India’s Golden Triangle connects three cities in the country’s north: New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. This well-travelled tourist route is popular for a reason – it offers glimpses into a spectrum of India’s attractions and landscapes, and is perfect for a taste of what India has to offer. I spent eight days touring the three cities with a small group of fellow travellers on the Intrepid Golden Triangle trip, and these are the seven moments I won’t forget.

Chandni Chowk Market, Old Delhi

My nose is tingling long before I see the mountains of dried chillies. I’m not the only one, though – almost everyone here is either sneezing or covering their face with scarves and gaiters. Intrepid local leader Maddy explains what the piles of jaggery rocks are used for (sweetening anything, but especially chai), and I think this is the first time I’ve seen turmeric not in powdered form. The Chandni Chowk market is a famous food and spice market, and also one of the best spots to safely sample some street food such as bedmi puri and aloo sabzi, a North Indian potato curry with a puffed, crispy bread. Lassi is a must and Maddy knows a spot for some of the best-known lassi in Delhi, Amritsari Lassi Wala, with a standout saffron lassi topped with slivered almonds.

Hauz Khas, New Delhi

Delhi is one of the most densely populated cities I’ve ever visited, and it’s certainly the busiest. But it’s actually pretty easy to find a quiet corner. During a free afternoon on the trip, I head to Hauz Khas village, where I spend the longest time exploring at a relaxed pace. The free time on Intrepid tours allow you to get some rest, or explore nearby spots that aren’t on the tour itinerary. The choice is yours. I choose to visit t he arty enclave, which was once a complex with a mosque and seminary built around a medieval village. Now it’s a neighbourhood with an emerging creative scene where thrift shops, art studios and tattoo parlours sit alongside ancient forts and the decaying madrasa domes. I mosey around a park, where local art students paint pictures of the lake and old friends toss bread to the ducks. But I could spend a whole afternoon winding through the alleys next to the park.

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Visiting a palace in Karauli

Between Jaipur and Agra is a rural village called Karauli. Local kids excitedly shout “Intrepid” while waving us down to play cricket with them, but we head to the 600-year-old palace Suroth Mahal, where my Intrepid group is spending the night. It’s now a unique heritage hotel managed by the descendants of the former monarchs. The son, a prince, is tending to the palace while his parents are away. After dinner, two performers dance around a fire and invite guests to join in. With the music playing, the prince sneaks my dance-avoidant self and photographer Kate Shanasy through hidden parts of the palace. He shows us his family’s centuries-old tiger pelt, and we watch the dance party from behind latticed jhakoras (balconies) – the same spot where women would historically watch business meetings they were excluded from.

The handwoven rugs of Agra

The artisans’ hands move fast, but tying one knot at a time on a full-sized rug feels like a Sisyphean effort. It’s mesmerising to watch the uninterrupted focus. Staff roll out one rug at a time, eventually covering the entire warehouse floor in traditional, modern and ultra-modern rugs. Most rugs are made at the homes of women and mothers who work to their own hours while managing a household. To preserve the dwindling art form, a government incentive covers shipping to any address in the world. I hold the group up as I contemplate whether an ultra-modern rug would suit my bedroom (it does). Now, each morning I step out of bed and onto a little memory of my trip to India with Intrepid.

A sunset drive to Shri Bhomiya Ji Maharaj Mandir Temple, Jaipur

The winding road up to a sunset point on Nahargarh Road isn’t familiar to me. I’ve never seen the sky above Jaipur turn from blue to pink to orange. But when John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Road starts playing while I’m sticking my head out of the roof of a Mahindra (an Indian version of a Jeep Wrangler), this is the place I belong. Up here, at a tiny temple watching the sun fall behind the hills, I’m completely awe-struck. Maddy knows the right time for us to arrive and have the place all to ourselves. Aside from our small Intrepid group there’s only one man here, gazing at the sunset and barely moving – only his blanket flaps in the wind. It’s a serene picture. The moment would be so different – more chaotic, less tranquil – if we were in a bigger group. And as we drive back down into town by Johri Bazar, holding onto the car roof with the Hawa Mahal blurring past, I’m euphoric.

Taj Mahal, Agra

When I travel, I often skip the famous landmarks . I’ve seen them in textbooks, travel magazines and Instagram posts – why do I need to see them in person? Heading off the beaten track was one of the most appealing parts of the Intrepid tour – I was excited to visit spots you don’t often get to see when you’re travelling independently . But Taj Mahal is different and not to be skipped. It is to be admired from every angle possible, especially at sunset. Aside from being a symmetrical masterpiece, it’s mind-boggling it was built on a riverbank in the 1600s with enough foresight and a sturdy enough foundation for it to be in perfect form in 2024. The grounds are endlessly busy with tourists, but inside you’re ushered through a crowd-flow system directing people through the main structure with uniform ease. It feels like an architecturally marvellous log ride.

Palace of Mirrors, Jaipur

Amber Fort, or Amer Fort, is one of Jaipur’s main attractions. From the base, its commanding presence atop the rocky hill is softened by flushes of pigeons swirling over the lake. But the bold yellow exterior belies the beautiful gardens and intricate design inside. In the Jai Mandir (Hall of Victory), an ornate ceiling and wall is inlaid with mirrors and detailed mosaics. Looking up at the roof feels like being inside a jewellery box or mirrorball (even if none of the mirrors are selfie-friendly). A tour guide shares stories about the royal families that lived here, and Maddy can’t help but share some of his knowledge, too.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Intrepid Travel. Book your tour through India’s Golden Triangle.