View of Moti Masjid and Bakhtiyar Kakis Dargah from Zafar Mahal 001

Delhi Beyond Clichés: 10 Offbeat & Unusual Things No One Told You To Do In Dilli

Colonial sophistication, Mughal grandeur, street food, traffic jam, summer heat, winter chill… each of the Delhi attractions has been endlessly eulogized, recounted, recommended or ridiculed depending on its individual merit. Of course, these clichés have become so for a reason but what to do in Delhi if you have already seen it all? What if you are on your 5th trip to the city?

Humayun's Tomb
Humayun’s Tomb

The good part here is that Delhi sightseeing is NOT limited to the Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Lutyen’s Delhi and the Old Delhi. As a matter of fact, the Old Delhi or Shahjahanabad is one of the newer settlements. Over the last few months, as a newbie in Delhi, I have forced myself to explore various monuments, ruins, markets, forts and cemeteries beyond the must-do tourist attractions in New Delhi suggested by the tour guides. This is an attempt on my part to list out some offbeat Delhi gateways, which are the best-kept secrets of Delhi that may be useful in case you are looking to do something different.

Please note that most of them are Historical attractions and if antiquity does not interest you then this may not work for you.

The good thing is that these things can be easily covered using the Delhi Metro if you aree on a budget and have enough time. If you are in a hurry, you can or course use a good Car Rental Delhi for services to anywhere in Delhi and North India.

Discover Delhi’s Prehistory & Early Medieval History

Sultan Ghari 21

Delhi has been the political epicenter of India for over a millennium now. But this region has been a seat of major civilizations since prehistoric times. Under those layers of Mughal, Pashtun and Rajput constructions lay further layers of unknown and unexplained history. One of the best examples of the same is the Purana Quila, which is a generally well known 14th-century archaeological complex. But in the 1950s, an excavation near the fort found artifacts of a far distant past. These Painted Grey Ware artifacts date back to at least 1000 BC and this excavation site is probably the best way to start a date with Delhi in a chronological manner. This can be followed up with a visit to numerous Ashokan Pillars (~300 BC) scattered across multiple locations in Delhi including Feroz Shah Kotla, Greater Kailash, and Delhi Ridge. The small museum in Purana Qila has good information about them as a lot of excavations have been conducted in the nearby areas.

Feroz Shah Kotla 10
These stairs are really photogenic

Take a walk through Mehrauli:

Jamali Kamali 10

If you liked Old Delhi, then you must try out this even older part of Delhi. Of course, the immaculately maintained Qutub Minar complex is known to all. But I am talking about the living “urban village” of Mehrauli, which hosted the earliest cities of Delhi founded by the Rajput Kings and the Slave Dynasty that unseated them. The Qutub complex and the adjacent Mehrauli Archaeological Park has made an effort to protect the major clusters of these monuments. But there are far too many of them scattered throughout a large, densely populated locality. Even walking through those narrow alleys and locating them amidst modern day apartments and shops is an interesting exercise. Some of the major monuments you can look for include Zafar Mahal, Jahaz Mahal, Madhi Masjid, Gandhak-ki-Baoli, Hauz-i-Shamsi etc. For more details do read this excellent blogpost on Mehrauli. Also, there are monuments like Sultan Ghari, that are slightly away from Mehrauli but from the same era.

Explore Sufism beyond Nizamuddin:

The Dargah of Nizamuddin Aulia is the place where everyone goes for a soul-stirring Sufi experience in Delhi and rightly so. But it is not the only one. The aforementioned Mehrauli boasts of the Dargah of Bakhtiyar Kaki, the oldest of all the Sufi shrines in Delhi. Drop-in here for a dose of Sufi Music on Thursday evenings. You can also visit the Ashiq Allah Dargah on the edge of Mehrauli and almost inside the forests or the Chiragh Dilli near Greater Kailash. All these shrines have interesting myths and anecdotes associated with them.

