Agra is the city of the Taj Mahal, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, some 200 km from Delhi.
Agra has three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort in the city and Fatehpur Sikri 40 km away. There are also many other buildings and tombs from Agra's days of glory as the capital of the Mughal Empire.
Besides these three sites, the city has little else to recommend it. Pollution, especially smog and litter, is rampant and visitors are pestered by swarms of touts and hawkers at every monument, besides the inner Taj Mahal which, once you are in, is free of scams and touts. The sites are some of the wonders of the world and no trip to India is complete without at least one visit to the Taj. For the vast majority of visitors, a single day in Agra is more than enough.
While Agra's heyday was as the capital of the Mughal Empire between 1526 and 1658, the city was founded much earlier. The earliest reference to Agra is in the ancient epic, the Mahabharata, while Ptolemy was the first person to call it by its modern name. The recorded history of Agra begins around the 11th century, and over the next 500 years, the city changed hands between various kings, both Hindu and Muslim.
In 1506, Sultan Sikandar Lodi, the ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, moved his capital from Delhi to Agra. His son Ibrahim Lodi was the last ruler of the Lodi dynasty, as he was defeated in 1526 by Babur, the first Mughal ruler, in the battle of Panipat. Agra fell too, and became the capital of the Mughals, whose rule over Agra was uninterrupted except for a brief period between 1540 and 1556. In 1540, Sher Shah Shuri overthrew Humayun became the ruler of much of North India, including Agra. After Sher Shah Suri's death his descendants proved unequal to the task of ruling the kingdom, and Hemu, a Hindu general of Suri became the effective ruler who would later crown himself King Hemachandra Vikramaditya just as the kingdom was facing an assault from the reinvigorated Mughals. In 1556, Hemu would be defeated and killed in the second battle of Panipat, and the Mughals regained Agra.
Mughals were great builders. Babur built the Aram Bagh (garden of relaxation) modelled after the garden of paradise, where he was eventually buried after his death. His grandson Akbar refurbished the Agra fort and built the Fatehpur Sikri, an entire city just on the outskirts of Agra. He also renamed Agra after himself, and the city was known as Akbarabad while it was in Mughal hands. Akbar's grandson Shah Jehan would give Agra its most famous monument, the Taj Mahal, which is the mausoleum of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj is constructed in white marble. It took 20 years to construct, and is now universally known as a monument to love. Legend has it that Shah Jehan wanted a replica of the Taj constructed in black marble that would be his final resting place. There is no support for this theory, but even if it were true, it would have been unlikely to be undertaken. His son Aurangzeb was austere and pious, and had no time or inclination for the ostentation of his forefathers, preferring to spend his money on wars in South India. In any case, even during Shah Jehan's reign, which was the period when the Mughal empire was at its height, the construction of the Taj put a strain on the resources of the empire and caused a mini-famine around Agra. Shah Jehan was eventually buried in the white Taj, next to his beloved Begum.
Shah Jehan, in addition to giving Agra its greatest claim to fame, was also responsible for beginning its decline, as he decided to shift his capital to Shahjehanabad, which is now known as Old Delhi, in 1658. Though Aurangzeb ordered a move back, this too was short lived, as he moved his headquarters down south to Aurangabad to be focus on his wars. Agra declined, and so did the Mughal Empire. The city was eventually captured by the Marathas, who renamed Agra. In 1803, it came under the British, who situated the Agra Presidency there, and when India gained independence, the city was incorporated into the state of Uttar Pradesh, and did not gain even the limited honour of being the state's capital, that distinction going to Lucknow, further east. It is now a tourist town, known for the Taj and a couple of other monuments.
A novel based on the remarkable story behind the Taj Mahal's is Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors. It is an international bestseller, and is being made into a film by Hollywood. Another historical novel is The Taj by Colin De Silva.
Agra is 200 km southeast from Delhi and is one of the points of the tourist's Golden Triangle of Agra-Delhi-Jaipur. Agra is also very well connected via rail and road with other nearby cities and tourist destinations and thus suitable for a day trip from Delhi or as a part of a larger itinerary.
- 1 Agra's Kheria Airport (AGR IATA). Service is seasonal. The city is served by Air India Regional, which flies on the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur tourist triangle route. The flight time to either is less than an hour. Hiring a car may be a cheaper alternative.
Agra is on the main train line between the Delhi-Mumbai (Bombay) and Delhi-Chennai routes, and many trains connect Agra with these cities every day. Some east-bound trains from Delhi also travel via Agra, so direct connections to points in Eastern India (including Kolkata) are also available. There are close to 20 trains to Delhi every day, and at least three or four to Mumbai and to Chennai. Agra and Delhi are notorious for their thick winter fog which reduces visibility to almost zero. In late December and early January (the fog season), because of the reduced visibility, all trains slow down and travel time goes up. The Bhopal Shatabdi, for example, may arrive in Agra well after 10AM, and might return to Delhi well after midnight. From a safety point of view, it is always preferable to travel by train during the winter.
At Agra station, you can hire "UP Tourism" conducted tours on air-conditioned luxury coaches. Also, organized tours are available from Delhi. If you travel during the high season, you must book your tickets a few days to a few weeks in advance if you wish to make it a day trip, i.e. travelling early in the morning and coming back at a reasonable time at night.
Train tickets can be booked online through the Indian Railways website paying by debit or credit cards, although those issued by foreign banks are often declined. For more information how to book tickets online, visit the article "Rail travel in India".
There are several railway stations stations in Agra. However, tourists only need to concern about Agra Cantonment and Agra Fort as almost all mainline trains calls here.
