We have always wanted to visit India and decided to spend two weeks of our honeymoon here in late May.
Visa: The process of getting our visa was relevantly easy and cost approx. $50. You can apply online for an e-visa which took about 48 hours to get, so we applied about 1-2 months before we left, just to be sure. You fill out their online form, upload a photo and copy of your passport along with providing sponsorship information and within a couple of days you get confirmation back.
Travel: When we started reviewing India, we checked out a couple of tour operators in Ireland, but each were charging quite a lot of month for a group tour. Instead, I did some research online and came across a tour company in Delhi who offered us a private tour for a much better price. We have recommended them to a couple of people, who have been very happy with them! We booked our flights ourselves, and are traveling Dublin – Heathrow – Delhi – we got the flights one way for about €300 each.
Important: One thing we realised, you cant go inside an airport in India unless you have your flight information printed and with you! We had ours, but our flight number changed and we were not allowed enter the airport unless we had proof with the new flight number!
We arrived in Delhi quite early in the morning and were met at the airport by our tour guide and brought to our hotel, the Shangri-La close to Connaught Square. The hotel was fantastic with a very quite outdoor pool and a few restaurants/bars to chose from. We stayed here for two nights while visiting the below:
In Old Delhi, we visited this mosque which I believe is one of the oldest in Delhi (built in 1656) and can hold over 25,000 people during prayer.
We took a rickshaw around the streets of Old Delhi, which are super narrow and swarmed with goats and cows on the streets along with monkeys hanging from the wires above. This was a huge culture shock for me, seeing what normal life was like here! It was also a highlight of the trip for us, as we got to see factories/markets that serve the shops all around Delhi (flowers, spices, chilli’s). We visited the flower market and were taken to the roof to for a view of the streets below – the roof was home to some of the workers, who were showering and getting ready for the day.
This was the first temple we visited and my first proper experience of India. I took my place in the women’s line for security screening and was the only tourist there (due to the 47 degree heat). It was a surreal experience, the men’s queue was very short and quick – however the women were almost starting a riot. They kept pushing people out of the way, no matter your age! We thought it would take hours to get into the temple and we were prepared to leave, but once you passed security it was fine! It was a very interesting place to visit, and a pretty new temple. We had a few people ask us if the weather was warm enough for our pasty Irish white skin!
We stopped off here for a quick visit, and to find out more about the Mughal empire and the tomb which was built in 1570 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We walked up the very steep steps into the temple, however we were followed by a number of people for photos so only make a quick visit.
Gandhi was cremated here after his assassination in 1948. There is a square of black marble where he was laid out, surrounding by trees and a large garden. You can pay to walk in around it, or for free you can walk up onto the top of the entrance and get a view down onto where his body lay.
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (Sikh Temple)
We finished our trip to Delhi by visiting this Sikh Temple which is one of the most prominent Sikh Temple’s in India. The temple and the surroundings are stunning, a large lake in the centre surrounded by white marble. We went inside the temple and were unable to take photos, but one of the most interesting facts about here, is that it feeds over 10,000 people a day!
On our third day we took a 4 hour drive to Agra. Along the way, we saw locals in the little villages dotted along the highway. We could see them drying out bricks along the way to go into the large chimneys that were plotted in the fields. There were a number of huts in the fields where apparently they live for 5 or 6 weeks while they make the bricks and then return home.
We visited these Mughal gardens which are on the other side of the river opposite the Taj and also home to the rumoured Black Taj. In the evening at sunset you get a beautiful view of the Taj Mahal from across the river.
We got up at 5:30am to visit the Taj before it got very busy. No matter how many times you see photos of it, when you see it in real life, its an unbelievably beautiful building! We walked along the grounds outside to hear about why it was built and about Shah Jahan who commissioned the Taj for the tomb of his wife. The inside was alot smaller than I was expecting but you only see the ground floor with the replica of the tombs which are directly below.
On our tour of the Agra Fort (built in 1573) we got to hear about the Mughals who built the fort and the importance of the fort for the Mughal empire. We also got the history of Shah Jahan’s family and about how he was held here under house arrest by his own son. The views of the Taj from here are stunning, and the further away from the Taj you get, the larger is appears. We got to see the rooms belonging to the wife of Shah Jahan (for whom the Taj was built).
Pinch of Spice – We were brought here by our guide (every tourist in Agra is brought here I think!). The food was fantastic – but the staff don’t seem happy when the woman is the one who orders beer for dinner.
All in all – Agra wasn’t the nicest place we visited! The Taj and Agra Fort are unbelievable and well worth a visit, but 24 hours is more than enough time!