Tughlaqabad and Jahanpanah:

Bijay Mandal 10

Jahanpanah is one of the older cities of Delhi built around the 14th century by Muhammad bin Tughlaq. As of now, it is a completely residential area with several monuments in various states of preservation scattered over the present-day localities of Malviya Nagar, Kalu Sarai, Begumpur etc. Try to locate the Lal Gumbad, Begumpur Masjid and Bijay Mandal. On the other hand, Tughlaqabad us located further south and it was also contributed by the same dynasty. Tuqhlaqabad is a better known, gigantic construction. But as a quick detour, also check the Adilabad Fort nearby.

Retrace the Mutiny & Revisit The Raj:

Flagstaff Tower

Popular history is often sugar-coated with epic love stories and anecdotes of genial monarchs prevailing over tyrants. But if you have the stomach for the grotesque and the tragic, explore the trails of the mutiny of 1857, the first big uprising against the British that eventually turned out to be the last nail in the coffin of the already decadent Mughal Dynasty. Most of the vestiges related to this gory period are concentrated around the Kashmiri Gate area, which now serves as a bus terminus as well as a major metro station. Check out the bullet marks on the gate and the walls. Go through the list of soldiers who laid down their lives engraved on the Mutiny Memorial, learn about John Nicholson’s story at the cemetery named after him, check out the remains of the British Magazine and of course do not forget to visit the likes of Khooni Jheel (Bloody Lake) and Khooni Darwaza (Bloody Gate) to find out why they are called so. You can also explore other vestiges of the Raj such as the Coronation Park.

Go Spotting Nilgais:


The Nilgai or the Indian Blue Bull is the largest antelope species found abundantly in India. What is interesting is that amidst all the deforestation and extinction of other species, this one has somehow held its own even in a highly populated city like Delhi. They mostly live in the reserved forests of the southern part of the city but can also be seen roaming on the streets in search of food. You can spot them in the bushes near the Jawaharlal Nehru University, inside the reserve forests of Sanjay Van and also near the Tughlaqabad Fort.

Explore the Reserve Forests of Delhi

Qila Rai Pithora 3

Delhi weekend outings are now complete without a trip to its reserved forests. They are not only the lungs of Delhi but they also possess many hidden gems that you can uncover. For example Sanjay Van in Mehrauli swallowed up the remaining walls and bastions of the old Rajput city called Qila Rai Pithora. Similarly, the Central Ridge near Chanakyapuri contains an allegedly haunted, Lodhi Era building called Malcha Mahal as well as the small but serene Dargah of Moluddin Chisti. The Kamala Nehru Ridge up north contains some Colonial Era relics such as the Flagstaff Tower and the aforementioned Khooni Jheel. Read the story of the haunted house here. Another notable forested area within the city is the Jahanpanah City Forest in South Delhi.

Soak in the bucolic charm of Delhi’s Weekly Markets

Moth ki Masjid

Weekly markets are a regular feature in the villages and provincial towns of India. But while other metropolises in India have embraced the swanky malls and supermarkets, most parts of Delhi have maintained their old-worldly charm through these markets that conjure out of nowhere once every week. Such flea markets sell everything you can imagine and this is where you get a feel of the hinterland right at the heart of the capital. Watch out for the Sunday bazaar near Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, Monday market at Karol Bagh, Wednesday market at Govindpuri, Thursday Market at the historic Masjid Moth, and so on. Check this post for more traditional shopping options in Delhi.

If you are in Delhi with your companion, then also Shopping is a great way to explore and relax together. Here is another list about things to do for couples in Delhi.

Visit the Historic Gardens of Delhi

Lodhi Gardens

Delhi boasts of quite a few Gardens. Mughal Garden, Lodhi Garden and Deer Park are quite famous among them. But there are several others of various sizes, mostly built around already existing archaeological sites. So, while jogging through them, you are likely to stumble upon forgotten monuments and ruins that capture your imagination. Try out Roshanara Bagh, Qudsia Bagh, Shalimar Bagh and Sunder Nursery. Check this link for a better write up on Sunder Nursery area.

