Sunder Nursery, Delhi – from ruins to the biggest heritage park of Delhi

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In this post you’ll read why Sunder Nursery is the best place to hangout with friends or family over a weekend. Also, know more about its history, incredible sustainable development story, and everything you need to know before planning a visit to this 90-acre heritage park of Delhi.

Sunder Nursery, Delhi's Heritage Park

One positive change that pandemic brought in me was that instead of socialising at indoor restaurants, bars, cinema halls or other enclosed spaces, I started hanging out at outdoor places near me. Thankfully, Delhi has many open spaces and public parks such as Lodhi Garden, Nehru Park, Deer Park, and many more. Despite visiting the adjoining Humayun Tomb in Nizamuddin several times, I had remained mainly unaware about Delhi’s biggest secret – Sunder Nursery – that is touted as Delhi’s Central Park. Its revival story is as remarkable as its five centuries-old histories. Thanks to the incredible sustainable restoration work done by The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in collaboration with the CPWD and SDMC, this urban oasis has risen from ruins to become the green lungs of Delhi. A decade of painstaking restoration work has resulted in a 90-acre biodiversity park dotted with 20 historical monuments, 300 tree species, 80 bird species, 40 butterfly species, two amphitheatres, a bonsai enclosure, a peafowl zone and plenty more.

In this blog post, I’ll share why Sunder Nursery Delhi is a perfect template for sustainable development of a city while taking care of the environmental and heritage. Find out why it is a must-visit park for families, friends, couples, fitness enthusiasts, social media influencers, nature and photography lovers. But first, let’s turn the history pages and understand why and how Sunder Nursery was established. 

History of Sunder Nursery

A site of three Delhi Durbars (Mughals, British and Indian), Sunder Nursery was used and abused by all for five centuries. Built by the Mughals in the 16th century, the park was initially known as Azim Bagh. But as the power changed hands in Delhi, so did the name and purpose of Azim Bagh.

The area lay in a sorry state until the British decided to shift their capital from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911. Alick Percy Lancaster, the last British horticulturist in India, revived the Sunder Nursery in Delhi, to experiment with the imported trees that would later be planted along New Delhi’s avenues. That’s how it got designated as a ‘Nursery’. The “Sunder” part of the name comes from the ‘Sunder Burj’ tomb located on the same premises.

In the 1940s, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) acquired the nursery and continued to use it for field trials of different plants and tree species. After Lying in disrepair for decades, in 2007 Agha Khan Trust started the ten years of extensive restoration work. Sunder Nursery, now a heritage park, was opened for people to visit in 2018. Till date the restoration work is ongoing, and every year a few finishing touches are added.

Agha Khan Trust started the ten years of extensive restoration work of Sunder Nursery, Delhi
Agha Khan Trust started the ten years of extensive restoration work of Sunder Nursery, Delhi

The park is a great case study of the miraculous transformation of a barren dumping ground to Delhi’s new landscaping wonder and heritage park. In 2008 it earned a spot on Time magazine’s top-100 places to visit. And, started winning international awards including the 2020 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation and 2020 UNESCO Special Recognition for Sustainable Development

Here’s a video about my experience in Sunder Nursery

Attractions – What to see in Sunder Nursery

Heritage Monuments

There are 20 historical monuments (more than double of Lodhi Garden). Six UNESCO World Heritage sites are a part of this historical complex – the Sunder Burj, Lakkarwala Burj, Sunderwala Mahal, Mirza Muzaffar Hussain’s Tomb, Batashewala Mahal and an unknown Mughal Tomb.

Sunderwala Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site at Sunder Nursery Delhi
Sunderwala Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site at Sunder Nursery Delhi

Almost 100 meters away from the main entry stands Sunder Burj, a 16th-century tomb with star-shaped patterns on the roof and intricate inscriptions on its walls. 

On the other side of Sunder Burj lies the 500-meter-long water canal (similar to the Taj Mahal at Agra). This Persian style Central Vista of the park is adorned with full Mughal regalia – ten handcrafted lotus-shaped marble fountains, gorgeous star-shaped flowerbeds, and sandstone benches.

