Agra Travel guide

powered by WikiTravel

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 nearby. There are also many other buildings and tombs from Agra's days of glory as the capital of the Mughal Empire.

The city has little else to recommend it. Pollution, especially smog and litter, is rampant and travellers are pestered by swarms of touts and hawkers at every monument, mosque, temple or palace. That said, 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.

Understand


Due to the very high number of tourists, Agra is a breeding ground for touts and people looking to separate you from your money. People from all over the world visit Agra to see India's most famous building - the Taj Mahal.

While Agra's golden age 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 and became the ruler of much of Northern India, including Agra. After Sher Shah Suri's death, his descendants proved unequal to the task of ruling the kingdom. Hemu, a Hindu who served as one of Suri's generals, became the effective ruler. Hemu would later crown himself King Hemachandra Vikramaditya just as the kingdom was facing an assault from the reinvigorated Mughals. In 1556, Hemu was defeated and killed in the second battle of Panipat, and the Mughals took back the city of Agra.

Mughals were great builders. Babur built the Aram Bagh (Garden of Relaxation) which was modeled after the garden of paradise and was where he was buried after his death. His grandson Akbar refurbished the Agra fort and built 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 he ordered constructed as a mausoleum for his most 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 of 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 actual support for this theory, but even if it were true, it would have unlikely been built. 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 famine around Agra. Shah Jehan was eventually buried in the white Taj, next to his beloved wife.

In addition to giving Agra its greatest building, Shah Jehan was also responsible for the city's decline, when he decided to shift his capital to Shahjehanabad, 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 focus on his wars in the south. Agra declined and so did the Mughal Empire. The city was eventually captured by the Marathas, who renamed it back to Agra. In 1803, it came under British rule, who established the Agra Presidency there. When India regained its independence, the city was incorporated into the state of Uttar Pradesh, and was not even made the state capital, which went to Lucknow, further east. Agra is now a tourist town, known most famously for the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and nearby Fatehpur Sikri.

Anyone interested in reading a novel based on the remarkable story behind the Taj Mahal should consider Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors. Beneath a Marble Sky is an international bestseller that won multiple awards and is being made into a Hollywood film. Another book suggestion is The Taj by Colin De Silva.

Get in


Agra is 200 km southeast of Delhi and is one of three stops on India's Golden Triangle (Agra-Delhi-Jaipur). Agra is also very well connected via rail and road with other nearby cities and tourist destinations.

By plane

Service to Agra's Kheria Airport ({{IATA|AGR}} {{ICAO|VIAG}}) is limited due to the airport's primary function as an air force base. Currently the city is served by Air India. Flights are usually on time and provide connection to Delhi and Mumbai. Although one can save time travelling by air to Agra, the limited flight options are a turn off to many who opt to visit the city by train or by car.

By train

Agra is on the main train line on the Delhi-[Mumbai (Bombay) and Delhi-Chennai routes. There are numerous train options connecting Agra with these cities every day. Some eastbound trains from Delhi stop in Agra, so direct connections to points in Eastern India (including Kolkata) are available. There are close to 20 trains to Delhi every day, and at least three or four to both Mumbai and Chennai. Agra and Delhi]] are notorious for their thick winter fog which reduces visibility to almost zero. If travelling in late December or early January (fog season), travelers should be aware that because of the reduced visibility, all trains travel slowly and thereby increases travel time. There are three stations in Agra:

Stations
Lines

12002 +BHOPAL SHTBDI NEW DELHI 06:15 AGRA CANTT 08:12 01:57

12280 +TAJ EXPRESS H NIZAMUDDIN 07:10 AGRA CANTT 10:07 02:57

14212 +INTERCITY EXP NEW DELHI 17:40 AGRA CANTT 21:50 04:10

12191 +NDLS JBP SUP NEW DELHI 14:05 AGRA CANTT 17:10 03:05

Train tickets can be booked online on the Indian Railways website (www.irctc.co.in) where you may pay by debit or credit card. Upon arrival at Agra station, one can sign up for tours in air-conditioned luxury coaches. There are also organized tours from Delhi.

