Golden Triangle, India

Delhi, Agra, the Taj Mahal, Ranthambore and Jaipur were all on the schedule for an eye-opening tour of the Golden Triangle in India…

After four weeks in Goa, I took a flight to Delhi to start a week-long tour of the Golden Triangle. I was travelling with two friends (who are also my yoga students) and we booked the trip through Adventure Holiday Tours India.

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We took the tour in February and this time of year is perfect because it is dry but not too hot. A similar temperature to a British summer so perfect for sightseeing. Temperatures in Goa, in the south of India had been around 36 degrees C in the middle of the day so it was appreciated having cooler temperatures for sightseeing!

Before the trip
We had left everything up to Adventure Holiday Tours India to arrange. The only specification we had was that we wanted to see the Taj Mahal and we were happy for them to structure our trip to make sure we saw the main points of interest in the Golden Triangle and to make the best use of time as we only had a week before we needed to go back to our jobs in the UK.
Adventure Holiday Tours India came back with a suggested itinerary and once we were happy they went ahead to book the accommodation and bookings for the attractions.
In hindsight, I think we should have perhaps researched the suggestions a bit better ourselves to check the travel time between each of the places on the schedule and we could have also asked for the details of the hotels to check that we were happy with the bookings. We didn’t do any of this, mainly because we had trust that the company would be planning sensible options based on our requirements and we are also very busy people and that was partly why the idea of someone else arranging everything really appealed. The downside was that there was a lot more travel between destinations than we expected.
The communication with the company before the trip was excellent, they were also quick to respond and it was great that they were able to arrange everything. It was an easy, hassle free way to book a trip like this, especially to a country you are not familiar with and where the culture is very different.

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New Delhi (Day 1 & 2)
Adventure Holiday Tours were at the airport to meet up when we arrived in Delhi in the evening. We had paid a deposit when we booked the trip and after settling the final payment at their offices we went out for dinner with the tour guide. We were taken to a great restaurant in New Delhi which we would never have found on our own and it was a great start to the trip. Once we were settled in at the hotel, we were getting excited about tomorrow’s itinerary and seeing more of Delhi by day.

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We were collected by the driver after the breakfast and had a visit to Laxmi Narayan Temple. It was great to have a guide who could explain the history, traditions and the rituals as well as how it relates to the current culture and education in India now. After studying yoga philosophy as part of my yoga teacher training during the previous month, it was interesting to make the connections with what I had learnt.

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We explored the hustle and bustle of New Delhi before a lunch stop at a local restaurant.

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Old Delhi (Day 2)
In the afternoon we travelled to the other side of Delhi, to the old part of the city and what a contrast! Even after spending a few months in India previously and having just spent a month here already, I was still shocked by the way of life, the busy streets and the way things work in India! Cars everywhere, people everywhere, animals all over the place and basically just chaos! In a place that should be stressful, everyone is relaxed, merry and just get on with things. It can be quite upsetting to see the poverty but no matter how little people have they seem happy. It really makes you think about what you have to be grateful for and that you should be more thankful for what you have.

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Agra (Day 2 & 3)
When I first visited India two years ago I stayed high up in the North, near the Himalayas. I was there for a month to complete my first yoga teacher training and had to return straight back to my job in the UK after the end of the course. After having enjoyed India more than I expected, I felt sad that I had only seen such a small part of it. The Taj Mahal was something I was particularly disappointed to have missed out on. I made a promise to myself that I would return one day and visit. The Taj Mahal was therefore a big reason why I had decided to take this tour of the Golden Triangle. I was so excited!

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We travelled from Delhi to Agra for a few hours in the afternoon so that we arrived by evening to check into the hotel, have an evening meal there and an early night. Our guide for Agra would be picking us up early the next day so we could experience the Taj Mahal at sunrise.
This was obviously a popular time to visit the Taj Mahal because it was very busy when we arrived. I was a little worried it was going to be just packed full of tourists and nothing like how it looks on famous photos! Seeing the Taj Mahal in real life was incredible. It was unbelievably beautiful like something out of a fairy tale. It was so pure, and so perfect.

