Slow travel is all about lingering longer in places that you visit as a traveller, and immersing yourself in your surroundings. Its about exploring more of the local culture and flavours, and creating opportunities for meaningful interactions with local people. And there is no better way to do it than by literally slowing down. By getting out of that motor car for a change, and exploring a city by walking or behind the wheels of a bicycle. Here are ideas for getting Delhi under your skin, which we have incorporated into our itineraries on the Golden Triangle.
Most sightseeing tours (ours included!) are a standard dashboard menu that has you rushing from one UNESCO monument to another, probably ensconced in the cool (or heated) comfort of a car with tinted glass windows. And most of the real Delhi passes by in a flash! So the next time you are in the nation’s capital, slow down and savour the sights, sounds and smells of this magnificent city seated behind the bars of a bicycle, pedaling through the tiny lanes of Old Delhi or the broad tree-lined avenues of Lutyens modern version.
Guided cycling tours are offered along three distinct routes. The first, and perhaps the most memorable is the Shah Jahan Tour that takes you through the Delhi of the Moghul Empire with its warren of narrow lanes, some so tiny that just one person (or cycle can pass through). Along the way, you are assailed by the sounds (and smells) of early morning ablutions, prayers, and wailing kids (who don’t want to be woken up for school). Pass through the heady (and sneeze-trigger) spice and flower markets; climb up for superb rooftop views of the palace of one of Shah Jahan’s wives. Ride out of the frenzy and pedal through the calm leafy lanes of the Civil Lines, where the British East India Company officers moved to, post the 1857 mutiny, and have a bracing tea break at a street-side stall. Then pedal along the daunting Chandni Chowk that leads to the West Gate of the mighty Red Fort; dodge all kinds of human engineered obstacles on your way past the Jama Masjid, and end your slightly sore-ended cycling trip with a delicious breakfast at the famous Karims. Other tours are also available, one along the Yamuna River, and the other (due to start in July 2010) in Lutyens Delhi including the Rajpath, the Presidents Palace and the India Gate.
A typical cycling tour starts at 0700hrs in the morning and is completed by 1000hrs. You don’t need to be fit or have a whole amount of stamina (yes you do need to know how to ride a bike; classes not included!), or even have any special gear. Just put on a pair of covered shoes, doff a hat, and bring your sense of adventure (and a bit of patience) along. Your bike is fitted out for height at the starting point, a debrief and cycling rules are established, you meet your fellow pedallers, and off you go led by your guide in the front, and a support resource bring up the rear. All along the way, you keep stopping at specific places, so that your guide can give you insights into the history and life in the area around you. It’s a great fun way to explore Delhi and its denizens, and a refreshing way to discover the city.
Cycling tours must be pre-booked in advance and can be done on any morning of the week.
The Salaam Baalak Trust (created by the famous film director, Mira Nair and her family), has developed an exciting city walk through the enchanting streets of the inner city of Paharganj and the New Delhi railway Station area. Nobody knows Delhi's streets better than the young people who are fully trained as guides. These spirited youngsters will take you on a tour while sharing with you the journey of their lives.
The city walk aims to sensitize people to the lives of street children. It's a unique way of engaging people in the lives of children in distress. The walk also provides an opportunity for the young people to improve their communication and speaking skills. All proceeds go directly to the trust to enable more opportunities to be made for street children so the walk is 100% non-profit making.
Your 2 hour guided city walk starts in the morning at 1030hrs in New Delhi Railway Station and Paharganj, visiting their shelters, contact points and interacting with street children. The walk includes the living and built heritage of the area, taking you down the back streets to find hidden cultural practices and gives you a feel for life here in yesteryear. You will also see how the trust provides opportunities for street children and see what amazing things they can achieve when given an opportunity.