Central Vista uniquely follows the path of the 16th century Grand Trunk Road, so you are literally walking down the course of history here.
Central Vista uniquely follows the path of the 16th century Grand Trunk Road, so you are literally walking down the course of history here.

Walk farther down, and you’ll come face-to-face with a large 17th century Mughal Lotus pond and another magnificent red sandstone monument – Lakkarwala Burj.  The 16th-century monument is surrounded by a rose garden, home to 30 varieties of gorgeous flowers assembled from different parts of the world. 

Lakkarwala Burj, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site at Sunder Nursery, Delhi
Lakkarwala Burj, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site at Sunder Nursery, Delhi
Lakkarwala Burj, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site at Sunder Nursery, Delhi
Lakkarwala Burj, Sunder Nursery, Delhi

Besides the above monuments, there are many more in the area such as Sunderwala Mahal, Mirza Muzaffar Hussain’s Tomb, and Batashewala Mahal. The last one is in a dilapidated stage, and very few visitors venture on this side of the park, but it is very calm and an excellent place for birding, especially during morning or evening hours. 

Mirza Muzaffar Hussain’s Tomb at Sunder Nursery, Delhi
Mirza Muzaffar Hussain’s Tomb at Sunder Nursery, Delhi
Bateshwala Mahal, Sunder Nursery, Delhi
Bateshwala Mahal, Sunder Nursery, Delhi

Flora and Fauna

While heritage monuments lie scattered in the Sunder Nursery, it also showcases a rich collection of tropical flora and fauna. Home to over 300 species of trees, Sunder Nursery, is Delhi’s first arboretum with some rare trees such as a Pink Cedar, the only one in Delhi. Additionally, the garden has 20,000 saplings, 4,200 trees and 20 acres of nursery beds. As a result, 40 butterfly species and 80 bird species have made this their new home.

80 different species of birds can be found in Sunder Nursery
80 different species of birds can be found in Sunder Nursery

Activities – What to do in Sunder Nursery

Sunder Nursery has become a go-to place for families, friends, botany enthusiasts, bird watchers to social media influencers. Indeed it has emerged as Delhi’s paradise after the pandemic. You can do a lot – from strolling around the beautifully manicured parks to playing frisbee on soft carpet grass. You can even cycle or walk your dogs on the designated trails. The sprawling gardens are perfect for practising your lockdown yoga routines or merely lying down with a book. You can admire the Mughal-era tombs and picnic around the romantic lakes and monuments. Nature lovers can purchase plants from thriving government-run nursery or buy products from its weekend organic market. Weekend markets at Sunder Nursery offer everything from seasonal produce to artisanal products.

The sprawling gardens of Sunder Nursery are perfect for picnics in Delhi
The sprawling gardens of Sunder Nursery are perfect for picnics in Delhi

Being a photographer, I love Sunder Nursery for the photography opportunities it provides. I could capture the vivid colours and minutest details of lakes, water bodies, monuments, birds, different landscapes and portraits with my Panasonic Lumix S5 camera.

Tips to having a great time in Sunder Nursery

How to reach Sunder Nursery

The location of Sundar Nursery is adjacent to Humayun Tomb and Nizamuddin Basti. Therefore reaching here is very convenient as the transportation facility is available from every corner of Delhi. If you are coming by your conveyance, then don’t worry about the parking. There’s enough paid parking on both sides of the park. If you are using the metro, then the nearest metro stations to sunder Nursery is Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium metro station (violet line) and Indraprastha Metro station (pink line).

Sunder Nursery Timings: open daily

April – September: 7am to 7pm (last entry at 6.30 pm)

October – March: 7am to 6pm (last entry at 5.30 pm)

Sunder Nursery entry Fees 

For Indian/ SAARC visitors – Rs. 35

For Foreign Tourists – Rs. 100

For Children between the ages of 5-12 years – Rs.15

For Senior Citizens, above the age of 60 years – Rs.15

Children under 5 years – Free Entry

Physically Challenged Visitors – Free Entry

The wheelchair is also available in case anyone needs it, which is free of cost.

