Since time immemorial, Agra has been India’s tourist hotspot. No prizes for guessing Agra’s prime possession. It is the Taj Mahal. Considered to be the “Symbol of Love”, Taj Mahal has been mesmerizing travelers right from the 17th have a distinct Mughal touch. As most of us are familiar with the Taj Mahal, this blog also covers some little known places of interest in and around Agra.
Agra, in itself, is a major city and has an airport of its own. It is also well connected with the rest of the country through rail as it falls in the Central line. However, most of the tourists visiting Agra, start their journey from Delhi; especially foreign tourists. Delhi is a little under 250Kms from Agra and one can reach Agra in less than 4hrs even after some pit-stops en route. There are two routes which are frequented by travelers between Delhi and Agra:
- National Highway 2: This is the old road which connects Delhi to Agra via Faridabad.
- Yamuna Expressway: This is the new cement-concrete road between Delhi and Agra.
Though the Yamuna Expressway is a more modern road and is ideal to rev the engine of your
vehicles, the old NH2 road is recommended. There are a couple of reasons for this recommendation.
The NH2 has restaurants and the local dhabas along the way, unlike the Yamuna Expressway. The other reason is the numerous tire bursts encountered by commuters on the Expressway due to the cement road. One can find servicing stations on the NH2 but not on the Expressway. Now, regarding the ideal time to start the journey – anytime during the day is fine, according to your itinerary.
The drive from Delhi to Agra is very smooth, but hey, when you are in India, you are bound to run into some occasional traffic-jams. There are many restaurants where one can have a quick bite and even a sumptuous lunch. Apart from the road-side dhabas, Maharaja Motel and Country Inn are a few hygienic restaurants located at Kosi Kalan which also dish out some delectable items. Then there is a McDonald’s outlet near Mathura refinery. By now, you can be assured that finding places to eat on the NH2 is child’s play.
Agra has a varied range of hotels to offer. If you don’t mind going heavy on your pocket, there are some grand hotels in Agra which can pamper you with the choicest of amenities. The Oberoi Amarvilas and Trident are some of the luxury hotels in Agra. Hotel Sheela is a budget hotel, which offers decent rooms and services at nominal rates. The best part about this hotel is its proximity to the Taj Mahal.
The best time to visit the Taj Mahal would be as early as possible in the morning. The gates are opened at 6:00 AM and on weekdays the number of tourists at that time of the day is very less. The crowds begin to swell once it is 9:00 AM. Bear in mind that the security arrangements are stringent at the Taj Mahal. So, except your cameras, the rest of the electronic goods are not allowed to be carried inside.
The beauty of visiting The Taj early in the morning is the lovely shades that the Sun paints the monument in. As the Sun rises, the white marble gleams in different colors. One can only wonder at the craftsmanship and planning which went into creating the entire complex, along with the symmetry maintained at different places. The painstaking efforts of the artisans can be viewed century.
Agra is full of many forts and mausoleums which on the pishtaqs and cenotaphs of The Taj, where verses from the Quran have been expertly carved. Then there is the famous “Lady Di’s Bench”. Many world famous personalities have been photographed seated on this bench, which gives a perfect picture of The Taj in the backdrop. Let your heart be content with absorbing the love and grandeur surrounding the Taj Mahal and only then, step out of the Taj Mahal complex.
After being bowled over by the magnificence of the Taj Mahal, your next stop would be the Agra Fort. This 16th of red sandstone and one can only imagine the effort taken to construct this 97-acre complex.
There is the Musamman Burj – where it is considered that Shah Jahan spent the last few years of his life. Musamman Burj is a watchtower from where the Taj Mahal can be viewed and it is very well decorated with intricate designs and carvings.
Next is the Khas Mahal. This white marble marvel also consists of a lot of decorative work both on the marble and mosaic. Don’t forget to observe the optical illusion of the Taj Mahal from atop the Khas Mahal.
A little away from Agra Fort is the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula. This mausoleum is considered by many to be the rough sketch of the Taj Mahal. The main mausoleum does resemble The Taj in its outline but there are a host of other monuments and elegant walkways.
Your next stop would be Fatehpur Sikri. Even though the place is 50Kms away from the Taj. You can browse www.stylebuzzer.com to get more information about it.
Mahal, make it a point to visit Fatehpur Sikri as it is a massive complex which houses some more architectural marvels of the Mughals. A massive gate called the Buland Darwaza greets you at the entrance of Fatehpur Sikri.
Then there are the Diwan-i-Aam and Diwan-i-Khas. It is at these large halls that Akbar used to listen to the grievances of the general public and also used to indulge in discussions. Panch Mahal is a 5-storied building which used to serve as Akbar’s entertainment quarters.
Agra is laden with mesmerizing architecture. If you have time at your disposal, do visit Jahangir Mahal, Ram Bagh, Lower Haramsara and Anguri Bagh. An ideal trip to Agra would stretch over 2 days.
- The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays and the place is crowded on weekends. It is best to visit on a weekday.
- Hiring a trusted car rental company would ensure a seamless Delhi to Agra taxi trip as there are many places to be seen and it could get a little confusing for the average traveler. Hiring a reputable company like BookCab, MakeMyTrip and ClearCarRental will save you tons of hassles that hiring a not-that-reputable company would present you.
- Avoid night travel. An early start from Delhi at 6 am will help you escape the mad city traffic.
- Most of the places of interest in Agra are mausoleums. So you will be asked to walk barefoot. However, you will be provided with shoe-covers at The Taj.
- Don’t miss out to try the “Agra Petha”. It is a juicy sweet made out of the ash gourd vegetable.