As the capital of India, Delhi is the first place where most foreign tourists land and often included in the classic tours to India. They usually visit a couple of popular attractions before moving onto other touristy areas. However, Delhi has far more to offer if you are willing to explore and have enough time at hand. It is an ancient city that has seen numerous invasions and every dynasty, as well as the colonial British rulers, have left their imprint in the form of thousands of monuments. New markets, restaurants, cafes, and shopping malls coexist here seamlessly with centuries-old crumbling edifices, offering a contrasting yet intriguing melange of views.
Before you start
- I am assuming that you are roaming around using public transport, especially Delhi Metro, which connects almost all corners of the city. In fact, it is far more convenient than personal vehicles that are bound to get stuck in heavy traffic. If you need, cab services, as well as auto-rickshaws, are available too.
- You can stay anywhere in Delhi but for the sake of convenience, I am assuming that you are staying in South Delhi, near Hauz Khas Village, just because I like the area, you can find great Delhi hotels, and it offers an interesting mix of past and present.
- It is not mandatory but I believe winter months (late October to early March) are the best to roam around in Delhi because summers can be frighteningly harsh. Check out our guide to the best time to visit India for more info on when to plan your trip to Delhi.
4 Days In Delhi – An Easy + Complete Itinerary
Day 1 in Delhi – A Walk Through the Tombs
You’ll start the first day of your 4-day Delhi itinerary with an unusual morning walk through the city’s spiritual core. I have packed some museum visits as well as an informative light & sound show for the first day, as they teach you about Delhi’s history so that you can better appreciate the places you will visit in the next few days. The day may seem a bit packed, but this will prepare you well for the next few days.
Wake up as early as possible to make the most of the day. Your first stop of the day is Lodhi Gardens, which is a cluster of early medieval tombs from the 15th century. However, a garden was developed later covering the entire area and now it is the favourite jogging spot for the locals. That is why it opens as early as 5 AM while other monuments open much later. So, enjoy a brisk walk through the beautiful park while observing the monuments scattered all over. Give it around a couple of hours for the best experience.
This monument is located nearby, on the other side of the road. It is a comparatively newer, 18th-century tomb, probably one of the last great constructions from the Mughal era. It is well-maintained, and photogenic, and will give you some lovely frames and it should not consume more than 30 minutes.
Lodhi Colony & India Habitat Center (IHC)
As you started early, you will be done by 9 AM. Walk towards the India Habitat Center (IHC). As you walk past Lodhi Colony, you will notice a lot of interesting street art too, as this area has been developed as an art district. Once you reach IHC, finally have a well-deserved, classy breakfast at All American Diner. IHC is an interesting space that has been developed as a blend of office spaces, art galleries, auditoriums, and a spot for eclectic socialization. If you want, you can visit the art galleries (there is always some exhibition going on).
Post-breakfast, move quickly to Nizamuddin Basti, a medieval village that has refused to change even as the metropolis grew around it. The heart of it is the Mausoleum and shrine of Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya (1238 – 1325 CE), the most revered Sufi saint of Delhi. In western parlance, he can be called the patron saint of Delhi. There are other tombs inside, the most prominent one being that of Amir Khusrau, a poet, musician, and his most famous disciple. If you are new to India, it may be a bit hard to navigate these congested lanes. However, you can hire a guide who can show you around. There are many who organize heritage walks around this area. Maybe you can pre-book them.
Humayun’s Tomb and Sunder Nursery
From Nizamuddin, move to nearby Humayun’s Tomb. One of the places to visit in Delhi, this is a massive structure similar to Taj Mahal but it predates it. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can also visit the nearby Sunder Nursery, which is actually a nursery, but with some medieval tombs inside, which gives it a unique aura.
Khan Market is a posh commercial district with many boutique shops, book stores, and of course, many cool restaurants. So, this is where you can have your lunch and then you can take a brisk tour of the market and shop a bit if you are so inclined.
In the afternoon, you have two options. Doing both would have been great but sadly you may not have time for both. The National Museum will give you an idea about the entire history and heritage of India, while the National Gallery of Modern Arts (NGMA) will introduce you to India’s best artists and sculptors. The choice will be purely based on your taste and interests.
Purana Qila Light & Sound Show
In the evening, you will move towards Purana Qila. It is one of the major monuments in Delhi. The fort is from medieval times but some prehistoric remains have been excavated in the nearby areas, which points to the antiquity of the site. However, I have kept it for the night because there is a daily light and sound show after dark where it tells the entire history of Delhi through laser, voiceover, and music. Both Hindi and English voiceovers are available at different time slots. Post the show, you will be tired. So just get back to HKV, have dinner at one of the restaurants and retire for the day.
Day 2 – Old Delhi & More
The primary attraction of the second of your four days in Delhi is the so-called “Old Delhi”, the 17th-century walled city of Shahjahanabad, where the past seamlessly merges with the present. You may have heard of it already, but here is a fun fact, this is NOT the oldest part of Delhi (You will get there on the 4th day of your Delhi itinerary).
Old Delhi is fascinating but can be crowded and confusing. There is a backstory to every narrow lane here and it is a treasure trove for photographers but if you are new, you may get lost. That is why, I suggest that you start early in the morning, and if possible, sign up for a heritage walk to take you through this maze. Walk around Chandni Chowk, Fatehpuri Masjid, Khari Baoli Spice Market, Gurudwara Sheeshganj and of course, the massive Jama Masjid. You can also visit Ghalib ki Haveli, the mansion of the iconic 19th-century poet Mirza Ghalib. Old Delhi is also a heaven for Indian food lovers and you can fill yourself up for the day by trying various things even as you walk around the place.
