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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Wrenn-Haye

Agra Uttar Pradesh India - Experience the Enchanting Heritage

Updated: Mar 19


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“Agra, or ‘Taj City’ as it is nicknamed, is a heritage city that vibrates with vitality."

General Overview


Agra is in the state of Uttar Pradesh, North India and it is also known as ‘Akbarabad’.  sitting on the west bank of the Yamuna River about 230 kilometres (140 miles) south-east of the national capital city of Delhi.  Agra is an ideal location to visit after spending time in Delhi with its wondrous sights or even for a day trip if the duration of your itinerary is limited.


Most people of course are attracted to Agra to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the 'Taj Mahal', one of the seven wonders of the world, which is also considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world too with all its legendary splendour and intricate design built from white marble. UNESCO describes it as ‘The Jewel of Muslim Art in India’ and the ‘Taj Mahal’ attracts more visitors each year than anywhere else in India.


It can for this reason get rather busy, so bear this in mind when visiting and it is best to go and see it at sunrise or sunset, when actually the light is at its best and makes for good photo opportunities. 


Agra is not just about the ‘Taj Mahal’ however, it has a rich heritage with many other ancient historical monuments around the city and it is therefore recommended that you should spend at least two to three nights in Agra to experience these incredible UNESCO World Heritage sites which display Mughal architecture. Such places encompass Fatehpur Sikri (Fort Palace), Agra Fort and Itmad-ud-Daulah (otherwise known as The Baby Taj), leaving time to also explore off-the-beaten-path parts of the city and visit some of the smaller attractions.



History of Agra


Agra was founded in 1504 by Sultan Sikander Lodi who was the Muslim ruler of the Delhi Sultanate (reign: 1489–1517 CE) and later his son Ibrahim Lodi​​ Ibrahim Khan Lodi (reign: 1517–1526) became the ruler. The glory days of the city actually commenced with the Mughals in the early 16th century.  Agra was the leading city of the Indian subcontinent and the capital of the Mughal Empire under Mughal emperors such as Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan for a hundred years.


Agra became synonymous with learning, the arts and commerce as well as with religion which subsequently heralded the construction of the Agra Fort, Sikandra and Agra's most admired and cherished monument, the ‘Taj Mahal’.


In the late 18th century, Agra city fell first of all to the Marathas and later to the East India Company under British Rule. Finally after India’s Independence, when Delhi was declared the national capital of the country, Agra evolved into an industrial town, known for its footwear, leather and other manufacturing. Tourism grew too with the ‘Taj Mahal’ being the main reason for people visiting Agra from all over the world which is still the case today.


The Population, The People & The Religion


Agra is a diverse city with a population of around 1.6 million people and it is the fourth most populous city in the region and is the twenty-third most populated place in the whole of India.


The wonderful warm-hearted people are from various religions; the prominent ones include Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Buddhism, each of which have different cultures and values, but as with India as a whole, everyone lives harmoniously and at peace side by side. The people of Agra tend to be quite colourful in their dress sense generally wearing vivid clothing which is a combination of both modern and traditional.



How to Get to Agra


There are a few options to get from the general starting point of Delhi to Agra. 

 

First off you have the bus which takes around 4 to 5 1/2 hours generally provided by the Red Bus Service with fares ranging from 350-800 Rupees (GBP£3.50-£8.00).


Secondly the train which is the option that we selected; the fastest train is the Gatimann Express operating in India departing Delhi Hazrat Niza each day just after 8.00 a.m taking about 1 hour 40 minutes to reach Agra and it is recommended that you pre-book your seats.  The fare ranges from 993 to 1450 Rupees depending on the class ticket that you book, click here for advance tickets. The porters at the station will also help you with your luggage ensuring each case is seen onto the train on your behalf.  



We thought that the train journey would give us the opportunity to see the terrain as we headed out to Agra, however we did experience some heavy fog when we were in India in January and we didn’t get to see as much scenery on our journey as we had hoped, which was a shame. 

 

Finally you can organise a private driver or a cab costing between 7,000 to 11,000 Rupees (GBP£70.00-£110.00), smaller cars are between 7,000-9,0000 Rupees (GBP£70.00-£90.00); the journey is about 3 ½ hours.


Where to Stay


There are plenty of options for staying in Agra and generally you would choose one of the five popular neighbourhoods to suit your own personal taste and budget. Here is a breakdown by area:


(1) Taj East Gate Road leads to the Taj Mahal entrance (one of three) and directly to the ticket office - you will find the many hotels and restaurants in this area, but these are a little more expensive due to their close proximity to the Taj Mahal.

