We were in and out of Delhi three times on this trip. Given this, I wanted to try different areas and types of lodgings on each stay. I settled on the following: First up, was Hotel Bright a moderately-priced Indian business/tourist hotel right in Connaught Place, the large, arcaded shops at the colonial center of New Delhi. For a two-night return between Bhutan and Dharamshala, I chose the new Aloft Hotel in the modern Aerocity enclave near the airport. Finally, we used some free Hyatt nights for a stay in the elegant Hyatt Regency Delhi in the more removed southwestern part of the city. Each had their pros and cons and we enjoyed each in their own way. I’ll leave it to others to go in depth about Delhi and New Delhi (There’s lots out there.) and just touch here on a few highlights and useful bits.
Fortunately, we’d been prepared by TripAdvisor reviews for the eyebrow-raising entry path to Hotel Bright. After passing under the white-columned arcade of the outer ring of Connaught Place, we climbed a security guard-monitored flight of stairs to pass through an open area with a pile of abandoned couches and other junk. Graffiti on the wall proclaimed, “THIS PROPERTY BELONGS TO ME.” Just beyond this less-than-welcoming space, we opened the door to the pristine small lobby of Hotel Bright. Our windowless room was nicely decorated, if somewhat dated, clean, quiet and well-equipped. A simple included breakfast was delivered each morning. The location within the arcades of Connaught Place was excellent.
Connaught Place is a great central location with a myriad of high-priced-for-Delhi shops and restaurants. A stroll through the shady arcades of Connaught Place with pale skin will net you a never-ending supply of companions wanting to steer you into said shops and restaurants. Some people genuinely seemed to want to help or to just ask curious questions, but we remained on-guard for the ubiquitous scams and hustles. Mostly, it just got exhausting never being able to stop and look at anything without being descended upon.
We found a wonderful haven from the constant attention at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, a massive and beautiful Sikh house of worship. The Gurdwara is a fifteen minute walk down Baba Kharak Singh Road from Connaught Place. The Sikhs at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib welcomed us warmly. We left our shoes at a cloakroom where a lady for some reason loved speaking Spanish with me when she heard I was from the U.S. After walking through cleansing water, we donned borrowed head gear (a scarf for me and a scaled-down turban for David) and entered the main temple to watch prayers (conveniently translated into English on an overhead screen) before circling the temple then heading outside to a sacred pool. With true Sikh hospitality, we were offered food and drink at stalls set up outside. Entrance to the temple is free and, in addition to the pond and courtyards, there’s a museum on site. I highly recommend a visit.
We walked twelve miles around colonial New Delhi our first full day there. The spring weather was sunny and warm, but lacking the heat we’d feared (and that would make an appearance by the time we made our third stop in the city). We enjoyed the walk which both puzzled and annoyed the non-stop parade of tuk tuks and taxis that rolled slowly beside us, trying to convince us to ride instead. We admired the elegant buildings along broad avenues and joined throngs of others at India Gate (lead photo).
We rode the relatively new Airport Express metro line out to the airport and were happy to find it air conditioned, clean, much faster than a taxi would have been given the horrific traffic, and not crowded at all. [The Shivaji stop on this line is very close to Gurdwara Bangla Sahib making it easy to visit on a layover. We also walked to this stop from Hotel Bright in Connaught Place to ride to the airport for 60 INR/pp (85¢ US).] We used this same line on our return to Delhi from Bhutan to ride one stop to the swank Aerocity complex and the Aloft Hotel. I highly recommend the Aloft Aerocity for short stays near the airport. The staff there are wonderful, the hotel chic, and the selection of shops and restaurants in the secured Aerocity center extensive. Security around the entire Aerocity enclave makes it an area apart from the rest of Delhi. It’s comfortable and safe, but in no way “authentic” Delhi, nor does it try to be. Still, it was a pleasant, pampered stop with an easy return to the airport for our flight to Dharamshala in northern India. Since the baggage allotment for our intra-India flight was a mere 15kg, we bought a cheap duffel in Bhutan and off-loaded things into that and stored it at Aloft, free of charge. When we returned to Delhi, we just hopped the metro to Aerocity, picked up our bag, then had the hotel call us an Uber to the Hyatt Regency. (Our phones still would not connect to Uber in Delhi.)
The Hyatt Regency Delhi is vast and elegant, but the location is removed from most sights, restaurants, and shops. The hotel itself has several nice, but expensive restaurants and we blew any “deal” we had using our free nights to stay there on a wildly expensive, but excellent, Chinese dinner at The China Kitchen. We discovered budget fare the next day when we ventured out into the rabbit warren of little streets that extend behind the hotel away from the main highway. We’d have surely been lost without Google Maps and it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we had fun exploring and found both a cute sandwich shop and a small grocery store (Anil Super Shopee). We also discovered many popular outdoor eateries amongst the tech shops in the complex just east of the Hyatt.