Backpacking in Delhi – Delhi Sightseeing by Metro
India’s capital city, Delhi may come across as being very intimidating, especially if it’s your first destination in India! Most people will tell you to get away from Delhi as fast as possible, as indeed the experience is nothing short of a blitz on the senses. Nevertheless, given some patience, we feel that backpacking in Delhi can be both fun and interesting, especially if you plan out your Delhi sightseeing by metro.
Delhi sightseeing by metro is ideal when backpacking in Delhi, not only because the metro system is very efficient, but also because the stations and trains are suitably clean, affordable and easy to use. Most of the tourist sights are very well-connected by the metro system and the air conditioning provides a welcome respite from the heat and stuffy air outside!
Backpacking in Delhi
When backpacking in Delhi, you can very easily plan out a Delhi sightseeing itinerary covering all the major sites using the metro system. Follow this guide for all you need to know about Delhi sightseeing by metro!
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Delhi Sightseeing by Metro
The metro system in Delhi conveniently connects different sectors of the city with no fewer than 10 lines, ensuring that most of the tourist sightseeing spots are accessible and can be visited over a few days.
Hiring a car and driver is potentially another way in which to plan out a Delhi sightseeing itinerary, but we found the metro to be more cost-effective, with the added advantage of avoiding Delhi’s chaotic traffic. If you’re backpacking in Delhi on a shoestring, the cost of hiring a car and driver might turn out to be well over your budget, even if transport in India is a cheaper than in many other countries.
The cost of a single metro ride depends on the distance covered, but we found that tourist cards offering unlimited travel (either one day or three days) are available, thus making Delhi sightseeing by metro very easy! The cost of the one-day tourist card is Rs 200 (about €2.50), Rs 50 of which are refundable upon returning the card.
If you are topping the card up the next day, the cost is Rs 150 (about €1.75), since there’s no need to pay for the card once again. The three-day tourist card costs Rs 500 (about €6).
The tourist cards can be purchased from the customer care counter of New Delhi metro stop. This was also the closest metro stop to our hostel located in Paharganj. The airport line runs from the airport right down to New Delhi metro station and needs to be paid for separately (not included within the tourist card package). A ride costs Rs 60 (about €0.75).
Delhi’s main tourist sites are probably best visited over three days in order to be appreciated properly, however we found that with some planning and walking, it is possible to squeeze many of the best attractions in two days.
Do keep in mind, that many of the attractions are closed on Monday so be sure to check their opening hours , so as to plan out your Delhi sightseeing by metro conveniently! We will refrain form including opening hours in this post, since we discovered that the visiting times for many of the attractions were very different to what we found online, so it is very likely that they change often.
Here is our Delhi sightseeing itinerary for two days.
Backpacking Delhi – Delhi Sightseeing by Metro – Day One
Red Fort – Metro Station: Chandi Chowk
One of the main attractions in Delhi, the Red Fort should definitely be included on your Delhi sightseeing itinerary, although if you plan on visiting the very similar Agra Fort, you may decide to skip it. Be sure to spare 2-3 hours for your visit to Delhi Fort.
The outer walls stretch to almost 2 km, and the fort contains large neat gardens, making the architectural marvel a great place to explore. Delhi tends to be rather hot, so you need to be sure of taking sufficient water, headwear and sunblock along with you.
Cost – Rs 600 (about €7) for non-Indians.
Jama Masjid – Metro Station: Chandi Chowk
The massive mosque is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture built from red sandstone and white marble and faces towards the Holy City of Mecca. If you’re planning on seeing the Red Fort, it is easy to include the mosque on your Delhi sightseeing itinerary since both attractions are located in the same area.
The Jama Masjid is one of the largest mosques in India and we strongly recommend you visit this attraction when backpacking in Delhi, however be sure to dress appropriately! Short skirts and sleeveless tops are not allowed, and shoes should be removed before entering the building.
The mosque is open daily from sunrise till sunset, except between the hours of 12.00 to 13.30. The morning hours are the best time for taking photos!
Cost – No cost but there’s a fee for both cameras and video cameras and another fee for climbing up the minaret.
Photo Credit – Jusch
Akshardham Temple – Metro Station: Akshardham
This Hindu temple is easily one of best places to visit when backpacking in Delhi. The magnificent structure is as beautiful inside as it is outside with intricate carvings made of Rajasthani sandstone and Italian marble. Although it is not ancient, like other temples India, having only been inaugurated in 2005, it has been built using no iron. Steel and concrete have not been used either.
Unfortunately, no photography is allowed. Bags cannot be taken into the complex but can be kept at lockers located before the entrance. When you leave your bag, a photo of you together with your possessions is taken, and you are made to sign a disclaimer regarding your possessions.
As with most other attractions in India where body checks are performed, there are separate male and female entrances. Be sure to include Akshardham temple on your Delhi sightseeing itinerary! Shoes need to be removed before entering the temple – shoe lockers (free of charge) are located just before the path leading to it.
Cost – Entrance to the temple is free but there’s a fee to access to the exhibition halls and musical fountain.
Humayun’s Tomb – Metro Station: Khan Market
We thought that this structure was more impressive than it appeared to be at first, especially at sunset time. It was a lot quieter than many of the other attractions we visited whilst Delhi sightseeing by metro, and we really had time to take the place in and relax for a while, soaking in the fact that there were no tuktuks, touts and horns around.
