The cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur form the three main points of a route often referred to as ‘the Golden Triangle’ in India – as much for its wealth of historic monuments as its enduring popularity with visitors. The region holds the country’s most splendid forts, palaces and tombs, including the Taj Mahal, and offers a broad spectrum of different cultural experiences, reflecting India’s complex mix of religious and ethnic traditions.
If this is your first trip to India, the Golden Triangle will probably form the backbone of your journey, although numerous extensions are well worth considering – notably into the forests of Rajasthan to see a tiger in the wild.
Where is the Golden Triangle?
The Golden Triangle connects the rich cluster of sights in, and lying within easy reach of, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. The eastern leg of the route tracks the Yamuna River as it winds across the northern plains through the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, while the eastern side skirts the arid fringes of the Thar Desert of Rajasthan.
Which city is the gateway to the Golden Triangle and how long does it take to fly there?
Delhi is the point of arrival for nearly all tourists arriving in northern India. Direct overnight flights from London Heathrow take around 8hrs 40mins.
What are the highlights of the route?
In Delhi, the Mughal-built ‘Red Fort’ (Lal Qila), splendid Jama Masjid mosque and bazaars of the old city are the our recommending stops before heading off to Jaipur – the ‘Pink City’ and site of India’s most colourful markets and sumptuously decorated royal palaces – or Agra, home of the Taj Mahal and a host of other Mughal cultural treasures.
A short detour off the standard Golden Triangle route will take you to Ranthambore, one of the country’s principal tiger reserves. Our consultants will also be able to recommend some wonderful palace hotels and heritage homestays tucked away in the Aravalli Mountains between Jaipur and Delhi, as well as several evocative bases from which to explore the little visited region of Shekhawati, in the desert north of Jaipur.
How long does it take to explore the Golden Triangle?
It’s possible to cover the highlights in around ten days. But we generally recommend spending at least two weeks exploring the region, which will give you more time to venture off the beaten track and experience different aspects of life in India – as well as lounge by the pool a little if desired! Rural Rajasthan is particularly fascinating, and in a fortnight’s tour you’ll be able to spend some time at one of our recommended countryside retreats, experiencing life in the Thar Desert, perhaps spotting leopards, visiting livestock markets, luxury camping in the dunes or making a short camel trek.
Best Time to Visit India’s ‘Golden Triangle’
November to March is the recommended period for exploring India’s ‘Golden Triangle’ region – between Delhi, Agra and Jaipur – which sits on the fringes of Rajasthan’s Thar Desert. During this period, daytime temperatures peak in the high 20s centigrade (or mid-70s fahrenheit in old money) and the skies see very little cloud, making it ideal for walking and photography. The nights are cool, and you may even need a shawl or fleece after sunset, and during early-morning safaris in the national parks.
The heat can be intense by mid-April; by May, it will too much for regular sightseeing. The rainy season starts in early June, bringing with it a complete change of atmosphere. Dry, parched scrubland transforms into a blaze of greenery. The trees are festooned with flowers, and the evening air is alive with the noise of insects and frogs. Humidity levels start to drop in September and by October, rainstorms are infrequent – though you can still expect a fair amount of high cloud and humid weather.
The coldest periods, from late-December through February, are often accompanied by fog, which may affect air travel. Views of the Taj Mahal can also be obscured by river mist, in which case your guide will recommend evening rather than dawn visits to the tomb.