- 2 Agra Cantonment railway station. Main railway station and lies southwest of the Taj and Agra Fort, both of which are a short ride from the station by car, auto-rickshaw or cycle rickshaw. There is a prepaid taxi stand right outside that charges a flat rate to any hotel in the city. You may catch an auto-rickshaw, if you walk a short way from the station, but they may not speak English. The station has a food court that also sells cheap, hygienic takeaway snacks such as sandwiches and samosas. Station Code: AGC.
- 3 Agra Fort railway station. Near Agra Fort, is infrequently serviced by the interstate express trains. The station serves trains to the east (Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Kolkata), and some of these trains also stop at Agra Cantt. Station Code: AF. This is one of the historical railway stations of Agra because there was a spacious, octagonal Tripolia Chowk which existed between the Jama Masjid and the Delhi gate of the Agra Fort. This Tropolia was destroyed in order to create the Agra Fort Railway Station, which was also the first railway station of Agra and also one of the oldest in the country.
- 4 Agra City railway station. A relic of the metre gauge era, this station is not particularly useful.
- 5 Idgah railway station. First station if you arrive in Agra from Jaipur.
- 6 Raja ki Mandi railway station. A small station. Some of the trains which stop at Agra Cantt also stop. The station has a laid-back and lazy atmosphere, but springs into life at the arrival of Intercity trains and the Taj Expresses. It is situated in the middle of the city. Station code: RKM.
- Delhi to Agra — Close to 20 trains connect Delhi and Agra each day with journey times varying from 2-5 hr. The best options are the Bhopal Shatabdi Express (departs New Delhi at 6:15AM arriving Agra Cantt at 8:12AM; departs Agra Cantt at 8:30PM arriving New Delhi at 10:30PM, daily except Friday; meal and water included in air-con carriage) and the Taj Express (departs Delhi Hazrat Nizamuddin at 7:15AM arriving Agra Cantt at 10:07AM; departs Agra Cantt at 6:55PM arriving Delhi Hazrat Nizamuddin at 10PM, daily).
- Agra to Jaipur - The journey to Jaipur (Station code: JP) takes around 4 hr by train no. 2988 which leaves Agra Fort Railway Station at 6:25PM and reaches Jaipur at around 10:20PM.
Also train number 2965 from Agra Cantonment to Jaipur at 5:40PM. The train arrives at 10:15PM. ₹300 air-con carriage.
- The Luxury train — Palace on Wheels stops at Agra on its 8-day round trip of tourist destinations in Rajasthan and Agra.
There are several buses to Agra originating from Jaipur, Delhi, Ajmer, Lucknow etc.
The highway between Delhi and Agra has a toll, so most buses do not take it. Rather, they take the local roads, which makes the trip significantly longer than the express trains (4-5 hr). It is possible to make it by bus and minibus to Agra by the smaller roads, however you must ask around where the buses to Agra depart from, preferably from a trusted local or the staff at your hotel/hostel. Indian bus stations are, most of the time either large pavement areas situated under flyovers, very crowded and without no further indications of which bus goes where or stands of private bus companies, which will offer a more comfortable trip at a higher price. This option is for the ones who feel adventurous, as your journey can be halted by a sudden breakdown of the bus or a road closure due to a local protest or other form of gathering. Note that this is by far the cheapest way to get to Agra, as it should not cost more than ₹60 the normal "bus" and ₹200 for a more coach-type bus.
There are three interstate bus stands:
- Idgah Bus Stand is the primary bus stand for travelling towards Rajasthan/Madhya Pradesh, in the heart of the city, 8 km from the Taj.
- ISBT at Transport Nagar, 12 km from the Taj, is an inter state bus terminal. Most of the buses pass through here, except for buses originating from Idgah Bus Stand and going towards Rajasthan.
If you wish to travel with these buses which are government-run, you must insist to your rickshaw driver that he gets you there. If you only ask for the buses to Delhi, he will probably take you to a private bus company, from which he gets a cut. It will be slightly more expensive for you and these buses tend to stop at random places and drop you at random places as well, as these buses are not direct.
You can either book a taxi from hotel or directly book one outside the railway station. There is usually a government authorised taxi stand, however it may be hard to find and the locals present at the station (looking for gullible tourists) will not help you find it. ₹950/day for 8 hours. It maybe more costly to book through hotel as hotels do have their in the fares. It is better to negotiate with the driver directly or book trough some online car rental portal.
Cars are not allowed near the Taj Complex, but the rest of Agra is easily discovered by car.
- From Delhi: Yamuna Expressway, connects the 200 km distance from Delhi to Agra. The drive is typically 2 hours. The expressway runs from the city of Greater Noida to Agra. The highway has a toll.
NH2 Highway: The primary access to the highway is along Mathura Road in Delhi but, if coming from South Delhi or Delhi Airport, it is easier to take Aurobindo Marg (Mehrauli Road) and then work up to NH2 via Tughlakabad. While the highway is divided, it is important to keep an eye out for trucks, cars, and bullock carts heading the wrong way. It is possible to hire a car with a driver (a big car for five persons from/to the Delhi airport costs ₹3,500). But beware, if you need to get from Agra to the airport in order to catch a flight, ensure you have plenty of time for the trip, as traffic conditions may increase the drive time significantly. Also, it is wise to know your driver. There are situations when he may take over five hours to cover the distance, and you cannot force him to drive any faster than an autorickshaw (tuk-tuk).
- From Jaipur: National Highway 11, a four-lane divided highway, connects Agra with Jaipur via the bird sanctuary town of Bharatpur. The distance of around 255 km can be covered in around 4 hours.