Getting reserved tickets from the ticket windows at the stations is possible but some travelers have reported being turned away. If you cannot get a reserved ticket from the window you can get an unreserved ticket from the unreserved window, and then occupy the train car of your choice and pay the conductor the fare difference between the unreserved ticket and the reserved seat, they will assign you a seat. There are many classes of train cars, unreserved with no air conditioning(180 rupees), triple tier sleeper with AC(540 rupees), double tier with AC(740 rupees), BHOPAL SHTBDI direct train with AC, no stops and food service(755 rupees)

Beware of scammers/touts outside and inside the New Delhi Station that will ask if you have a ticket, when you say you don't have one, they'll send you off to the "Incredible India" office calling it the government tourist office, when you get there they'll tell you all the trains are full and then they'll try to sell you a private car for 10,000 or more rupees.

Delhi to Agra by road - A new highway is being constructed from Greater Noida to Agra. The journey would take 2 to 3 hours and should be very popular among tourists as the road standards will be ultra modern.

Also, train #2965 from Agra Cantonment to Jaipur departs at 5:40 PM and arrives at 10:15 PM for ₹300 in an air conditioned coach.

One day excursion from Delhi to Agra

It is easy to visit Agra comfortably in one day by train from Delhi. Plan on waking early in the morning and hop on the Bhopal Shatabdi leaving at 06:00 from New Delhi Railway Station. Breakfast is served on the train, which is included in the fare and is usually an omelette with a couple of slices of bread with coffee or tea. Arrive in Agra and then either hire a car or rickshaws to get around. A visit to the Taj Mahal, followed by Agra Fort does not take a great deal of time. Add a visit to Akbar's Tomb and/or Itmad-ud-Daulah, for which an auto-rickshaw or taxi are required, and you will still have time for lunch before catching the return train at 20:30 with dinner, which is included in the fare. With a hired car it is even possible to visit Fatehpur Sikri.

Another option is to catch the Taj Express from Hazrat Nizamuddin station. The train departs Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin) at around 7:00 AM and reaches Agra Cantt at around 10:00 AM. Upon reaching Agra Cantt station, go to platform 1 to exit the station. There is a tourist information counter here. Here you can book a ticket on the Agra City Tour Bus. This bus will take you to Fatehpur Sikri (40km from town), Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal. There bus makes a stop for lunch after visiting Fatehpur Sikri. They have knowledgeable tour guides who speak English and Hindi. The best part of this tour is that it's coordinated with the arrival and departure of the Taj express, and brings you back to Agra Cantt station in time to catch the return train back to Delhi. Tickets are about Rs. 400/- for Indian citizens and will be higher for foreigners.

By bus

A number of buses connect Agra with Delhi. It takes around 4-5 hours to reach Agra by bus. There are three main interstate bus stands:

Note: Do not rely on Private Luxury Buses and Travel Agencies as they are very expensive and may drop you to your destination too late. They'll also tell you that the bus goes direct to the destination but it does not.

By Taxi

For local sight seeing in Agra, it is better to hire a taxi on a full day basis. A reliable way of booking your cab is to do so online. Also, you can book a taxi at your hotel or outside the railway station. There is a government authorized taxi stand. It is best to negotiate price with the driver directly or book trough some online car rental portal.

Cars are not allowed near the Taj Mahal complex, but the rest of Agra is easily traversed by car. Rentals are available from various rental agencies.

If you plan to travel to Agra by taxi from Delhi International Airport (DEL), make sure you hire a taxi that can take you to other cities (the white ones). The prepaid taxi kiosk for local taxi services are known to arrange (privately outside the auspices of the prepaid taxi system) a local taxi (green and yellow ones) to take you to Agra. In this case, the taxi will have to take a big detour to get a government permit to travel intercity before heading to Agra. Not only is substantial time wasted, but these taxis are small and uncomfortable. The taxi kiosk for local travel should redirect you to the intercity taxi stand, but don't count on them to do so.

