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Delhi - India

With more than 12.25 million inhabitants in the territory, Delhi is the largest metropolis by area in India with Mumbai just topping it over population.

New Delhi is the capital city of India which lies within the territory of Delhi and this can cause a little confusion for first time visitors when asking for directions in and around the area.

Delhi has had settlements since the 6th century BC and is known for the many ancient and medieval monuments, archaeological sites and remains that are scattered along the banks of the Yamuna river.

During the 18th and 19th centuries the British East India Company, which had control over the majority of India, moved the capital to Calcutta. It wasn't until 1911, when Britain's King George V announced that Delhi should once again be the capital of India.

A new capital city, New Delhi, was built to the south of the old city in the 1920s and when India regained it's independence from British rule in 1947, New Delhi was declared capital and seat of government.

Delhi has grown to be a multicultural, cosmopolitan metropolis with rapid development and urbanisation over the last couple of decades.

The city is expecting a considerable boost to tourism, with the hosting of the 2010  Commonwealth Games ,which will take place  from 3 to 14 October.

The Qutb Minar (photo inset) the world's tallest brick minaret, is one of India's most visited monuments.

Top 10 things to do in Delhi

Red Fort (Lal Quila)

This 17th century fort complex was constructed by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan in the walled city of Old Delhi in 1639 and took over 7 years to complete.

It was originally referred to as the blessed fort, because it was the residence of the royal family and was built along the Yamuna River, which fed the moats that surround most of the wall.

The British used the fort as a military camp until India was granted it's independence in 1947 and the site is now a popular tourist attraction as well as a powerful symbol of India's sovereignty.

There are five large buildings inside the complex which you can wander around.

Diwan-i-Khas: a pavilion clad completely in marble. Nahr-i-Behisht: imperial private apartments lying directly behind the throne. Zenana: the women's quarters. Moti Masjid: the Pearl Mosque. Hayat Bakhsh Bagh: the "Life-Bestowing Garden".

Works of art are displayed throughout the complex with an unusual synthesis of Persian, European and Indian culture.

Lotus Temple (Bahá'í House of Worship)

This is one of Delhi's top attractions. Officially called The Bahá'í House of Worship, it is popularly known as the Lotus Temple due to its flower like shape.

Completed in 1986, it serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent and has attracted well over 50 million visitors to-date.

This is a working temple and is open to all regardless of religious affiliations. The Bahá'í laws emphasize that the spirit of the House of Worship be that it is a gathering place where people of all religions may worship God without denominational restrictions.

India Gate

Situated in the heart of New Delhi and standing 42m high, this is one of the largest war memorials in India.

It was built between 1921-1931 to commemorate the 90,000 Indian soldiers who gave their lives in Word War I.

Burning in a shrine under the arch of India Gate since 1971 is the Amar Jawan Jyoti (the flame of the immortal warrior), which marks the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This cenotaph is itself placed on an edifice which has on its four corners four torches that are perpetually kept alive.

Akshardham Temple

Also referred to as Delhi Akshardham or Swaminarayan Akshardham, this Hindu temple complex displays centuries of traditional Indian and Hindu culture, spirituality, and architecture.

Designed in accordance with ancient Vedic text known as the Sthapatya Shastra, it features a blend of architectural styles from across India. During it's construction 3,000 volunteers helped the 7,000 commissioned artisans complete the building work.

Officially opened in 2005, the complex features a large central monument crafted entirely of stone, exhibitions on incidents from the life of Swaminarayan and the history of India, an IMAX feature, a musical fountain, and large landscaped gardens.

There is also a sunken garden that is shaped like a lotus flower when viewed from above.

Entry to the complex is free but you will have to pay to access any of the exhibits.

Opening times are seasonally adjusted so it's best to check the website for details, however, the Akshardham is always closed on Mondays.

National Museum

Run by the Ministry of Culture, the museum has in its possession over 200,000 works of art, of both Indian and foreign origin, covering more than 5,000 years of Indian cultural heritage.