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Our guide had grown up in the area so was very knowledgeable about the area and the Taj Mahal itself. His English was excellent and he was able to tell us all about the architecture, history and how it was built, all whilst we walked around the beautiful grounds. He also stopped to take our photos at all the right places! We were pleased that once we got through the main entrance the crowds died down and there was a beautiful sense of calm as the fog cleared and the sun rose around the dreamlike setting.

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One of my friends isn’t in any of our Taj Mahal pictures and that is because poor Emma unfortunately became sick with the dreaded ‘Delhi Belly’ the night before. She had to stay within very close distance to the bathroom so unfortunately, we had to leave her in the hotel.
We returned to the hotel for breakfast and checked in on her but she still wasn’t feeling good. We had a few more hours of sightseeing in Agra and were keeping our fingers crossed that she would be ok for the long drive to Ranthambore later!

In Agra we visited Agra Fort which was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty until 1638, when the capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi. We were also lucky to see a demonstration of the local crafts where semi-precious stones are fitted into carved marble. This is the same work that was used in the Taj mahal and it is completed by the younger generations of those who worked on the Taj mahal around the time it was built in 1631 (it took 21 years to complete!). The government funds the production of the crafts for souvenirs and the workers carry out repair work on the Taj Mahal on Fridays, when it is closed to the public.

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Ranthambore (Day 3 & 4)
We arrived in Ranthambore the night before the safari. Emma was thankfully feeling a lot better and survived the journey. She was lucky because there was not a toilet in sight on the way to Ranthambore!

We were picked up at 6:30am by our safari guides so it meant an early start! It was nice to be up early because the peace and quiet on the streets was welcome after all the hustle and bustle we had become accustom to in the last few days on our travel!

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We were doing the safari in a jeep with another group of three people and we had two guides with us. The area was beautiful, especially early in the morning when the sun was rising. The park is 392 sq. km in total and it is said to be the best area in India to see tigers. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any on our trip and I have since spoken to others who also weren’t lucky to see any on their trip either. We did however see antelope, deer and peacocks.

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Despite not seeing any tigers we thoroughly enjoyed the trip, especially with the anticipation of what we could see. Riding through the beautiful scenic national park, in an open top jeep, was a fun experience.

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Jaipur (Day 4 – 6)
There had been a lot of travelling on the trip so far. We were driving by car between each of the places and that meant 3-6 hours drive between each location. We were only staying in most of the places for 1 day/night so it did feel like a lot of travelling and something we hadn’t really researched well before the trip. We were very happy to be having 2 nights in Jaipur and a day with no travel!

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Jaipur is the largest city in Rajasthan. It is known as the Pink City, due to the dominant color scheme of its buildings. I really recommend visiting Amber Fort which is a beautiful palace high on the hill tops.

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This was another quite magical place to visit, the architecture itself was beautiful but with the elephants walking through the grounds, it really did feel like a fantasy world!

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We spent a few hours at Amber Fort and then had some quick stops at other tourist attractions including the Water Palace, the Wind Palace and Rambagh palace. We only checked out these places from outside however as we were keen the use the rest of the afternoon for some shopping!

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Our knowledgeable guide in Jaipur was able to take us to places which produced and sold local crafts. We saw demonstrations of traditional textiles, pottery and carpet making. There were some lovely pieces for sale which made perfect souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home.

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We also visited shops selling leather, shoes, jewellery and spices. The shopkeepers are friendly and we were offered Chai Tea in the shops as we browsed. I am not sure I was very good at the bartering but I was very happy with my purchases!

Jaipur was just as exciting by night and the palaces were beautifully lit up.

