As part of my ‘Golden Triangle’ tour with Somak Holidays, we visited Delhi, followed by Agra and Jaipur with an extension in the spiritual city of Varanasi. We were driving from Delhi to Agra, and on the way we stopped by the Umaid Lake Palace in Kalakho, where we had lunch. Here are the highlight of my trip to Kalakho, Agra and Jaipur.
We also visited the READ India Kalakho Gyan Kendra, which is a joint initiative by Umaid Lake Palace and READ India, a non-for-profit Organisation based in Gurgaon. It empowers women in Kalakho to earn a livelihood by making traditional arts and crafts, along with promoting traditional crafts local to Rajasthan. In this photo a young lady was learning how to sew clothes so she could be empowered with key skills to earn a sustainable living. What an amazing initiative!
The historical city of Agra is a wonderful place to visit to see its traces of the glorious golden era, as well as to see one of the wonders of the world in person – the majestic Taj Mahal. Thousands flock to see it in all its splendour and here are my highlights from my visit.
The Taj Mahal
The fairy tale monument of The Taj Mahal needs no introduction and stands for true love. Built as an ode to his beloved wife Mumtaz, who sadly passed away during childbirth, the Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan. It later became both his and her resting place.
Symmetrical, and identical whichever side you look at it, it took 22 years for this spectacular monument’s construction to be completed.
The best time to visit is either sunrise or sunset. We visited at sunset and it was truly magical. If you are planning to be there for sunset, I advise that you get there by 4pm.
The Agra Fort
The Agra Fort, made from red sandstone exteriors, is typical of Mughal style architecture, and was originally built as a military structure, but Emperor Shah Jahan transformed it into a palace, which later became his prison for eight years after his son Aurangzeb seized power in 1658.
It is so beautiful inside and definitely interesting to wander its grounds and try to picture what it must have been like during its hey day.
Jaipur, popularly known as the Pink City because of the pink walls and buildings of the old city, is a truly stunning place with its magnificent remnants of a bygone era. There are spectacular ancient palaces and forts, each with elaborate architecture to see, which are a stark reminder of their royal heritage.
The Birla Mandir is a very famous beautiful temple dedicated to Laxminarayan and built entirely of marble which is visited by thousands of devotees every day. A visit during the early evening is recommended to have a look at the stunning temple as well as attend the Arti Ceremony, which involves oil lamps being lit and waved, in order to awake and invoke the deity. It looks amazing all lit up!
One of the prettiest forts I have ever seen, The Amber Fort, built in 1592, which is also known as Amer Fort, is a classic romantic Rajasthani fort palace, that has a fairytale feel, and is one of the most popular forts in Rajasthan. It has a fusion of Indian and Mughal styles of architecture.
The views from the fort are stunning and it overlooks Lake Maota. Through the fort there are a variety of stairways, courtyards, gateways, gardens and balconies to explore, all adorned with intricate colourful murals and designs for you to marvel at.
This iconic building is Jaipur’s most recognised, and has an intricate and fascinating facade. It was built in 1799 and has five floors that contain rows of small windows and screens. It inherited the name Palace of the Winds as wind used to flow through the openings of the building.
It is thought that the palace was originally built for the women of the royal household to watch the streets discreetly below without being observed.
A cooking demonstration at Ikaki Niwas
A cooking demonstration at Ikaki Niwas, a fabulous homestay in Jaipur is highly recommended, where you can learn how to make a traditional Rajasthani meal led by the lovely Chandrika. We learned how to make Rajasthani Papad Sabzi, Chapatis and a wheat flour Halwa for dessert.
You will also enjoy a sumptuous dinner and be able to mingle with the friendly host family that run the homestay.
Shopping is superb in Jaipur, particularly for gold and silver jewellery, gemstones pottery, tie-dye materials, silk, saris, wooden handicrafts and carpets.
I visited Bapu Bazaar, which is fun, chaotic and makes for a good walk as it has the quintessential pink rustic buildings on both sides of the road that give you the true essence of Jaipur.
Read my other India diaries here:
If you are inspired to to visit Incredible India after reading my experience, you can find out more about Somak’s ‘Golden Triangle’ Itinerary here:
Alternatively, they have an 11-night Classical India tour that takes you on a journey to see all the highlights of northern India, as featured in The Golden Triangle tour, as well as other fantastic destinations including Varanasi.
For more details on their itineraries or to discuss a bespoke itinerary, call Simply India Holidays by Somak on 0208 423 3000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be delighted to help you plan your trip to Incredible India.