The museum is situated on the corner of Janpath and Maulana Azad Road in the centre of New Delhi.

Arranged into collections covering all aspects of culture from pre-historic archeology to arms and armour the museum is also very active in conservation of artifacts with it's own dedicated laboratory.

Closed on Monday's, the museum is otherwise open all year round.

Free guided tours are are given regularly throughout the day and audio tours handsets are available for an extra fee if you plan to peruse the collections at your own leisure.

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Humayun's Tomb

The tomb was commissioned in 1562 by the late Mughal Emperor Humayun's wife Hamida Banu Begum and is located in Nizamuddin East, Delhi.

Classed in 1993 as a World Heritage Site, It consists of a series of buildings with a complex and was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent.

At the centre of the complex the tomb building, reaching a height of 47m and 100m wide, is shaped from the outside as a Persian Bulbous double dome. The main chamber can be entered through an imposing entrance iwan (high arc) on the south, which is slightly recessed.

The main chamber also carries the symbolic element, a mihrab design over the central marble lattice or jaali and faces Mecca in the West.

The enclosed Paradise Gardens are built in symmetry, dividing out into squares from the tomb.

There are several other tombs situated within the complex but outside the main enclosed area.

Jama Masjid

Completed in 1656, this was the principal mosque of Old Delhi and is probably India's best known mosque.

It is situated at Chandni Chowk in north Delhi.

Standing 80m tall its roof is covered with three domes with alternate stripes of black and white marble, with its topmost parts covered with gold. The mosque faces West towards Mecca and the courtyard can hold up to twenty-five thousand worshippers.

The north gate of the mosque also houses several relics in a closet, including an antique copy of the Qur'an written on deer skin.

Chandni Chowk

Chandni Chowk (meaning moonlit square or market) was Old Delhi's oldest and busiest market.

The narrow and congested lanes are considered to be the best place to go and find some great bargains while engaging in authentic Delhi culture.

Most of the shops here are well over 100 years old selling all types of wares.

Similar to the souks of Dubai, leading off the main square are several specialised markets; Dariba Kalan, the silver market full of designer jewellery, Khari Baoli, the spice market, Katra Neel for all kinds of fabrics like silk, satin, crepe, linen, muslin, net, cotton and Kinari Bazaar for bridal trousseau

If you do take a tip here then you have to wander down paranthe wali gali, world-famous for it's small narrow lanes and indian bread fried in clarified butter served with spicy vegetables and pickles. Yummy.

A must for shopoholics and food lovers!

Musical Fountain/ Ajmal Khan Park

The park is located Karol Bagh area of Delhi and is a 5 acre breath of fresh air in the middle of what is otherwise a very busy and congested city.

Apart from the appeal of getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life, the park's top attraction is a musical fountain.

The fountain provides a dazzling light display synchronised with music and the cascading water.

During the hot summers this is a popular hang-out for locals and tourists alike.

The fountain display starts after sunset and lasts for two hours every day except Tuesday.

Taj Mahal

Outside of Delhi, in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum commissioned in 1632 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal and is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture.

In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage".

The central focus of the complex is the tomb. This large, white marble structure stands on a square plinth and consists of a symmetrical building with an iwan topped by a large dome and finial.

The marble dome that surmounts the tomb is the most spectacular feature. Its height of around 35m is about the same as the length of the base, and is accentuated as it sits on a cylindrical "drum" which is roughly 7m high.

The Taj Mahal attracts from 2 to 4 million visitors annually.  Traffic is not allowed near the complex due to pollution fears and tourists must either walk from parking lots or catch an electric bus.

The extensive grounds are open from 6 am to 7 pm weekdays, except for Friday when the complex is open for prayers at the mosque between 12 pm and 2 pm. The complex is open for night viewing on the day of the full moon and two days before and after, excluding Fridays and the month of Ramadan.

For security reasons only five items—water in transparent bottles, small video cameras, still cameras, mobile phones and small ladies' purses—are allowed inside the Taj Mahal. The airspace over the building is also restricted.

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