Home to one of the 7 wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, Agra is a sneak peek into the architectural history with other structures such as Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri and hence makes for a must visit for anyone living in or visiting India.
When you talk about Agra, one thing has to stand out - yes, the Taj Mahal. Agra is host to the only one of the Seven Wonders of the World in India, Taj Mahal, which makes the whole country proud. But that's not the only thing Agra has to boast of. Agra has three UNESCO World Heritage sites and Taj Mahal features in the 50 most popular tourist destinations in the world. History, architecture, romance all together create the magic of Agra which is almost the lifeline of Indian tourism. History fanatics as well as architecture buffs can have a ball here with the sheer expanse of the Mughal art and culture on display. Apart from its monuments, the city also has some exciting stuff for foodies - including the famous Agra ka Petha and amazing chaat and Lassi.
There is no shortage of accommodation options in Agra, no matter what your budget.
If you want a luxurious experiences, you would find some of the finest hotels in the world in Agra. The area near Taj Mahal is dotted with numerous five star hotels, some of them designed with traditional Indian architecture, making them look like an old palace or haveli from the days of the Mughals. Others are ultra-modern hotels with state of the art facilities and luxuries. The Oberoi Amarvilas is one of the famous 5-star hotels in Agra - for 40,000 INR a night, you get to have a moonlit view of the Taj from your room's balcony. Despite the high price tag, most of the rooms at these hotels are booked in advance.
But if you don't want to spend so much on your stay, fret not - Agra has numerous hotels in all budget categories. Tajganj is an area near the Taj Mahal where tourists typically find it convenient to stay, specially if you are planning to visit Taj early morning. There are also a few hostels in Agra - Zostel being the most popular one and the one most conveniently located.
If you are visiting during the peak season, booking in advance is recommended, however during the off-season you can easily just reach Agra and find a room in Tajganj.
The epicenter of Indian culture. Well connected by rail, road, and air. Can be visited almost throughout the year.
Congested in peak seasons, and quite polluted. Might be risky for respiratory patients.
Apart from the evergreen Taj Mahal, this is ideal for all history zealots, whether from archaeology, or culture, or even literature. Also, ideal for the foodies, owing to the vibrant cuisine of the city.
Whether you love the spicy chaats or you have a sweet tooth, Agra never ceases to fascinate. Petha, a soft candy made from ash gourd is almost synonymous to Agra's cuisine and is a specialty which you just cannot miss. There are various new flavors and innovative presentations of this ever popular sweet dish from Agra. Panchi petha is the most popular shop in Agra, and there are so many of these that you won't even have to think where to get it from.
Another equally delicious item is the Chaat here. Agra has varieties of Chaat available including Aloo Tikki, Pani Puri, Papri Chaat, Samosa, Kachori etc all over the city. Another popular snack here is Dalmoth, which is a spicy lentil mix. The cuisine of the town also offers countless North-Indian and Punjabi relishes with a distinct influence of Mughlai cuisine.
Getting around the city can be done in tongas, electric buses, and tempo. There are also auto rickshaws and state buses. Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort are quite close to each other, and if it's not too sunny you can just walk between the two. Otherwise, there are a lot of autos and battery-powered rickshaws plying between the two major monuments which charge a minimal amount.
Day 1 - Arrive at Agra Check into your hotel and either rest or Freshen up. Later on in the evening, you can go shopping at the Sadar Bazaar. Apart from the shopping, you should also go for the shops that bear the exquisite designs of the craft of Pietra Dura. Day 2 - Begin your city tour with the world famous Taj Mahal. Except for Friday, when it is reserved for Muslims, you should visit the place, especially in early morning, if possible. Once you're done with Taj Mahal, go for the Agra Fort, which is a 20-minute drive from here. Day 3 - This day, you can visit Fatehpur Sikri, the capital of Akbar the Great during the 16th century. Before heading back, if you have some time, do visit the tomb of Itimad
Who doesn't know about the 'Taj Nagri'? The city, known first in historical sources as Agrevana, or 'The Border of the Forest', is famous for the epitome of love, and one of the 'Seven Wonders of the World' i.e. Taj Mahal. The charm of the medieval architecture, which can be noticed even from the top of the Agra Fort, makes it the ultimate destination for travel enthusiasts the world over. Apart from Taj Mahal, this city is also popular for Itimad Ud Daulah's tomb, the famous Agra Fort, and the capital city of Akbar the Great, i.e. Fatehpur Sikri. Apart from being a tourist hotspot, Agra is also famous for its art and crafts industry, which includes the royal craft Pietra Dura, marble inlay and carpets.
A place that makes you fall in love with it every time you visit. Do visit early in the morning around sunrise or if u r lucky visit on a full moon night (ticket cost 510 for night viewing). Huge rush for night viewing. Head to deviram sweets after the visit for sumptuous breakfast of puri sabzi and jalebi.
Agra Development Authority (ADA) charges admission fees which covers Taj Mahal and other monuments such as the Agra Fort. Do not forget to carry the ticket in order to avoid repaying the fare.
Be careful while hiring a guide. A lot of times the guides you see at Taj Mahal or Agra Fort will offer their services and scam you.
A must visit place to witness the grandeur of buland darwaza. Do hire a guide to get the complete story. You can visit the dargah of salim chishti and offer your prayers in form of a "chadar" and flowers, if you are into it. The place is mesmerising.
Don't go overboard on the chaat spree. Ensure level of hygiene before you eat.
By Rohit Shroff
How long does it take to reach Agra from Delhi via the expressway?