Walking Tours – with a general theme
Salaam Baalak Trust City Walk
This is a unique city excursion. A Delhi NGO, the Salaam Baalak Trust, has developed an exciting walk through the streets of the inner city of Paharganj and the New Delhi railway station environs. The walk covers the living and built heritage of the area, taking you down back streets to find hidden cultural practices, and gives you a feel for life here. A non-intrusive walk, it is given by young people who are fully trained as guides (nobody knows Delhi’s streets better than they). These spirited youngsters will share with you the stories of their lives whilst giving you an insight into the city from their perspectives. You will also see how the Trust provides opportunities for street children – and see what amazing things they can achieve when given an opportunity. All proceeds go directly to the Trust.
This is an evening walking tour of Nizamuddin basti, a predominantly Muslim ‘urban village’ that grew up around the 12th century shrine of the Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamudddin Auliya Hazrat. In addition to the shrine, today the area is known for its congested, narrow lanes, tombs, pilgrims, cuisine, spiritual music, bustling markets and mosques. During the walk you’ll visit the Hope Project, which comprises a community health centre, a crèche, a non-formal school, vocational training centre. Optionally the walk can be followed by sampling of some street food, in particular kakori kebabs (which may well turn into dinner once you try it) near the basti.
Walking Tours – with a specific theme
Old Delhi Food Trail and Masterji Kee Haveli Visit
This walk begins at a local bazaar. The Sitaram Bazaar area, crowded with old shops, is also home to several small temples, shrines, old mosques and protected historical monuments; cows wander the streets, and small dharamshalas (rest-houses) and pyaus (water-stations) attest to the pious contributions of local merchants. Your discoveries while wandering these streets will also give you a taste of what is called the ‘flavour of Delhi’, as the city’s best street food can be had here. You may like to sample some snacks, such as chat papri, laccha tokri, guliya, bedwee aloo and kachori alu.
After the walk, visit a traditional Hindu home. A haveli (an old-style 3-storied building with a central courtyard), it is a fine building based on traditional Mughal architecture. The haveli has a terrace from which there are spectacular 360-degree views of Old Delhi and its higgledy- piggledy chaos, including landmarks such as Jama Masjid (great for photographs). This is a chance to see what life is really like in this narrow, crowded part of Old Delhi, where adjacent houses share a common wall and everyone knows everyone else! Whilst here you will be given a demonstration and tasting of traditional home-style Indian vegetarian cooking. You can choose to participate in the cooking, or merely watch. (Please note this is not a cooking lesson; it is an opportunity to visit a home and get a glimpse of daily life).
Lodi Garden is one of Delhi’s most beautiful and popular parks. Tree lined pathways and well- kept lawns and flowerbeds are laid out around the imposing crumbling tombs of the 15th- century Sayyid and Lodi dynasties, Delhi’s last sultans. The Tomb of Muhammad Shah the third ruler of the Sayyid dynasty (who ruled from 1434 until 1444) is said to be the oldest in the garden. The largest monument is Bara Gumbad (Big Dome) with an attached mosque that was built in 1494. Athpula (meaning eight piers), a graceful stone bridge dates from the 17th century. There are smaller structures belonging to the late-Mughal period located here as well. This walk covers approximately 1.5 kilometres over easy terrain and lasts 2 hours. Delhi’s “green lung”, this shaded oasis is especially lovely to explore in the early mornings.
Mehrauli Archaeological Park
Popularly known as Jamali Kamali, the Mehrauli Archaeological Park is spread over an area of 80 hectares and contains over 100 historically significant monuments. Mehrauli is probably the oldest continuously inhabited area of the city – known for 1,000 years of continuous occupation – thus containing the archaeological, architectural and historical legacy of many centuries. Delhi’s first fortification, Lal Kot, was built by the Tomar Rajputs in 1060. The Chauhans extended this by adding the fortifications of Qila Rai Pithora, and after them the Il-Bari Turks continued to rule from this location. Though later capital cities were built at other sites, this area was not abandoned and many important buildings continued to be located here during successive rules – from the Khalji, Tughlaq and Lodi dynasties, to the Mughal Empire, and the British Raj.
The Park’s main attractions include the Qutb Minar, India’s highest single tower, which marked the site of the first Muslim kingdom in North India (1193); Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb built during the late Lodi period for the court poet, Jamali (it is inscribed with some of his verses); and a three-storeyed step-well known as Rajon Ki Baoli which once supplied fresh water to the area. Covering less than 2 kilometres, this walk takes about 2 hours. (Please note: the terrain here is rocky and some monuments are accessible only by steep steps).