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We were driven to a restaurant that was recommended by the guide and it didn’t disappoint. We enjoyed a traditional Indian meal whilst watching the live music and Indian dancers…we didn’t take much persuading when we were pulled up to join in with the dancing!

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Back to Delhi before the flight back home (Day 6 & 7)
We drove back to Delhi the day before the flight and stayed in a hotel near the airport. It was a very western style hotel so it was a good way to ease myself back into normal life again after having spent 5 weeks in India! The Aloft Hotel in New Delhi was a high-end hotel and it was a real treat to have a bit of luxury on the last night. The girls went for some spa treatments and I had been hoping to have a bit of a swim but the pool was outdoors and it was a bit too cold in February to take a dip outside. Instead I used the indoor gym which I was pleasantly surprised to see had its own little yoga studio. I couldn’t wait to tell the girls about my find for our morning yoga practice, it would be perfect to have a yoga session before our long flight back to London!

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We freshened up for dinner and then headed down to the hotel restaurant where we were spoilt for choice with options. The breakfast in the morning was equally as impressive! Unfortunately something didn’t quite agree with Ilona and she had to deal with Delhi belly for whole 9 hour flight back to the UK! I somehow managed to survive the whole 5 weeks in India without getting sick! I say it’s down to all the yoga I do! ?

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Back to the UK after an amazing trip!
Each time I have arrived back in the UK after a trip to India, I feel a huge appreciation for what I have and where I live. The cleanliness, the order, the familiarity and that feeling of home. After a few days of appreciating things like a constant water and electricity supply, being able to walk down the street without having to watch out for cows, quiet roads without the beeping of horns and the fact that everything runs to a schedule, I start to miss the chaos of India. I miss the colours, the beauty, the smells, the sounds and the fact that everything just works itself out somehow. I miss the smiles, the laughter, the music, the activity, the happiness and the magic. There is nowhere quite like it. My Indian experiences have always had a big impact on me and a little piece of India is a big part of me. These experiences have shaped me, changed me and altered my values. India has a very special place in my heart and I think I will always be drawn back, keen to return to continue my adventures and discover more of this enchanting country.

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Further reading:
I was staying with Sampoorna Yoga in Agonda where I completed my 300-hour yoga teacher training for a month Jan – Feb 2019. If you are interested in reading more about my experience of the yoga teacher training then I have written a series of blogs that cover the various stages of the training:
1. Considerations before taking a yoga teacher training
2. 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training – Before the course
3. 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training – Week 1
4. 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training – Week 2
5. 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training – Week 3
6. 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training – Week 4
7. 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training – Final Thoughts
8. Agonda, Goa, India
9. Golden Triangle, India (Current article)

Adventure Holiday Tours India
As you can tell we had a fantastic experience on our tour of the Golden Triangle and I really recommend the trip with Adventure Holiday Tours India. They take so much hassle out of the trip beforehand with the planning and the arrangements whilst on trip. There is nothing to worry or think about in terms of travelling from one place to the next and it is a safe way to enjoy and travel in India. I highly recommend!
The company are rated highly on trip advisor. If you are interested in finding out more, further details are below:
Website: www.adventureholidaytours.com
Facebook: @AdventureHolidayToursIndia
Instagram: @adventure_holiday_tours_india

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Sarah Williams is a Qualified Yoga Teacher based in London with an online presence @sarahlucyyoga on Instagram and Facebook. She also blogs about yoga and health & wellbeing topics on her website. Sarah’s focus is Vinyasa Flow, Hatha and Ashtanga styles of yoga and she completed part of her training in India.
As well as being a yoga teacher Sarah is also a Chartered Accountant. She fell in love with yoga as it was a release from the office, it taught her to value her health and improved the attitude she had towards life and herself. As a teacher she is able to pass on the benefits of yoga to her students and finds the job incredibly rewarding.

She has completed her 300 hr advanced teacher training from Sampoorna Yoga Goa in January-February 2019. If interested in Yoga Teacher Training please browse our Teacher Training page

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