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Golden Triangle Tour with Shimla

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I am Gabrielle from Ukraine and a thorough travel enthusiast. Last year, I got an opportunity to visit India (believe me, this beautiful country has always been on top of my list of places to visit). My friend Rosanne booked a tour to India from travel agency and a special Golden Triangle Tour that had an added attraction, a popular hill station of India, Shimla
Here, I would like to sum up my experience with the tour:
Day 01 – Arrival in Delhi
The first day of our tour started with arrival in Delhi. Everything went well. We were assisted by a gentleman who transferred us to the hotel from the airport. After dinner, we relaxed and slept early.
Meeting with the assistant at the airport & transfer to hotel.
Day 02 – A Sightseeing Tour of Delhi
After a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, it was time for us to move for a sightseeing tour of New Delhi. I must mention Rosanne takes too long to get ready ;) (she'll kill me for this). After check out, we set off for a visit to the following sightseeing attractions in Delhi:
Qutab Minar – We have heard a lot about this glorious monument. Finally, we had the opportunity to visit the place. It was a holiday and the place was fully thronged with the visitors. The guide helped us get acquainted with various facts associated with this colossal monument. He informed us that Qutub Minar is the tallest monumental structure in Delhi and the whole country. He briefed us about the history of this about the edifice. According to him, the structure was started by Qutub-ud- din Aibak in 1119 but was completed by his successor iltutmish.
From the main gateway, we went along a huge stretched pathway. It took us almost 15 to 20 minutes to reach the main structure. We were truly awestruck at the sight of this gigantic edifice. The magnanimous 5 story minaret was simply marvellous. Our guide told us that this minar is around 72.5m high and is embellished with 379 steps that leads one of the top story. However, due to an accident in the past, the top of the monument was not approachable.
The complex is home to some very beautiful Mughal architectures, including the Quwwat-Ul-Islam Masjid. Another amazing thing that impressed us was the Iron Pillar. It was not an ordinary pillar. This is how our guide explained the importance of this monument to us! Much to our wonder, we saw many people trying to back hold their hands on this huge pillar. The guide instructed us to do so as it is considered lucky if your hands join at the end. This fulfills one's wishes. We were quite excited to do this exercise. I found it a little weird as people stare while we try our luck. There were inscription written on the pillar in Sanskrit and Indian Language, dating back to the 4th century.
India Gate – India Gate was definitely on topmost of our list of places to visit in Delhi. Constructed by the British, the erstwhile colonial rulers of India, as a war memorial to the Indian soldiers who had fought with the British troops in World War I and the Afghan wars. Post Independence, India Gate turned into the site of the Indian Army’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Amar Jawan Jyoti (Flame of the Immortal Soldier) burns in a shrine under the arch of India Gate. We paid our respects to the flame and the shrine, which is constructed from black marble. It is a cenotaph with a rifle placed on it which comfortably sits on a soldier’s helmet.
The words Amar Jawan (meaning Immortal Soldier) is inscribed on all four sides of the cenotaph. Also the names of gallantry award winners are mentioned on the bricks of India Gate. We could see many hundreds of other tourists who had visited the place. They were all thrilled to see this historical monument.
There are three flags on the front side of India Gate, each signifying the three armed forces of Independent India. We also saw soldiers marching around the memorial. Some were also posing for pictures with school children who had visited the place.
It was time for us to leave. Next, we visited the other important attractions including the President’s House, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, and Laxmi Narayan Temple.
After dinner at an amazing fine dining restaurant, we returned back to the hotel.
Day 03 – Agra Tour
After an early morning pick up from hotel and transfer to the railway station, we boarded the superfast air-conditioned train to Agra. The breakfast was served in the train. Arrival in Agra was pleasant.
The city is beautiful and each site we visited was incredibly beautiful. First, we visited the magnificent Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. I don't have words to describe the beauty of this place. It is truly an architectural marvel in pure marble. Next, we visited the Agra Fort, Diwan-I-Am (the hall of public audience where the Emperor heard public petitions), and Diwan-I-Khas (hall of private audience) before leaving for Jaipur by the superfast Shatabdi Express train (all excited).
On our way, we visited Fatehpur Sikri, also known as the sandstone “ghost town”. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was worth visiting. It was founded in 1569 by Akbar and served as the Mughal capital from 1571 to 1585. According to a belief, emperor Akbar visited the village of Sikri to consult a Sufi saint. The emperor was without an heir for a long time and the Sufi predicted the birth of a son. The prophecy became a reality, Akbar built the new capital. Unfortunately, the Indo-Islamic masterpiece was abandoned shortly after Akbar died.
