India is a country unlike any other. Travellers that venture there usually either love it or hate it, but I would 100% recommend visiting at least once in your life. Mayhem and chaos, culture and colour is all mixed into one beautiful palette, and if you think you’d eaten good Indian food back home, think again! Back when I was a newby in this photography world, Soph and I travelled from North to South India by train, and it was fascinating to see the difference in landscape, culture, people and food. Unfortunately, my photography skills weren’t up to standard back then, and I don’t think I even knew what a RAW photo was, so I am hoping to revisit more of the country soon. However, we went back in March this year, and as we only had 7 days, we decided to do the classic Golden Triangle route with a fresh perspective in photography. For first timers, the Golden Triangle is the perfect route as it covers Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, which all live up to expectation. Explore the majestic Taj Mahal, forts, bazaars and markets until your heart's content.
When to go?
We went in March which was the perfect temperature and weather, although Holi made it quite difficult to get public transportation. October to April are considered the best months to visit, however it can get very cold in December and January. Avoid the summer months like the plague, and the rainy season between July to September is probably worth a miss too. Also make sure you don’t end up in Agra on a Friday as the Taj Mahal is closed to tourists then.
The public transport in India is outstanding and really easy to navigate. You can take a train from Delhi to Jaipur in a little under 5 hours, and Delhi to Agra in just 2 hours. If you’d rather take the bus, they too are available but considered more dangerous as the roads in this part of the country can get crazy. We ended up taking a taxi around the Golden Triangle as we were there during Holi, meaning most trains had already sold out. We were also travelling in a large group so it worked out cost efficient to take a taxi, and allowed us more freedom with timing.
A quick note - have a look into combined tickets if you are looking to visit a few different places in each city, as it may save you money.
If India has been on your radar, I’d highly recommend booking your flights and once there, make sure you visit these places below!
KHARI BAOLI SPICE MARKET
The largest wholesale spice market in Asia, Khari Baoli is well worth a visit whilst in Delhi. Get there early and watch the locals setting up for a day of trade, and watch the sunset from the top of the market building. If you want to be in on the action and practice your bargaining skill, stay until it opens a little later in the afternoon. Remember to bring something to cover your nose and mouth as the spices in the air are incredibly strong!
Getting there: Located near the Red Fort, the closest metro stations are Chawri Bazar and Chandni Chowk, but if you want to go early, you are better off taking a tuk-tuk.
Entrance fee: None.
Best time to go: Watch the sunrise from the top of the spice market building and see the workers setting up for the day. The actual market doesn’t officially open until 10am though.
Photo tip: This is a great spot for street photography.
The Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India, and is located just a few km from Khari Baoli. You can head to the mosque directly before or after the spice market, and depending on the time of the day, it may actually be quicker to walk as traffic in Old Delhi is some of the worst I have ever experienced. Make sure to dress accordingly before entering (you can hire suitable attire from the entrance gates).
Getting there: Take a tuk-tuk if you want to brave the Old Delhi traffic, as the mosque is just a few km from Connaught Square. Alternatively, take the metro to Jama Masjid Metro Station.
Entrance fee: Rs 300 camera fee.
Best time to go: As early as you can muster.
Photo tip: The birds that hang round the mosque in the mornings make for excellent subjects.
PANNA MEENA KA KUND
Stepwells, known in India as a baori, are commonplace throughout western and some northern parts of the country where water shortages are frequent, and some were built nearly 1500 years ago. They have become more decorative since time went on, and nowadays you can visit some very well preserved and intricately beautiful baoris across the region. Panna Meena is a great option to visit due to its proximity to Amer fort, and the symmetry of the landmark is great for photography.
Getting there: Couple this with a visit to Amer fort, as it’s only 5 minutes away by tuk tuk.
Entrance fee: None.
Best time to go: Go straight after Amer Fort so you can beat the crowds.
Photo tip: Tourists are no longer allowed to walk in the baori, so this is a great place to shoot the locals in their colourful Rajasthani clothes walking up and down the steps.
A trip to India isn’t complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra. Despite seeing this Wonder of the World in books and on TV throughout my childhood, it still takes my breath away every time I visit. For those that don’t know the history, the Taj Mahal is a tomb and mausoleum for the wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. He built it as a sign of his love for her and it took 22 years to complete. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
Getting there: The Taj Mahal is within walking distance from many hotels in Agra
Entrance fee: Rs 1100 + 200 if you want to go inside the mausoleum.
