Agra Asia Delhi India Jaipur

4-Day Luxury Golden Triangle Tour: New Delhi, Agra & Jaipur

In January 2024, my boyfriend, Tim, and I attended a wedding in Indore, India and used this opportunity to also do a Golden Triangle tour beforehand.

We booked the 4-Day Private Luxury Golden Triangle Tour to Agra and Jaipur From New Delhi with 5 Star Hotels with Crystal India Holidays, which includes a driver, local tour guides at each destination, three nights at 5 star hotels in Agra and Jaipur, and breakfast each morning.

Though we had some gloomy weather the first couple days, mainly in Delhi and Agra, the tour was incredibly well put together, and we had an amazing time!

This post focuses on our experience with the tour, what we did each day, where we stayed, what was included/not included, and our honest reviews. Note that these opinions are entirely our own, and this was not a paid experience.

Table of Contents

    *P.S. this post contains some affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase.

    What is the Golden Triangle?

    Sara & Tim in front of Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, one of the stops on every Golden Triangle tour

    The Golden Triangle is a popular tourist circuit in India that links the nation’s capital, Delhi, to Agra and Jaipur. The three cities form a triangular shape on a map of India and are all reminiscent of India’s glorious, golden past, thus giving the route its name. 

    Most Golden Triangle tours start in Delhi, travel south to Agra in Uttar Pradesh state, west to Jaipur in Rajasthan state, then back to Delhi. Each leg is between 4-6 hours of driving, depending on traffic. 

    A Golden Triangle tour highlights some of the world’s most impressive architectural marvels, such as the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Amber Fort in Jaipur, immerses you in the hustle and bustle of India’s most loved metro, Delhi, and promises an unforgettable adventure through the heart of India!

    Best Time to Visit the Golden Triangle

    a foggy day at the Taj Mahal, one of the main attractions on every Golden Triangle tour

    The best time to do a Golden Triangle tour is in October or November or between February and April, though I’ve visited in both January and July and still had a great time!

    When people think of India, they often think of its extreme heat, but the Golden Triangle has a cooler, tropical climate. The three main seasons in this region are winter, summer and monsoon.

    Winter, which runs from October through March, is the coolest time of year (and thus the most popular and most crowded), with temperatures ranging from 50-59 degrees Fahrenheit. However, mid-January brings a lot of fog, which we unfortunately experienced during our Golden Triangle tour, so we don’t recommend scheduling your tour for January.

    Summer, which runs from April through June in northern India, is the hottest time of year, with temperatures reaching up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, monsoon season, which runs from July through September, typically brings heavy rains to the area, though this wasn’t my experience when I visited the Golden Triangle back in July 2019.

    Golden Triangle Tour Itinerary

    Sara at Agra Fort, a top attraction on any Golden Triangle Tour

    Ready to embark on a captivating journey through the heart of India and its infamous Golden Triangle? Let’s get started!

    Day 1: Delhi – The Heart of India

    a bustling street in Delhi, India, the first stop on our Golden Triangle tour

    Lying primarily on the west side of the Yamuna river, Delhi is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with lots of history, cultural diversity, and unique charm. It has an estimated population of more than 28 million, making it the largest metropolitan area in India and the second-largest in the world after Tokyo.

    Delhi’s rich history dates back thousands of years. From the early 13th century until the mid-20th century, Delhi was the capital of three major empires, the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, and the British Raj. As a result, the city is loaded with historical monuments, such as the Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort, India Gate, and more.

    As the capital of India, New Delhi also serves as the political center of the country and is home to the Parliament of India, the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s Residence), and various government offices.

    Delhi also has several traditional bazaars, like Chandni Chowk, and modern malls, like Select Citywalk and DLF Emporio, and offers a wide range of shopping experiences, in addition to being a food lover’s paradise. Between all of this and the many cultural festivals Delhi hosts throughout the year, like Diwali, Durga Puja, Holi and the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Delhi has a little something for everyone!

    We were picked up from our hotel in Delhi around 9:00 am (but you can pick any start time and pick-up location). From there, we started our Golden Triangle tour with a half day exploring some of Delhi’s main attractions.

    Qutub Minar

    Qutub Minar, a key attraction in Delhi on any Golden Triangle Tour

    The first stop on our Golden Triangle tour in Delhi was the Qutub Minar complex, a collection of monuments and buildings created during the Delhi Sultanate.

    The highlight of the complex is the impressive Qutub Minar, a five-storied minaret and “victory tower”, which was inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan. At 240 feet, it’s the tallest minaret built of bricks in the world and the highest tower in India.

    Since it was constructed over four centuries, starting with the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, Qutub-ud-din Aibak, in 1193, it also reflects the different styles of each ruler.

    The first three storeys are made of red sandstone and the last two are made of marble and sandstone. The tower also includes elements of traditional Islamic architecture and southwestern Asian design and is an important example of early Afghan architecture.

    To this day, the Qutub Minar remains one of the most important “victory towers” in the Islamic world and is deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Unfortunately, entry to the Qutub Minar has been closed to public since 1981 after an accident involving school children, but the rest of the complex is open to explore.

    Be sure to look for the following structures while at the Qutub Minar complex:

    • Quwwatul- Islam Mosque – a masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art and one of the oldest mosques in India; it stands right next to the Qutub Minar
    • Alai Minar – an ambitious tower constructed to rival the Qutub Minar that was eventually abandoned
    • Iron Pillar of the Gupta Dynasty – a more than 7-ton and nearly 24-foot-tall pillar that was erected between 375-414 AD and has never rusted
    • The tombs of Iltutmish, Alauddin Khalji, and Imam Zamin

    The Qutub Minar complex is a must-see on any Golden Triangle tour and trip to Delhi!