Night Photography at the Bhagirath Palace Lights Market

This is actually a large palace in Chandni Chowk. But the surroundings have grown in such a congested manner that it is hard to imagine the original glory of the palace that used to be surrounded by spacious promenades and gardens. It was originally owned by Begum Samru, a Kashmiri woman who married a European soldier and grew in prominence during the early days of the Raj or for that matter during the last days of the Mughals. Her story is enchanting and once there was a Bollywood biopic being planned (Although I think the project was shelved). Anyways, now the lane by the side of the Bhagirath Palace houses a lights market full of white goods. It comes alive after dark as the chandeliers and other items start glowing. It is a good place to try your hands on low light photography if you are serious about the craft. You can find more details about Begum Samru in this post.

Get A Slice of Northeast India at Humayunpur

IMG 20221223 161653 01

Never heard of it? Well, a lot of people have not. But Humayunpur is gradually gaining prominence and soon it will become the next HKV or at least the next Shahpur Jat. A huge diaspora from Northeast Indian states live here and over the years, they have opened up their own restaurants and shops. You will find Mizo Restaurants, Naga Restaurants, Manipuri Restaurants, and there is even one serving Burmese food. Apart from that, there are a few things underground that I can’t mention but only those who seek can find them.

Bonus: Wildlife & Birding Tours in the Outskirts of Delhi

Sarus Crane

Yes, there are jungles near Delhi and they are not overrated like most other things around big cities are. I have seen more birds in one birding trip near Delhi than I had seen in my entire life in many better known national parks. However, this activity is not suitable all the time. Winters are the best time when you can spot migratory birds as well as blackbucks and other animals.

So, is this a comprehensive list? Of course not! As a matter of fact, Delhi can look different to different people according to their perspectives. For instance, try out this blogpost to understand a foreign visitor’s perspective of Delhi.

Nevertheless, there are many other places to see in Delhi I keep stumbling on new attractions every day. But I hope this encourages everyone to explore beyond the obvious. I will probably make a second list. Do drop in a comment in case you have suggestions… or brickbats for that matter.


More Offbeat Resources

I love going offbeat as much as I dislike cliched choices. I will keep adding more offbeat ideas from popular Indian destinations as I find them.

Goa Beyond Beaches

Jitaditya Narzary

60 thoughts on “Delhi Beyond Clichés: 10 Offbeat & Unusual Things No One Told You To Do In Dilli”

  1. Pingback: Bijay Mandal and Begumpur Masjid: Melancholy Evenings at JahanpanahThe Travelling Slacker | The Travelling Slacker

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  3. Pingback: Moth ki Masjid: Thursday Market | The Travelling Slacker

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  5. I like your articles because I’m discovering more and more facts and things about a country I’ve never visited before, for now. And now I know about sufi and sufism and I understood it’s in some way related to dervishes, I like whirling dervishes ^^

  6. This is completely different post on Delhi and I loved it because hidden gems and off the beaten track itineraries are my all time favorites. It’s not always easy to escape the tourist-trail and avoid clichés when travelling, but it’s really worth it. A real discovery and authentic travel is made this way. I simply liked the freshness of the post.

  7. Delhi is such a pulsating city where history juxtaposes with the contemporary. It is easy to overlook some wonderful experiences in favour of the more hyped ones. Your post is a refreshing as it presents a new perspective of this historic city, beyond the cliches.

  8. Brown Gal Trekker

    I have to confess I avoid delhi like a plague. so it is refreshing to read this. the photos are beautiful and made me rethink my feelings about the city. it’s great that you focused on the best parts of the city. i knew there is some hidden aspects to this city. one just needs to dig further.

  9. I never imagined Delhi to look like this but obviously I have underestimated this place. Thank you for sharing your point of view and images! Some of them are really stunning! I like the 6th one from the top the most.

  10. Stunning Architecture. I would love to talk a walk through that forest. Thank you for sharing the hidden gems that you have found. We like straying off the old beaten path as well. You just never know what you will find.

