Agra, located in Uttar Pradesh, India, is home to the famous Taj Mahal. One of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal sees thousands of tourists a year. This can make your Agra visit less than appealing as you will be herded in crowds just for a glimpse of the white, jeweled minarets and hoping to find the right angle for your obligatory Taj Mahal selfie. But Agra is a city full of culture, history, and monuments that don’t get nearly the attention of the Taj Mahal and are well worth the visit. In this article, I’ll outline some of the other must see sites and what you can expect from a typical day in Agra.
Getting to Agra
If you are starting your Indian adventure in Delhi you’ll probably want to take the train to Agra. You could take a car but really, when it comes to India, train travel is the way to go. India is well-known for its railway network and it is labeled one of the best in the world. If you take the train, you get a real glimpse at the vast and varied landscape of India. To get to Agra, your best bet is to get a booking on the 12050 Gatimaan Express, rated one of the most reliable rides to Agra. The prices range from about 15 to 25 USD depending on if you travel first class. It’s important to note that when planning your trip to Agra, keep in mind the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays.
12050 Gatimaan Express
Price: from 15 USD
Opening Hours: Departs Delhi 8:10 am and arrives Agra at 9:50 am
Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes from Delhi
Website: Indian Rail Website
Once you arrive at the Agra Cantonment, the main train station of Agra, you’re going to be jumping at the bit to see some of those historic monuments and architecture. But you need to get your mode of transport figured out first. A rickshaw is always a good bet, and there’s nothing quite like whizzing around a city in an auto rickshaw, but you can also hire a taxi. Just keep in mind to agree on a price before you ride and you can find helpful price quotes around the train station before you start trying to bargain a price.
Agra Auto Rickshaw Service
Price: from 1 USD and up
Contact: +91 93198 12942
You’ve hired your taxi or rickshaw and you’re ready for some sightseeing. But where do you start? If you are bent on avoiding the Taj and the traffic, I recommend starting with Akbar’s Tomb. A morning visit to this historic site will yield few snap happy tourists and less of a wait to get inside the tomb. When it comes to specific times, or daily visiting hours, you’ll find that most monuments in Agra are open from dawn to dusk most days. Akbar’s Tomb stands as an excellent example of Mughal architecture and was built around the early 1600’s. The entrance fee for foreign visitors is about 4 USD. The intricate artwork and architectural design are very similar to the Taj Mahal, just on a smaller scale.
Address: Tomb of Akbar The Great Area, Sikandra, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282007, India
Price: from 4 USD
Opening Hours: From sunrise to sunset
Duration: around 1 hour
Contact: +91 562 264 1230
Originally home to the great Mughal emperors, the Red Fort in Agra is an expansive historical site that is worth the visit. Bollywood fans will be pleased to recognize locations from scenes in the historical epic Jodhaa Akbar, as much of the film was shot on location at the Agra Fort. You’re going to want a few hours to explore all the nooks, crannies, palace halls, and courtyards. Agra Fort is located about 7 kilometers (4.3 mi) from the Taj Mahal and 12 kilometers (7.4 mi) from Akbar’s Tomb. It’s easy to lose yourself in the marbled walkways. The Agra Fort stands as one of the most impressive examples of Mughal architecture in India. It’s open on all days, unlike the Taj and also adheres to the sunrise to sunset hours of operation. Price of admission is about 8 USD for foreign visitors. The Agra Fort was my favorite part about Agra. I’m a history buff and love walking among old ruins of a bygone era, and the Agra Fort will stay with you long after your time there.
Address: Rakabganj, Agra Fort, Rakabganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282003, India
Price: 8 USD
Opening Hours: sunrise to sunset
Duration: around 3 hours required.
Contact: +91 562 296 0457
The Taj Mahal: take it or leave it
You’ve come all the way to Agra and you have some time to kill, so you might as well visit the famous Taj Mahal, right? If you do decide to brave the crowds and make your way to the Taj Mahal, there are some things you should be aware of. When getting to the entrance of the Taj, get ready to be inundated with offers to buy cheap trinkets and key chains from merchants. You’ll most likely be followed until you get the entrance with pleas to purchase no matter how you refuse. But once you get the Taj, you can see why it holds so many captivated. The marbled minarets and stunning architecture as well at the intricate, jeweled designs are breathtaking. No photography is allowed within the main mausoleum and there will be quite a wait to get a glimpse inside. Admission to the Taj Mahal will run about 15 USD, so it’s the priciest admission of the historical sites listed in this article.
When I went to the Taj Mahal, I was with a group tour that specifically mentioned the gem stones and jewels in the Taj’s architecture. These kind of tours are very common, especially because they help promote certain jewelry and gem shops in Agra who sell the famous Star of India. So named for the star like design that appears on the stone when the light catches it. If shopping isn’t for you, then this is an unnecessary addition to your day in Agra, but if you want a unique souvenir and wish to take a piece of India and Taj home with you, The Star of India is a great option.
The Taj Mahal
Address: Dharmapuri, Forest Colony, Tajganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282001, India
Price: from 15 USD
Opening Hours: sunrise to sunset, closed Fridays
Website: The Taj Mahal
That's a day in Agra
These are just a few of the sites that await you in Agra. When leaving, the train is the most reliable way to reach your next location. I recommend spending as much time as you can at the fort as it is massive and even a whole day with a guided tour would only scratch the surface. Akbar’s Tomb, another majestic example of Mughal architecture could be the perfect, less crowded replacement to the Taj Mahal. All in all, Agra has many historic sites worth the visit and even the Taj, though crowded and expensive, won’t leave you disappointed. But if you opt out, there are some equally great photo opportunities at the fort and around Agra.
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