- From Gwalior: A distance of around 120 km, takes around 1.5 hours on the National highway 3 (Agra- Mumbai Highway).
- From Lucknow / Kanpur: NH2, the divided modern highway, continues on to Kanpur (285 km, 5 hours) and from there to points East ending in Kolkata. From Kanpur, NH25 heads for the city of Lucknow (90 km, 2 hours).
- From Lucknow: Agra-Lucknow Expressway, the longest expressway in India, connects the 302 km distance from the state capital, Lucknow to Agra. The drive is very smooth and takes 3 hours. It is a tolled highway.
- From Greater Noida : Perhaps the best route as it connects to Agra directly by the Yamuna Expressway, 165 km, which can be completed in 1.5 – 2 hours because it has less traffic. The road is very smooth.
Tongas, electric buses and electric tempos are readily available, and the best way to get to the Taj, where no cars are allowed. Auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws are available every where, remember to agree on fares clearly in advance. Foreigners shoukd bargain everywhere and bargain hard. Generally things are available at 40% of the initially quoted fares. Tempos have been replaced by auto-rickshaws, which mainly run on CNG (Compressed Natural Gas).
UP State Road Transport Corporation operates some non-air conditioned and air-conditioned buses but those run only on specific routes. The best way to experience the city is to take a walk on the Mall Road (Sadar). The street is full of handicraft and leather goods shops. You will also find plenty of food items quite unique to the city.
As polluting vehicles are banned around Taj Mahal, one needs to use Tonga or electric auto while travelling in the range of Taj Mahal. Camels are also available. As a guide, an auto rickshaw from Agra Cantonement station to the Taj Mahal is about ₹80 (at least in off season); and a cycle rickshaw from the Taj Mahal to Agra Fort is ₹40. You can also walk between the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, in about 30 minutes.
Agra's top two sights by far are the incomparable Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.
Open daily (except Fridays) from sunrise to sunset (6-7AM until 6-7:30PM, depending on time of year).
Get there as early as possible to beat the crowds, and plan to visit the Taj at least two different times during the day (dusk and dawn are best) in order to experience the full effect of changing sunlight on the amazing building. Note that entry to the monument closes 30 minutes before sunset. It is also utterly stunning under a full moon.
Entry to the Taj Mahal costs ₹45 for Indians and ₹1,100 for foreigners. To enter inside the mausoleum (the main structure of the Taj Mahal), you must pay an additional ₹200 (Oct 2019).
The Taj Mahal ticket fee includes a small bottle of water, and disposable shoe covers for entering the mausoleum. You may also enter the mausoleum barefoot, so consider refusing the disposable shoes covers and going in barefoot. There are shoe racks to keep your shoes just outside the mausoleum.
You can buy tickets from 3 entrances: the South, East and West gates. The West gate (opens 6am) is typically the busiest (you could be queueing for hours) but closest to the city. The south gate is less busy but opens later at 8am. The East gate (opens 6am) is the furthest from the city but also generally the least busy.
The Indian government also provides online ticketing for the Taj Mahal; however, as of October 2019, the website is not working properly. You may end up being charged and not receive any e-ticket forcing you to purchase another ticket in person. It is advised not to use the online ticket service.
Tour guides and audio guides
Official guides are available for Agra for ₹1200 for a half day (including Taj Mahal & Agra Fort). Ask at your agent for details. Any guide that charges less than that is probably an unlicensed tout. Most unlicensed touts have fake IDs and focus more on taking you shopping rather than on presenting accurate information.You can book a local Govt. approved guide by logging www.tajtourguide.com or online search.
You can purchase a self-guided audio tour (allows two to a device) from near the ticketing booths. Cost is ₹100 in English and foreign languages and ₹60 for Indian languages.
You can also consider downloading a free audio guide such as the CaptivaTour Travel Audio Guide, which has a reasonable free 45-minute audio guide for the Taj Mahal.
- Government issued photo ID, such as your passport, is sometimes requested to be shown to the security guards at the entrance.
- Arms, ammunition, fire, smoking items, tobacco products, alcohol, food, chewing gum, headphones, knives, wire, mobile charger, electric goods (except video camera) such as camera tripods, laptops, flashlights, MP3 and music players are prohibited inside the Taj Mahal complex.
- Playing cards, games, dice, etc., may be prohibited depending on the guard.
- Mobile phones are allowed but must to be kept switched off. Mobile phones are banned for the night viewing of the Taj Mahal.
- Eating and smoking is prohibited inside the Taj Mahal complex.
- Lockers are available at the gates to keep your belongings (of course, at your own risk). Memorise the number on your luggage ticket before you return it to the guard, who, incredibly, may proceed to tear it into tiny pieces, throw it away and then stare blankly at you as the other guard asks for your ticket.
- Avoid carrying big bags and books inside the monument as this may increase your security check time. Depending on the size of your bag and the guard, you may be asked to check even medium-sized backpacks.
- Video cameras are allowed up to the red sand stone platform at the main entrance gate of the Taj Mahal complex. There is a charge of ₹25 per video camera.
- Photography is prohibited inside the main mausoleum, and visitors are requested not to make noise inside the mausoleum.
- Tourists must cooperate in keeping the monument neat and clean by making use of dustbins.
- Avoid touching and scratching the walls and surfaces of the monument as these are old heritage sites that need special care.
- Wheelchairs for disabled persons and first aid boxes are available at ASI office inside the Taj Mahal complex. A refundable charge of ₹1,000 is to be deposited as security before wheelchairs are made available for the disabled.
