As much as I hate the crowds, I compromised at the last minute that we should see it now or never. Agra, a city known worldwide for the presence of the Taj Mahal and cannot be miss during your trip to India.
After our two nights in Delhi, it was about time to leave the capital behind and see something different. Agra is about three hours drive from Delhi, were fortunate to get out of the city before the traffic begins, as we have a car with a driver. Renting a car was the most comfortable way to get from one place to another. Probably not the cheapest mode but saves time.
However, it was a long search online, but with the help of other travelers, I found a reliable local site in Delhi and book the car with a driver by Namaste India Tours.
Wander through The Agra Fortress
Before we are heading to the Taj Mahal, we first drove to Red Fort. It’s a similar pattern to the forts in Delhi, but after doing some research – it seems the Agra Fortress is better preserved. So we deliberately didn’t visit the Red Fort in Delhi.
The fortified building is the largest in the Mughal Empire contained several buildings over a length of almost 2.5 kilometers. Strolling inside, brought some formal occasions that each had a contribution that could see all over the place. On top of that, the courtyards and beautiful gates are brilliant with excellent pieces of Indian history.
Practical information: The entrance fee costs 600 INR, and if you have a ticket from the Taj Mahal – you receive a discount. Also, beware that you need a lot of patience while queuing, the hawkers outside can be irritating, but I guess you already know how to deal with them.
One Of The beautiful Complex Inside Taj Mahal
You don’t miss a lot while in Agra, because there’s only one in the city famous for is the Taj Mahal. A magical place, arguably the most famous mausoleum in the world, the highlight of India.
As one the busiest city in the country, you’ll be dealing with all kinds of people before you reach the complex.
Practical Information: If coming by car, your driver will drop you off at the parking a 10-20 minute walk to the entrance. If you don’t like to walk, there is tuk-tuk around for 100 rupees. Do not give them more than they ask, that’s the regular fare as our driver told. However, it’s faster by walking – a short cut will bring you to the ticketing counter in a few minutes. The tuk-tuk is not allowed to go near the gate.
Be Aware Of Scammers Outside!
Scammers, hawkers are experts on how innocent tourists get into their hands, don’t let them crank you. The truth is, you can’t rid of them that quickly as they don’t take no for an answer and keep following you.
They’re offering cheap tickets for the Taj Mahal while the official tickets are only available from the registered gates and online at a World Heritage Site in India. All other places and sellers are not official and therefore not recommended.
The Three Gates In Taj Mahal
There are three access gates for the Taj Mahal: the west, east, and the south, all of the three has its benefits and disadvantage.
For example – the South Gate opens from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM – the fastest option for daytime access.
And for Eastern Gate – open from sunrise to sunset and less crowded, but one kilometer to the entrance. This gate is an alternative for people with an e-ticket to have quick access.
The West Gate – also open from sunrise to sunset and right next to the entrance, but it usually has long rows.
When we arrive at the gate, it was too busy and so many tourists, and after getting our tickets, we move on to other long lines for the backpack controls. To avoid any delays, make sure to read on the website of the Taj Mahal what you can take inside.
Practical Information: Entry to the Taj Mahal for foreign tourists costs 1300 INR (16 euros), which includes a bottle of water and shoe cover that required in the mausoleum. You can collect these at a separate counter upon entering and after having the ticket as you need it as proof. And if you plan to visit the Baby Taj and Agra Fortress, keep your card; it gives you a discount to the mentioned sites. The complex of the Taj Mahal closed on Friday.
The White Marble Mausoleum Of The Taj Mahal
I understand why millions of people are visiting the Taj Mahal every year. As we walk through the entrance gate, the first glance I have was the 58 meters high marble dome – the most impressive part of the building.
The main tomb reflected in the water of the lotus pond, which makes the world-famous picture. But it was impossible to have good photos with people in the surrounding. They all want to pose with the Taj Mahal on the background. In Delhi, I never had any issues taking photographs.
I conquer my mission after waited for so long to see this beauty. Even though it overfilled with people, I disregard around me and enjoying the sight of the Taj Mahal.
The majestic buildings rise from the ground like a sparkling diamond is on a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 and has been one of the Seven New Wonders of the World since 2007.
Take the time to look around because there is so much to discover. On both sides of the Taj Mahal are two identical red sandstone buildings. The mosque and the guesthouse, both structures consist of an elongated hall with three domes.
For the foreign tourists with high-value tickets were allow to visit the museum with a detailed explanation of the construction of the symmetrical marble structure and what preceded it.
Baby Taj The Smaller Version Of Taj Mahal
Meet the smaller version of the Taj Mahal only 10 min away. The entry cost 300 INR, but you receive a discount by showing your ticket from the Taj Mahal.
The small mausoleum in a marvelous place is lovely to wander around and less crowded. It makes it easier to take some photographs with a few people around. Many of the visitors to Agra don’t bother visiting the Baby Taj as they thought is not worth it. Fairly to say, it might not be famous as the prominent mausoleum, but you will regret it if you skip Baby Taj.
It consists of one big square garden in the middle, and some identical buildings at the beginning and the beautiful stonework—much more to see on the inside than the Taj and absolute masterpiece. The mausoleum is the burial site of Mizra Ghiyas Beg – an influential figure from the Mughal period.
The Abandoned City Of Fatehpur Sikri
If you are doing the route from Agra to Jaipur or vice versa, it worth stopping by in Fatehpur Sikri. However, if coming from Agra is about 40 kilometers – which is more than a one hour drive. Fatehpur Sikri is a fully walled city that was abandoned entirely just a few years after its construction in 1610.
It took 15 years to build the whole complex but neglected due to a shortage of drinking water, and today looks like a ghost town. The entire complex is in excellent condition a mixed architecture of Hindu and Muslim styles and has been listed by UNESCO as a cultural heritage site. Thus, genuinely worth a visit.
Practical Information: The admission in Fatehpur Sikri costs 600 INR. If you want to avoid the crowds, come on other days except on Friday, as its holy day for Muslim worshipers.
Additionally, if one comes in a private car, your driver drops you off in the parking and take the bus for 10 rupees, which is the only way to reach the walled city.
Nevertheless, we’ve warned by our driver before getting out of the car to ignore the hawkers, but I already knew what he meant. On the way to the bus stop, you pass through the souvenir shops, the sellers here can be more persistent, compared to other places in India, so be mindful.
Where To Stay In Agra City
Agra is one of the busiest cities in India due to its famous attractions; however, many people come to Agra for one day to see the Taj Mahal.
For those who spent for the night, there’s assuredly plenty of accommodations to choose from cheap guesthouses to expensive hotel rooms. As we’ve booked a package, it all includes lodging, and to be honest; they’re pretty good.
We’re staying at Hotel Crimson Palace near the Taj Mahal. A convenient location close to the city center. The hotel is popular with tour agencies, and it can sometimes get crowded.
You’ll see the building quite impressive outside and the hotel lobby, but the image you see in the room somewhat less. Despite all that, they have friendly and helpful staff; also, they provide free wifi which is great benefits.