When thinking of India, the mind immediately goes to The Taj Mahal, or Mumbai, India's largest city. But New Delhi, the country's capital, also has plenty to offer. Many travellers arriving in New Delhi by plane want to escape the hectic pace of the capital and travel on to other parts of India. That is a great shame, because staying in New Delhi for a few days is definitely worth it to discover the numerous interesting sights the city has to offer. The highlights of the capital are described below. Don't forget to apply for an Indian visa before departure.
Delhi or New Delhi, what is the difference?
The names Delhi and New Delhi are often used interchangeably, but officially have a different meaning. New Delhi is the capital of India. Delhi is not an abbreviation of New Delhi, but refers to a larger area, namely the National Capital Territory of Delhi. India is divided into 28 states and 8 territories. One of these territories is the Capital Territory of Delhi. The Capital Territory is in turn divided into 11 districts. New Delhi, the capital of India, is one of these eleven districts and therefore part of the Territory of Delhi.
In this article, sights are described throughout the territory, so not only those in the capital New Delhi, but also those in other districts of Delhi. Many sights are located just outside the capital, for example in Old Delhi. Europeans need a visa to travel to India, whether they only want to visit New Delhi or other parts of the country.
Seat of the Indian Government
Raisina Hill is a district of New Delhi where India's most important government buildings are located, including the residence of the President, Rashtrapati Bhavan, several ministries and the secretariat which includes the Prime Minister's office. From Raisina Hill, a lengthy promenade runs eastwards to the India Gate, the iconic triumphal arch commemorating the soldiers of the British East Indies who died in World War One. In the arch, inspired by the French Arc de Triomphe, are engraved the names of 90,000 Indian and British war victims from World War I, and of 3,000 soldiers killed on the north-western border and in the war against Afghanistan in 1919. In addition, the arch honours the victims of the war between Bangladesh and Pakistan in 1971.
Beautiful temples and mosques
Numerous religions are represented in India, and this is clearly reflected in Delhi: there are places of worship for various religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Bahai. The most important mosque in Delhi is Jama Masjid, also known as the Friday Mosque. The mosque, situated on a hill in Old Delhi, is one of the largest in the world and is also worth a visit for non-Muslims because of its impressive towers, domes and huge courtyard.
Another popular attraction is the Lotus Temple in southern Delhi. The temple of the Bahai community, which opened in 1986, has the special shape of a lotus flower. The structure consists of 27 enormous lotus leaves which, like the flower itself, are surrounded by water. At sunset, the light falls between the leaves and the structure takes on an even more marvellous appearance.
Akshardham, Delhi's largest Hindu temple, is also relatively new; the temple complex was opened in 2005. The enormous temple with nine domes is included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest Hindu temple complex in the world. The temple is decorated with ornately carved pillars and life-sized elephants.
Finally, Delhi has one of the largest Sikh temples in the world, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. With its white marble and golden dome, the temple can be recognised from afar. In the middle of the complex is a sacred spring, the water of which is said to have healing properties. In the temple, food is prepared daily for thousands of less fortunate people. The gigantic pots and pans in the kitchen of the Sikh temple are a sight in themselves.
Impressive buildings and busy markets
In addition to places of worship, New Delhi has several other impressive buildings, including the tomb of Humayun. The construction of this gigantic tomb was a source of inspiration for the later architecture of the Taj Mahal. The tomb is surrounded by gardens that refer to the paradisical garden described in the Koran. The most famous structure in Old Delhi is the Red Fort, a walled palace whose massive walls of red sandstone are over two kilometres long. The fortress was built for Shah Jahan, ruler of the Mogul Empire and, like the tomb of Humayun, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A visit to Delhi is only complete once you have seen the city's chaotic but colourful markets. One of the most famous markets is located on the main street of Old-Delhi, namely Chandni Chowk. In this maze of streets you will find numerous shops with herbs and spices, colourful saris and Indian sweets. Explore the district on foot or by rickshaw.
Oasis of tranquillity in the busy city
Escape the hustle and bustle of Chandni Chowk by going to the Lodi Gardens, a large park which houses not just trees and plants, but also several mausoleums and other buildings from the 15th and 16th centuries. Another oasis of tranquillity in Delhi is Raj Ghat, the resting place of Mahatma Gandhi. The monument is located in a park on the banks of the Yamuna River, which also has memorials to other important Indian politicians. Nearby, one can visit the National Gandhi Museum to learn more about the life of Gandhi.
Apply for an Indian visa
For a trip to Delhi, you need an Indian visa. The visa for India can be easily applied for online through a digital application form. After filling in the form and paying the costs, only a few documents need to be uploaded (for tourists, a passport photo and passport scan are sufficient). The visa is then granted within one week on average. Travellers who are leaving for New Delhi at short notice and who have not yet applied for a visa are advised to submit an urgent application. Urgent applications are processed in three working days on average. India does not have a visa on arrival that can be obtained at the airport; you are required to have a valid visa prior to departure.