    • Hours: Daily from 7:00 am – 9:00 pm
    • Time to Visit: 1 hour
    • Cost: Rs 35 for Indian visitors & Rs 550 for foreign nationals

    Note that the entry cost to the Qutub Minar complex isn’t included in your Golden Triangle tour.

    Lotus Temple

    the Lotus Temple in Delhi, another must-see on a Golden Triangle tour

    The next stop on our Golden Triangle tour was the Lotus Temple, a unique Buddhist temple shaped like a large lotus flower. The temple, which was dedicated in December 1986, has since become one of Delhi’s most popular tourist attractions.

    Like all Bahá’í Houses of Worship, the Lotus Temple is a space for people to gather, reflect, meditate, and pray, and all are welcome irrespective of religious background, gender, or other distinctions.

    Designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba, the temple’s shape has symbolic significance. The lotus is often associated with purity, sacredness, spirituality, and knowledge, and the number nine is believed to have mystical properties. The temple has won numerous architectural awards (some even before the temple was completed) and has been featured in many articles. 

    Tim & Sara outside the gate at the Lotus Temple in Delhi

    The Lotus Temple is another popular attraction in Delhi and another must-see on your Golden Triangle tour.

    • Hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 9:00 am – 7:00 pm in the summer & from 9:00 am – 5:30 pm in the winter (closed on Mondays)
    • Time to Visit: 30 mins
    • Cost: Free

    A Broad Recommendation: Avoid starting your Golden Triangle tour on a Monday, as the Lotus Temple is closed on Mondays. Unfortunately, we were in Delhi on a Monday and weren’t able to go inside. Note that this wasn’t called out on the itinerary, so we were a bit surprised to discover this when we arrived at the Lotus Temple.

    India Gate

    India Gate in Delhi, a top attraction on your Golden Triangle tour

    India Gate, along with the Kartavya Path (formerly called Rajpath), is a popular tourist attraction in Delhi and a favorite picnic spot among tourists and locals alike.

    The gate stands as a memorial to the nearly 75,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who died between 1914 and 1921 during WWI and the Third Anglo-Afghan War. Beneath the archway sits the Amar Jawan Jyoti, i.e. the Flame of the Immortal Soldier, which has served as India’s tomb of the unknown soldier since 1971.

    The architectural style is similar to that of the triumphal arches of ancient Rome (which can still be seen today on a Colosseum: Underground and Ancient Rome Tour), the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and the Gateway of India in Mumbai.

    It’s one of the largest war memorials in India, and every Republic Day (January 26th), the Prime Minister comes to pay their tributes.

    India Gate is definitely worth a stop while in Delhi on your Golden Triangle tour.

    • Hours: Open all day, every day except for holidays
    • Time to Visit: 15 minutes
    • Cost: Free

    A Broad Recommendation: We visited just days before Republic Day and weren’t able to walk along Kartavya Path or even get out of our car, as they were setting up for some celebrations. Again, try not to plan your trip around mid- to late-January or you might end up in the same boat as us.

    Parliament House

    Parliament House Delhi from afar

    Next, we passed by the Parliament House, a.k.a. the Sansad Bhavan, which is the seat of the Parliament of India and houses the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the lower and upper houses of India’s bicameral parliament.

    The shape of the building is based on the Ashoka Chakra, a circular Indian symbol which is depicted in the middle of the national flag. The building itself is surrounded by lush green gardens and sandstone railings. 

    In our opinion, this stop is nothing to write home about. We couldn’t get close to the building, as everything was blocked off, and we would’ve preferred to see one of the other sights that I saw on my first trip to Delhi instead.

    • Hours: Tuesday – Saturday from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm (closed on Sundays & Mondays)
    • Time to Visit: 1 hour
    • Cost: Rs 15 per person

    A Broad Recommendation: If you have more time in Delhi and would like to visit the Parliament House, you’ll need a special visitor pass. An officer will escort you, along with a group of other visitors, through the halls of the Parliament House. The pass is valid for one hour, after which visitors will be asked to leave the area.

    Rashtrapati Bhavan

    a quick stop at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi is included on your Golden Triangle tour

    During the same stop, we passed by Rashtrapati Bhavan, which is the official house of the President of India. The Presidential Estate includes the lush presidential gardens, several large, open meeting spaces, the residences of the bodyguards and staff, stables, and some other offices.

    It’s the second largest residence of any head of state in the world after the Quirinal Palace in Italy, however, we couldn’t really see anything from where we were stopped. Again, this stop was nothing to write home about, and we would’ve preferred to see one of Delhi’s other main attractions instead.

    • Hours: Depends on which areas you’d like to visit; additional details can be found on the Rashtrapati Bhavan website
    • Time to Visit: 1 hour
    • Cost: Rs 50 per person

    Agrasen Ki Baoli

    Sara & Tim at Agrasen Ki Baoli, a hidden gem in Delhi

    The last stop on our half-day Delhi tour was the Agrasen Ki Baoli, a nearly 200-foot-long and 50-foot-wide historical stepwell.

    Baoli is a Hindi word for stepwell, and thousands of these sophisticated water-harvesting structures once existed across ancient India. They later fell into disuse with the arrival of water pumps and plumbing.

    Agrasen Ki Baoli, in particular, is among a few of its kind in Delhi and is thus designated a protected monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958. Three levels are visible, and each is lined with arched niches on both sides. It’s also flanked by a small, three-sided mosque towards the west.

    Fun fact: this location has been used to shoot scenes from various Bollywood films and was featured in The Amazing Race Australia Season 2.

