Following a pilgrimage path in Northern India
So, you’re ready to take a holiday. You’ve worked, you’ve saved and now, you get to enjoy. Sure, you might consider another urban adventure or European jaunt. But if you’re really looking to leave the day-to-day behind, you might consider a different option.
Northern India is a perfect balance between modernity and culture. It offers three heritage-listed UNESCO sites, which are some of the most awe-inspiring experiences you could imagine.
There are thousands of ways for you to enjoy this ancient and dynamic region, but why not walk in the footsteps of millions before you? Learn from thousands of years of journey-makers with your pilgrimage path across India:
The first stop is a cultural and historical primer for your journey; New Delhi.
Catch a HoHo bus (Hop-on/Hop-off) to get the lie of the land, taking in the diverse and bustling face of 21st century India. Once you’ve got your bearings, head out to UNESCO heritage site to see red sandstone ruins more than 1000 years old. If you’re up for it, a cycle tour will take you through the complex, providing insight into the origins of these ancient structures, including the Qutub Minar, a massive stone tower, more than 70 metres high.
After you’ve seen the ancient, it’s time for some modern history. The Raj Ghat is a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, located near where he was cremated. You leave your shoes at the entrance and enter what is mostly a park, centred around a black marble memorial. A beautiful tribute, the garden is a lively and moving tribute to the father of Indian independence and nonviolent revolution that is sure to move even those unfamiliar with the nuances of his life.
On the banks of the Yamuna River sits the Mogul city of Agra and the Indian icon, the Taj Mahal. Built for what would today be in excess of $800 million USD, the Taj Mahal is a tomb and a tribute to Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz was a favoured wife of Shah Jahan who died giving birth to their 14th child.
The Taj Mahal is closed every Friday, but on the other days of the week, you’ll find hundreds of tourists and Indians alike, visiting this architectural marvel. There are two ticket streams, General and High Value, the latter of which will get you into the garden much more quickly.
Locals say the Taj Mahal is best viewed at dawn, making an overnight stay in Agra essential. With the rest of your time in Agra, why not visit the Wildlife SOS Animal sanctuary, home to recused elephants, snakes and more than 200 bears, rescued from ‘dancing bear acts’.
Next on your pilgrimage is Jaipur, the last of the three cities that form the ‘Golden Triangle (along with New Dehli and Agra).
Jaipur gets its nickname ‘The Pink City’ from the pink colour of many of its buildings. The city gained its rosy hue back in 1876 when it was painted pink to welcome King Edward VII to town. To get a good look at Jaipur’s paint job, hire a rickshaw for the day and be shown around the city by someone who actually lives and works there.
Make sure to have at least one meal at the Padao Brahmpuri. Located on top of the Nahargarh Fort, the view of the city is awe-inspiring, especially at sunset. The whole city is said to glow.
For a taste of another ‘colourful’ city, take a train westward to Jodhpur, the Blue City. No, royal visit explains the bright blue painted buildings of the oldest parts of Jodhpur, just some creative cooling solutions. The light colour of the buildings reflects the heat, keeping the occupants cooler. A necessity given Jodhpur’s other nickname, “The Sun City”.
When you’ve had your fill of the city itself, you might consider heading north and taking a day trip to Osian to experience a desert safari over the sand dunes. Tours can be booked as part of your travel itinerary or you could catch a bus yourself for as little as 100 rupees (about AUD$2).
In an area with a cultural history going back thousands of years, Pushkar is at the farther end of ancient, that’s how old it is.
One of five holy pilgrimage sites for Hindu worshippers, Pushkar is home to more than 500 temples. As you travel India you will undoubtedly encounter many temples, but the reverent, peaceful aura of Pushkar makes it one of the ones you simply must experience.
Once you’ve explored the temples, enjoy a bite of dinner by the stunning Pushkar Lake.
Hindu legends conflict on the origin of the lake, but some stories suggest that it was created after the Hindu god, Brahma, defeated a demon with a lotus stalk. The stalk then split into three pieces forming three lakes, one of which was Pushkar. Hence the names meaning in its original Sanscrit; Blue Lotus.
For help designing your own pilgrimage path, give us a call on (02) 6041 5577, we’d be delighted to help you build a journey that suits you or your family. You can either phone us, call into the office at 601 Dean Street, Albury or book an appointment with one of our expert travel agents via the form below.
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