The densely populated city of Delhi is full of life, culture, and stunning historical architecture. Almost every street corner has a vendor selling freshly picked vegetables or a historic monument a short walk down the way. It’s almost a marathon trying to see the whole city but I was lucky enough to get a taste, seeing all the sights of Delhi in one day. After spending two weeks in Bangladesh for a humanitarian medical mission, my mom, long time friend Elizabeth, and I traveled through India on a tour of India’s Golden Triangle. We traveled from modern cities to rural desert landmarks and saw everything in between. From roadside curry lunches to elephant rides up the side of a mountain, we had the ultimate India experience!
We started the Golden Triangle with Delhi in one day, where we experienced the cites both New and Old neighborhoods. Delhi is one of the largest cities in the world – and you can feel it! Both parts of the city contrast with Old Delhi symbolizing India’s rich history and earthiness, while New Delhi is more new and modern, all intermingled tightly together. It’s amazing to see neighborhoods with such a stark contrast being fully integrated into the city with someone traveling from the historic Old Delhi to modern New Delhi without bilking an eye. We spent a full day touring Delhi and although I wish we had more time, we were able to see some true highlights.
Delhi in One Day: Sunrise to Sunset Sightseeing Itinerary
1. Sunrise: Jama Masjid Mosque
The Jama Masjid Mosque is one of the most stunning sights of Delhi! This gorgeous pink-hued landmark is one of the largest mosques in India. Upon entering we had to remove our shoes and (ladies only) cloak ourselves in an oversized colorful robe. I felt like royalty gliding around from room to room then through the massive courtyard. Overhead, pigeons circled in flocks touching down only to grab food the mosque had scattered on the ground for them. It was such a beautiful sight!
2. Mid-Morning: Rickshaw Ride Through Old Delhi
Our next adventure was a rickshaw ride from the steps of Jama Masjid through Old Delhi. We bumped along the windy roads passing vendor stalls and whisking down crooked streets. Lucky for us, the roads are less crowded in the early mornings, which meant I was able to enjoy the ride instead of solely focusing on gripping the rickshaw frame for dear life. Although, no true rickshaw rides go without a few close calls, or at least what Americans would consider a near incident. In India there really aren’t any Rules of the Road and if you can get ahead by fitting your car, rickshaw, or body through any open space regardless of speed, you do it!
What I found to be the most amazing is that all through Delhi we spotted many produce vendors dotting the street corners and alleyways. Rather than a grocery store or supermarket, the people of India buy their food from small stands scattered throughout the city. You pick up baked goods from one vendor, then fresh produce from another, and your dairy from a stall down the way. The food stalls rarely move locations and are operated by the same owners showcasing primarily seasonal and local items. Shopping this way for daily ingredients is a very romantic old world market style that I wish I could replicate back home!
3. Afternoon: Qutub Minar
In the later afternoon we visited Qutub Minar, which dates back to 1192. Inside the courtyard there was an iron metal pillar dating back to the 4th century! I always think of Europe, Egypt, and South America as having ancient and historical sites but here in Delhi I was able to go up and actually touch history. Being able to walk right up and feel the carving that were laid together like bricks back in the 11th century is truly incredible. Surviving lightning strikes, earthquakes, and now hoards to tourists while maintaining its condition is truly a wonder.
4. Sunset: Humayun’s Tomb
Arriving at sunset we spent some time walking around our last monument of Delhi, Humayun’s Tumb. Our guide called this site a mini Taj Mahal which similarly is a royal burial site of an Indian emperor. We took our time walking through the various rooms within the tomb, our eyes glued to the ceiling and walls admiring the intricately carved and inlaid details. Sunset was the perfect time to visit because as the as the sun sunk deeper into the skyline, the vibrant colors of the tomb came alive!
If you were to see Delhi in one day, my favorite sights were the Jama Masjid Mosque and Humayun’s Tumb. If are only able to see two things in Delhi, they are at the top of my list! We also were able to squeeze in a quick visit to Gandhi’s Tomb in the early afternoon, right after the rickshaw ride if that is a ‘must see’ item on your Delhi in one day list.
The following morning we packed our bags and traveled from Delhi through the countryside to the city of Jaipur. Along the way to Jaipur we stopped at a roadside fruit stand to feed wild monkeys. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Hoards of monkeys sunbathing and lounging along the side of the road, just waiting for a passerby to give them nibbles of fruit and peanuts. Up close the monkeys were so cute with their big eyes and fluffy fur.
We continued on till the evening when we finally arrived to Jaipur. Along the way we saw camels and elephants walking along the roadsides just as normal and casual as someone walking their dog down the street. We even saw a camel pulling a cart through a highway toll booth, paying his fee to cross just like the cars and trucks.
We were so excited by our first taste of India, but were also excited for what was waiting just outside of the bustling city. Delhi in one day was quite a feat but we checked all the boxes and were ready to move on. We knew we had elephant rides and pink palaces waiting for us, so we couldn’t wait to explore the next city of Jaipur!