Walking Tours – with a historical theme
Delhi of the Turkish Sultans
The defeat of Hindu ruler Prithviraj Chauhan in 1193, by Afghan ruler Mohammad Ghori, laid the foundation of for Turkish rule in Delhi. He appointed Qutub-ud-din Aibak as governor of this part of his realm. A slave of Cuman-Kipchak origin, Qutub-ud-din Aibak, proclaimed independence after the death of his patron and ruled as the first sultan of Delhi from what is today called the Qutub Minar complex in Mehrauli. The sultanates ruled between 1206 and 1526, when the last was replaced by the Mughal dynasty.
This walk takes you inside the walled Qutub Minar complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and explores its major attractions. The Qutub Minar, constructed of red sandstone and marble, is the tallest minaret in India standing at 72.5 metres. The Iron Pillar in the courtyard bears an
inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script of the 4th century. According to this inscription, the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja (standard of Lord Vishnu) on the hill known as Krishnapada in memory of a mighty king named Chandra. Visit the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, located at the northeast of the Minar. Constructed in 1198, with the debris of demolished Hindu and Jain temples, it is the earliest mosque built by the Delhi Sultans.
Imperial New Delhi
The grand capital of New Delhi was officially inaugurated in 1931. Though built by the British is a combination of European, Mughal, Rajput, Buddhist and Islamic architectural styles. This walk takes you through tree-lined avenues with spacious bungalows housing ministers, judges and senior civil servants, on to the open square where the majestic buildings of Parliament are located, and up the hill on which stands the Presidential House, the Prime Minister’s office and other important ministries. These colonial buildings provide a remarkable insight into the dream project of Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, with their personal rivalry and controversial decisions on building design. As you stand atop the Raisina Hill – with the Presidential House behind you – enjoy the fabulous view of the grand square in front, with a broad avenue, lined by a water channel and fountains, ending at the War Memorial (which resembles Paris’ Arc de Triomphe). Every Saturday morning (between 9:00 and 9:40am) the Change of Guard can be witnessed on the Raisina Hill.
Delhi Durbar 1911
This tour takes you to the site of the ‘Delhi Durbars’, Coronation Park. Little visited, and now a rather desolate and neglected site, a walk here will nevertheless evoke a sense of British Imperial India.
Three durbars were held here. The first, in 1877 was held to designate the coronation and proclaim Queen Victoria as Empress of India. It marked the culmination of transfer of control of much of India from the British East India Company to the Crown. The Durbar of 1903 was held to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra as Emperor and Empress of India. Planned by the Viceroy, Lord Curzon, it comprised two full weeks of festivities and was considered a dazzling display of power, pomp and splendor. The final Durbar was held in 1911. It commemorated the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in Britain a few months earlier and allowed their proclamation as Emperor and Empress of India. The British royal couple stayed in a tented camp here for nine days with all major Indian Maharajas in attendance. Seated on golden thrones under a golden umbrella on 11 December 1911, they proclaimed that the capital of British India would be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi and laid the foundation stone for the new capital city of New Delhi.
Walking / Rickshaw Tour
The Mughal City of Shahjahanabad
Colourful, vibrant, noisy and crowded best describe what many called Old Delhi. The 17th century capital was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. After the 1857 War of Independence the British captured Delhi from the Mughals. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the poet-king was pensioned off to Rangoon in Burma and over 30 direct maledescendants of the Mughal ruler were killed. This part of Delhi retains its original charm but failure to implement conservation laws has seen many old havelis or mansions pulled down and taken over by shops and small businesses. (Indeed, it is today the best place for picking up items at
wholesale rates, from shirts to shoes, and from spices to silver). This tour is a combination of a ride on a cycle rickshaw and walking. Crowds and noise might by a challenge, but you will end up marvelling at the patience and tolerance of the local people who carry on with their lives unaffected.
Leisurely Rickshaw Tour of the Walled City of Old Delhi
Be transported back four hundred years as you glide through the narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk, known as the Moonlit Square of India. Witness architectural marvels, multi coloured facades, beautifully decorated shops, and ethnically dressed men and women, as you are bombarded by the cries of hawkers and the fragrances emanating from the potpourri of eateries that line these historical alleys.
Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666) built the walled city of Delhi on the banks of the holy River Yamuna. It had a magnificent palace known as the Red Fort, impressive mansions, enchanting bazaars, elegant shrines, royal gardens and fountains at every corner to romance ones’ senses. The Emperor’s beloved daughter, Jahanara, designed a major street called Chandni Chowk in front of the Red Fort, with a canal running down the centre and pools at major intersections reflecting the moonlight. During the British regime, the street underwent major changes and since then this area has witnessed some of the most important events in Indian history. Today these splendid ruins and tales of valour are a testimony of the evolution of the times. Chandni Chowk truly reflects the national unity, secularism and diversity of India.
Mehrauli by Bicycle
The historic area of Mehrauli is one of the seven ancient cities of Delhi; established in 736 AD, it was the capital of Tomar and Chauhan rulers for next 400 years until it was eventually taken over by Qutb-ud-din Aibak who established the Slave Dynasty and heralded the advent of Muslim rule in the city. Although subsequent dynasties shifted their capital after the decline of the Slave Dynasty, Mehrauli remained a firm favourite of royalty, with many rulers constructing buildings in the area, each bringing their own aesthetics and style.
Today Mehrauli is considered an area of great archaeological and architectural importance, with Qutb Minar as its most visible and enduring symbol. Its towering presence overshadows some smaller but equally magnificent monuments. This three hour guided tour by cycle negotiates the congested by-lanes of modern Mehrauli in an effort to familiarise visitors with these obscure but glorious structures. It takes you to ten historically significant sites, going beyond the beaten track and providing a slice of history, which is not usually revealed by tour companies and guidebooks.
Yamuna Bicycle Tour
Behind every historical capital there is a great river. This bicycle ride is an ode to the Yamuna River that has been a silent witness to Delhi’s history and is now a recurrent victim of its excesses. Starting early in the morning, as the city is still sleepy, cycle through the narrow lanes of Shahjahanabad, passing along the formidable walls of the Red Fort to the quiet banks of the
Yamuna at Nigambodh Ghat. A boat ride along its shores – migratory birds circling above the calm waters – unravels the ritualistic devotion with which the Hindus treat the historic river. Despite its current struggles with pollution, the Yamuna is a goddess in the eyes of her devotees. Concluding with a memorable view of the Jama Masjid back through the streets of Old Delhi, the Yamuna route gives you a true experience of the stimulating contradictions that make up India.
Please note: during the summer season (February to August) the Yamuna tour does not include the boat ride due to the water condition. It still includes a fascinating stop at the riverbank and a visit to a nearby cow shelter.
The Raj Tour by Bicycle
This is a truly breath-taking ride through Delhi’s more recent history. Starting from the narrow labyrinthine back lanes of Old Delhi, it passes through quaint old ‘socialist-style’ quarters of government employees and almost magically lands in the midst of a spectacular view of the Presidential Palace and India Gate encircled by spotless clean, tree-lined wide roads. The Raj Tour is a stimulating and comprehensive catalogue of the lives of the people who make up this great capital today.
Nizamuddin Tour by Bicycle
This is an ambitious and rewarding introduction to the many lives of “Dilli”. Starting in the over- 700-year-old settlement of Nizamuddin, this tour wends its way through the myriad lanes of Delhi – it leads you through a city of mystics, saints, poets, rebels, forgotten Kings, English ladies, refugee colonies and nameless tombs – ending in the giddying contrast offered by the flashy lights of up-scale South Delhi neighbourhoods. The Nizamuddin route is 15 kilometres long and includes tea and breakfast in the lush Lodi Gardens. Please note: this tour is offered in the mornings (all through the year) and afternoons (from October until April only).
Bed Sheet Tour
This day tour from Delhi travels approximately 35 kilometres to the village of Pilkhuwa. Once a centre for producing Ghandi’s hand-spun cloth, or ‘khadi’, today only a few hand-weaving units remain and the village mostly produces bed sheets on power looms. You will see the effort and art that is involved in making a hand-spun bed sheet – from weaving to dying to block-printing to washing and everything in between. In addition, take a walk around the narrow lanes of Pilkhuwa market, bound to send you back in time. Horse and ‘tonga’ (cart) are still the trusted means of transport, whether it is for ferrying people or for carrying sun dried bed sheets back from the fields.
As well as textiles, there are many other crafts practised in Pilkhuwa, such as wooden block carving, bamboo craft, paper mache, wood inlay, and needlework. During your visit you will have the chance to see these cottage crafts in action, interact with artisans and learn about their art. At the end of the tour you can visit the in-house souvenir shop run by Beeja Trust, which helps to promote and sell the artisans’ work.