By road

It is possible to hire a car with a driver (a big car for five people to/from Delhi airport costs about ₹3500). But beware - if you need to get from Agra to the airport in order to catch a flight, be sure to allow plenty of time for the trip, as traffic conditions can increase the commute time significantly. Also, it is wise to know your driver. In some instances, drivers may take over five hours to cover the distance.

Get around


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. In case you are a foreigner, please ensure that you bargain everywhere and bargain hard! Generally things are available at 40% of the initially quoted fares.

UP Tourism conduct daily full day (Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fort and Tajmahal; Rs 500/- per head) and half day tour (Agra Fort and Tajmahal; Rs 350/- per head; fees based on Dec, 2015) in AC buses. But both the cases, they took you to Tajmahal at the end of the tour in the evening. So, you may not get sufficient time for watching Tajmahal properly. Except IRCTC also conduct city tour in cars, but you need to book the cars by yourself and a bit costlier than the bus tour of UP tourism. Both the UP tourism and IRCTC have it's booking office in the platform no 1 of Agra Cantonment Railway Station.

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. Indian palate is generally very spicy.

As a guide, an auto rickshaw from Agra Cantonement station to the Taj Mahal is about Rs 80 (at least in off season); and a cycle rickshaw from the Taj Mahal to Agra Fort is Rs 40.

An air conditioned taxi for the day should cost around Rs 1200. They will charge slightly more if you want to go to Fatehpur Sikri as it's a bit further out. Be warned that the drivers will probably try to make unscheduled stops along the way at marble and textile shops for which they receive commissions. Firmly tell them that you're not interested in shopping - though this might not get you anywhere so try to just go with the flow - you won't be pressured into buying anything but if you have a tight schedule it can be annoying.

See


Agra's top two sights by far are the incomparable Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. When planning your sightseeing, take heed of the convoluted entry fee system: for Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Itmud-ad-Daulah, Sikandra and Fatehpur Sikri, you must pay a ₹500 levy to the Agra Development Authority in addition to the prices mentioned below. Once paid, the levy is valid for all sights, but only for one day. However, If you are not going to the Taj Mahal or happen to turn up on a Friday, then you do not have to pay the ₹500 levy but a smaller one if you are going to the other sites. Eg ₹50 for Red Fort

Prices of monuments tickets

Current prices (May 2016) are: Rs 1000 (for foreigners) for Taj Mahal (500 entrance + 500 levy) and ₹550 for Agra Fort (500 entrance + 50 levy). No entry fee for children (Foreigner & Indian) below age of 15 Years. One gets ₹50 discount when presenting ticket for Taj Mahal at Agra Fort. The Taj Mahal entry fee also includes a 500mL bottle of water and shoe covers. Make sure you pick them up when you buy your ticket. For Indians, its Rs 40.

Official Tour Guides

Official guides are available in Agra for INR 1035 (approx US$ 20) for a half day (including Taj Mahal & Agra Fort). Not many official Approved guides stand outside the monuments so if you require a official tour guide then you can book one of any foreign language spoken tour guides directly with contact no. from the Approved guides office,Agra.Office of Approved Guide Association Agra. Guides are recognized and approved by Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India.

Guides provided by most of travel agencies or hotels in Agra usually insist to visit a fix shop and get big commission, this commission is distributed among unofficial Guides (lapka), travel agents or hotel's staff.

Note: to make your tour more enjoyable Please book 'guides services' on line for Agra trip, as They are more trustworthy than a guide provided by Hotels in Agra,All travel desk are taken by Shop owner & they force to visit that particulate big shop.