- Video cameras are permitted after the security check during night viewing of the Taj Mahal, though extra batteries are prohibited.
- The Taj Mahal is a religious site. It is best to dress conservatively when visiting the Taj Mahal complex, not only because the Taj Mahal itself is a mausoleum, but also because there are mosques inside the Taj Mahal complex.
- 1 Taj Mahal. is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife. Taj Mahal means Crown Palace; one of the wife's names was Mumtaz Mahal, Ornament of the Palace. The Taj is one of the most well preserved and architecturally beautiful tombs in the world, one of the masterpieces of Indo-Islamic architecture and one of the world's great heritage sites.
The Taj Mahal has a life of its own that leaps out of marble once you understand that it is a monument of love. The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore called it a teardrop on the cheek of eternity, while the English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold, said it was Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor's love wrought in living stones.
Although it is one of the most photographed edifices in the world and instantly recognisable, actually seeing it in person is awe-inspiring. Not everything is in the photos. The grounds of the complex include several other beautiful buildings, reflecting pools, and extensive ornamental gardens with flowering trees and bushes, and a small gift shop. The Taj framed by trees and reflected in a pool is amazing. Close up, large parts of the building are covered with inlaid stonework.
There is an apocryphal tale that Shah Jahan planned to build an exact copy out of black marble on the opposite side of the Yamuna river. His plans were foiled by his son, Aurangzeb, who murdered three of his elder brothers and then overthrew and imprisoned his father to acquire the throne. Shah Jahan is now buried alongside his wife in the Taj Mahal.
Because the Taj is white, your camera may underexpose your photos. Overexposure by 1 or 2 stops is recommended.
The Taj is located in the middle of the city. Expect a queue to get into the grounds. There are three gates: The western gate is the main gate where most tourists enter. A large number of people visit on weekends and public holidays and entry through the western gate may take hours. The southern and eastern gates are much less busy and should be tried on such days.
Once inside, expect long queues to enter the Mausoleum. There are two lines depending on the type of ticket that you've purchased. At the base of the monument, turn to your right for general (Indian) entry and turn to your left for high-value (foreigner) tickets. The general line can wrap around the building several times by the afternoon, whereas the foreigner line is typically empty. Helpful guards can direct you if you get lost.
Mosquito repellent is advisable in the warmer months.
There are night viewing of Taj Mahal sessions on the nights of a full moon and the two days before and after (so five days in total). Exceptions are Fridays, the Muslim sabbath, and the month of Ramadan. Booking has to be made 24 hours in advance from the Archaeological Society of India office situated at 22, Mall Road, Agra. Tickets cost ₹510 for Indians and ₹750 for non-Indians. The hours for night viewing are 8:30PM-9PM and 9PM-9:30PM. A visitor must arrive 30 min prior to viewing hours for a security check at the Taj Mahal ticket kiosk at the East Gate. The night view is likely not worth spending the money as the visitors are kept far from the Taj Mahal (nearly 200 metres away) and there is not sufficient light for viewing or photography.
- 2 Agra Fort. is similar in layout to the Red Fort in Delhi, but considerably better preserved, as much of Delhi Fort was razed by the British after the Mutiny. As much a palace as a defensive structure, it is also constructed mainly from red sandstone, and much white marble in the palace section of the fort.
Emperor Akbar, king at 14, began consolidating his empire and, as an assertion of his power built the fort in Agra between 1565 and 1571, at the same time as Humayun's Tomb in Delhi. Emperor Shah Jahan added to the fort and ended up a prisoner in it. The fort has a beautiful view of his masterpiece, the Taj Mahal, on a clear day.
You can get to the fort by Rickshaw from Taj Mahal for around ₹45-50. Entry to the fort is ₹600 plus a levy of ₹50 if you have not already paid for the Taj Mahal.
There are left luggage services at Agra Fort where you can store your bags at no cost. A fine of ₹5,000 applies if you lose your luggage ticket. Eating is not allowed.
There are also audio guides available at Agra Fort which you can rent for a cost of ₹100 in English and other foreign languages (German, French, Spanish) or ₹60 in Indian languages such as Hindi or Bengali.
- 3 Mehtab Bagh (directly across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, the trip takes about 30 minutes from the centre of town by autorickshaw and will cost about ₹200). These botanical gardens give you an opportunity to view the Taj without the crowds of tourists. Alternatively, walk past the entrance and straight to the sandy banks of the river: the view of the Taj is every bit as lovely (perhaps more so, since the barbed wire fence surrounding the gardens will be behind you), although you may have to deal with aggressive touts. Don't forget to take a round trip by auto rickshaw. Entrance to the park is ₹300 for foreigners (Oct 2019).
- 4 Ram Bagh (Aram Bagh). The first Mughal gardens, built by the first Mughal Emperor Babar, 500 m North of the Chini Ka Rauza.
- 5 Soami Bagh (10 km north of Agra). The white marble samadhi of the Radha Soami religion. Construction started in 1904 and is not expected to be completed until sometime in the next century. Visitors can see pietra dura inlaid marblework actually being worked on. Soami Bagh is 2 km north of Agra and can be reached by bus or cycle.
- 6 Balkeshwar Temple (At Balkeshwar, at river side of Yamuna). A temple of Lord Shiva.
- Mahakal And Mahakali Temple (At Sikandra railway crossing on Sikandra Bodla road).
