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Top Places to Visit in Delhi

The temperatures in Delhi are finally dropping and it is time to get back out and explore the city.  Delhi is well-known for its proximity to the Taj Mahal and the Pink City of Jaipur and for its bustling old town but few know of the intriguing history of the city or how cosmopolitan today’s reincarnation is.  Below are our recommendations for the top things to see to get a real feel for the city!

  • Qutab Minar –  Qutab Minar is one of the top sights to see and with good reason.  The 12th-century brick minaret stands at a whopping 5-stories tall and the surrounding structures are some of the oldest surviving Islamic buildings on the Indian subcontinent.   Come early to try and escape the huge crowds.

A view of Qutab Minar on a sunny day

  • Humayun’s Tomb – A precursor to the Taj Mahal, Humayun’s Tomb symbolizes a new era in Mughal architecture. Built at the end of the 16th century,  Humayun’s was the first garden-tomb in India and one of the first examples of red sandstone being used as a dominant construction material. The pinkish-hue of the building and the surrounding gardens provide picture-perfect photo ops and some excellent people watching.

The stunning Humayun's Tomb with fountain reflection

  • Lodi Gardens –  One of the best preserved areas of Delhi,  the tombs of Lodi Gardens were originally part of an earlier settlement.  Built between the 15th and 16th centuries, the buildings represent a variety of different architectural styles and are surrounded by a  beautiful city park. Best of all, it is free to get into!

Lodi Gardens on a cloudy afternoon

 

  • Lodi Art Colony – The quiet neighborhood of Lodi Colony is now the epicenter of Delhi’s street art scene.   Brightly-colored murals cover sides of buildings and showcase India’s past, present and future. The neighborhood is a work-in-progress so make sure to come back often to see the newest works of art.  If you want to know more about the artists and the history behind the project, make sure to join our Delhi Art Tour!The bright colors of Lodi Art Colony
  • Gurudwara Bangla Sahib – One of the most prominent Sikh temples in Delhi, Bangla sahib features a holy pond, community kitchen and museum.  Time your visit around lunch or dinner and you can join for langar. Don’t be shy. All are welcome regardless of religion or nationality and langar is an important aspect of Sikhism.  If you are interested in learning more about Sikhism, make sure to join our Delhi by Public Transport tour which includes a stop at the gurudwara.

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib on a clear day

Exploring Maharashtra with Reality Tours

Hello readers,

Just before summer heat kicked in here in Mumbai, we were busy creating a new experience for you. After a few enquiries and subsequent research, we found out that magnificent ancient cave temples existed not too far from Mumbai. And so, we hopped on a train to Aurangabad to see the sights and stories waiting to be discovered.

Early on a Saturday afternoon, we convened at Dadar Train Station for the Janshatabdi Express train to Aurangabad. We sank into our comfortable seats and armed ourselves with snacks, water, music, and books for the 6 hour train journey. The lull of “chai-chai-chai- kopi-kopi-kopi” came through the aisles as we slept and intermittently woke up to enjoy the scenery.

We arrived at night and were eager to settle into our beds at Zostel. Upon arrival at the hostel, conveniently located close to the train station, we were delighted by not only the design and but also the cleanliness of it. Zostel is the oldest and largest chain of hostels all around India. If you’re looking for a reasonable price for a clean bed and shower, (and to meet like-minded people) Zostel is a good and trusted option.

We quickly got ready for bed as we had an early start the next morning to begin our Maharashtra Trail adventure.

Day one: Ajanta Caves

To fuel our 3.5 hour road trip from Aurangabad to the caves, we stopped by a dhaba (roadside restaurant) for breakfast. Our energy levels shot up after we filled ourselves with poha (flattened rice) and jaggery-sweetened chai. Then we hopped back into our car for a bumpy ride towards Ajanta.

When we arrived, the sun was shining brilliantly above us and we hopped on a tourist bus to get into the complex.

A short ride and a few steps later, we were greeted by a spectacular sweeping view of Ajanta caves. It inspired jaw-dropping, “ooo-ing” and “ahhh-ing” all around us. What stood before us was a vast gorge encircled caves housing Buddhist Art dating back to 2nd century BC. In fact, the Ajanta is far older than its  Ellora Caves.

I’m almost certain we took 15,000 steps or more that day, walking in and out of each cave, up and down the Ajanta Cave complex. We took in the ancient art remaining in the caves and learned about the symbolism in the artwork and sculptures. What a memorable experience! (Tip: ensure you bring plenty of water, as there are no shops in your immediate surroundings)

Day 2:  Ellora Complex, Devgiri Fort, and Bibi Ka Maqbara

First thing in the morning, we hopped into a rickshaw to get us to Ellora Caves. Feeling the crisp morning breeze as our rickshaw cruised through the city roads and outskirts was a treat. Our ride was smooth and before we knew it, we arrived and walked into a whole other world.

Ellora Complex was nothing short of astounding: a fascinating mix of 34 structures from Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. We were filled rapture and wonder staring at some of world’s largest monolithic structures. The detailed structures have been chipped and carved over the course of 500 years. The sheer scale and diversity of the complex reflected how various religions had lived in harmony in India’s past.