Any guide that charges less than that is probably an unlicensed tout. Most unlicensed touts stand outside the gate of Taj Mahal & Agra fort with fake IDs and focus more on taking you for shopping rather than on presenting accurate history & information,

Audio Guides

Effective April 2011, the Archaeological Survey of India introduced an official self guided audio tour facility of international standards for visitors. The tour allows visitors to experience the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort at their own pace, with authentic and factually accurate information. Visitors may avail of the audio guide facility from the official audio guide booth near the monument ticket counters. Prices for audio guide services are ₹105 (approx US$ 2) in English & Foreign Languages (currently French, Spanish, Italian, German) or ₹63 in Hindi & Indian Languages.

Reviews for the audio guides have been very positive on Tripadvisor and other travel websites and this is the recommended way to see the two Agra monuments. Recently, smartphone application and iPod tours have become available, including the official Taj Mahal app offered by AudioCompass - the same company that provides the audio guides.

Official Smartphone App

Recently, a plethora of smartphone apps has become available to help visitors tour the monuments. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) offers perhaps the most comprehensive ones through AudioCompass. Both the Taj Mahal Official Tour and the similar Agra Fort Official Tour are available for download for iOS and for Android. The app is available for free, but only the first 30 seconds of every point at the Taj and Agra fort can be listened to. For full access a subscription needs to be purchased for $1/day or $10/year.

Taj Mahal

Please note that the Taj Mahal is closed every Friday.

'If you buy the foreigner high price ticket, you go in a separate, much smaller line and they give you shoe covers and water. Touts (tour guides) will say they can cut the line because they're guides, but you get in the smaller line anyway with your 750 Rupee ticket.'

The 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 his 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 Indian Muslim architecture, and one of the great sites of the world's heritage.

The Taj Mahal has a life of its own that leaps out of marble, provided 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. It is a celebration of woman built in marble, and that is the way to appreciate it.

Although it is one of the most photographed edifices in the world and instantly recognisable, actually seeing it is awe-inspiring. Not everything is in the photos. The grounds of the complex include several other beautiful buildings, reflecting pools, 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 of the Taj Mahal out of black marble on the opposite side of the river as his own tomb. His plans were foiled by his son, who murdered three elder brothers and overthrew his father to acquire the throne. Shah Jahan is now buried alongside his wife in the Taj Mahal.

If you are taking a camera, beware that because the Taj is white your camera may underexpose your photos. If it is a film camera you will not find out until it is too late. Overexposure by 1 or 2 stops is recommended.

The Taj is open from 6:00 AM to 6:30 PM (sunset) every day except Friday. The gates won't open until 6:00 AM at the earliest, often a few minutes later, so don't bother getting there at 5:00 AM. Entry costs ₹750 for foreigners and ₹20 for Indians. Get there as early as possible to beat the crowds. Crowds are the biggest during the weekend when people overshadow the grandeur of the Taj. 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. It is utterly stunning under a full moon. You can also get very good views from Mehtab Bagh (see Gardens section below). It is a good idea to bring a flashlight, because the interior of the Taj Mahal is quite dark even during the day. To fully appreciate the details of the gem inlays, you need a good light.

To buy tickets, you can go to the South gate, but this gate is 1 km far away of the entrance and the counter opens at 8:00 AM. At the West and East gates, the counters open at 6:00 AM. These gates also have smaller queues in peak times as the big tour buses drop groups off at the South gate. Alongside the ticket counter, you can also purchase a self-guided audio tour (allows two to a device) for ₹100 in English and foreign languages and ₹60 for Indian languages.

The Taj is located in the middle of town. Expect a line 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 turn up 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.