- 7 Mankameshwar Temple (At Rawatpara, near Agra Fort railway station. Near the raja ki mandi; a simple cycle rikshaw can take you there for a fare of ₹20). Listen to the aarti as some claim it purifies your soul. It is the most visited temple by locals, and during festive seasons it's so crowded disrupting the traffic in the nearby areas.
- Prithvinath Temple (At Shahganj. On road to Jaipur.).
- 8 Rajeshwar Temple (At Village Rajpur. On road to Shamshabd.).
- Rawli Maharaj Temple (At Collectrate crossing, beside the railway track). Very old temple.
- 9 Shyam Ji Maharaj Temple (At Bijlighar).
Churches and Cemeteries
- 10 Akbar's Church (Church of Akbar). Akbar's Church dates back to 1598 and was built under the patronage of Emperor Akbar by Jesuit Fathers from Goa. Akbar's son Jahangir helped in the further expansion of the church. However his son Shah Jahan demolished the church in 1635, only to rebuild it a year later. Again in 1758 the church was looted by Persian invader Ahmed Shah Abdali. In 1769 the church was rebuilt. In 1835 the church went through further extension.
- 11 Cathedral of Immaculate Conception (Roman Catholic Cathedral of Agra) (Near Akbar's Church). Cathedral of Immaculate Conception (Roman Cathedral of Agra) is near the Akbar's Church. Constructed in 1848 it dominates the nearby Akbar's Church. It is built in Baroque style.
- 12 St John's Church (Near Mariam's Tomb). Oldest Protestant church of Agra.
- 13 Roman Catholic Cemetery. Roman Catholic Cemetery in Agra predates the Taj Mahal. It dates back to the time of Akbar (ruled 1556 - 1605). The earliest grave dates back to 1611 and is of an Armenian named Khwaja Mortenepus. The star attraction of the cemetery is the tomb of William Hessing (1740 - 1803), a Dutch commander of Agra Fort under Maharaja Daulat Rao Scindia. The red sandstone tomb was constructed by his wife and is designed along the lines of the Taj Mahal, but not an exact copy. It is often referred to as the Red or Baby Taj. The Ellisa Memorial, Tomb of General Perron's children and many of the other tombs are built in Islamic style. Also, many of the Armenian graves have epitaphs in Persian.
- 14 Chini Ka Roza (Chini Ka Rauza). A memorial dedicated to the Prime Minister of Shah Jahan, Allama Afzel Khal Mullah Shukrullah of Shiraz, notable for its dome of blue glazed tiles.
- 15 Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb. Empress Nur Jehan built Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb, sometimes called the Baby Taj, for her father, Ghias-ud-Din Beg, the Chief Minister of Emperor Jahangir. Small in comparison to many other Mughal-era tombs, it is sometimes described as a jewel box. Its garden layout and use of white marble, pietra dura, inlay designs and latticework presage many elements of the Taj Mahal. ₹300 for foreigners.
- 16 Gurudwara Guru ka Taal (at Delhi-Agra Highway, between Transport Nagar and Sikandra), ☏ +91 562 260 1717, [email protected].
- 17 Jama Masjid. A large mosque attributed to Princess Jahanara Begum, built in 1648 during the reign of the father Shah Jahan. Notable for its unusual dome and absence of minarets.
- 18 Mariam's Tomb (West from Akbar's Tomb on Agra-Delhi highway). Constructed by Jahangir in the memory of his mother Mariam Zammani. The grave is made of white marble. Though this building is in a ruined condition, yet it has in its vicinity, a Christian Mission School and a church. It is also said; Akbar himself made that it in the memory of his Christian wife.
- 19 Sikandra (10 km north of Agra on the Agra Delhi highway). Open from sunrise to sunset. The tomb of Akbar lies here in the centre of the large garden. Akbar started its construction himself but it was completed by his son Jehangir, who significantly modified the original plans which accounts for the somewhat cluttered architectural lines of the tomb. Four red sandstone gates lead to the tomb complex: one is Muslim, one Hindu, one Christian, and one is Akbar's patent mixture.
- 20 Jaswant Singh ki Chatri (Rajwara, Balkeshwar, east bank of Yamuna). Jaswant Sing ki Chatri is the only Hindu monument built in Agra during the Mughal rule. It is a memorial cenotaph dedicated to Rani Hada, wife of Amar Singh Rathore. Upon her husband's death, Rani Hada committed sati. Raja Jaswant Singh, the younger brother of Amar Singh built the chatri in 1644-58 CE.
- City Walks: Other than the monuments visits, one can also stroll in the local markets in old city area. Its a nice experience to have a walk in one of the oldest parts of the city.
- Adlabs Multiplex. Interactive cinema. Each viewer holds a wireless remote unit with push buttons and a small LCD screen, enabling them to participate in a trivia game about the theme of the film. The show is called India in Motion, a 25-minute show where the audience will pass through today's India in, or on, a variety of typical vehicles and see the historical events at sites of Mohenjo Daro, Indraprastha and the Taj Mahal, experiencing the bumpy elephant rides with the wind blowing through their hair, or the swaying boat with salty spray on their faces. Before the show there is an interactive quiz on various topics relating to India. ₹150 for a Hindi Show & ₹450 for a show in English.
- Mehtab Bagh. The Mughal garden, Mehatab Bagh is opposite the Taj Mahal. An octagonal pool is placed at the centre of the garden, which lets visitors to see amazing reflection of Taj Mahal during moonlight. The garden was built in the 16th century by Emperor Babur and it is also referred as ‘Moonlight Garden’.