    Agrasen Ki Baoli is a bit of a hidden gem, so I missed it on my first trip to Delhi. I’m happy that it was included on this Golden Triangle tour. It’s a peaceful spot that’s worth a stop!

    • Hours: Daily from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm
    • Time to Visit: 15 minutes
    • Cost: Free

    Lunch at Pindi Restaurant Delhi

    No tour of Delhi is complete without some delicious northern Indian food. We were dropped off at Pindi Restaurant Delhi to have lunch on our own, and the meal was hearty, authentic and delicious! Note that lunch is at your own expense and isn’t included in the price of your Golden Triangle tour.

    Other Things to Do in Delhi

    Sara at Humayun’s Tomb on her first trip to Delhi

    Though we only had a half day in Delhi through this Golden Triangle tour, I spent 2 action-packed days in Delhi back in 2019 and recommend checking out these places if you have more time in Delhi before or after your Golden Triangle tour:

    • Jama Masjid
    • Rickshaw ride in Old Delhi
    • Chandni Chowk
    • Raj Ghat, Mahatma Gandhi’s Memorial
    • Humayun’s Tomb, a.k.a. “Baby Taj”
    • Laxmi Narayan Mandir
    • Gurudwara Bangla Sahib
    • Lodhi Garden

    Note that I visited all of these with a Private Full Day Old and New Delhi City Tour and an itinerary that I created myself with TGS Tours & Travels Pvt Ltd. Both were incredible and provided drivers for the entire day. I recommend starting with the first tour, then tailoring your second tour to see anything that you missed the first day!

    Where to Stay in Delhi

    Though a stay in Delhi isn’t included in this Golden Triangle tour, you may want to get to Delhi early to get settled and to ward off any jet lag. And, the Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi Airport is the perfect place to do so!

    We got to the hotel around 7:30 am, as many flights into Delhi arrive early in the morning. Upon arrival, we were able to take advantage of the hotel’s breakfast buffet and check into our hotel room as early as 9:00 am (for a small fee). This was perfect for us, as we were able to nap for a bit after nearly 24 hours of travel.

    A Broad Recommendation: The hotel provides airport pick-up, which I highly recommend. You can book this service in advance, and a driver will be waiting for you at the airport with a name card. This ensures a smooth transfer from Indira Gandhi International Airport to your hotel, and you won’t have to worry about any hidden fees that may pop up when taking a cab or some other form of transportation.

    Note that we checked with several other hotels before our trip, and many will charge for an additional day just to be on the premises if you arrive early in the morning (even if you don’t want to use the room right away). Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi Airport already offers low rates, but their early check-in rate was by far the best we found!

    The hotel also has an incredible spa, where we enjoyed a lovely couples massage, and several delicious restaurants, including Soy x Neung Roi, where we had some of the best green curry we’ve ever tasted.

    What I Wore in Delhi

    Sara at Qutub Minar in Delhi, a must-see on any Golden Triangle Tour

    In case you wanted to shop my Delhi look, here’s what I was wearing:

    Day 2: Agra – Home of the Taj Mahal

    Sara posing in front of the Taj Mahal

    Situated on the banks of the Yamuna River in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Agra is known as the “City of Love” and is the second stop on the popular Golden Triangle circuit.

    Once the capital of the Mughal Empire, Agra was a center for education, arts, commerce, and religion. Now, it’s the site of one of the most prized and globally recognized monuments in the world—the Taj Mahal.

    Agra is also known for its longstanding tradition of craftsmanship, including marble inlay work, embroidery, leather goods, and carpets.

    After our half-day tour of Delhi, we continued our Golden Triangle tour with a three-hour drive on the Yamuna Expressway to our hotel in Agra. The next morning, we were picked up from the hotel by our driver to start our half-day tour of Agra.

    Agra Fort

    walking up to Agra Fort in Agra, India

    Due to some heavy fog, we started our day in Agra at the Agra Fort, a.k.a. Agra’s Red Fort. We originally planned to watch the sunrise at the Taj Mahal but were informed the night before that the weather wouldn’t allow for it.

    A Broad Recommendation: We were very disappointed to miss the sunrise at the Taj Mahal (this was the second time I’ve missed it—ugh!). But, we were also disappointed that this wasn’t called out in the tour description, as this is a common occurrence this time of year. If you visit in January, there will most likely be a lot of fog, making it nearly impossible to catch a sunrise in Agra.

    Established by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, Agra Fort is a massive 16th-century fortress made of red sandstone. It served as a military base, the main royal residence, and the seat of the government until the Mughal capital was moved from Agra to Delhi in 1638.

    Agra Fort is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Agra, and the entire complex was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

    A visit to Agra Fort offers a captivating glimpse into the royal lifestyle and architectural brilliance of the Mughal Empire. The fort witnessed several battles throughout its history, as well as the rise and fall of several Mughal rulers.

    Shah Jahan, a.k.a. the “King of the World”, was the fifth Mughal Emperor, crowning himself emperor here and reigning from 1628 until 1658. During his reign, he commissioned the Taj Mahal, and the Mughals reached the peak of their architectural achievements and cultural glory.

    In September 1657, he appointed his eldest son as his successor, which led to a succession crisis among his three sons. His third son Aurangzeb was victorious and imprisoned his father in Agra Fort until his death in 1666. The one small mercy Aurangzeb showed his father was giving him a view of the Taj Mahal from his quarters—how generous.

    During your visit to Agra Fort, be sure not to miss:

    • Khas Mahal
    • Jahangir Palace (Jahangiri Mahal)
    • Pearl Mosque (Moti Masjid)
    • The Hall of Private Audience (Diwan-i-Khas)
    • Octagonal Tower (Musamman Burj)
    • The Hall of Public Audience (Diwan-i-Am)
    • Palace of Mirrors (Sheesh Mahal)

    No Golden Triangle tour or visit to Agra is complete without a visit to Agra Fort, and to think I missed this on my last trip to Agra!