There are night viewing sessions during full moons and two days before and after (five days in total). Exceptions are Fridays (the Muslim sabbath) and the month of Ramadan. Tickets must be purchased 24 hours in advance from the Archeological Society of India office situated at 22, Mall Road, Agra. Ticket fare is Rs. 500 for Indian Nationals and Rs. 750 for Non Indians. Night tickets go on sale starting at 10am, but they do not always sell out, so it can be worth looking into it when you arrive even if well after 10am. Tickets only allow viewing from the red sandstone plaza at the south end of the complex, and only for a 1/2 hour window. Make sure to wear mosquito repellent. Viewing hours for night viewing is from 8:30pm-9:00pm and 9:00pm-9:30pm. Arrive 30 minutes early for security check at Taj Mahal Ticketing counter on East Gate or you may lose your chance. The night view is not worth spending as the visitors are kept quite far from Taj Mahal nearly 200 Mts away and there in no light so it could hardly be seen during night hours at viewing hours. Cameras also do not give images with near zero flux can easily be avoided for night viewing.

Agra Fort

The 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 as palace as a defensive structure, it is also constructed mainly from red sandstone.

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 ₹25-30. Entry to the fort is ₹500(SEP 2016) (plus levy of ₹50 if you have not already paid the ₹500 fee for Taj Mahal).

There are left luggage services at Agra Fort where you can stow your bags at no cost. A fine of ₹5,000 applies if you lose your luggage ticket.

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, etc) or ₹60 in Indian languages such as Hindi or Bengali.

Gardens

Temples

Other sights

Do


Buy


Agra has many shops selling various 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 enjoying 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. Also remember that in these globalized times, you can always order stuff you liked in your visit over the internet after you return. Expect to encounter petty and greedy shop owners who will resort to every lie in the book to make a sale (with initial markups of 1000-10000%).

Mughal Bazar on the Taj East Gate road, about 2km from the East Gate is a better place to shop for your obligatory Taj Mahal figurine vs. the little stores nearby the gate. Much more relaxed and friendly with better prices for the same goods, and no petty lies to make a sale.

Many local markets are there: SADAR BAZAR..a sophisticated market, Raja ki Mandi market, Sanjay Place for all the offices, Shah Market for electronics. All these markets are situated along the M G Road. Hospital Road Market and Subhash Bazar for clothing situated near Agra Fort railway station. Rawatpara market is for spices of all origin. Besides these there are many branded showrooms situated along the M G Road..

Many wholesale marble products are available at Gokul Pura (Market)near Raja Mandi (this place is near to M. G Road) which can be easily reached by auto rickshaw, the prices of any product is nearly 25% of that in the retail market.

Be careful with the jewels: Lots of stones are fakes and the price is very high!

Eat


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 (pan-fried potato cakes), 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 do remember to 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 all round the city. The best stores for buying the famous petha of Agra are at Hari Parwat, a short ride from Agra Fort. Amongst the well-known stores 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 Flavored (rectangular and yellow pieces soaked in sugar syrup). Other stores in Agra include: Bikanervala,Sri Dauji mishtan, Deviram, Munnalal Petha, Gopaldas, and Ajanta Sweets, Kamla Nagar. Do remember to round off your meal with a Joda(Pair) of Pan unique to the city.

There is also an abundance of Korean food at most restaurants.

There are several restaurants in the Taj Ganj area, catering for the many tourists staying around the Taj Mahal.

Drink


Most hotel staff will be happy to find you a cold bottle of Indian beer for around ₹70-100, but there is virtually no nightlife in Agra outside of cultural shows at some of the larger hotels and restaurants.

Sleep


Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Contact


Agra comes under Uttar Pradesh (west) circle as per TRAI. BSNL ,Airtel are the two main providers of terrestrial telephone lines in Agra, while BSNL , AirTel , Vodafone and Idea provide GSM (triband) and Reliance and Tata provide CDMA services.

Internet

There are several internet cafes / Cyber Cafes from where you can access the internet for sending email or uploading your digital photos.

Many cheap café's, such as the Taj Cafe also have free wifi for you to use.

Get out


Powered by WikiTravel. A list of contributors is available at the original article on WikiTravel. Content on this page is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.