- 1 Taj Nature Walk (500 m from the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal). 7AM-5PM. A forest area of 11 hectares, this park has many landscaped mounds and watchtowers that provide a nice view of the Taj Mahal. There's a lake with many species of fish, birds and aquatic plants. Indian nationals ₹40 (up to 5 years free, 5 to 10 years ₹20), foreigners ₹100.
- Taj Mahotsav. 10-day festival of art, craft and culture at Shilpgram, near the Taj Mahal. Annual, usually February or March.
- Yamuna River. One of the holy rivers of India, considered as a goddess in Hindu culture. A tributary of the Ganges which flows from Himalayas and further downstream, while passing through Delhi.
Agra has many shops selling stone products, from jewellery to small boxes and plaques with inlay work resembling that on the Taj. The best of these are wonderful, and even the run-of-the-mill ones are rather pretty. Agra is also famous for its leather goods. Consider spending time in Sadar Bazaar for some shopping and cheap food.
Beware of being overcharged. Do not let anyone lead you to a shop, lest the price go up to cover their commission, typically 50%. Be very wary of the promises these people make. Bargain hard. Be prepared to walk away, you can nearly always get the same items in another shop or order items you liked during your visit over the Internet after you return. Expect to encounter petty and greedy shopowners who will resort to every lie in the book to make a sale (with initial markups of 1,000-10,000%).
There are many local markets: Sadar Bazar. a sophisticated market, Raja ki Mandi market, Sanjay Place for all the offices, Shah Market for electronics. All of these markets are situated along the M G Road. Hospital Road Market and Subhash Bazar for clothes situated near Agra Fort railway station. Rawatpara market is for spices. Besides these there are many branded shops along the M G Road.
Many wholesale marble products are available at Gokul Pura Market near Raja Mandi on M. G. Road which can be easily reached by auto rickshaw, the price of most items are nearly 25% in the retail market.
Be careful when buying jewels: lots of stones are fake and the price is comparatively high.
Agra specialities are petha, a type of very sweet candy, and Dal Moth, a spicy lentil mix. Both are also popular souvenirs.
- Chaat - Agra is a heaven for any Chaat lover. Chaat can be of various types but there is one thing common among them all is that they are spicy and you will find crowd outside virtually every chaat stall, especially popular places like Double Phatak (near Sikandra) for Mangores. You'll find quality Bhallas and Panipuri at Sadar and Belangunj. Samosa and Kachori are found at every sweet shop that flood the city. Some typical chaat items are Aloo Tikki (made by roasting mess made out of boiled potatoes), paneer tikka (cubes of cottage cheese baked in a tandoor with spices), pani puri or golguppa (small round hollow shells filled with a potato-based filling and a spicy sweet blend of sauces), mangores, Samosaes, Chachori, etc. If you want to savour the typical Agra breakfast have a bite of one of those spicy Berahi and round it off with sweet Jalebies.
- Sweets - There are quite a few good sweets shops. The best for the famous petha of Agra are at Hari Parwat, a short distance from Agra Fort. Amongst the well-known shops are Panchi's, Bhimsain BaidyaNath and The Pracheen Petha store. There are many types of petha available but, for the authentic experience, try either the plain one (ivory white) or Angoori flavoured (rectangular and yellow pieces soaked in sugar syrup). Other shops in Agra include: Bikanervala, Deviram, Munnalal Petha, Gopaldas, and Ajanta Sweets, Kamla Nagar. You can round off your meal with a Joda (pair) of Pan unique to the city.
- There is also an abundance of Korean food.
- There are several restaurants in the Taj Ganj area, catering for the many tourists staying around the Taj Mahal.
Around the Taj Mahal
- 1 Joney's place, Taj ganj. Perfect for early breakfast, when you want to wake up early to visit the Taj at 6AM. Offered are for example Toast, coffee and cornflakes.
- 2 Treat Restaurant, South Gate Taj Mahal, ☏ +91 931 969 7497, [email protected]. breakfast, lunch and dinner. Good Indian food
- 3 Yash Cafe, 3/137 Chawk Kaghzian, near Hotel Shanti Lodge.
Around the Agra Fort train station
- 4 Manoj Restaurant, Johari Bazar Rd.
- 5 Tea’se Me, 18/159D Hotel M House, Fatehabad Rd.
- 6 Berco's Tajganj Agra, Ground Floor, Howard Plaza. Chinese cuisine.
A bottle of Indian beer costs around ₹70-100 in a hotel, but there is virtually no nightlife in Agra outside of cultural shows at some of the larger hotels and restaurants. After getting off the streets of Agra and into your hotel, you will not want to go back anyway.
- Amar Vilas Bar, Taj East Gate Rd. noon to midnight. Beer for ₹200 and cocktails for ₹450. The terrace of Amar Vilas Bar provides a view of the Taj.
- Downing Street Bar, Howard Sarovar Portico, Fatehabad Road, ☏ +91 562 4048600, +91 562 4048699. High quality of beverages and pleasant ambience. Downing Street Bar offers dishes such as pizza and tandoori chicken from the same kitchen.
- Mughal Bar, 54, Taj Road, ☏ +91 562 222 6121, +91 562 222 6129. It's in the compound of Hotel Clarks Shiraz’s, Mughal Bar is an open-aired roof bar. It offers some continental delicacies along with Indian ones.
- Col Lamba Indian Home Stay, 58 Gulmohar Enclave, Shamshabad Rd, ☏ +91 562-3298921. checkout Around ₹700 per person.
- Shahjahan, South Gate, near police station Tajganj, ☏ +91 562 320 0240, [email protected]. Almost fancy hotel and restaurant, with a café and a rooftop with great views of the Taj Mahal. Wi-Fi only downstairs in the reception. The staff are very helpful. Five minutes' walk from the Taj. ₹300 for a couple.