(2) Fatehabad Road offers the finest range of hotels, restaurants and shops, but the traffic is horrendous in this area.


(3) Taj Ganj village is best for budget minded travellers who are looking for homestays (guest houses) - this area adjoins the southern perimeter of the Taj Mahal complex.


(4) Cantonment & Sadar Bazaar lies in the inner west area suburb close to the bus station, train terminal and airport, approximately 13km (8 miles) away - the area is lined with wide shady streets.


(5) The City near Agra Fort is a great area, but can be somewhat chaotic - it is near to the bustling bazaar and mosque.


We personally chose to split our two nights in different hotels, mainly due to my special birthday celebration whereby I wanted to spend our second night in a luxury hotel opposite the 'Taj Mahal' called the Oberoi Armavilas.



Our first night however, was spent at a hotel called the ‘Taj View’ which is a short drive from the ‘Taj Mahal’ and with distant views.  The hotel was full of Mughal character and there were also two resident dogs named Max and Winnie who greeted us on arrival and even got in the lift and came to our room with us when we checked in.  A really lovely touch and they were very friendly - made us laugh. 


Taj View Hotel Labrador dogs which greet guests in. They are wearing red and blue coats. Agra, India.
'Hotel Dogs Max & Winnie'


Sightseeing in Agra


Agra Fort:


Agra Fort or the Red Fort as it is sometimes referred to, was constructed in Mughal times in 1565 AD by Humayan who was crowned here.  It was later updated by Mughal emperor Akbar and other great Mughals to live here were Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb.  


You will stand in awe of this beautiful place built from red sandstone with extensive marble and pietra dura inlay.  There is also a Red Fort in Delhi, however Agra Fort is smaller than this fort and is particularly awesome. It is classed as the most important fort in India because the country was originally governed from here and it contained the largest state treasury and mint.


Whilst visiting the fort you will also have the wonderful opportunity to view the Pearl Mosque and the halls of both public and private audience halls called Diwan-e-Am and Diwan-e-Khas.  Within the grounds of the fort which is shaped as a crescent, you will also discover Jehangir’s Palace, Khaas Mahal, Sheesh Mahal which is the Mirrored Palace and the Musamman Burj.  The fort’s eastern wall is bound by the Yamuna River.


Agra Fort is a true spectacle and one that should not be missed when visiting Agra. We thoroughly enjoyed our time browsing around.  We suggest getting yourself a private guide to talk you through its compelling history.  Click here for tour information and the opportunity to purchase skip the line tickets from the ‘Get Your Guide’ website.



Baby Taj:


Real name of the 'Baby Taj' is the itmad-ud-Daulauh tomb which is a Mughal mausoleum which overlooks the Yamuna River, east of the 'Taj Mahal'. It is understood that this particular white marble monument which sits on a red sandstone plinth, was the inspiration behind the construction of the ‘Taj Mahal’. It was built in 1622 and 1628 by the 'Queen of Jahangir' as a memorial to her father Mirza Ghiyas who died seven years previous. Inside the tomb itself, the ceilings are intricately carved and somewhat of a wow factor as you enter.


The 'Baby Taj' is well worth a visit and as you walk through the grounds and gardens you can also have the pleasure of looking out over the Yamuna river.



Mehtab Bagh:


Ahead of our scheduled visit to the 'Taj Mahal', we first of all elected to visit Mehtab Bagh, the 'Moonlit Garden' which is a charbagh complex on the north side, directly opposite the ‘Taj Mahal’ on the banks of Yamuna River. 'Charbagh' means it is a paradise garden set out as a square and divided into equal parts filled with plentiful trees, flowers and plants, the symbolism of which is noted in mystic islamic texts.   It actually measures 300 x 300 metres (984 feet x 984 feet) and has been created to be perfectly placed adjacent to the 'Taj Mahal'.


There is a fascinating myth that encircles this particular area, namely that Shah Jahan who built the ‘Taj Mahal’ had also planned to construct a large replica in black marble for himself as a mausoleum, so that he would be entombed in line with his wife Mumtaz Mahal and the two buildings would be connected by a bridge.


This building was never constructed however, although there are ruins of black marble located across the river which would support this myth, which was written about in imaginative writings by a European traveller called Jean-Baptiste Tavernier who visited Agra in 1665.



