Are you ready for a road trip that will start in a cosmopolitan and sophisticated Indian city and then drive into the countryside? Along the way you’ll encounter bits and pieces of Mughal Empire history and Rajput heritage including a memorable stop at the Taj Mahal.

A basic Golden Triangle road tour (Delhi— Jaipur—Agra) is doable in about a week, but more extensive trips can be planned for a longer duration. The distance between each city is around 200 to 250 kilometers. This adventure will be a thrill for anyone interested in history, art, and architecture. Ready? Let’s go!

Discover the Real Delhi

Image via Sandy Bornstein

First-time visitors should spend at least two days in Delhi before starting their journey. If you’re looking for a moderately priced boutique hotel, check out Scarlette or The Amber Hotel.

Count on a slower pace for the first couple of days. A leisurely walk through the 90-acre Lodhi Gardens can help to reset a traveler’s time clock. While in the park, it’s possible to see tombs of Sayyid and Lodhi rulers. Another famous tomb, Humayun’s Tomb, is approximately three kilometers away. Nehru Park is another place to unwind.

If rain or heat is sending you indoors, go to the Lotus Temple or the National Gallery of Modern Art.

Other landmarks to consider are the Red Fort, the India Gate, Akshardham, Purana Qila, and Qutub Minar.

Take a shopping break at Chandni Chowk (near the Red Fort) or Hauz Khas Village.

Foodies looking to sample moderately priced regional delicacies shouldn’t miss Dilli Haat. Indian Accent is a splurge option for Indian fusion food. It’s the only restaurant in India that is featured in S. Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017.

Journey Through Jaipur

Image via Sandy Bornstein

From Delhi you’ll drive southwest to Jaipur, also known as the Pink City. Top attractions include the Amer Fort, Jantar Mantar, and the City Palace.

Helpful Hint: Don’t forget to bring lots of bottled water.

Due to the Amer Fort’s steep hilltop location, travelers can opt for the elephant ride to the Sun Gate. It’s worth the experience, despite the twinge of commercialism. Inside this 16th century structure, you’ll find courtyards and buildings that are filled with ornate decorations.

At Jantar Mantar, astronomy comes alive with jumbo-sized instruments that measure time, predict eclipses, and track a variety of celestial bodies with 18th century technology.

During the 18th century, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh ruled from the City Palace. On display are a variety of murals, lattices, decorative walls and doors and an assortment of artifacts.

If time allows, the itinerary can be expanded to include stops at Hawa Mahal, Nahargarh Fort, Jaigarh Fort, or Galta Monkey Temple.

Are you in the mood for a royal welcome? Spend at least a night at the Raj Palace in Jaipur.

Adventure in Agra

Image via Sandy Bornstein

Next, head east to Agra. Along the way, we recommend stopping at Fatehpur Sikri, the City of Victory. Emperor Akbar built this red sandstone complex with a fusion of Hindu, Jain, and Islamic architectural styles. One could spend hours exploring the pavilions and palaces that are connected by courtyards.

Agra is where you’ll find the Taj Mahal, the focal point for this road tour adventure. To avoid the largest crowds, arrive as early as possible. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built this white marble landmark to memorialize his wife who died giving birth to their 14th child. The ebb and flow of the sun’s rays encourages picture taking throughout the day.

One of India’s most important forts, Agra Fort, is less than three kilometers away. The walls soar 70 feet high. Mughal leaders used this extraordinary 16th century fortress for living and work quarters and for the main state treasury.

On the way back to Delhi, include a stop at Sikandra. Akbar the Great built this impressive 17th century tomb before he died. The final leg of the journey loops back to Delhi by heading northeast.

Helpful Hint: Don’t forget to bring along toilet paper and be prepared for squat toilets.

If you’ve taken a Golden Triangle road trip, what was your favorite part of your trip?

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About The Author

Sandy Bornstein

Sandy Bornstein lived as an expat in India. Her award-winning memoir, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life, highlights what she learned as the only American teacher at an international Bangalore school. After living abroad, Sandy continues to explore the world and write about her travels. You can follow Sandy's adventures at www.sandrabornstein.com.