Delhi is an ideal base for a number of short getaways in the northern part of India. From viewing the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra to birdwatching at Sultanpur National Park and exploring spirituality at Vrindavan, Culture Trip has shortlisted the top day-trip options for you.
North India has a distinct identity. From centuries of fighting invasions from the east, the resilient region is home to a host of different cultures, encapsulated in Delhi’s varied art, architecture and cuisine. While there is a whole lot to see, do and experience in the city itself, a day away from the capital is a welcome break – especially to these 10 spots.
Spending a night in one of Jaipur’s beautiful palaces is highly recommended; however, if you’re short on time, a day trip is still a great way to experience the city’s royal heritage. The area’s must-see historical sites include the City Palace, Hawa Mahal, Amer Fort and Nahargarh Fort. For souvenirs, Bapu Bazaar has everything from Indian fabrics to pretty footwear, but to browse new local brands, the shopping complex outside the Hotel Narain Niwas Palace is the place to go. Before heading home, stop for a cocktail at Bar Palladio, a dreamy candlelit establishment that combines colonial architecture with stunning classic Mughal design.
For travellers looking for a leisurely getaway from the chaos of the city, heading to the picturesque Neemrana Fort-Palace for a lazy lunch is recommended. Built on the Aravalli hills, it looks over the village below from a spectacular vantage point. After lunch, a walk through the village will lead you to unique local stores and small temples, and you can end the day watching a performance by traditional Rajasthani folk dancers. If you opt to stay for the night, the hotel and fort comprise several beautiful structures – you can spend another day exploring – spread over 10 hectares (25 acres).
The Taj Mahal isn’t the only attraction you can visit during a day trip to the city of Agra – you can also add Agra Fort and the ‘Ghost City’ of Fatehpur Sikri to your itinerary. While the Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, his grandfather, Akbar, founded Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. All these sites are shining examples of Mughal-era architecture. Sunrise is a particularly magical time to experience the Taj Mahal, so if you can stand the extra-early wake-up call, it’s worth booking a private tour. Otherwise, catch a morning train from Delhi – preferably the Gatimaan Express, which will get you to Agra in around two hours. Taking the bus from Sarai Kale Khan Inter-State Bus Terminus is cheaper but doubles the travel time.
Vrindavan is the place where Lord Krishna is believed to have spent his childhood days, and numerous temples dedicated to Krishna and his consort Radha dot the town. When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a spiritual leader, reached Vrindavan in the early 16th century, there was nothing but forests all around, and the legend goes that the divine aura he felt here was unlike any other he’d ever experienced before. As if guided by some celestial power, Sri Chaitanya began identifying various spots associated with Krishna and instructed his disciples to construct temples at each of these places. Spend your day exploring them all – there are thought to be more than 1,000 – and in the evening, watch the beautiful aarti (ritual of worship with light) ceremony at Kesi Ghat.
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 – plus there are plenty of activities once you get 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 local games, including gilli danda, pithoo and kanche goli, which are popular in Indian villages. The best part of being at Pratapgarh Farms is that you get to savour home-cooked meals prepared by the residents. Cuisines from the states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan are usually cooked here and are best finished by chewing on a sweet stick of sugar cane, freshly plucked from the farm.
Located in the fertile Ganges Basin, Kuchesar is a village and popular tourist spot 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Delhi. The Jat community, who came from the state of Haryana, once ruled the area and built a mud fort here during the 18th century. In 1998, this fort became a heritage hotel, where you can stay the night and make the most of a day trip. The Mud Fort Kuchesar offers great day packages for families that include tea, snacks, lunch and fun in-house activities and games, though there are plenty of other activities to choose from, including pottery making, kite flying or a visit to a nearby mango orchard.
The state of Rajasthan is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India, with Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer being the region’s most visited cities. However, under-the-radar Alwar is a worthwhile alternative and just two hours from Delhi by train. Make time to explore Bhangarh Fort – it’s reportedly one of the most haunted buildings in the country. Stop at other centuries-old monuments like the elaborate Moosi Maharani ki Chhatri cenotaph, before heading to Jaisamand Lake – where marble cenotaphs and a regal palace dot the shoreline – for a peaceful stroll.
Kurukshetra is one of the most important historical cities in India. According to the Mahābhārata, an ancient Indian epic poem, the great Kurukshetra War was fought here. It was also here where a conversation took place between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, a Pandava warrior, which would eventually become the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu text. As Kurukshetra is a holy city, there are plenty of temples and pilgrimage sites to visit, as well as Sheikh Chilli’s Tomb, a Mughal-era mausoleum dedicated to the Sufi saint. The drive from Delhi to Kurukshetra takes about two hours and 45 minutes.
The Sultanpur National Park is a popular weekend getaway, especially for those living in New Delhi or Noida. The best time to visit is from January to March when the bird sanctuary comes to life. During this time, almost 100 species of migratory birds set up temporary homes here, including the painted stork, Eurasian thick-knee, purple sunbird and white-throated kingfisher.
Damdama Lake is one of the biggest lakes in the state of Haryana and lies about 45 kilometres (28 miles) from Delhi. Framed by the mighty Aravalli Range, the lake makes for the perfect scenic day trip. There are numerous activities to enjoy, such as rock climbing, air rifle shooting, parasailing, kayaking, cycling and angling, while birdwatchers will be kept busy spotting the nearly 200 species of birds found here. An added attraction is the Sohna Sulphur Hot Spring nearby, where the water is considered sacred and thought to have several medicinal benefits.