You should be done with Old Delhi by noon. Have something for lunch and then cross the street and enter Red Fort (Lal Qila). This is a massive fortress built around the same time as Old Delhi. The Mughal royals used to live here at one point, so there are palaces and other buildings inside the Fort. You will also find a small museum inside along with a baoli (stepwell).
After Red Fort, quickly move to nearby Raj Ghat, the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi. Memorials of many other important Indian leaders can also be found nearby. This should not take much time to pay your respect and move on.
Your next stop will be the Akshardham Temple. It is not a historical site but a new architectural marvel. It is a bit far off, on the other side of the Yamuna River. You can spend the afternoon here, walking around the gardens. There is a food court too if needed.
Majnu ka Tila
After dark, return and start moving to Majnu Ka Tila, in the northern part of Delhi. This is a unique area where a lot of Tibetan refugees were settled decades ago. So, here, you will find a Tibetan monastery and dozens of restaurants selling Tibetan and Nepali cuisine! So, you will suddenly be transported to a different world here and will be able to try some new cuisines. My personal favourite is the Nepali Thali at Ama Thakali Kitchen, but this is a strictly personal choice.
After the meal, take the long road back to your hotel. However, by that time it will be night and roads will be empty.
Day 3 – Lutyens’ Delhi & Beyond
This day will come to some more major monuments of Delhi (Yes, the list is never-ending!), including some famous and some offbeat ones. Have a quick breakfast at the hotel because the first stop will be a slightly non-touristy area.
Tughlaqabad is not visited by many as it is located a bit far off, in the outskirts of Delhi. Nevertheless, it is a massive complex that was built as a city in the early 14th century. However, it was soon abandoned due to various reasons (you can read up the interesting backstory). Now it is a mysterious necropolis with ruins of the ancient fort, palaces, and tombs. Spend a couple of hours there, soak in the antiquity.
Come back to the city and reach the iconic Lotus Temple. It is another modern architectural marvel that has been designed like a lotus flower. It is a house of worship for the Bahai Faith, an intriguing religion formed in 19th-century Persia. Post the visit, you can have lunch at any restaurant at Nehru Place, which is a busy commercial district.
Feroz Shah Kotla
Post lunch, move northwards to reach Feroz Shah Kotla, another relic of a 14th-century city, which was built a few decades after Tughlaqabad. It has a few unique structures including a pyramidal structure and a 2200-year-old pillar of Ashoka the Great, which was later brought here by Feroz Shah Tughlaq.
Agrasen ki Baoli
After Kotla, you will visit the Agrasen ki Baoli, an interesting monument. Baolis are step-wells that were built all over India in ancient times for water supply. Delhi itself has many of them but this is the best-known of them all, now surrounded by skyscrapers on all sides.
Move towards India Gate in the afternoon and walk around New Delhi. This area is often called Lutyens’ Delhi after the architect who designed it. The British built it as the new capital complex of India and even now it houses all the major government buildings and institutions in India. This is a good area to hang out and even locals arrive here in the evening.
Later on, move towards Connaught Place (CP). It is another colonial construction, an attractive commercial district that is practically the center of Delhi. This circular market contains scores of high-end stores as well as restaurants. It generally gets a bit too crowded, but you can find a nice place to have dinner and then return to your place for the night.
Day 4 – Delights of South Delhi
This is the final day. You will focus mostly on South Delhi. So, less time spent on commutation and more on exploration!
HKV & Green Park
So, you have been staying around HKV since Day 1 but have not had the time to explore it. Hauz Khas is actually a part of Siri, a 13th-century city. The modern hippie joint has been built on the peripheries of those ancient monuments and walls by the side of a massive lake. So, spend this morning enjoying the delights of Siri, that has been hosting you. You can walk till nearby Green Park Market and you will see many small monuments along the way. Have breakfast at one of the restaurants at Greenpark.
After breakfast, drive towards Mehrauli. As mentioned earlier, Mehrauli, on the southern edge of Delhi is the Oldest Part of Delhi, originally built by Rajput rulers more than a thousand years ago. Conquests of Sultans from Afghanistan destroyed the original settlements but parts of the original fortress walls can still be seen. Here, the first stop will be Qutub Minar, the 73-meter tall minaret from the 12th century, built by the earliest sultans of India. The complex has many other interesting structures and it is another UNESCO World Heritage Site of Delhi.
Mehrauli Archaeological Park
Post Qutub, just move to the adjacent Mehrauli Archaeological Park. It is a massive area of almost 200 acres, with many medieval monuments scattered all over it. Explore the likes of Rajjon ki Baoli, Gandhak ki Baoli, Balban’s Tomb, and many more. Try to find out the unexpected homoerotic backstory in one of the tombs at Jamali Kamali and also visit the Sufi Shrine of Bakhtiyar Kaki, practically the oldest such shrine in Delhi.
Shopping for Handicrafts
Mehrauli and Chattarpur areas have many boutique stores and markets to shop for Indian handicrafts, traditional tools and other items. When packing for India, you should definitely leave some room for the local shopping as you will find plenty of gifts to bring home to friends and family. You can have lunch somewhere in this area and explore these options for a while.
This is your last evening in Delhi, so make it relaxed and delightful at Chamba Gali in Saket, which is not far from Mehrauli. This is one of the newly developed, coolest, hippiest hangouts in Delhi full of chic cafes and restaurants. You can spend the rest of the evening here, have your coffees followed by dinner and then return to your room at night.
Once you are done with Delhi, you will naturally move on to other places. Delhi is centrally located and well connected with dozens of other exciting destinations. Most people yearn to visit Agra and Jaipur as they are the most famous ones. However, my personal favourite is the Himalayan states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. I would also encourage everyone to explore more of the unexplored gems of India for more unique experiences.
Author Bio: Jitaditya Narzary is the writer and editor behind the travel blog The Travelling Slacker focused on India beyond the obvious.