  11. You have some stunning photos there man! Just quite feel bad that I did not include Delhi on the list as I made a research about travel destinations in India. Thanks for this post!

  12. WhereMonicaGoes

    I feel like I was given a private tour in Delhi, all thanks to you blog! History lovers would for sure love Delhi especially its many things to offer. I prefer going to nontouristy places as well and walking in the jungle, exploring the wild and even the Blue Bull sounds cool to me. Learning about Sufism is nice as well!

  13. Great ideas suggested, they all seems like lovely things to do off the beaten path! The market is probably my favourite option of these. I love markets in general especially if they are authentic because this brings a certain charm. It is also the best place to get to know the culture, traditions and observe the people. I would love to try some food if they are selling or simply get spices and herbs.

  14. Rashmi & Chalukya

    We have been to Delhi and have explored the major attractions which are fascinating and intriguing and yes we can visit them again such is the grandeur of the history and heritage of our capital city. We did not know there were so many other off beaten and lesser known places too which have know been added to our wishlist too. Bookmarking this post for the next time we make a visit to Delhi.

  15. Thanks for your recommendations and tips! I want to visit Delhi for so long and this off-beaten places looks very interesting 🙂 pics are definitely awesome ? best!

  16. Wow these reccomendations are surely not something you’d find in a Dehli guide book! Or even just a basic blog post. Well done! I would love to go spotting Nilgais!

  17. Jamie Gaviola

    I haven’t been to Delhi, but from the looks of it – it seems amazing. I love the photos, and it shows so much culture around the city. Hopefully I get to explore it soon, I’ll take note of your tips.

  18. I love these kind of “off the beaten track” recommendations and you certainly have collected a great collection of lesser-known sights in Delhi. And as someone who likes to consider themselves as something of a History buff, I really am intrigued by retracing the Raj. Certainly, as a British citizen, this is a chapter of history we don’t often hear much about and it’d be great to understand it from such a different perspective. I must also say, I really enjoy your style of writing, it is wonderfully engaging. Keep up the great work!

  19. Seeing the life and death of architecture in these cities are beautiful – it evokes so many stories I would love to hear…

  20. Now this is new to me. All I thought about of Dehli is only Spices and carpets but seeing your photos with a lovely view of the ruins and scenery is beautiful. Now this is the kind of travel I may want to try when I visit India nxt yr hopefully

  21. Super super! The more I see Delhi, the more I fall in love with it. This is a wonderful write up and a lovely list.

    Write good things or brickbats for that matter! Haha, you are the best man :))

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  23. So good someone wrote about this. I was bored of visiting and reading about the same old monuments of Delhi. It is a refreshing post. I didn’t know about the trails of the mutiny of 1857. I recently visited Residency (again) in Lucknow and it renewed my interest in the mutiny.

  24. Wow! So many great recommendations. I absolutely love visiting flea markets! There are always such interesting objects to be found there. The culture and vibe of the city seems fantastic, with such a diversity of activities to do, animals to see, and history to learn!

  25. My favorite part about reading blogs is learning things I didn’t even know enough to ask about. For a long time, raj was only a word I used in scrabble. Only recently, have I learned the difference between Old Delhi and New Delhi and that there is a real Red Fort in Delhi. Now, I am starting to learn the offbeat things as well. Thank you so much for sharing.

  26. Delhi is ‘Dil’ of India and from your blog it looks so rich in history from centuries and centuries. I liked the description of sufism which rarely people talks about it. You mentioned it so beautifully with the pictures. I have seen famous places of Delhi but some places which are mentioned in your place are unknown to me. Thanks you updated our knowledge.

  27. This is a cool list of alternatives to do in Delhi. We are a family of three and enjoy to walk around a lot and so we can incorporate these fun and interesting things to do into our visit to the capital

  28. Man Vs Globe

    cool list of more off beat gems. I am thinking of visiting Dehli next year and have been looking for what there is to do in the city, this list is a little different from all the others that i’ve read so thank you!