    • Hours: Daily from 6:00 am – 6:00 pm (sunrise to sunset)
    • Time to Visit: 2-3 hours
    • Cost: Rs 50 for Indian visitors (Rs 40 on Fridays) & Rs 650 for foreign nationals (Rs 600 on Fridays)

    Note that the entry cost to Agra Fort isn’t included in your Golden Triangle tour.

    Taj Mahal

    the Taj Mahal on a cloudy day

    The second half of our morning in Agra was spent at the infamous Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

    The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum that began construction in 1632 and took two decades to complete. Its design is perfectly symmetrical and the inlay work of precious and semi-precious stones is unlike any other in the world.

    Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the Taj Mahal to be built to house the tomb of his “favorite” wife, Mumtaz Mahal, and later himself. The tomb is the centerpiece of the complex, which also includes a mosque, a guest house, a large square Mughal garden, and a reflecting pool in the middle.

    The Taj Mahal is widely considered one of the most beautiful buildings ever created and is one of the world’s greatest architectural achievements. It’s a timeless symbol of love and the main sight not to be missed on every Golden Triangle tour and visit to Agra.

    • Hours: Daily from 6:00 am – 7:00 pm (closed on Fridays)
    • Time to Visit: 2-3 hours
    • Cost: Rs 50 for Indian visitors (Rs 5 discount online) & Rs 1100 for foreign nationals (Rs 50 discount online) + Rs 200 to visit the mausoleum; children under the age of 15 are free

    A Broad Recommendation: Avoid starting your Golden Triangle tour on a Thursday, as you’ll be in Agra on a Friday, and the Taj Mahal is closed for general viewing on Fridays. Again, this isn’t called out on the itinerary, so be sure to pay extra attention when booking your Golden Triangle tour.

    Again, note that the entry cost to the Taj Mahal isn’t included in your Golden Triangle tour.

    Handmade Marble Demonstration

    After our visit to the Taj Mahal, we were brought to a marble showroom, where we were welcomed by local artisans and given a glimpse into the marble inlay process.

    Inlay work, which was originally used in architecture, is typically done on white marble with tiny hand-cut pieces of precious and semi-precious stones (like agate, cornelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, malachite, mother-of-pearl, onyx, turquoise, etc.).

    The outline of the design is marked onto the surface of the marble using pencil or charcoal, and the inlay area is carved out using a diamond tipped chisel. The stone pieces are then fixed into this area using an adhesive mixed with white cement, and the design is fitted flush with the surface. 

    Sara & Tim in front of the Taj Mahal

    Inlay work like this can be found at the Taj Mahal, as it was introduced by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who brought specialists from Persia to train local artisans. Agra’s inlay craftsmen claim to be descendants from the craftsmen of that era.

    The designs are very impressive and require great skill, and we were happy to get to see some of these pieces in person. At the end of your visit, you’ll be given the opportunity to look around and to buy something if you’d like, but don’t feel pressured!

    Lunch at Mughal Garden Resort

    After our half-day tour of Agra, we continued our Golden Triangle tour with a five-hour drive to our hotel in Jaipur.

    Along the way, we stopped at Mughal Garden Resort, where we had the opportunity to try some more authentic Indian food. Again, our meals were delicious; just remember that you have to pay out of pocket for these.

    Other Things to Do in Agra

    the Khas Mahal at Agra Fort

    When I previously visited Agra, I only got to see the Taj Mahal, so I was happy that we could add Agra Fort and the marble inlay demonstration to our itinerary this time around! However, there are more things I’d like to do in Agra if I ever make it back here again:

    • Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah (this was actually on our original Golden Triangle tour itinerary, but unfortunately, it was skipped during our visit)
    • Sikandra (Tomb of Akbar)
    • Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani
    • Jama Masjid
    • The Taj Nature Walk
    • Mehtab Bagh, i.e. the Moonlight Garden
    • Yamuna River Boat Ride
    • Sheroes Hangout
    • Sadar or Kinari Bazaar
    • Fatehpur Sikri

    Where to Stay in Agra

    The 4-Day Private Luxury Golden Triangle Tour to Agra and Jaipur From New Delhi has two options for accommodations: the 4-star hotel option, which includes a Holiday Inn or something similar, or the 5-star hotel option, which includes Jaypee Palace Hotel & Convention Center, Marriott or something similar. Breakfast is included (at least with the 5-star option, which is what we chose), but all other meals are on your own.

    We ended up at Jaypee Palace during our Golden Triangle tour, and the hotel staff welcomed us with beautiful flower leis and refreshing drinks, before having someone escort us to our room. The room itself was large and beautiful and had a patio with a garden view.

    During our stay, we walked around the lovely hotel grounds, took advantage of the hotel’s spa services, and enjoyed a yummy dinner at C’est Chine, a 5-star, authentic Chinese restaurant on-site.

    Unfortunately, the pool was closed, since we were there in January, which seemed to be the case at all of the hotels we stayed at during our Golden Triangle tour.

    What I Wore in Agra

    Sara at the Taj Mahal in Agra, a must-see on any Golden Triangle Tour

    In case you wanted to shop my Agra look, here’s what I was wearing:

    Day 3: Jaipur – The Pink City

    an incredible view of the hills & city below from Amer Fort

    The last full day of our Golden Triangle tour was spent in Jaipur, another popular tourist destination and the last stop on the Golden Triangle tourist circuit.

    Founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh, Jaipur was one of the earliest planned cities of modern India and is nicknamed the “Pink City” for its unique, rose-colored buildings, which were painted to welcome the Prince of Wales in 1876.

    Steeped in history, Jaipur is a city of ancient forts and royal palaces sat among lush green hills and is a must-visit for any travel to India. I missed Jaipur on my first trip to India and was so happy to get to visit this time!

    Jaipur is the capital city of the state of Rajasthan and is renowned for its rich heritage, vibrant culture, and stunning architecture. It’s also a hub for traditional Rajasthani crafts such as block printing, pottery, jewelry making, and textiles.

    The city hosts various festivals, like Diwali, Holi, the Elephant Festival, and the Jaipur Literature Festival, one of the largest literary festivals in the world—how cool!

    Hawa Mahal

    Hawa Mahal, a must-see in Jaipur

    Our first stop in Jaipur was the Hawa Mahal, i.e. the “Hall of Winds”, a red and pink sandstone palace located in the city center. Built by the Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh and designed by Lal Chand Ustad in 1799, the palace is a fusion of Hindu Rajput and Islamic Mughal architecture.

    Its five-floor exterior is similar to a honeycomb with 953 small windows and intricate latticework. This design was used to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life and festivals in the street below without being seen. It also allowed for cool air to pass through, making the palace more pleasant during hot summers.

    Note that we only took photos from outside the Hawa Mahal during our Golden Triangle tour. If you’d like to go inside, you’ll have to come back to do that on your own.

    • Hours: Daily from 9:00 am – 4:30 pm (but you can photograph it any time)
    • Time to Visit: 30 minutes
    • Cost: Rs 50 for Indian visitors & Rs 200 for foreign nationals

    Panna Meena Ka Kund

    Panna Meena Ka Kund in Jaipur

    Our second stop of the morning was at Panna Meena Ka Kund, a 200-foot-deep, square stepwell and one of the most Instagrammable places in Jaipur.

    The stepwell’s geometric staircases are a stunning combination of ingenious Indian engineering and architectural beauty, but its design was intended to be more practical than aesthetic.

    It was built more than 400 years ago to collect monsoon rains and to serve as a reservoir, where locals could come to chat, beat the heat, wash clothes, bathe, etc. The 1,800 symmetrical steps provided a way to reach the water at various levels, as the pool rose and fell.

    Though you may have seen people doing this on Instagram, it’s actually forbidden to climb down into the stepwell without special permission. There are typically police patrolling the site, and even if there aren’t, it’s not worth the safety risk.

    • Hours: All day, every day
    • Time to Visit: 20 minutes
    • Cost: Free

    Amber Fort

    the beautiful Amer Fort in Jaipur, one of the main attractions on your Golden Triangle tour

    After our brief stop at Panna Meena Ka Kund, we made our way up the hill to Amer Fort, or Amber Fort, one of India’s most well-known and most-visited forts.

    The magnificent Amber Fort is an extensive palace complex built from red sandstone and white marble and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only is it one of the top things to do in Jaipur, it’s also a must-see on any Golden Triangle tour.

    The fort is known for its artistic style elements and is another great example of Rajasthani architecture. It was once the residence of the Rajput Maharajas and their families and is divided into four main sections, each with its own entry gate and courtyard. Be sure not to miss these spots during your visit:

    Jaleb Chowk
    the main courtyard at Amer Fort in Jaiupr

    The main entry is through the Suraj Pol (Sun Gate), which leads to the first main courtyard, Jaleb Chowk. This is where armies held victory parades when they returned from battles and the Maharajas welcomed royal dignitaries.

    Shila Devi Temple
    Tim & Sara at Amer Fort next to Shila Devi Temple

    An impressive stairway from Jalebi Chowk leads into the main palace grounds, and to the right of the stairway is the small and elegant Sila Devi temple, where the Rajput Maharajas worshiped.

    Diwan-i-Aam
    Sara & Tim in front of Diwan-i-Aam at Amer Fort in Jaipur

    Diwan-i-Aam, i.e. the “Hall of Public Audience”, is a raised platform that was used to host public audiences and to hear petitions and grievances.

    Diwan-i-Khas
    Sara & Tim at Diwan-i-Khas

    As its name implies, Diwan-i-Khas, or the “Hall of Private Audience”, served as a meeting place to consult advisors and to welcome special guests.

    Sheesh Mahal

    Built by King Man Singh as a symbol of love for his queen and inspired by the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles in France, the Sheesh Mahal, or “Mirror Palace”, is the most mirrored hall in the world apart from Versailles.

    The hall is embellished with thousands of small mirrors, precious stones, glass and intricate paintings, and at night, the mirrors reflect the candlelight, creating an illusion of thousands of stars across the ceiling.

    Sukh Niwas
    Sukh Niwas at Amber Fort in Jaipur

    Opposite the Sheesh Mahal, is the Sukh Niwas, i.e. the “Hall of Pleasure”. The walls are decorated with marble inlay work, and a piped water supply flows through the niches, keeping the area cool.

    The Garden
    the gardens at Amer Fort

    The garden, located between the Sheesh Mahal and Sukh Niwas, is a sunken bed with a hexagonal design, patterned on the lines of a Mughal garden. 

    Ganesh Pol 

    Ganesh Pol, or the Ganesh Gate, is named after the Hindu god Lord Ganesh, who removes all obstacles in life, and serves as the entry into the private palaces of the Maharajas. 

    A visit to Amber Fort is an incredible experience and shouldn’t be missed during your visit to Jaipur or on your Golden Triangle tour.

