There’s one question that all travellers to India hear when they head back to their home country: “Did you see the Taj Mahal?”
Agra’s main attraction is by far one of the most recognized, visited and celebrated sites in the world. It has beauty etched so deep within its foundations that it’s still glowing 350 years after it was built.
Though this iconic site sits on the bucket list of many world travellers, most visitors take just about half a day wandering around its grounds, absorbing in its gometric gardens, mirroring minarets and intricate inscriptions inlaid into the Taj Mahal’s façade. Having done that, what else does Agra offer after you have finished touring the Taj? India’s top tourist city has more than just one attraction to entertain and inspire its visitors from near and far.
Visit the other two UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The Agra Fort: Built in the mid 16th century, this fort-turned-palace is a grandiose site. Home to the beautiful Pearl Mosque and Mirrored Palace; this complex is another of Agra’s iconic sites.
Fatehpur Sikri: A city founded by Mughal Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri (located ahort drive away from Agra) served as the capital of the Mughal empire for over ten years. Another UNESCO site, this complex is famous for its architectural splendour and its amazing gates, mosque, private hall and tombs located inside the grounds.
Explore the devotional side of the city
Alongside its number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Agra is also home to some amazing tombs, monuments and religious structures as well. Both I'timād-ud-Daulah and Akbar’s Tomb are two beautiful pieces of architecture and monuments of devotion within Agra, with the former being so beautiful it is nicknamed the ‘Baby Taj’. Three notable religious complexes to visit are the Jama Masjid and Moti Masjid, as well as the Hindu temple of Mankameshwar.
Agra’s beautiful landscapes
Agra is not only known for its plethora of breathtaking architecture, but also for its beautiful layout of gardens and lakes as well. On arriving to the city, visitors will immediately recognize the more clean and “green” feel of Agra compared to other major Indian cities. The Mehtab Bagh, or Moonlight Garden, is one of the most famous garden complexes in the city, located right near the Taj Mahal with origins dating back to the Mughal emperor Babur. Only a short distance away from this is another natural beauty, the Keetham Lake. Known specifically for its aquatic wildlife, this Nature Reserve Lake helps add to Agra’s historic beauty.
When is the best time to visit Agra?
With four distinct seasons to choose from, the best time to visit is during the autumn and winter season(October-February). Though temperatures can be a bit low, you will be battling neither extreme heat nor rains.
How can one reach Agra?
Agra is a part of the well-known Golden Triangle in India along with Jaipur and Delhi and therefore getting here is fairly easy. Here's how:
By Air: Flight connections are easily available from Delhi to Agra. Flights take only 30 minutes and are quite affordable as well as comfortable. The closest airport to the city is the Kheria airport. The city center is 6 kilometers from the airport.
By Train: There are several good trains running to Agra from New Delhi such as the Inter-City Express, Taj Express and Shatabdi Express that only take around 3 hours for the journey.
By Road: Agra is also very well connected to many major cities in India through the National and Express Highways. Air-conditioned, comfortable bus services are available to the city from Jhansi, Gwalior, Lucknow, Jaipur and Delhi. Taxi services are also easily available and an efficient way of travelling between Delhi and Agra.
Navigating the city
Very few areas of Agra are pedestrian friendly, like the Mall Road where you will find plenty of handicraft stores, souvenir shops and restaurants. The best way to get around is by motorable transport; auto rickshaws are also an exciting way to get around the city because they are easily available and quite convenient. However, it is important to agree on the price before you get in the rickshaw to avoid paying a steep fare later.
With so many sights within and around this iconic Indian destination, travellers should not have a hard time keeping busy. However, being such a historic and multi-faceted destination, it is beneficial to travel around Agra under the guidance of a knowledgeable Agra tour guide. After all, whether you’re interested in history, culture, architecture, food or even shopping, Agra has it all.
Credits: Agra,Taj Mahal by Arian Zwegers CC BY ; Taj Mahal Agra by solarisgirl CC BY-SA ; Agra Fort by Matthias Rosenkranz CC BY-SA ; Fatehpur Sikri by Arian Zwegers CC BY ; Itimad-ud-Daulah 16 by Sanyam Bahga CC BY-SA ; Garden of Agra Fort by Connie Ma, CC BY-SA 2.0