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Agra – A Quick Travel Guide

https://travelarks.com/2022/01/exploring_agra/

Plan a Quick Trip to Agra:

Tourists usually take out a day or two out of their itinerary to visit Agra while visiting the Golden Quadrilateral or Delhi. This blog is a quick travel guide for all visitors, who are short on time, to help them explore the important tourist places of Agra, a city steeped in history and architecture.

A Few Facts About Agra

Agra has a rich past as is evident from the monuments in and around it. However, the city is much older than you can imagine. Its history predates the Mahabharata period in which it is referred to as Agravana ( A forest of groves). Guess it must have been a grove forest by the river Yamuna then. There is also not much evidence found regarding its former Hindu rulers but that Sikandar Lodhi of the Lodhi dynasty established this city in the 16th century.

The city owes its present heritage to its Mughal rulers – the Mughal Gardens, Fatehpur Sikri, the renovated Agra fort, and of course the Taj Mahal, all mark the splendor of the Mughal architecture in this once glorified capital of the dynasty.

How to Reach Agra:

Agra is an important destination on the Golden Triangle tourist circuit and is easily accessible by:

  • Road: Agra is well-connected by buses and taxis to cities like Delhi (157 kms; 3 hours) , Gwalior (120 kms; 3 hours), Kanpur, Lucknow and Jaipur (240 kms; 4.5 hours)
  • Air: Delhi airport is the closest domestic and international airport to Agra. The military airport at Agra does not have convenient flights to other places in India
  • Train: Agra is also well-connected by regular trains to cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkatta, Jaipur, and Gwalior

Where to Stay in Agra:

We stayed in Courtyard by Marriot at Tajgang. The hotel is located just 3 kms from the Taj and is also quite conveniently located within the city.

Click here to know about other hotels in Agra

Sightseeing in Agra:

Taj Mahal

  • Entry Fee: Rs 50/- for Indian tourists & OCI holders. Children below 15 years are allowed free. Foreign tourists: Rs 1100/-; SAARC & BIMSTEC tourists: Rs 540/-
  • Entry Timings: 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset. Night Viewing Tickets are available 24 hours in advance at a price of Rs 510/- for Indian tourists and Rs 750/- for international tourists
  • Open: On all days except Friday.
  • Expected Duration of Visit: Around 2 hours
  • Guide Services: We had already read the information on the monument beforehand and did not avail of any guide services.

We just had a day for sightseeing in Agra. We had arrived the previous evening and had decided to rest after the long journey from Bangalore to Delhi by flight and then from Delhi to Agra by train. ( I am so glad that the farmer’s protest got over before we reached Agra. Otherwise, we were dreading to travel on the Delhi-Agra Expressway)

We decided to be the early birds at Taj and reached there at 8 am on a Sunday. It was the Sunday before Christmas and the school holidays had not yet started. So luckily for us, the place was not super crowded at that time of the day and we could click a few decent pictures for ourselves 🙂

An electric vehicle dropped us near the Taj and we were let in rather quickly as we had online tickets on us. Just our IDs were verified and we could skip the long queue which was forming at the entrance. It is a good idea to book your tickets online beforehand and save time and some money too [Rs 50 discount on online booking for foreigners and Rs 5 for us Indians :)]

The Monument of Love

Once inside the premises of the monument, we walked on with anticipation to catch a glimpse of the beauty that the Taj Mahal is.

My husband was visiting Taj for the very first time and he was wowed by it. The Mughal gardens neatly laid in front of the monument, the open blue skies surrounding the white dome and the view of the Yamuna flowing behind it was too real to be true (except the crowds of course!) – all add magic to the air and makes one appreciate the artistic and scientific acumen of those skilled craftsmen who chiseled away at all this marble to make it a monument of eternal beauty. It left me wondering if Shahjahan really cut the hands of these skilled craftsmen…

To visit the Mumtaz mausoleum, we had to pass another screening point inside the monument and had to wear shoe covers. The view of the river from behind the Taj is equally mesmerizing. No wonder it is one of the seven new wonders of the world and a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Popular Must-Have Foods of Agra

Fatehpur Sikri was next on our itinerary after Taj. But not before we gorged on the famous breakfast/street food of Agra – Bedmi poori with aloo ki sabzi and topped it off with crispy jalebis (not in the pic…my hands were so full of food that I could not take a pic ;)..yumm yumm

Agra is well-known for its pethas and dalmoth. One can purchase it the original Panchi Petha Store which, however; is ubiquitous in the city. Difficult to tell which one is the original one! Jokes apart, the original store is situated at Sadar Bazaar in Agra.