I must say that this city is incredibly well-preserved and Akbar’s tolerant religious views is clearly reflected in the charismatic amalgam of Islamic and Hindu influences in the way this city is designed. We were in awe of the way all details of the monument are still visible on the buildings of the city.
We also visited Buland Darwaza within the city. It is revered across the globe as one of the highest gateways.
After this visit, we resumed our journey to Jaipur. We were finally transferred to the hotel and had dinner in the hotel. Following dinner, it was time to have a relaxing sleep. 
Day 05 – Jaipur Sightseeing Spree
In the morning, we were treated by a lavish breakfast spread. We left the hotel for Jaipur sightseeing spree.
The day started with a visit to the magnanimous Amber Fort. This was a beautiful fort built in the 16th century by a trusted general of Akbar, Maan Singh. One of the most important tourist destinations in the city, the fort is a must visit place. We enjoyed the elephant ride up to the fort, which is available from morning 7:30 till afternoon 12:30.
City Palace – This is indeed a beautiful complex. We simply loved being here. One of the best things I liked about this palace complex is that it reflects the fusion on both Mughal and Rajput architecture. The complex is home to an exquisite complex of gardens, courtyards, and buildings. The main entrance for tourists is the Udail Pol (also referred to as Atish Pol). This is a grand gateway with lavish decorations. There is another entrance, Tripolia Gate, which is reserved for the royal family. Upon entry, we got to see Mubarak Mahal (auspicious palace). It has a reception center constructed in the 19th century by Maharaja Madho Singh II. A museum displaying a huge range of textiles and costumes used by the royalty in the past is also in the complex. Here, you can see some of the finest Pashmina shawls, Benaras silk sarees, sanganeri prints and folk embroidery.
From Mubarak Mahal, we moved to the adjacent Sarvato Bhadra, Diwan-i-Khas of the palace. It is the Hall of Private Audience. Here, the Maharaja meets his ministers, official guests and other important people.
We saw two huge jars made from silver known as Gangajali. These measures 5’3″ each in height with a capacity to hold 4091 liters and are used for storing sacred water of the river Ganges known as Gangajal.
Around fourteen thousand silver coins were melted to create these jars. It is amazing that no soldering was done while preparing these jars. From here, we shifted our focus to Diwan-i-Khas, the square courtyard. It is open on all four sides. The exquisite arches and chandeliers make it a truly unique place to visit.
The Clock Tower is a unique feature of  this palace. The iconic clock tower can be seen from a distance from a huge number of places in the city.
Palace of Winds – This was definitely on our list of must-visit places. Literally meaning “Palace of the Winds”, the exquisitely constructed five-story palace was constructed in the year 1799 by using red and pink sandstone. Considered widely as an epitome of Rajputana architecture, the pyramid shape and 953 windows or ‘Jharokhas’ embellished with intricate designs are the prime highlights of the palace. The Mahal was constructed with an aim to allow royal women to get a view of everyday life through the windows without being visible to the public eye (royal women never appeared in public and maintained purdah system.
This was certainly one of the coolest structures we’ve ever seen. The palace is truly makes Jaipur the Pink City. The frontal view of this palace is massive. On the other hand, the side view makes it one dimensional.
Now it was time for us to visit the astronomical observation site, Jantar Mantar constructed in the early 18th century. This is the biggest stone observatory in the world and comprises of a set of some 20 main fixed instruments including one of the largest sundials. These are monumental examples in the masonry of known instruments. The objects were designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye. These embody several architectural and instrumental innovations. Although the explanation of these objects a went over our heads, it was still  very fascinating to read about each instrument. We saw them all in person and were happy to see the instruments that were dedicated to our signs, Gemini and Capricorn.
In the evening, we were transferred to railway station to board the air conditioned train to Delhi. The dinner was served in the train. Upon arrival, we were comfortably and safely transferred to hotel. Since we were tired after the long journey, we slept early so that we can accumulate ample energy for the next day.
Day 06 – Journey to Shimla by Road
Soon after breakfast, we left for Shimla by road. Rosanne was happy to have opted for Golden Triangle Tour with Shimla which added another attraction to the package, the beautiful hill station; Shimla. The journey took around 8 hours to complete. Upon arrival, we were transferred to hotel.
Day 07 – Shimla Sightseeing
After breakfast, we proceeded for a sightseeing tour of Shimla. Our guide was very clear about making us feel comfortable in the city and know all about it before moving out for a sightseeing spree. This is not all. He was with us throughout the tour.
