The Jewel of India

New Delhi is a hive of activity, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. With a population of 16 million (and growing), the city is evolving at incredible speed, giving rise to entirely new cities within itself, like Gurgaon and Noida, well-stocked with upscale shopping malls and skyscrapers.

Still, Old Delhi remains, with its alluring spice markets and bhajisellers, and historic sights on a scale that is simply jaw-dropping. The center of empires, Delhi has occupied a dominant position in Indian history from the time of myth through Mughal dynasties and British rule, falling and rising again and again over the centuries to become the fascinating city it is today.

With the never-ending list of things to do in New Delhi getting longer every minute, there’s never been a better time to visit.

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Stars and Forts

One of the most fascinating attractions in New Delhi is Jantar Mantar, an ancient, giant open-air observatory. Constructed in 1725 by the ruler of Jaipur, Jai Singh, it’s more sculpture than technology, though it was once used to measure the positions of the sun, moon and planets. Whether or not you’re well-versed in astronomy, hiring a guide to lead you through it is worthwhile.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Red Fort (Lal Qila) was built in the 1600s and remained the base of the Mughal Emperors until 1957. An astounding feat of engineering, it’s surrounded by intimidatingly thick sandstone walls – it’s said that the bodies of prisoners were built into the foundations for good luck. Everything here is on a grand scale, from the 60-pillared hall for public audiences to the Lahore Gate, three stories tall. In the same neighbourhood lies one of the oldest markets in Old Delhi, Chandni Chowk. Its small alleyways are crowded with hundreds of shops selling everything from tiffin carriers to silk saris and heaps of spices.

When you catch a glimpse of Humayun’s Tomb, it can seem at first like you’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up at the Taj Mahal. In fact, it’s 600 years older, constructed in the 1500s, and nearly as palatial, following the Islamic rules of geometry that highlight the number eight. In addition to the tombs of Mughal emperors (and their favoured servants), the complex houses beautifully landscaped and tree-shaded gardens that make the ideal place for a midday rest when the temperature hits 40 degrees C (around 100 degrees F).

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