    • Hours: Daily from 8:00 am – 5:30 pm & 6:30 pm – 9:15 pm for the sound & light show & dinner
    • Time to Visit: 3-4 hours
    • Cost: Rs 100 for Indian visitors & Rs 500 for foreign nationals

    Note that the entry cost to Amber Fort isn’t included in your Golden Triangle tour.

    Jal Mahal

    the Jal Mahal in Jaipur Pink City

    Another must-see spot in Jaipur is the Jal Mahal, i.e. the “Water Palace”, which is a magnificent palace in the middle of Man Sagar Lake.

    Originally constructed around 1699, the building and the lake were later renovated and enlarged in the early 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II.

    Built with local sandstone, the palace is another great example of Rajput architecture. The structure is three storeys tall, with the third floor only existing on the eastern side of the palace. The lower levels on this side remain underwater when the lake is full.

    • Hours: Daily from 6:00 am – 6:00 pm (can only be seen from the outside)
    • Time to Visit: 10 minutes
    • Cost: Free

    A Broad Recommendation: Sadly, the Jal Mahal is not open to visitors, so we were only able to see it from the side of the road, but our guide said that he was able to go inside once for a private event—how neat!

    Gemstones Demonstration

    Nicknamed the “Gem City”, Jaipur was a major exporter to nearly every gemstone market in the world during the time of the Rajput rulers. Now, Jaipur is one of the world’s leading gemstone trading hubs and is renowned for its unique, beautiful and rare gemstones, ranging from emerald, ruby, sapphire and diamond to tanzanite, spinel and tourmaline.

    We had the opportunity to visit a gemstone shop in Jaipur, where we learned about the different types of gemstones popular in Jaipur and the various techniques used to refine and shape them, while watching a local artisan in action.

    Then, we had the opportunity to look around the jewelry store. Though we’d seen some negative reviews regarding the pushiness of the salespeople when researching this Golden Triangle tour, we never experienced this at any of the demonstrations we attended in either Agra or Jaipur.

    The salesperson we worked with was wonderful, and I ended up buying a few pairs of earrings—one of my favorite souvenirs when traveling to new places! Just remember to ask for a proof of certification if you make a purchase.

    Lunch at Café Choubara

    Sara & Tim at lunch in Jaipur with their surprise cake

    After a full morning exploring in Jaipur, we were dropped off at Café Choubara for lunch. Though the restaurant caters more to tourists and tour groups, they mainly serve authentic Indian dishes—and the ones we had were delicious.

    While we were here, our Jaipur guide and driver came in to surprise us with a cake for our six year anniversary. This isn’t something we’d specifically called out on our reservation (we’d only mentioned it to our guide and driver in passing), so this gesture was completely unexpected and very generous. In fact, it made our entire day, despite the day already being our favorite of the trip so far!

    City Palace Jaipur

    Sara & Tim feeling like royalty at Sobha Niwas at Jaipur City Palace

    After lunch, we started our tour again, heading first to Jaipur’s City Palace. Located in the heart of Jaipur’s Old City, the elegant and enchanting City Palace is another must-see in Jaipur during your Golden Triangle tour.

    Built between 1729-1732 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the City Palace offers a glimpse into the life of Jaipur’s 18th-century royal family. In fact, the palace still serves as the home to the current ruling royal family, which lives in a private section of the palace.

    The palace is made of red and pink sandstone and white marble, in a beautiful fusion of Mughal and Rajput architecture, and features vast courtyards, luxurious rooms, an opulent seven-story citadel, and an antique museum. Be sure to check out these spots during your visit:

    Rajendra Pol
    one of the entrance gates to City Palace Jaipur

    Rajendra Pol is an enchanting marble gateway that leads to the main courtyard of Diwan-e-Khas. The gateway features intricate carvings, grand, brass-studded doors, and two beautifully sculpted marble elephants.

    Sarvato Bhadra (Diwan-e-Khas)
    Sarvato Bhadra (Diwan-e-Khas) at Jaipur City Palace

    Known as the “Hall of the Private Audience”, Diwan-e-Khas boasts crystal chandeliers, immaculate marble floors, and gorgeous red stone archways and was historically the location of major religious rituals and festivals.

    The pavilion sits in the middle of a courtyard, where it displays two legendary sterling silver Gangajalis, i.e. water urns. These once carried months’ worth of water from the holy Ganges River for the Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II during his visits outside of India. 

    Fun fact: the Gangajalis are recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest silver objects in the world.

    Pritam Niwas Chowk
    Sara & Tim in front of the peacock gate at the City Palace in Jaipur

    Pritam Niwas Chowk, or the “Courtyard of the Beloved”, is an enclosed, inner courtyard that was originally used for royal dance performances. 

    Four gates, adorned with elaborate brass doors, bright colors, and bejeweled motifs, symbolize each of the four seasons and honor the Hindu Gods. They also look like something out of an Instagrammer’s dreams!

    The Lotus Gate represents summer and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Peacock Gate represents autumn and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The Rose Gate represents winter and is dedicated to the Goddess Devi, and the Leheriya Gate represents spring and is dedicated to Lord Ganesha.

    Chandra Mahal
    Sara & Tim at Sobha Niwas at Jaipur City Palace, one of the top things to do in Jaipur and on a Golden Triangle tour

    Set across seven levels, the Chandra Mahal, or “Moon Palace”, is one of the oldest buildings in the complex and features a collection of treasured private rooms with picturesque views of Jaipur. Each floor of the Chandra Mahal is lavishly adorned and reflects the opulent legacy of Rajasthan’s royalty.

    The first floor hosts the main part of the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, which is home to a rare collection of royal family artifacts, ranging from old weaponry, carpets and manuscripts, to blue pottery, block prints, and antique Indian artwork.