- Dayal Lodge (Budget Hotel in City Centre), 25 New Agra, Dayalbagh Road (Towards Dayalbagh), ☏ +91 9219606365, +91 9359848731, +91 562-2524560, fax: +91 562 2524560, [email protected]. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Established in the early 1960s, with 16 furnished air conditioned rooms. 24 hr made-to-order meals, in-house laundry facilities, local airport/railway station transfers. Double room with air-con ₹700-800.
- 1 Friends Paying Guest House ([email protected]), p-6 , taj nagri phase 1, near shilpgram road, Agra, India 282001 (Southeast of Shilpgram parking lot), ☏ +91 99 1788 5278. Check-in: noon, check-out: 1PM. Family-run guest house 15-min walk east from the Taj. Food, decent Wi-Fi, TV in rooms. Cushion-furnished balcony common area for eating, drinking and lazing about. Double ₹400.
- Hotel Amba Inn, 1/51, Delhi Gate, Near Raja ki Mandi Railway Station (2 mins from railway station), ☏ +91 562 2520779, +91 9412720194. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Offers facilities for 22 rooms. There are both double rooms, single rooms, as well as facility for an extra bed. All the rooms are air conditioned, with television. Single ₹550-800, double ₹650-900.
- Hotel Jaiwal, 3 Taj Road, Sadar Bazar, ☏ +91 562 2363153. ₹75-325.
- 2 Hotel Kamal (by the south gate of the Taj Mahal), ☏ +91 562-2330126, [email protected]. ₹300-850.
- Hotel Neel Kanth, Fatehabad Road, ☏ +91 562 2362039. ₹100+.
- Hotel Sheela, Tajganj (100 metres from eastern gate of Taj Mahal), ☏ +91 562-2333074, [email protected]. Check-out: 10AM. Commission-free transport bookings, free incoming phone calls, 24 hour hot water. 22 rooms. Laundry facility. ₹500-800.
- India Inn, Taj Mahal South Gate (As you come out on the street from the south exit, turn left, then almost immediately right down the side of the Taj café, it's at the end of the dusty parking lot 40 m from the café). Check-out: 10AM negotiable. Comfortable enough. ₹300 for a double in off season.
- Saniya Palace, Chowk Kajziyan, South Gate, Taj Ganj, ☏ +91 562 3270199. Good budget hotel with some air-con rooms. 24 hr room service. Friendly staff & fantastic views of the Taj Mahal from the roof top restaurant. ₹700
- Shanti lodge. South Taj gate. From ₹400 economic room, non air-con. Hot water, TV. Restaurant on the roof top. Be careful with the bed sheets, not very clean. Cloak room available.
- Youth Hostel, Sanjay Place, M. G. Road, ☏ +91 562 2154462. ₹50-₹125.
- Rhine Hostel (Rhine YOGA Hostel), HIG - 2/10, Near Shilpgram Parking, Taj Nagri Phase 1, Taj East Gate Rd, Telipara (1 km from east gate of Taj mahal, next to Shilpgram parking), ☏ +9199973 79977, [email protected]. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. 6 rooms, 10 minute walking distance from Taj Mahal, rooftop, free stay in exchange of work available. Food, Wi-Fi, common area for eating, drinking and lazing about. single ₹199.
- Harshit paying guest house ([email protected]), P-50A Taj nagari phase-1, Tajganj , Agra (Fatehabad Road near big bazaar), ☏ +91 931-9105293. Check-out: noon. Five clean rooms, running hot water in the bathroom, fully air conditioned, LCD TV, Internet, home cooked food. ₹5,000.
- Hotel Mandakini Villas, Fatehabad Road, Purani Mandi, Taj Ganj (200 metres from the Taj Mahal's West Gate), ☏ +91 5626453854. Check-out: noon. Offers air-conditioned rooms each with cable TV with 100 channels, broadband Internet connection, private bathroom. You might get a little bit warmer than cold water by requesting it from the reception a few times. It is not possible to sleep without ear plugs in the first floor because of the noise coming from corridor and reception all night. Get a room on the higher floors. Rates start at ₹2,690.
- Hotel Priya, Near Priya Restaurant, Near TDI Mall, Fatehabad Road (400 m from the Taj Mahal's East Gate parking), ☏ +91 562 223 1350, +91 983 777 4948. Check-out: noon. Offers air-con rooms each with cable TV with 100 channels, Internet connection, private bathroom. One of the best in this range. Double ₹1,355-2,850. Breakfast ₹150 (taxes not included.).
- Hotel Raj. Directly in front of the central entry of the Taj Mahal, simple but clean. About ₹800.
- Hotel Taj Resorts, Plot No.538, Agra-282 001 (Near Shilpgram, which is 1km from the Eastern Gate), ☏ +91-562-2230161, fax: +91-562-2230164. Built in 2010, restaurant with rooftop seating and a beautiful pool, great view of the Taj (if not blocked by terrible pollution). US$60-70/night, ₹4,000-6,000 (June 2012, tax not included).
- Laurie's Hotel, Mahatma Gandhi Road, ☏ +91 562 2364536, fax: +91 562 2268045. An old colonial hotel from the British era, some say it hasn't been upgraded since, Laurie's retains some of the charm of travelling in India during the Raj. Rooms with very high ceilings (fans, no aircon) lead off from verandahs with nice lawns outside. A swimming pool is closed in the winter. One can get British era service with 'bed tea', excellent freshly made chicken curry and rice to order, and creaky plumbing. Some people will love it, others may hate it.
