If I mentioned that I was going to Agra I am sure that the only place that comes to mind immediately will be the Taj Mahal. I soon discovered that there are quite a number of tourist attractions in Agra that I never knew about. I did not, however, allow a great deal of time when I planned my trip to do them justice. My visits were a bit of a whirlwind and that’s why I decided to write about them so that you could plan your visit better than I did.
The Main Tourist Attractions in Agra
I don’t think that I can put into words the affect seeing the Taj Mahal had on me. As I approached the entrance, there it was majestic and perfectly framed by the arch. It was a surreal moment for me as I saw the vision of shimmering white marble. I found it difficult to accept the fact that I was actually seeing this magnificent monument. I don’t normally react in this way, but the Taj left me speechless. Up close it was so much bigger than I expected.
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan as a symbol of love, in memory of his wife. The dome is 73 m high and the entire building is made of beautiful white marble. Time has taken its toll on the building. Pollution and acid rains have caused the building to start changing and yellowing in colour, however restoration work in being undertaken. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts around 8 million tourists a year. It wasn’t particularly busy on Christmas day so it was a pleasure to visit.
Best views for those Insta moments
- The most obvious one is as you come through the entrance
- For another great view, especially at sunset, go to Mehtab Bagh, across the Yamuna River. In a way, it feels like a more personal experience because you are away from the crowds.
- The south bank of the river rarely has many tourists around and you can have the Taj all to yourself.
- From the Royal Pavilion at the Agra Fort
- The rooftop of café Taj Ganj.
Mehtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden) was built by Emperor Babur opposite the Taj Mahal in the early 1500’s. Its crescent shape was designed specifically for the best views of the Taj Mahal. The original design was a Persian-style layout with four parts, but floods at the beginning of the 1900’s destroyed most of it. It is currently being restored to its former glory.
The gardens are open from sunrise to sunset.
Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah
The Itmad-ud-Daula, or “Baby Taj”, was built before the Taj Mahal. This was the first monument built by the Mughals to be built completely out of white marble instead of the usual red sandstone. It is an elaborate building with intricate latticework, inlaid stone and 13 metre hexagonal towers on each of the corners.
There are also gorgeous gardens that surround it and if you have the time, unlike me, it would be an ideal place to relax and absorb the surroundings.
The ear-shaped fort was built for military use by Emperor Akbar between 1565 and1573. It was later turned into a palace by his grandson Shah Jahan, who was imprisoned by his son who usurped the throne.
As you approach the fort it towers above you, an impressive sight. The double walls are 20 m high and 2.5 km in circumference. I found myself thinking that if I had any thought of attacking the fort I would change my plans. It looked quite impenetrable to me. In fact, the gate that you enter through, the Amar Singh gate, has a dog-leg design to confuse any would-be attackers that made it past the crocodile-infested moat.
One of my favourite places in the fort was the Royal Pavilions with their filigree windows and the gorgeous view of the Taj Mahal.
Like most towns in India, in the narrow streets, behind the Jama Masjid you will find a bazaar. I love exploring markets wherever I go so I had to spend some time wandering through these colourful and chaotic lanes. It’s a good place to hunt down souvenirs, especially inlaid marble items. I also saw beautifully embroidered items, leather goods and of course a spice market.
I can highly recommend the Kashmiri chilli, which has now become a staple in my home. I have to hunt it down wherever I travel to make sure that I don’t run out. It has a gorgeous deep red colour that gives the food a rich, luscious appearance. Oh, the depth of flavour is fabulous as well.
Trying the local street food is always on my agenda and Agra was no different. I discovered a part of the Sadar Bazaar called chaat gali, or snack street. There is a huge selection to tempt your taste buds, but I headed straight for the samosas which were divine.
If you don’t like the idea of street food there are many restaurants to choose from in the main part of town.
Although this is not strictly in Agra I highly recommend a visit to this magnificent, ancient walled city. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage listed monument. You can visit it as a day trip from Agra or if you are coming from Delhi, as I did, stop on the way.
Emperor Akbar visited the village of Sikri to consult a Sufi. He predicted the birth of an heir for the throne. When the prophecy came true Fatehpur Sikri became Emperor Akbar’s capital city between 1571 and 1585.
He built three places for each of his favourite wives and a mosque which is still in use today. The architecture is stunning and it is one of the best-preserved examples of Indo – Islamic architecture in India.
The city fell into decline due to lack of water and everyone moved to Agra, 40 km away.
When to visit
The best time to visit Agra is naturally in the height of the tourist season from early November to February. It is advisable to book your accommodation well in advance otherwise you might be left with a hefty bill.
These are the tourist attractions in Agra that I discovered while I was there. Have I missed anything obvious? I hope not!
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