Taj Mahal isn’t the only attraction you can visit during a day trip to the city of Agra. Along with the famed marble mausoleum, you can add Agra Fort and and the ‘Ghost City’ of Fatehpur Sikri to your itinerary as well. While the Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri were founded by his grandfather, Akbar. All these sites are shining examples of Mughal-era architecture. You can catch an early morning train from Delhi, preferably the Gatimaan Express, which takes less than two hours to reach Agra or you can book a taxi for an entire day. The latter option is much more convenient if you wish to visit more than one attraction in the city.
Vrindavan is the place where Lord Krishna is believed to have spent his childhood days. The town is dotted with numerous temples dedicated to Krishna and his consort Radha. When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a spiritual leader, reached Vrindavan in 1516, there was nothing but forests all around. Yet, the divine aura he felt here was unlike any other he’d ever experienced before. As if guided by some celestial power, Chaitanya began identifying various spots associated with Krishna and instructed his disciples to construct temples at each of these places. Spend your day exploring the many temples here and in the evening watch the beautiful arati (ritual of worship with light) ceremony at Kesi Ghat. The drive from Delhi to Vrindavan takes approximately three hours.
If you’re tired of the busy city life and want to experience the rustic countryside for a change, head to Pratapgarh Farms. The serene hamlet is surrounded by verdant fields, a welcome change from the concrete jungle of Delhi. Pratapgarh Farms has many activities planned for visitors, so you’ll never be bored here. You can take camel and tractor rides, enjoy performances such as the Dholki Dance, milk goats and tend to cows, plough fields and even play games including gilli danda, pithoo and kanche goli, which are popular in Indian villages. But the best part of being at Pratapgarh Farms is that you get to savour home-cooked meals prepared by the locals. Cuisines from the state of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan are usually cooked here. You also get to relish sugarcane freshly plucked from the farms.
Kuchesar is a village located about 80 kilometres from Delhi. It was once ruled by the Jat community who came from the state of Haryana. The Jats built a mud fort here during the 18th century and this fort was converted into a heritage hotel in 1998. Since then the hotel has become a key attraction, making Kuchesar a popular tourist spot, especially for those living in Delhi, as it only takes about a couple of hours to reach the fort from the capital. The heritage hotel offers day packages which include tea, snacks, lunch and fun in-house activities and games. Close to Kuchesar Mud Fort lies Brijghat, a lovely picnic spot located amid a mango orchard.
The state of Rajasthan is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India with Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer being the most visited cities here. But if you only have a day to spare and still want to soak in the splendour of Rajasthan, then Alwar is an ideal city to stop by. City Palace, Bala Qila, Moosi Maharani ki Chhatri are some of the centuries-old structures in Alwar. Then there’s Bhangarh Fort, built by Raja Man Singh I. It’s considered to be one of the most haunted places in the country. Besides these fascinating monuments, Siliserh Lake and Jaisamand Lake are other great attractions in the city. If you plan your day well, you could also visit the Sariska Tiger Reserve which is about 40 kilometres from Alwar.
Kurukshetra is one of the most important historical cities in India. The great Kurukshetra War detailed in the Indian epic Mahabharata was fought here. It was also here that Lord Krishna gave a philosophical sermon to Arjuna, a Pandava warrior, when the latter was faced with a hard dilemma. This conversation between Krishna and Arjuna eventually became the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu text. Even Mahatma Gandhi is known to have turned to this scripture every time he needed spiritual guidance. Thus, being a religious city, there are many temples you can visit in and around Kurukshetra. Apart from these pilgrimage sites, you can also check out Sheikh Chilli’s Tomb, a Mughal-era mausoleum dedicated to a Sufi saint. The drive from Delhi to Kurukshetra takes about two hours and 45 minutes.
Sultanpur National Park
Sultanpur National Park is a bird sanctuary located 50 kilometres from Delhi. Due to its close proximity to the capital and cities like Gurgaon and Noida, birdwatchers and picnic-goers flock to the park on weekends and holidays, even though it isn’t as big as the other bird sanctuaries in India. Each year more than 100 migratory birds, including Siberian cranes, set up temporary homes at the Sultanpur National Park. Besides these travelling species, there are a number of resident birds at the sanctuary including the Eurasian thick-knee, painted stork, white ibis and the Indian crested lark. The park remains closed between the months of April and September.
Damdama Lake is one of the biggest lakes in the state of Haryana and lies about 45 kilometres from Delhi. Framed by the mighty Aravali Mountains, Damdama Lake is ideal for those who want to escape to a scenic spot for a day. There are numerous activities to enjoy here such as rock climbing, air rifle shooting, para-sailing, kayaking, cycling and angling. You can also choose to camp overnight at the lake. With almost 200 species of birds here, birdwatchers and nature lovers will have a field day exploring the place. An added attraction is the Sohna Sulphur Hot Spring nearby, known to have several medicinal benefits.