- 3 N.Home Stay, 15 Ajanta Colony, Vibhav Nagar, ☏ +91 969-0107860, +91 989-7444410, [email protected]. Check-out: 10AM. A family owned, operated guest house in a peaceful and quite colony away from the city traffic and pollution. Free parking, 24hr free Wi-Fi, cable TV, all day water supply and accessible roof top. Single air-con room [June 2012]: ₹1199 & Double air-con room [June 2012]: ₹1499.
- 9 star hotel, Plot No.18/159, A/4B, Fatehabad Rd, Bansal Nagar, Tajganj, ☏ +91 124 620 1161, [email protected]. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. ₹3,000-3,700.
- Rajmahal hotel, Shilpgram , vip road (eastern gate),282010, agra. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. 9 km from agra airport. You will also get a nice view of Taj Mahal, which is 3 km away. from ₹3,500 to ₹5,500 for couple.
Thanks to heavy competition, Agra's five-star hotels are good value compared to most other cities in India.
- 4 ITC Mughal, Taj Ganj, ☏ +91-562-4021700, [email protected]. Formerly the Sheraton Mughal, this is one of Agra's top hotels, with views of the Taj from the roof viewing pavilion. Large pool. The hotel's age is starting to show, but the rooms are in fine shape. Popular with tour groups. Double Room Prices [June 2012]: from ₹4,845 to ₹100,000. Taxes not included.
- 5 Oberoi Amarvilas, Taj East Gate Road, ☏ +91 562 2231515. The best (and most expensive) hotel in Agra. It is consistently rated among the top 10 hotels in Asia. Double Rooms Prices [June 2012]: from ₹21,000 to ₹41,000 Breakfast (₹2,000) & taxes not included.
- 6 The Trident Agra, Fathebad Road, ☏ +91 562 2331818. Formerly the Trident Hilton, it's further away from the Taj than others, but is near the TDI Mall. Rooms from US$89.
- 7 The Gateway Hotel.
- Four Points by Sheraton
- Don't leave cash or any valuables in the hotel room. Cross check all hotel, restaurant and lounge bills for errors.
- Never pay anyone for anything upfront, including taxi drivers.
- Beware of pickpockets.
- If you decide to purchase anything, beware that most items are cheap replicas of original items and not likely to last long.The toys are really poorly put together so do not buy them!
- During the winter season, the weather of Agra is unpredictable and temperature may go as low as freezing; be well prepared.
- Some unscrupulous dealers of carpets use the classic 'bait and switch'. If you buy something, insist on carrying it yourself else what arrives in the post might not be what you bargained for. A carpet shop named 'Kanu carpets' is particularly infamous for this. It is prudent to stray clear of shady looking establishments.
Agra comes under Uttar Pradesh (west) circle as per TRAI. BSNL[dead link] and Airtel are the two main providers of terrestrial telephone lines in Agra, while BSNL[dead link], AirTel, Vodafone[dead link] and Idea provide GSM (triband) and Reliance and Tata[dead link] provide CDMA services.
There are several Internet cafés for sending email or uploading digital photos.
- Sify Iway also offers broadband connectivity at different locations spread all over the city.
Many cheap cafés, such as the Taj Café, offer free Wi-Fi.
- Bharatpur is about 56 km from Agra and houses the famous bird sanctuary in which you can see thousands of rare birds including Siberian Crane. The Lohagarh Fort remained invincible despite several attacks by the British. Just 32 km from Bharatpur is the Deeg Palace. This strong and massive fort was the summer resort of the rulers of Bharatpur and has many palaces and gardens.
- Fatehpur Sikri ghost city is a UNESCO world heritage site about 40 km from Agra. Built in the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar, the "City of Victory" was the capital of the Mughal Empire for a brief decade and was abandoned in 1586 due to inadequate local water supplies and proximity to the Rajputana areas in the North-West, which were increasingly in turmoil. It includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid. Full of well preserved palaces and courtyards, it is a must see for anyone visiting Agra. In order to get a full idea of this site it is better to take a guide (₹450 for 2h for its free entry part) or have a good printed guide. Entry to the site of the mosque (even to the yard) is only without wearing footwear. The vehicle parking is about a kilometre away and Agra Development Authority (ADA) runs some rickety non air conditioned buses to the site entrance, fare is ₹10 per person one way. Entry to the fort area where the palaces are located is ₹610 for foreigners.
- Mathura is said to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna. There are many beautiful temples in Mathura, including the one built at Shri Krishna's birthplace.
- Nandgaon was the home of Shri Krishna`s foster father, Nand. On the top of the hill is the spacious temple of Nand Rai, built by the Hat ruler Roop Singh. The other temples here are dedicated to Narsingha, Gopinath, Nritya Gopal, Girdhari, Nand Nandan, and Yasodha Nandan, which is half-way up the hill. Nandgaon springs into action every year around March for the festival of Holi, when many tourists flock to the city for the famous "lath mar holi".
- National Chambal Sanctuary, (70 km away) is a natural sanctuary and the home of the endangered Indian gharial (a relative of the crocodile) and of the Ganges River Dolphin (also endangered).
- Vrindavan is also a religious place around 50 km from Agra, and quite close to Mathura. There are many temples here devoted to Lord Krishna, a few of the more famous of which are Banke Bihari and the Iskcon Temple.
Note: Do not rely on private luxury buses and travel agencies as they are very expensive and may drop you to your destination late. They'll also tell you that the bus is direct to the destination but in reality it's not.