Best time to go: Sunrise! Buy your tickets online in advance and aim to be in the queue an hour before sunrise. Don’t bring a bag and run when the gates open and you’ll be the first inside. Also remember, the Taj Mahal is closed to visitors on Fridays.
Photo tip: Go to the mosque to the left of the Taj Mahal for your best chance at framed shots with no people in.
Rajasthan is known for its spectacular forts, and Amer Fort is one of the best in the region. Visiting the actual fort is a must to experience the fantastic architecture, but I’d recommend climbing up the steps to the wall opposite the fort for sunrise. The entrance is near the car park opposite the fort, and from the top you have a great view of the fort on one side, and Jaipur on the other.
Getting there: The fort is 20 minutes northeast of Jaipur, and you can take a tuk-tuk for about Rs 500 return, or the bus from Hawa Mahal if you are on a budget.
Entrance fee: Rs 500 for the fort itself, but the viewpoint over the fort is free.
Best time to go: Hike up the wall opposite Amer fort for sunrise, and then be at the gates of the fort ready to be the first in at 8am.
Photo tip: Bring your zoom lens and get a friend to stand in one of the watchtowers and shoot from afar.
The Jal Mahal water palace is is the calm amongst the storm in Jaipur. In the early mornings, the palace appears to float on the still, reflective water, and photographers flock to capture the calm morning light. I say palace, but the building was actually a hunting lodge for the local Maharaja, and has 4 floors submerged by the water.
Getting there: The Jal Mahal is on the main Amer-Jaipur road, just north of central Jaipur, so take a tuk-tuk for around Rs 150 return.
Entrance fee: None.
Best time to go: Sunrise!
Photo tip: Think outside the standard wide angle eye level photo of the palace box. My favourite photos of the Jal Mahal are those taken with a zoom lens of a local person stood on the shore and a part of the Jal Mahal in the background.
One of the best preserved Mughal monuments is the tomb of Emperor Humayun, and supposedly was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. The complex as a whole is great for photography, so take your time and find some different angles.
Getting there: You can take the train to Nizamuddin East station and walk from there, or take a taxi or tuk-tuk.
Entrance fee: 500 Rs
Best time to go: Earlier in the morning for flatter light on the architecture.
Photo tip: Use the stream running down towards the tomb for a reflection.
THE TOMB OF AKBAR THE GREAT
Another tomb on the list, but this is one of the lesser known in the area. Most people go to Agra, visit the Taj Mahal and then leave, but I highly suggest making a stop off at the Tomb of Akbar whilst you are there. It’s a little way outside the city, but the architecture and photography potential is definitely worth the trip.
Getting there: The tomb is located in Sikandra, 14 km away from the Taj Mahal. Take a tuk-tuk and make sure he waits to take you back to your hotel afterwards.
Entrance fee: 100 Rs
Best time to go: Later in the afternoon to avoid the sweltering heat!
Photo tip: Get low to the ground and shoot the front gates with a wide angle lens.
The Yamuna Ghat is my favourite place to watch the sunrise in Delhi. The way of life of the people living on the Ghat is truly fascinating to observe, and it’s a completely different feel to that of the centre of Old Delhi. Ask a local to take you out on a boat for when the sun rises, and photograph the plethora of seagulls that fly overhead to be fed.
Getting there: The Ghat is located on the Yamuna River, not far from Connaught Place, but you’re better off taking a taxi or tuk-tuk if you are aiming to be there for sunrise.
Entrance fee: 600 Rs per boat
Best time to go: Go for sunrise as this is when the seagulls come to feed.
Photo tip: A wide angle lens with someone sat on the end of the boat and the seagulls flocking makes for a great photo.
The colourful Patrika Gate has only just become popular with international tourists as a result of social media, and gives you an insight into the traditional culture of Jaipur. The gate is hand painted with different places, traditions and rulers of Jaipur, somewhat depicting the history of the state within an elusive building.
Getting there: The gate is on the Jawahar Circle in south Jaipur close to the airport, a 25 minute drive from central Jaipur.
Entrance fee: None.
Best time to go: Earlier in the morning to make sure the gate is less busy, although it’s not top of the tourist hot list just yet so the chances of it being quiet are high.
Photo tip: Experiment with angles!
Enjoy the chaos and let me know if you enjoyed your trip to beautiful India!