    Chhavi Niwas, i.e. the “Hall of Images”, is a bright, beautiful, blue room with impressive white detailing. Situated on the fifth floor, it was used as a retreat for the Maharaja during the monsoon season. 

    Rang Mandir, i.e. the “Mirror Room” is a room adorned with thousands of mirrors in the walls, pillars and ceiling.

    And, Shobha Niwas, i.e. the “Hall of Beauty” is a room full of decorative tiles with walls lavishly embellished with mirrors, tiles and gold leaf detailing.

    Tea on the Rooftop

    We wrapped up our tour of the City Palace on the rooftop, where we enjoyed some Chai tea and light conversation with our guide.

    • Hours: Daily from 9:30 am – 5:00 pm (day visit) & 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm (night visit)
    • Time to Visit: 2-3 hours
    • Cost: Check the Jaipur City Palace website, as prices vary for Indian visitors and foreign nationals and depending on the areas and time you’d like to visit

    A Broad Recommendation: The museum is the only part of the Chandra Mahal that you can visit with a standard ticket. The upper rooms, which are the most impressive in my opinion, can only be visited with the “Royal Splendour” ticket. Again, the entry cost to the City Palace Jaipur isn’t included in your Golden Triangle tour.

    Jantar Mantar

    Jantar Mantar in Jaipur India, a must-see on your Golden Triangle tour

    The last official stop on our tour of Jaipur and of our Golden Triangle tour was Jantar Mantar. Jantar Mantar is an 18th-century open-air observatory that was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010.

    The site hosts a collection of 19 astronomical instruments commissioned by Maharaja Jai Singh II and is the most significant, most comprehensive, and best preserved of India’s historic observatories.

    The instruments, which were architectural marvels of their time, were designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye. Some are the largest ever built in their categories; most notably is the world’s largest sundial.

    the world's largest sundial at Jantar Mantar in Jaipur

    Jantar Mantar is definitely a must-see for first time visitors to Jaipur and shouldn’t be missed on your Golden Triangle tour.

    • Hours: Daily from 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
    • Time to Visit: 30-45 minutes
    • Cost: Rs 50 for Indian visitors & Rs 200 for foreign nationals

    Again, note that the entry cost to Jantar Mantar isn’t included in your Golden Triangle tour.

    Block Printing Demonstration

    Our last stop in Jaipur was at a textile store, where we received a block printing demonstration. The traditional process of block printing has been practiced in Rajasthan for around 500 years. 

    It was introduced to the Jaipur region by the Chhipa community, which was originally located in Bagru Village. In traditional Bagru-style block printing, the colors of the plant-based dyes are dependent on the quality of the plants and water, as well as the knowledge of the printing masters. In more recent forms of block printing, colors are mixed using AZO-free pigment color with a binder.

    First, designs are drawn onto paper then carved into wood blocks. Once the blocks are carved, the colors are prepared and poured into wooden trays. Next, the printer stamps the block into the color tray then onto a piece of fabric repeatedly to create a patterned design.

    We got to try our hand at this and took home the small piece of fabric as a souvenir. After the demonstration, we went inside a textile store, where we were greeted with Chai teas and were able to look around. Tim ended up buying a shirt, which came in handy for some of the wedding celebrations we attended in Indore later in our trip!

    Other Things to Do in Jaipur

    Sara admiring the Sheesh Mahal at Amber Fort in Jaipur

    Although we were able to see some of the best spots to visit in Jaipur, there’s never enough time to see everything during a prearranged Golden Triangle tour. If we ever make it back to Jaipur, we’d love to check out the following places:

    • Patrika Gate
    • Govind Dev Ji temple
    • Jaigarh Fort
    • Nahargarh Fort
    • Elefantastic – The Best Elephant Wildlife Sanctuary in India
    • Jaipur Literature Festival (we were just a couple weeks too early for this!)
    • Birla Mandir, Jaipur
    • Albert Hall Museum
    • Raj Mandir Cinema
    • Galta Ji
    • Rambagh Palace – Jaipur
    • One of the many bazaars or markets (Bapu, Johri, Tripolia, and Chameli)

    Where to Stay in Jaipur

    The 4-Day Private Luxury Golden Triangle Tour to Agra and Jaipur From New Delhi has two options for accommodations: the 4-star hotel option, which includes Sarovar Premiere or something similar, or the 5-star hotel option, which includes a Hilton, Radisson Jaipur City Center, Novotel or something similar. Breakfast is included (at least with the 5-star option, which is what we chose), but all other meals are on your own.

    We ended up at the Radisson Jaipur City Center during our Golden Triangle tour. Located in central Jaipur, Radisson Jaipur City Center offers easy access to the railway, metro, bus stations, and some of Jaipur’s main attractions. Of course, we had a driver each day, so this wasn’t a huge deal for us, but it’s good to know if you’re planning a Golden Triangle tour on your own.

    During our stay, we ate at Mosaic each morning for breakfast and Dragon House both nights for dinner. The food and ambience at Dragon House were particularly great, and we probably would’ve eaten there again had we stayed another night.

    The hotel also offers two other on-site restaurants, a gym and spa, and a rooftop pool, but we didn’t have time to take advantage of any of these during our stay.

    What I Wore in Jaipur

    Sara at Amer Fort in Jaipur, a must-see on any Golden Triangle Tour

    In case you wanted to shop my Jaipur look, here’s what I was wearing:

    Day 4: Return to Delhi

    After breakfast the next morning at our hotel in Jaipur, we loaded up our luggage and made our way back to Delhi. The drive took about four hours, and we were dropped off right at the airport well ahead of schedule, so we could catch our flight to Indore.

