Explore Agra : Taj Mahal and beyond

Agra, the city of Taj, the most popular tourist destination in India. If you are traveling to India, visiting Taj Mahal is probably the first thing on your list and rightly so. It is the most beautiful monument in the world. Considered one of the seven wonders of modern world, the Taj lives up to all the expectations. However, in the rush to see the Taj, tourists often forget that Agra is a historical city , and offers a lot more worth exploring. Once the capital of India this city is home to many other historical sites that you must visit when you are in Agra. Rather than taking  a day trip from Delhi to Agra, we recommend spending 2-3 days in this city. Listed below are our favourite sites worth seeing when in Agra.

1. Visit the Taj Mahal

 Of course, if you can only see one thing in Agra it has to be the Taj Mahal.The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite and beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. While the main white marble structure houses the tomb of both the Badshah and his wife, the surrounding red sandstone building in the complex are tombs of his other wives, and Mumtaz Mahal’s favourite servant. No matter how many pictures you have seen, and how much you have heard, looking at the Taj for the first time will leave you awestruck. To make the most of your Taj trip read our blog on “How to perfectly plan your visit to the Taj Mahal

2. Take a guided tour of the Agra Fort

 Agra Fort is a historical red sandstone fort which was constructed during the reign of Akbar in the mid 15th century and remained the residence of Mughal Emperors until the capital of the Empire was moved to Delhi in late 16th century. This grand fort spread over an area of 94 acres deserves at least half a day of your time. The grandeur and beauty of this fort is comparable to the palaces of Rajasthan. The beautiful halls of Mughal darbar and the intricate mirror work of Sheesh mahal ( mirror palace) are bound to leave you impressed. You can also see the room where Shah Jahan was held a prisoner, the room offers a lovely view of Taj and it is said that Shah Jahan spent last days of his life admiring his creation from this very corner of the Agra fort.

We strongly recommend hiring a guide as learning the history behind the beautiful architecture will make your trip much more memorable.

3. Take a day trip to Fatehpur Sikri

By Marcin Białek - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Fatehpur Sikri is a small walled town just west of Agra established by the greatest of all Mughal Emperors, Akbar. The walled town houses the Jama Masjid, the Dargah of Salim Chisti, The famous Buland Darwaza, and the Panch Mahal. Each of these sites are short distance from each other and you can easily cover them all in a single day trip to Fatehpur

The Dargah of Salim Chisti is a white marble tomb located inside the Jama Masjid quadrangle. The jali work (delicate marble screens) around the dargah building is an exceptional example of fine craftsmanship.

The Buland Darwaza (Gate of Victory) was constructed by Akbar to commemorate his victory over the state of Gujarat. Constructed with red sandstone and white marble it is a grand entrance to the city of fatehpur sikri.

The Panch Mahal is this beautiful five story palace which was used as a venue to host entertainers and performers for the mughal royals. An all columnar structure with no walls, this palace is nothing like any other mughal construction of the time and is often considered to be inspired by buddhist monuments.

Interesting Fact: Several bollywood movies such as Pardes, Jodha Akbar were shot here. So, must visit to recreate your Pardes moment.

4. Visit Sikandara the tomb of Akbar

The tomb of Akbar, built by his son Jahangir is situated in Sikandra, Agra. While not as grand as Humayun’s tomb in delhi, it is still quite an exquisite example of Islamic architecture. The symmetry and proportions of the building, and the beautiful geometrical patterns carved with white marble in red stone, signature of islamic architecture of the time, are all to be found in this underrated monument.

5. Visit the Baby Taj Mahal

Itmad ud Daulah is the tomb of Itmad Ud Sheikh, father of Mughal queen NoorJahan. Noor Jahan presided the construction of this tomb herself. The beautiful white marble building is considered to be the first Mughal architecture made almost entirely of white marble, most mughal buildings until this time were made of red sandstone with little use of marble. Itmad-Ud Daulah is also sometimes referred as baby Taj because of its resemblance to the Taj Mahal. The building definitely served as an inspiration for the Taj Mahal, and you can easily point many similarities between the two monuments.

6. Visit the incomplete Temple of Dayalbagh , 114 years in making

While there are many Mughal era buildings in Agra, this relatively recent addition to the city, the temple of Dayalbagh by the Radha Soami sect also deserves a place in our recommendations list. The construction of this temple began in 1905 and is still in progress. However, in 2018 the temple was deemed mostly complete and opened for public visit. The temple is 193 feet high, made entirely of marble decorated with intricate carvings in red, green and yellow. It is interesting to note that the designs of this temple were made by an Italian architect, which is evident in the artwork.

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