So, the Day 7 covered the following popular beautiful spots:
Kalbadevi Temple – According to our guide, One of the most popular religious places of Himachal Pradesh. Kalba Devi Temple is akin to many followers. Beautifully built, this is a typical Indian temple. A visit here was quite satisfying.
Jakhu Temple – This is an ancient religious site and home to several monkeys and the tallest statue of the world. It is located on the tallest peak in Shimla at 8,000 ft. This is the seat of Lord Bajrangbali Hanuman Ji. Our car had to climb around 700 ft. or more on a very risky steep road within a short distance of 1.6 miles. Much to our surprise, the car managed to climb successful.
The entrance to the Jakhu Temple is intimidating! With an enormously dangerous number of monkeys all around, it is quite scary! Anyways, as our guide directed us, we removed our footwear at the shoe locker and started off towards 100+ stairs. We were provided with long sticks along with prasad (holy offering after pooja). These sticks helped us to safeguard from the monkeys.
Our guide warned us again and again against hundreds of monkeys present there. But Rosanne is smart. She asked me to stay calm and avoid any aggressive posture. These postures can actually instigate the army of monkeys to attack visitors. So finally, we avoided any direct confrontation with them. The strategy worked.
One of the legends has it that Lord Hanuman stopped there to rest while he was searching for the Sanjivni Booti to revive Lakshmana in the Epic Ramayana. One of the major attractions of this temple a giant 108-feet-high idol of Hanuman. It was unveiled at Jakhoo Hanuman temple in the year 2010 by Bollywood star Abhishek Bachhan. The temple overlooks the entire city. We participated in pooja inside. Photography is prohibited here.
Interestingly, the Jakhu temple has a lot of restaurants and eateries in its campus. We ordered tea and pakoras. The pakoras were crisp and yummy. 
The Christ Church – After Jakhu Temple, it was time for us to leave for the Christ Church. One thing that impressed me about India was the literal 'unity in diversity' feel. So many religions, languages and cultures followed by people without much commotion or other problems!
We were at the second oldest church in Northern India. The foundation stone of this church was laid on 9th September 1844. Later, Bishop Wilson of Calcutta consecrated it on 10th January 1857. The constructed is done in the Neo-Gothic style and completed in thirteen years. In 1860, the stained glass windows over the altar were placed. The famous clock was placed in 1860.
The fresco on the walls are painted beautifully. We came to know that the Pipe Organ of the church is the biggest in the Indian subcontinent. It has been added to the church in September 1899. Beautiful paintings portraying scenes from the life of Jesus Christ are one of the most impressive features of the Church. 
After this visit, we were left free for relaxing and a visit to Mall Road. So Rosanne and me decided to do some shopping and enjoy some street food.
Day 08 – Kufri Fun
We were quite prepared for this tour. Actually, after Gautam had described the place and its significance on the Shimla tourist map, we were all set to have a good time! So after a nice breakfast in the hotel, it was time for us to take an excursion to Kufri. This place is a paradise for nature lovers. A picturesque hamlet, we were so thrilled to be here. Everything from the dense forest and snow caped mountains stole our hearts.
We enjoyed a visit all of the famous and exquisite places here. Right from the Hassan Valley (ranked as one of the top ten densest forests in Asia) to the Mahasu Peak (Kufri Top – the highest peak of the region), panoramic view of Pir Panjal, Dhauladhar mountain range, the sacred Maheshwari Temple at the Mahasu Peak, the mini zoo where we spotted some of the rare Himalayan animals, and Chini Bungalow.
I would like to especially mention the visit to a small hamlet known as Fagu and the Indira Gandhi Holiday Home. Rosanne enjoyed horse riding in the apple orchids. In the evening, we moved around to explore the panoramic sights of the hamlet. And yeah, the customary visit to the Mall Road. It is the main shopping centre and one of the most popular attractions of Shimla. It is home to several shops and some of the best restaurants of the city. We loved the street food served here.
Day 09 – Time to Say Goodbye!
This is what I don't like about trips! So finally, after breakfast, it was time for us to leave for Delhi. The drive took around 8 hrs. This time, I had nothing to look forward to except being happy about some beautiful memories, both of us had gathered here in India. I looked at Rosanne. Her face was glowing! It showed how content she was. Upon arrival transfer to the airport, we boarded our onward flight.
Goodbye India. Thanks for making us feel so special and giving us all of those amazing memories. Love – Ukraine!


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