Fatehpur Sikri

  • Entry Fee: Rs 35/- for Indian tourists & OCI holders. Children below 15 years are allowed free. Foreign tourists: Rs 550/-; SAARC & BIMSTEC tourists: Rs 35/-
  • Entry Timings: Between sunrise and sunset
  • Open: On all days
  • Expected Duration of Visit: Around 2-3 hours
  • Guide Services: We availed a guide for Rs 650/- as it was interesting to know the detailed history of the monuments there

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an hour-long ride from Agra and was built by Akbar in the 16th century. It is a fine example of Indo-Islamic architecture. Today, it is a ghost city and an abandoned capital of the erstwhile Mughal Empire. Water scarcity led to the desolation of this beautiful red sandstone-sculpted city.

Its highlights are the cluster of red sandstone buildings that once were home to the royal family, Jodha Bai’s Palace, Panch Mahal, Diwan-e-Khas, the Buland Darwaza which was built to commemorate the victory of the Mughals over the King of Gujarat, Jama Masjid, and the tomb of Salim Chisti next to it.

Agra Fort

Agra fort (Pic courtesy: A. Savins, Wikicommons)

It was almost 3-3:30 pm by the time we reached Agra back to tour the Agra fort. However, the fort premises was crazily crowded. One could not see an inch of space on the road seen in the pic above. In these times of Covid, we decided to skip this popular tourist attraction of Agra and instead proceeded to Sadar Bazaar to spend our time [read money as well ;)]

This fort is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was renovated by Akbar in the 16th century. It was the residence of the Mughals till the time Agra served as the capital of the kingdom. A must-visit place in Agra.

A Day Trip to Mathura/Vrindavan

Krishna Calling!

Pic courtesy: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lovetemple.jpg

We did not do this trip due to lack of time but this can be done as a one-day or even a half-day trip from Agra. It takes about 1.5-2 hrs by road to reach Mathura via the Expressway.

Once in Mathura, one should definitely not miss visiting the Krishna Janmabhumi Temple to pay tributes at the birthplace of Lord Krishna. The other noted temples of interest here are the Banke Bihari temple, Radha-Krishna Iskcon temple, Prem Mandir, and scores of others.

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary:

Bharatpur is at a stone’s throw distance (55 km to be precise) from Agra and is just another 30 minutes further away from Fatehpur Sikri. You can combine Bharatpur with Fatehpur Sikri to do a day trip from Agra.

For the uninitiated, Bharatpur is home to Keoladeo National Park and Ghana Bird Sanctuary and was a former game reserve for the royals of that region. It is a famous bird sanctuary with 350+ species of resident and migratory birds in its cover and hosts thousands of migratory birds, especially during the winter season.

Shopping in Agra

It is best to skip shopping in Agra unless you are headed back home directly from Agra. If your next destination is going to be Delhi or Jaipur or any other place on the Golden Triangle renowned for shopping, then give shopping here a miss.

Otherwise, Agra is known for its marble souvenirs, leather goods, shoes, and sarees. If one has the time and inclination, then one can go to Sadar Bazaar which is a one-stop market for all shopping mentioned above and is conveniently situated near the Agra Cant railway station, Agra fort, and Taj Mahal.

Food Options in Agra

  • Pinch of Spice: A popular and well-rated restaurant in the Tajganj area serving Mughlai cuisine. Remember to book your table beforehand to avoid a disapointment.
  • Street food @ Sadar Bazaar
  • Panchi Petha & Sweets for dalmoth and petha
  • Deviram’s Sweets & Restaurant for the bedmi poori-sabzi combo
  • Bikanerwala: A good and hygienic place to have chaats,sweets and thalis at a reasoable price. Loved eating some authentic chaats and dishes of Agra here. Take a look:

If you have liked reading about my trip to Agra then do click here to refer to my blogs on other destinations.

Travel Safe & Travel Happy!