After exploring an array of remarkably intricate rock-cut caves, temples, and chapels, we took a break and enjoyed a hearty meal. The Ellora Complex could have easily taken a full day of exploration. However, we had a few more stops to make in Aurangabad to ensure we made the most of our time.

To burn off some calories from our lunch, we paid a visit to Devgiri Fort–a glorious 16th century fort overlooking the city. In the spur of a moment, we decided to take an hour to hike up to the top; though we panted and heaved all along the way, the journey was well worth it. At the end, we were rewarded with a stunning view of Auranagabad. The hike up and around its ruins was a sweaty and fun activity. It was the highlight of our day, as we bonded over the burn in our legs and feeling of accomplishment.

Our last stop on our tour around Aurangabad was the famous Baby Taj–also known as BiBi Ka Maqbara. Wandering into the tomb was surreal; we felt like we were in Agra entering the renowned Taj Mahal complex.  The structure was indeed a replica of the Taj! We learned about the details of its creation along with some stories associated with it. (And we posed for a few photos and selfies while we were at it, of course!)

Needless to say, after hours of walking through historic monuments, taking in ancient religious art, and clicking photos galore, we called it a wrap.

Our recce to Aurangabad was what led to the creation of our Maharashtra Trail. We experienced first-hand all the sites, the food, the history of Aurangabad–one of Maharashtra’s best kept secrets. Here we have put together the best itinerary and plan for a weekend trip from Mumbai: perfect for anyone looking for an interesting and action-packed weekend getaway!

Keep your eyes peeled for another blog post about our travels to come.

Much love,

AK

Taking Tours & Challenging Conventions, All In A Day’s Work

My name is Shehnaz and I am working as a tour guide at Reality Tours and Travel. My family is originally from Bihar but my father moved to Delhi about 25 years ago to work and sustain the family. I was born in Delhi in a middle-class family and we are six siblings. My father is a tailor but I would like to call him an artist and, of course, my superhero…

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Ganesh & The Story Behind Maharashtra’s Favourite Festival

India is a very diverse country and every city has its own rich history and culture. A particularly striking aspect of this is the range of different festivals celebrated throughout the country.

One of the biggest festivals celebrated around this time of the year in Mumbai is “Ganesh Chaturti”. Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. He is one of the most famous Hindu Gods and easily identified by his elephant head. He is known as the God of Wisdom and Intellect, but also as “Ek Dant”- one tooth – and “Vighnaharta”- vanquisher of obstacles. (more…)

If Reality Tours Planned The Royal Visit To Mumbai

Will and Kate are in Mumbai, kicking off their whirlwind trip around India. In 2012, Prince Andrew visited Dharavi with the help of our founder, Krishna Pujari. For this royal visit, however, our services weren’t called upon. But that didn’t stop us from imagining the perfect one day Mumbai tour for the royal couple!

Our itinerary would be a mix of prominent sights tied with British colonial history, local experiences, and an introduction to Mumbai’s temples, markets, and slums. (more…)

Ganesh Chaturthi: Mumbai’s Biggest Festival

Nick takes us through his experience last year during Ganesh Chaturthi and explains what he learned.


The Modern Origin

There weren’t any crowds when we turn onto the side street indicated on our map. It was surprising considering my friend and I were trying to find the housing society responsible for the modern form of Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai’s biggest festival, during the holiday itself. We went down the entire lane only to find a small Ganesh in a nearly empty housing society courtyard. We decided to ask them for directions.

As we walked into the courtyard, with facads in the old Portugese style rising up on either side of us, a young man sitting on a wooden platform in front of the Ganesh pandal immediately bounced to his feet and came to greet us. He was incredibly friendly and quickly informed us that this was indeed the first society to celebrate the festival in its modern form, which they have been doing continuously for the past 121 years.

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Eid al-Adha in Mumbai: One Square Kilometer Of Goats (Part 2)

The morning of Eid, after repeatedly assuring us that it wouldn’t be an inconvenience, Asim kindly invited the foreigners from the office to his family home nearby Dharavi for Eid al-Adha. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous for this: I had never seen anything sacrificed before. We wound our way through the narrow streets to Asim’s home and greeted his extended family. Everyone was sitting around the living room in their Sunday best casually chatting and surfing the internet on their smart phones. The scene looked like it could have been the living room of any of my family’s holidays, except for one key difference: there was a skinned goat cut in half sitting in the center of the living room. The head and legs were on a platter underneath a chair. What a way to start off the week!

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Eid al-Adha In Mumbai: One Square Kilometer Of Goats (Part 1)

Note: this one isn’t for the faint of heart!

It was a boiling hot Saturday morning and my stomach was not feeling 100%, but there was no way I was missing this. When you get invited for a behind the scenes peak at your friend’s most meaningful religious holiday, one I had never even heard of before I moved to India, you don’t make excuses, you go. So I ate the blandest breakfast I could muster (oatmeal), drank a few liters of water, spent some quality time in the bathroom, and headed north to Asia’s largest goat market.

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