    Note that you can select to be dropped off at the airport in Jaipur or in Delhi or at a hotel in either city. This Golden Triangle tour is quite accommodating with pick-up and drop-off!

    Summary Golden Triangle Tour Itinerary

    Sara & Tim in front of Amber Fort in Jaipur

    Here’s a quick recap of everything we did during our Golden Triangle tour for easy reference.

    Day 1: Delhi

    • Pick-up from your hotel (at whatever time you select on your booking)
    • Qutub Minar
    • Lotus Temple
    • India Gate
    • Parliament House
    • Rashtrapati Bhavan
    • Agrasen Ki Baoli
    • Lunch at Pindi Restaurant Delhi
    • Drive to Agra
    • Stay overnight in Agra

    Day 2: Agra

    • Breakfast at your hotel
    • Agra Fort
    • Taj Mahal (this may be before Agra Fort if you visit during a different time of year)
    • Itmad-ud-Daula (this is typically on the Golden Triangle tour itinerary, but for some reason, we skipped this)
    • Handmade marble demonstration
    • Lunch at Mughal Garden Resort
    • Drive to Jaipur
    • Stay overnight in Jaipur

    Day 3: Jaipur

    • Breakfast at your hotel
    • Hawa Mahal
    • Panna Meena Ka Kund
    • Amber Fort
    • Jal Mahal
    • Gemstones demonstration
    • Lunch at Café Choubara
    • City Palace Jaipur
    • Jantar Mantar
    • Block printing demonstration
    • Stay overnight in Jaipur

    Day 4: Return to Delhi

    • Breakfast at your hotel
    • Drive to Delhi

    Travel Tips for Exploring the Golden Triangle

    Sara twirling around at Chhavi Niwas at Jaipur City Palace

    If you’re traveling to India for the first time, I’m so excited for you! You’re going to have the experience of a lifetime and hopefully love it so much that you’ll want to go back again and again.

    Here are some things to keep in mind when traveling to India and specifically for your Golden Triangle tour:

    • Book your tour in advance to secure your spot and to select your pick-up time and location
    • Before booking, check the weather forecast and pick your dates accordingly; avoid visiting in mid-January if you’d like to see the sunrise at the Taj Mahal, avoid visiting Delhi on a Monday, and avoid visiting Agra on a Friday
    • If there’s anything specific you’d like to see that’s not on the itinerary or if you’d like to skip anything that is on the itinerary, reach out to the tour company ahead of time, and they might be able to accommodate—it never hurts to ask!
    • Make sure you have all your documents in order—a valid passport, visa, travel insurance, etc.—and carry your passport with you at all times, since you may need to show it at some locations
    • Familiarize yourself with the local culture and customs; carry a scarf with you, especially if you’re visiting in the warmer months, to ensure that you have something to cover your shoulders inside any temples/mosques
    • Pack light; this goes for all international trips, but you don’t want to have to lug around a ton of luggage the entire time (or have the hotel staff or drivers lug around your luggage for you)
    • Have some Indian Rupees (Rs) on hand to pay for lunches, entrance fees, and tips throughout your Golden Triangle tour (you’ll have to get cash out at the airport, or your hotel may offer currency exchange at a higher rate)
    • Carry a cross-body or secure purse/wallet, as some attractions get very crowded
    • Carry tissues and hand sanitizer, as some restrooms won’t have toilet paper or soap to wash your hands
    • Don’t say “yes” to people who want to take pictures of/with you, as others will come up to you to do the same
    • Tip around Rs 500 for your tour guide in each city and around Rs 2000 for your driver
    • If you’d like to stop for a restroom or coffee break during your drive, your driver will happily oblige; there were already prearranged stops during our long drives, so we didn’t have to ask our driver to stop at any time
    • Be sure to request the type of bed you’d like for your hotel rooms, so that the tour company can set that up on your behalf
    • Have fun, don’t sweat the small stuff, and stay present—enjoy every moment of your Golden Triangle tour and trip to India!

    Refer to our India: A-Broad Overview for more specific tips about planning your trip to India, what to bring, the customs, etc.

    Conclusion

    Sara & Tim looking at each other at Amer Fort

    Well, there you have it! We had a great time on our 4-Day Private Luxury Golden Triangle Tour to Agra and Jaipur From New Delhi with 5 Star Hotels and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in seeing the Golden Triangle for themselves. Are you considering a Golden Triangle tour? Feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments below!

    XOXO Sara

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    Meghan
    10 days ago

    Wow, this looks like an incredible trip! I would love to visit India and a luxury experience seem like the way to go.

    Katelynn K.
    11 days ago

    Wow! There is so much information and so many beautiful photos in this post! Even though it was foggy, it looked like there weren’t many other people there, so that’s a win!

    Michelle
    11 days ago

    I did the Golden Triangle tour a few years ago and loved the experience. Like your experience, our jam-packed visit included numerous cultural and historical sites. Reading your post brought back so many wonderful memories. We didn’t get a chance to visit the Elephant Wildlife Sanctuary, but there is always next time!

    Josy A
    12 days ago

    What a trip! I did something veeery similar to this a zillion years ago (in 1999 – omg, before the new century!) and it is a little mad how much of the temples and fabulous old architecture has not changed at all. It’s just the high rises in the background that look a bit different!

    My friend and I did it as a super budget tour as teenagers… so I LOVE the look of this route as a luxury private tour!

    p.s. I guess you might have been disappointed by seeing the taj mahal in the mist, but it is pretty atmospheric like that isn’t it!?

    Jenn
    12 days ago

    Beautiful photos! The massage room looks so relaxing and I bet the food is delicious!