As you will see from many photographs in our blog, the weather was not generally kind to us during our visit to Agra, unfortunately we were continually up against constant mists, but despite this, we didn't let it deter us. We visited the gardens and listened to our guide about the history of the area. We then meandered towards the banks of the river for our very first glimpse of the 'Taj Mahal'. We were so excited and in awe of what we saw and looked forward to our visit the very next day.  One tip we have been told is to visit this garden around midday, so that you get the full sun shining over the beautiful gardens as well as the ‘Taj Mahal’ view.


Taj Mahal:


No visit to Agra would be complete without a visit to the famous ‘Taj Mahal’. 

We chose to visit this wonderful jaw-dropping mausoleum on a separate day from our general sightseeing, because we wanted to combine our 'Taj Mahal' experience together with my special birthday celebration arrangements.


The ‘Taj Mahal’ is considered the world’s greatest monument to love.  It is constructed from ivory-white marble which has been carved throughout and it sits on the bank of the Yamuna River.  Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who reigned from 1628 to 1658, as a tomb for his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal.


Originally this remarkable architectural building was called ‘Roza-e-Munavvara’ which means unique building, but it was later renamed as the ‘Taj Mahal’ as a tribute to his wife for whom his love surpassed all others.


We don’t need to tell you that a visit here will blow you away because it will be the main reason that you visit Agra.


Vanessa & Richard at 'Taj Mahal'

For more information about opening times and ticket sales for the ‘Taj Mahal' then visit their official website.


You can actually combine a visit to the ‘Taj Mahal’ together with a ‘Fathepur Sikiri’ tour if you so wish, we are a fan of the ‘Get Your Guide’ app or website for organising such private tours with guides.  Please click here for more details about this particular tour.


Fatehpur Sikri:


Fathephur Sikiri known as the ‘City of Victory’ is a small abandoned city located in the Vindyhan hill ranges in the State of Uttar Pradesh in a district of Agra, some 36 kilometres (22 miles) west from the ‘Taj Mahal’ area of Agra.  It takes just under one hour to get there and we think it is well worth seeing.


Built during the second half of the 16th century in 1572 and 1573 by the Emporer Akbar Fatehpur Sikiri, it was the first planned city of the Mughals and it comprised administrative, residential and religious buildings which were made up of palaces, mosques including the largest mosque in India called the Jama Masjid, plus public buildings and living areas of the court, the army, the servants of the king, as well as the the remainder of the city people. 


It stayed as the capital of the empire for only 10 years before the capital was moved to Lahore in 1585, mainly due to the city suffering a shortage of water and the country’s north west turmoil, eventually the city was abandoned in 1610 .  Fathephur Sikiri however, continued to be an area for visits by the Mughal emperors.


The buildings are all constructed from red sandstone and cluster around the centre of the city complex. There are many wonderful architectural buildings, far more than we have displayed here, so don't take our word for it, add this unique place to your itinerary when visiting Agra.


You can book a private tour with guide to Fathepur Sikiri through the 'Get Your Guide' website, click here for skip the line tickets.



Weather & Best Time To Visit Agra


As with other destinations in the north of India, it is recommended to visit Agra between October to March when the temperatures are more comfortable for sightseeing. The maximum daytime temperature is 32 degrees, however January can be much cooler.


We would like to reiterate that when we travelled to Agra mid-January, we actually found it to be cold and it warranted wearing clothing layers as well as a jacket and hat. The mists and fogs are prevalent during this particular month too, which also affects visibility. It may mean you don't get to see any sunrise, or sunset over the 'Taj Mahal' so do bear this in mind to avoid disappointment. Rainfall is around 61mm (2.4 inches).


Winter (October – April) Min 5°C/41°F Max 25°C/77°F

Summer (May – September) Min 25°C/77°F Max 45 C/113’F


Our Conclusion

"Agra Uttar Pradesh India is an ancient city that has so much to offer in the way of sightseeing, especially with the stunning 'Taj Mahal', a must see - so if you are visiting India, then be sure to include Agra on your itinerary."

We do hope that you have enjoyed our informative blog about the city of Agra and that it has inspired you to include this lovely destination on your itinerary.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Agra, it was just a shame about the poor weather we experienced, but nonetheless, we enjoyed every moment. What could be better than actually having the wonderment of seeing the 'Taj Mahal' in all its glory, plus getting to experience all the other ancient historial sights too.


If you have any exciting stories to tell us about your past or future trip to Agra, or you need more information about any of the contents of our blog, then please do get in touch via the contact us form below.



2 Comments

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Guest
Mar 17
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

A great read, thank you.

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Vanessa Wrenn-Haye
Vanessa Wrenn-Haye
Mar 18
Replying to

Thank you. We are glad you enjoyed our blog. We have also just written one about the 'Taj Mahal' separately if you are interested.

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