This was my first trip to India and hopefully not my last! It was an intense three weeks in this vast and overwhelming country, of which I just scratched the surface. There is a reason it is called incredible India—incredible is the perfect word to describe it!
I was lucky enough to be invited to a very dear friend’s wedding in Agra in April and able to parlay that with a familiarization trip for Travel Beyond as well. I spent a week before the wedding traveling and exploring Delhi, Jaipur and Agra (commonly referred to as the “Golden Triangle”) with 5 of my best gal pals before the wedding festivities began. It was such a joy to spend this time with them. I truly feel like I was a client on a Travel Beyond trip as well, since our week was planned with the help of Travel Beyond consultant Kayla Torgerson and our partner in India, Amit Sankhala of Encounters Asia. My expectations were high knowing that our trip was arranged with the expertise of our knowledgeable staff and partner, but I am also proud to say it was seamless.
We started our trip in Old Delhi and visited the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, followed by rickshaw rides through one of the busiest markets in India, Chandi Chowk, ending at the Red Fort, once the most opulent fort and palace of the Mughal Empire. Following our tour of the fort, we went to Raj Ghat, the memorial site where Gandhi was cremated.
In New Delhi, we went to the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib (most prominent Sikh house of worship) where we took a tour of both the inside of the worship area and the kitchen, where we saw the massive amounts of food being prepared for anyone that wanted to enjoy a meal. It was fascinating!
The next day we were off for our second city tour of Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan. Called the “pink city” due to the sandstone buildings, Jaipur is known for shopping and is famous for fabric, gems and handicrafts. We were able to experience a trip to a carpet and textile store to see how prints for clothing and rugs are made and got to shop for saris for our friends’ wedding. It was amazing to see; I now have a new respect for the rug sitting on my living room floor!
The next morning we went to Amber Fort and took an elephant ride up to the top of the fort, taking in the beautiful views of Jaipur. Following this we went to the City Palace, Royal Observatory and Hawa Mahal. In the evening we enjoyed a cooking lesson with a local family, where we were served a traditional Indian dinner of dahl, naan, rice, vegetables and chicken with honey balls for dessert. This was a really neat way to experience the Indian culture firsthand.
The following day was our last and final stop on our Golden Triangle adventure: the city of Agra. On the way to the Agra Fort we visited Fatehpur Sikri, the red sandstone city built in the mid-16th century, and Bulund Darwaza, the largest gateway in the world.
The next morning we had a sunrise visit to perhaps the most iconic structure in India, the remarkably impressive symbol of love, the Taj Mahal. Breathtaking is the best way to describe this architectural world wonder. We arrived when the gates were opening in the early morning. The air was still cool and the light from the sun rising and beaming on the white marble made it sparkle. In our case, we really did save the best for last. It was the perfect way to end our whirlwind sightseeing of the Golden Triangle before enjoying two days of Indian wedded bliss with friends. We were even lucky enough to see the Taj Mahal once again as it was the backdrop to our friends’ wedding ceremony!