Secrets of Delhi That Locals Keep To Themselves February 24, 2016 Asia, Festival Urban Delhi has served as capital to a number of kingdoms and empires over its long history. There must be something about this city that keeps people coming back, as successive waves of outsiders have ransacked and destroyed the city, only to rebuild on the same spot. Delhi can overwhelm with its crowds, the busy traffic, and a general sense of chaos; yet it also charms with friendly locals, mouth-watering food, and beautiful historical sites dotted throughout the city. Like many bustling modern cities, the best way to experience Delhi is to scratch beneath the surface. Better than an online travel guide that will list a dry summary of the local attractions, consider hiring a local Delhi tour guide who will let you in on some of the city’s well-kept secrets. Sites Delhi boasts massive parks from the Nehru to the Buddha Jayanti. While 500-year-old tombs aren’t found in most public gardens, they’re part of the beauty of the Lodi Gardens, a green oasis in the middle of town popular with walkers and joggers. Or join the locals as they cycle around some fantastic spots like the Najafgarh Wetlands or the Asola Bhardwaj Lake. Another park popular with the locals is the Garden of Five Senses that hosts many cultural events. While religious institutions abound, the unmiss able ones are the Jama Masjid located in the old Delhi area, and the Akshardham temple, a grandiose example of intricate and beautiful architecture that is also a popular place of Hindu worship. Delhi is home to the Lotus Temple as well, dedicated to the Bahá’í faith. The temple is shaped like a lotus flower with 27 marble flower petals, and its grounds are open to people of all religious backgrounds to enjoy moments of serenity and Chandi Chowk, the main street of Old Delhi is a glimpse into a bygone era. One of the oldest and busiest markets in India, be prepared for a chaotic combination of cars, cyclists, food stalls and stray animals. It is very easy to get lost into its bylanes, some so narrow that people can only walk through single file; just keep your fingers crossed that you find yourself in the paranthewali gali to taste some of the best stuffed breads in the city. Lutyens Delhi is where travellers will find the massive presence of the British Raj. Take a stroll from the Rashtrapati Bhavan down Rajpath towards India Gate, a memorial to soldiers who died fighting in the First World War and the Third Anglo-African War. Huge lawns encircle the area, where locals and tourists alike can be found picnicking on summer evenings; join them for a Cassata ice-cream from the many vendors located there. The Red Fort, Qutub Minar and the Purana Qila are justifiably on a tourist’s list of must see attractions in Delhi. Hire a Delhi tour guide to get a better feel and understanding of the history surrounding these iconic sites, along with the little important tips to best enhance your experience. For example your guide will tell you that the best way to view the Purana Qila is by boat. The fort’s moat has been converted into a man-made lake with boat rides available for a small fee. Food From chaat, chole bhature and paani puri to jalebis, kulfi, lassi and samosas, Delhi has some of the best street food on the globe. While these Indian fast food options were initially the strongholds of the street stalls, the enterprising Delhi-ites have turned the street food industry into a more upmarket experience. Malls now boast the same street food menus at their in house food courts, albeit in a more hygienic and cooler environment. Go dig in! Over 30,000 vendors sell fruits and vegetables at Azadpur, Asia’s largest produce market. While at Asia’s largest wholesale spice market, Khari Baoli market in Old Delhi, colourful sacks of spices, dried fruits and nuts are traded. Go, just to see the frenzy and gusto with which sales are done. Entertainment Cricket is the god of all sports in India. Children start playing on the streets as soon as they can hold a bat steady, and Delhi comes to a standstill when an important match is being played. While in many global cities of the world you will be encouraged to visit a stadium for the thrill of the game, Delhi is different. Experience the charged atmosphere on the streets as people gather around cricket commentaries on their smart phones, or in pubs where drinks are forgotten as wickets are taken. Delhi is home to a number of festivals every year. October is a good time to plan your visit; the city is starting to cool down and the Navratri festival celebration is in full swing. Enjoy enactments of the Ram Lila and watch effigies of Ravan and his brothers stuffed with fireworks burn as you sample festival foods. Stay a little longer to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, with the locals, as they offer prayers to goddess Lakshmi to bless them with wealth. Towards spring, Makar Sankranti and the more popular festival of Holi are celebrated, the latter with colour and (literally) intoxicating bhang laddoos.