On my final day in Delhi, I was planning on using the HOHO bus to explore a few of the sites which were a little further out of the city. I’d say it’s definitely worth the effort as these two sites were stunning and I think they’re both easily accessible via the metro (Kalkaji Mandir metro station for the Lotus Temple and the handily named Qutub Minar metro station for Qutub Minar).
My first stop was the Lotus Temple which, like most of the Delhi landmarks, is situated on a bustling main road with building work going on and hordes of tourist buses and touts around. You arrive there wondering how this can be the road on which a tranquil religious building is sat. But, again, the grounds have this wonderful knack for blocking all that out once you get inside.
Unfortunately, most of the lush green grounds which surround the temple are off-limits which is a bit gutting as it would have been nice to sit and chill in the gardens for a bit. Everything is cordoned off so you have to follow a designated path, but it’s great to slowly walk up to the temple and see the gigantic lotus looming over you. It’s an architectural masterpiece.
The temple is completely free so after going through security you can casually meander up towards the entrance. Here, you have to deposit your shoes at the counter and you’ll receive a token. It didn’t seem as though tipping was the done thing here so I didn’t bother. You can then climb up the steps so you’re directly in front of the huge imposing lotus. There’s some water just underneath it from which steps ascend and, just next to this, you can rest under the shade of the lotus, which many families were choosing to do since it was so hot.
I had a brief wander round and then queued up to go inside the temple. The interior is nothing spectacular but was a rare place in Delhi to find a bit of silence. I then chilled in the shady area for a while, immediately being accosted by various Indian families who wanted a photo taken with me and shoved babies and infants in my face against their will. It’s all very bizarre.
A bit like Raj Ghat, this isn’t somewhere you’re going to spend hours at, especially since the best places to sit and relax are cordoned off, but it’s worth it just to see the stunning lotus alone, which is a real marvel to look at. I almost feel bad for recommending various sights based on purely superficial qualities but I find it hard to believe that most people weren’t here because of its quirky, well-realised design rather than its religious qualities.
Following the Lotus Temple, it was time to visit my third and final UNESCO World Heritage site in Delhi, in the form of the Qutub Minar. Whilst the road this complex is situated on is less of a main road than, say, the area around the Red Fort, it was packed with visitors and tourists. You knew straight away this was one of the top sights in Delhi – and with good reason.
You have to pick up your ticket from the building opposite the complex (for 250 rupees) then cross the road and head inside. As you walk in, you’re naturally drawn to the 72m Qutub Minar monument, which was perfectly positioned just in front of the sun when I arrived, making for some fantastic photos. Although this ‘skyscraper’ is the main attraction, the entire complex is really well-maintained and fantastic to walk around, the lush greenery contrasting with the ancient ruins. You can really spend a lot of time here, and even more if you hire a guide or hire one of the audio guides at the entrance.
Every so often a plane would fly overhead and I tried to get a shot of the tower with a plane in the background but never quite got there in time. It’s a mesmerising structure though and fantastic to stand right underneath and look up. You get a real sense of how tiny you are. It’s also a great place to visit around lunchtime, as the many seating areas and maintained gardens are great spots for a picnic, all while admiring the really well preserved structure. Unfortunately, you can’t go up it but, in a similar vein to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, much of the magic is actually gained from looking at it from the outside.
In an age of sleek, shiny skyscrapers which have to be as glossy as possible, it’s nice to appreciate the retro skyscrapers. I like a glossy building as much as the next man, but Qutub Minar has the charm, character and history that skyscrapers like the Shard and Marriott Marquis are distinctly lacking. They don’t make them like these anymore…