Be sure to take water with you since it can get really hot. The site is about 2km away from the metro station, so take a tuktuk there unless you’re feeling really adventurous and you want to walk (walking in Delhi is not much fun, we can assure you!). A tuktuk should cost less that Rs 50 (about €0.60) so even if you’re on a restricted budget when backpacking in Delhi, you can probably afford it.
A path leading to the tomb of Isa Khan Niyazi can be found just off the main path – be sure to take a look at this part of the complex too, it is rather pretty!
Cost – Rs 600 (about €7) for non-Indians.
Lodhi Gardens – Metro Station: Jor Bagh
The lovely gardens are a sanctuary from the bustle and chaos on the streets of Delhi, providing a haven in which to end your first day of Delhi sightseeing by metro. Joggers and dog walkers get their exercise here as the day starts to cool down, whilst families enjoy picnics and conversations among ancient tombs.
If you’re visiting towards dusk, be sure to use an appropriate insect repellent, otherwise you might have to cut your visit short!
Cost – Free
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Backpacking Delhi – Delhi Sightseeing by Metro – Day Two
Qutub Minar – Metro Station: Qutub Minar
Towering at 73m in height, the Qutub Minar is the largest minaret in the world constructed from bricks. The first three stories are made of sandstone whilst the fourth and the fifth are made out of both marble and sandstone. Its origins are disputed in that some people believe that it was built as a tower of victory, whilst others say that its purpose was to serve as a minaret to call the faithful to prayer.
The Qutub complex is also home to some other attractions, most notably the iron pillar, as well as ancient ruins and structures. Be aware that you cannot climb up to the top of the minaret. The distance from the metro station to the archeological complex is about 2km – a tuktuk should cost about Rs 30 – Rs 40 (€0.35 – €0.50), with the best bargains being made just outside the station.
Try to go early morning since it can get very hot later in the day. Seeing this attraction first thing on Day 2 of your Delhi sightseeing by metro trip would be ideal!
Lotus Temple – Metro Station: Nehru Place
One of the highlights on any Delhi sightseeing itinerary, the beautiful Lotus temple, is a Bahai house of worship, where people of all faiths can come together to pray. The architecture is rather impressive with 27 free-standing petals arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides, inspired by the Lotus flower. The temple has received numerous awards, uses solar power, and is one of the most visited buildings in the world.
People are let into the temple in groups and volunteers ensure that silence is maintained during each visit.
Cost – Free
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib – Metro Station: Patel Chowk
This busy Sikh temple is open 24hrs a day, every day, and is a pilgrimage site in Delhi for many Sikhs, especially since the water tank inside the Gurudwara is believed to have medicinal properties.
Although not as grand as the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, this Gurudwara is definitely worth your time when you’re backpacking in Delhi. Be sure to participate in langar where free food is given to people of all ethnicities, race, social standing and economic status, mostly prepared by volunteers.
The food is simple and vegetarian, so that everybody can eat together as equals. To participate, you need to make your way to the langar hall where you’re handed a tray and just find a place to sit down cross-legged with the tray in front of you. The food (daal, rice and roti) will be ladled out onto your tray. Sometimes there’s a queue to enter the hall, but the experience is worth having, and this temple should definitely make it on your Delhi sightseeing itinerary!
Before entering the temple, you are requested to remove your shoes and wear a scarf over your head. There’s a little tourist center within the complex, where you can leave the shoes and obtain the scarf, free of charge.
Cost – Free
Jantar Mantar – Metro Station: Patel Chowk
The Jantar Mantar of New Delhi, consisting of 13 different astronomy instruments, was an observatory built with the purpose of predicting the movement of the sun, moon and planets. Most of the instruments here still work as well as when they were built. This is one of five observatories in India, the others being located in Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi and Mathura.
Easily one of the most interesting attractions to include on your Delhi sightseeing itinerary!
Cost – Rs 200 (about €2.50) for non-Indians.
An exhibit at the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur (which is very similar to the Delhi one)
Stepwell Agrasen Ki Baoli – Metro Station: Barahkamba Road
This little gem in the heart of Delhi feels like it shouldn’t be here at all! An ancient stepwell located between busy roads and modern buildings? Yes, that is Delhi!
The stepwell consists of a series of steps leading down into the well, adorned with arches on each side (nowadays home to seemingly all of Delhi’s pigeon population). This particular stepwell is said to be haunted but we actually experienced a very peaceful vibe when we were there! Be sure visit this rather off the beaten track attraction when backpacking in Delhi!
Cost – Free
Where to stay in Delhi
The city is home to a wide range of hostels and hotels, and your choice of accommodation mostly depends on your budget. Paharganj is the backpacker area of Delhi with many hostels and budget choices. We stayed at Optimum Baba Residency which we found to be adequate.
Tours Around Delhi
We enjoyed exploring Delhi independently, however if you prefer taking an organized tour, either for the day or for several days around Delhi and other destinations in India, check out these tours on Viator!
We hope that our guide to Delhi sightseeing by metro has convinced you that there are many beautiful places to visit when backpacking in Delhi! Try to give Delhi a chance – you might end up enjoying the city way more than you think!