Places to eat at Sunder Nursery

While I highly recommend carrying your picnic baskets, there are enough options to buy food. You can choose the healthy food options at Fab Cafe, the Fabindia chain’s offering built around the concept of conscious eating, with no refined sugars or oils. You can either sit and eat in the café or carry an eco-friendly meal to sit and enjoy anywhere in the massive park. Fab Café is definitely among the best outdoor cafes in Delhi for brunch, if not among the best food places in Delhi.

Fab Café at Sunder Nursery is definitely among the best outdoor cafes in Delhi for brunch
Fab Café at Sunder Nursery is definitely among the best outdoor cafes in Delhi for brunch

There are also food kiosks or weekend organic markets where you can buy snacks, drinks or freshly prepared food items.

Places to visit near Sunder Nursery

You can spend some time in the adjoining Humayun Tomb or enjoy a Thursday Qawwali session at nearby Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah. If you have more time in hand, visit Millennium Park Delhi, National Zoological Park, Purana Qila, National Science Centre, National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum, National Gallery of Modern Art, Rashtrapati Bhawan or India Gate.

Humayun Tomb is great place to explore near Sunder Nursery in Delhi
Humayun Tomb is great place to explore near Sunder Nursery in Delhi

Have you visited the Sunder Nursery? If you have or planning to, please share your experiences with us in the comment section below. 

Further Reading

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19 Comments

  • Brianne says:

    Sunder Nursery is so beautiful! They did such an amazing job with the area. Those gardens and buildings are just gorgeous.

  • Colleen says:

    That is beyond beautiful. The flowers, grounds, buildings, and water features are all so lovely. I’d love to tour it one day.

  • Steven Morrissette says:

    Would love to visit Sunder Nursery it looks amazing. Your pictures are gorgeous.

  • Emily Fata says:

    Oh my, I would love to be able to travel here myself, one of these days! It looks like it’s quite the experience.

  • Matt Taylor says:

    Wow, that park looks absolutely amazing! I would love to visit India someday, and especially this park!!

  • Krista says:

    I’ve never heard of this location before so I loved reading about the history behind it. It looks like the perfect area to spend a day walking around and taking photos. I’ll add this to my list for when I make it to India!

  • Marysa says:

    What a beautiful place to visit! I love visiting parks and green spaces like this. How wonderful that ruins were fixed to create something so positive.

  • Donna Emperador says:

    Interesting article. Beautiful buildings and scenery. I think this past year we all have started exploring more of the outdoors.

  • Ebony says:

    Delhi’s Central Park looks beautiful! I would love to visit here one day! Adding your informative post to my Pinterest for future travel plans. Stay safe!

  • Carrie Ann says:

    Sunder Nursery looks like a must-see location for visitors to Delhi. I enjoyed reading about its history, and I’m glad that it’s continuing to be restored and improved. I’ll definitely take a trip there if I’m ever in the Delhi area!

  • Christine Weis says:

    These photos are amazing! They truly show the beauty and sites of Sunder Nursery. I’d love to visit this place one day!

  • Nkem says:

    Wow, Sunder Nursery is GORGEOUS! If I’m ever in Delhi, I will have to visit.

  • Ntensibe Edgar says:

    I haven’t been here before. I would so much love to and get to hear the story of how they came to be, from a state of complete ruin!

  • Umiko says:

    When I heard the word nursery what came in mind are plants. But this nursery has more than that. The historical monuments found in this nursery are absolutely an added value to this Delhi’s Central Park. Great local find.

  • Meg Drysdale says:

    Wow! This post is incredible. I have to put this on my bucket list now – thank you for sharing! Will definitely be keeping this post close by and read over again when I begin to plan my visit.

  • Shreya Saha says:

    Haven’t heard of Sunder Nursery. This looks really pretty. Next time I am in the capital of the country, I am surely paying this place a visit. I am already sold!

  • Carol Colborn says:

    What a gem! But I would like to know if the 20 historical monuments were originally there or were restored to the Sunder Nursery!

  • VIPIN SAINI says:

    What an amazing read. You are a really great photographer. I love all these beautiful photographs. Never heard of this awesome place before. I will definitely visit it on this weekend.

  • Ivan+M.+Jose says:

    What an incredible place! I wish to visit this place when the pandemic is over,

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