to go early, but it is really large and really beautiful! We didn't even make it around the entire site because we were so hot and tired by the time we got there, so plan for this one to take a bit of time, but it is totally worth a visit!
Safdarjung Tomb- Okay, Humayun’s Tomb is more famous, but we actually much preferred our visit to Safdarjung's tomb! It probably has a lot to do with the fact that we got here at sunrise so we had the entire place to ourselves for over an hour, but it was such a beautiful place to be for sunrise and to get a wide variety of shots with no interruptions! This striking Mausoleum is made of sandstone and marble and was built in 1754 for the Mughal Empire statesman Safdarjung. So many people thought our photos here were at the Taj Mahal, because the silhouette in the glowy morning sun looks pretty similar! This place was definitely one of our favorites in New Delhi!
India Gate- The India gate is a war memorial built to memorialize the 70,000 soldiers from the India Army who died during the first world war. Get your iconic gate shot here (along with everyone else in Delhi…) but do keep in mind that it does light up beautifully at night too so if you want a good night shot or even just a good spot to hang out and see the starts, this is your spot! The surrounding lawns are the perfect place for a picnic lunch as well. We were told that a lot of locals park their cars here at night with their friends and drink a chai (chai's are a staple in India, and the most amazing we've ever tasted). Sounds pretty magical, right?!
Rashtrapati Bhawan- This is the parliament and the president’s house! It’s right across from the India Gate and so it's super easy to see both in about 30 minutes or so. We didn’t really shoot here at all, but we were glad we stopped by to have a look. Worth seeing, but if you're pressed for time, this one would be probably be the first place we'd take off our list.
Jantar Mantar- Jantar Mantar is an equinoctial sundial built in the early 18th century, and another UNESCO World Heritage site. The sundial is intended to tell the time of day and is accurate to half a second, amazingly. This was the biggest and most extravagant sundial we'd ever seen, and it was so cool! There are countless angular shots to get here, with beautiful shades of tan and red all over the place. There is an identical sundial in Jaipur as well, so just do one or the other! No need to see them both.
Chandi Chowk- This local shopping market district in Old Delhi will really give you an authentic feel of Old Delhi! It was chaotic and dirty and everything you’d imagine it to be. It was definitely a really cool cultural experience that we wouldn't miss when visiting Delhi. We were so happy to have the experience, and then happy to hop in a Tuk Tuk and get the heck out of there! Haha!
Here are a few spots we didn’t have time to see, but would recommend if you have the time:
**Jama Masjid- This is the biggest mosque in Delhi and so beautiful! We actually only saw it from afar but would highly suggest visiting it.. make sure to cover your legs and shoulders when you do!! (guys + girls both!)
**Lodi Gardens/Garden of Five Senses- Apparently makes for such a gorgeous walk! There are so many unique flowers all over India, we are sure it must be so gorgeous!
**Gurudwara Bangla Sahib- This is a beautiful temple that seems to be a favorite in Delhi.
Where We Stayed + Ate:
Radisson Blu in Connaught Place- Honestly, we booked this place super last minute… as in we booked it at the font desk of the hotel after arriving in New Delhi from the airport, haha! We were waiting for a few confirmations from other collaborations so we pushed this booking until the last minute. The hotel was fine, it was super affordable and in a pretty good location, but it wasn’t anything special. If we had done a bit more research, we would’ve probably stayed somewhere else, but it had everything we needed— even a gym and a balcony! The balcony was really nice to work from, and we enjoyed being in a central location to be able to walk to dinner each night and have plenty of options to choose from.
Connaught Place Restaurants- One of the benefits of staying in the Connaught Place area was the unlimited amount of restaurants. We only had to walk a few minutes in any direction from the hotel to find some incredible Indian or International food- so if you find yourself in Delhi and don't know where the happening place to eat is, ask the cab driver to drop you in the middle of CP and you'll find anything you want!
Shang Palace @ Shangri-La Hotel New Delhi- We went for a dim sum lunch one afternoon to Shang Palace at the Shangri-La Hotel, and it was an incredible fine dining experience from start to finish. We were glad to have the break from Indian food, and It was one of the best dim sum meals we've ever had! If you're looking for a beautiful lunch or dinner option while in Delhi, we loved our experience here and highly recommend it!
You can easily get around Delhi via Uber or on local Tuk-tuks, but if you go the local route make sure you agree on a rate before getting in. If you're looking to explore for a day at a time with minimal stress, you can book a driver by the day instead. In Delhi, we booked our drivers for the day through a company called India Tourist Driver, which you can check out Here — they were great! They have drivers located all throughout the entire golden triangle ((New Delhi + Agra + Jaipur)) and if we went back, we would go through this company again for sure. Make sure you negotiate a price including all parking and tolls- and you can haggle a better deal if you book for more than 1 day. This company was the most professional one we used, and highly recommend it. We used them 2 full days (8 hours each day) and worked out a price of 2800 Rupees for 2 days including all tolls and parking.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly:
Our Favorite: Our favorite thing about Delhi was experiencing so many stunning heritage sites! They were all so different and unique, and everything was pretty close to each other so it's easy to pack a lot into each and every day. As mentioned previously, our best days were the ones that we woke up early to shoot at sunrise at our top locations because Delhi is a very busy and crowded, so shooting those iconic shots that are all over Instagram in these places came with many challenges. But the whole experience of seeing such ancient, culturally rich places was truly amazing!
Our Least Favorite: As you could imagine, two blonde-haired, blue-eyed people with camera gear and outfit changes stood out like sore thumbs in India. That meant quite a lot of stares, and lots and lots of people asking us for selfies. It was endearing to a point, but it got a little tricky to go anywhere in public without being stopped every few yards. The people in Delhi were entirely lovely and we met a lot of incredibly kind souls, but we also had multiple instances of people pulling us to take a photo when we politely declined or following and photographing/videoing us after we asked them not to. People followed us on the streets and while we never felt unsafe exactly, we often felt very uncomfortable. It was a little overwhelming, and we felt like we needed to have our guard up at all times (especially Tara), and we were a bit relieved when we left for the smaller, less crowded, more relaxed city of Jaipur.