The Golden Triangle is a triangle formed by the cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. It is the most famous route taken by most travelers. Some of the most explored monuments in India fall on this triangle. Travelers generally arrive at Delhi and spend a day exploring its markets and the famous Qutub Minar. They then travel to Agra to explore the famous Taj Mahal. From Agra, travelers then travel to Jaipur to visit the beautiful pink city. En-route, they explore the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri. In Jaipur, they visit the Amber Fort and the beautiful pink city and markets of Jaipur. But do you know that it is a great region to explore forests and nature?
There are a million ways of exploring these cities. One can spend a day in each or spend a week in each. One can explore the crafts or the markets. One can explore the rich history of the three cities. One can also just stay and engage in people watching. The Golden Triangle provides for all such opportunities. We will explore a unique opportunity for the nature lover.
The nature lover’s paradise
Today, we will be travelling along the triangle through the nature lover’s lens. On the way, we will explore some beautiful forests in Delhi, bird life and animal life near Agra and the beautiful forests and old hunting lodge near Jaipur. We will also be exploring one obvious addition that can be made to the itinerary. The forests of the Golden triangle provide this opportunity. In our rapid quest for urbanization, we had forgotten about these forests. However, now that we are facing a serious shortage in natural spaces, we must turn our attention to these forests.
The history of Delhi dates back to the 12th Century. The seven cities of Delhi are now encompassed in one megalopolis. But the cities also symbolized the rise and fall of kingdoms. The rise and fall of these kingdoms led to destruction and reintroduction of nature and natural spaces in Delhi and today, it boasts of a rich green cover and of being the capital with the second largest number of bird species after Nairobi. Look beyond the fences and you will find acres of forests in Delhi.
There are many great forests in Delhi and the local nature and natural life is truly amazing. The soil of the Aravalli Ranges in Delhi is quite thin and has led to a population of trees that is truly marvelous.
Delhi’s natural spaces
An introduction to this would be the somewhat manicured Lodi Gardens. A haunt for runners and walkers in the morning, and of families on picnics in the afternoon, the Gardens boast of a plant life comprising of Buddha’s coconut, the quintessential mango, wide trunked Asoka trees, Fish tail Palms, Semal and a variety of figs. Amongst these 90 acres of greenery lies tombs and mosques – ruins of the last dynasty before the Mughals. The Lodi dynasty was known for building the 4th city of Delhi and the ruins are very well maintained. Today, it is a great mix of nature and culture.
Other great spaces to explore is the Central Ridge – a forest behind the Presidential Palace and a true forested area. They would also include the Bird Hospital at the Jain Temple at the start of Chandni Chowk. Injured street birds including kites and peacocks are brought here, treated for free and released back into the wild if possible. The last place to explore would be the bird sanctuaries during winter when the Northern Shoveller, Spoonbill and Cranes make Delhi their home.
Most travelers find the Taj Mahal beautiful as a monument. But roam around the gardens and you will find a host of birds. The ubiquitous rose ringed parakeet makes the Taj Mahal its home and other birds include the Black Kite and Lapwings.
60 kms from Agra lies the National Chambal Sanctuary – a great place to explore the Chambal River from. The river harbors turtles, knob nosed crocodiles, marsh crocodiles and the endemic Indian Skimmer. Being a wetland, a host of bird species make Chambal their home during the winter. Apart from this, the Turtle Survival Alliance is active in research and protection of the endangered turtles in the area and it is amazing to see the good researchers there go about generating awareness and doing research. It would be an extra benefit if you schedule your travel according to the turtle hatching period.
Near Agra lies the Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary. Home to over 165 species of birds, the sanctuary is also home to around 300 pythons. The sanctuary also houses a bear rescue center where erstwhile dancing sloth bears are rescued and rehabilitated.
On the way to Agra, you can also visit the Elephant rescue center where rescued elephants are rehabilitated. Kids would have a field day there bathing the elephants, feeding them and taking them on walks.
Jaipur is known for the monuments and crafts. But spend a day there and you can take a beautiful cycle ride through the Nahargarh Biological Park. Passing through forested area, the tour starts from the zoo and ends at a 16th Century hunting lodge. From the ramparts of the lodge, you will see the vast expanse of the Aravalli Range and the forests around. The park borders the Sariska Reserve and is specially green during the monsoons.
When you visit the Amber Fort, you will see 2 other Forts from the ramparts of this one. It is possible to hike between Amber fort and the other 2 – Nahargarh Fort (not to be confused with the park) and Jaigarh Fort.
A detour from Agra will take you to the tiger park of Ranthambore. It is a park with an atmosphere with ruins of an old hunting lodge and temple. Many a famous photograph has been taken of tigers at the Fort. Sighting the Eurasian Golden Oriole is equally exciting. There are some great places to stay at the Fort and Ranthambore makes for some great travel.
All of this can be combined with watching the highlights. So take a break and explore India’s these brilliant natural spaces. They are great spaces to hike in and will also tell you a lot about India’s natural history. They will also ignite the Indiana Jones in you and kindle the fire of returning to this uniquely diverse country.