  29. This is very interesting! I thought Delhi is just full of crowded places only. You have featured beautiful historic sites. I am sure that a lot of tourists are also eager to see these. I did not expect that there are wildlife tours in Delhi too. I’d like to visit Delhi someday.

    Iza c/o Kathy James (Walk About Wanderer)

  30. Pingback: The Tourists’ Guide to Surviving Delhi | The Travelling Slacker

  31. India is definitely on our radar, but it’s probably just a little way off at the moment. In the meantime, I enjoy reading articles about it and articles such as this which goes into a little bit more detail about some of the lesser known things to check out. I particularly love the markets so would be including those. I’d be interested to hear of more of your thoughts around the food markets as I think food is one of the areas of Indian travel that potentially gets a bad wrap but then there is also not a lot of detail around eating like a true local either.

  32. This is such a comprehensive guide and so well written. I love that you just taught me so much more about Delhi than I knew. I think Jahanpanah would definitely be somewhere that would be top of my list of all of the places you mention. As an Australian, seeing something built in the 14th century is always so incredible in terms of history. It looks so interesting.

  33. Never been to the capital. You have covered the most off beat locations in Delhi. Loved the post.

  34. Thank you for showing this side of Delhi. I love the stunning architecture all around the city. I like how you shared so many offbeat things to do for those who are not familiar with Delhi.

  35. We are yet to visit India, but I really enjoyed getting some ideas from your post! Madhi Masjid looks really beautiful, and I can imagine losing time from gazing at the intricate walls and ceilings. I’d also really enjoy visiting the historic gardens and admiring the hidden monuments within. Thanks for the inspiration!

  36. Delhi is on my list, sadly it has been on my want to go list for way too long. Thank you for this guide of must sees, such beautiful buildings to be discovered. The weekly flee market has my name on it, and the jungles! So much to see and do.

  37. It’s really nice to hear about parts of Delhi that aren’t the Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Lutyen’s Delhi and the Old Delhi. Don’t get me wrong, I plan to visit these places too, though they seem to be the only thing anyone ever talks about. I love that you made the effort to discover parts of Delhi which aren’t in the guide books.

    Really interesting to hear that Mehrauli is older than old delhi. The monuments here look quite fascinating. Also really interesting to read about the mutiny of 1857 – you’re right, we only ever really hear love stories and legends from India, though I have no idea about the uprising that ended the Mughal Dynasty. bullet marks on the gate and the walls from 160 years ago – crazy! The jungles, flea markets and Night Photography at the Bhagirath Palace Lights Market sound like great attractions also.

    Thanks for the list!

  38. I do NOT “have the stomach for the grotesque and the tragic” but exploring the trails of the mutiny of 1857 sounds like an incredible history lesson. I have an affinity for all things history related and if it’s accompanied by ancient ruins, all the better. I think I would start my time in Delhi by seeing some of the wonderful architecture then explore the trails and follow that with something light and fun like the weekly markets. Specifically, the Sunday bazaar near Jama Masjid in Old Delhi looks like it has a lot to offer and I could find some fantastic souvenirs to take home. These are all wonderful suggestions on what to do in Delhi!

  39. This is exactly the post that I am looking for. I always wanted to try out the unexplored or lesser known parts of Delhi but was at a loss of how to find them all. I have bookmarked this post for the very reason. I am going to take one per trip and explore it each time I head to Delhi. Thank you so much for this .

  40. A very useful and informative post, and also the pictures are so beautiful. My love for Delhi and wish to visit the city increases after seeing this.

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  43. Every time I go to some of this places the thought comes in my mind that some of the places are so so old but still the same. A great salute to the architects of that time.

  44. Pingback: 40 Most Unexplored Places in India: The Hidden Wonders of Atulya Bharat | The Travelling Slacker

  45. “Great read” ,this is a most important list for every travel blogger!s When you travel live freely and enjoy every moment of journey-:)

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