Pristinely white marble structure, splendid architectural design, and a love story that was built to last. These are words that perfectly describe the arguably most famous landmark in India: the Taj Mahal. If ever you visit this vibrant and colorful country in South Asia, you gotta make sure you visit the city of Agra. And once you visit Agra, you have to make sure to visit one of the new seven wonders of the world! This blog is aimed to guide you as you plan to explore this city famed because of the marvelous structure of the Taj Mahal!
Agra is a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in India. It is included on the Golden Triangle tourist circuit of the country, along with Delhi and Jaipur. The city is a major tourist destination as it is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.
A PEEK ON AGRA: It was already night time when we arrived in Agra. After getting off the bus along a street I believed to be already near the bus terminal, we rode a tuk-tuk to lead us in our hostel. We saw many Western establishments along the way. We were a bit tempted to stop by in one popular Western food chain but we didn’t stop. We actually could, but we opted to let the driver lead us straight to our hostel. Thankfully, our hostel has a small restaurant on its rooftop floor, and it was where we ate dinner! I actually thought, I won’t miss the chance to eat authentic Indian food while I am here in India! Haha. And that’s just what I did. After dinner and wash up, we went straight to bed because we had to wake up early for Taj Mahal!
WHAT TO EXPLORE
The TAJ MAHAL
It seemed like I was out of words while having a first glimpse of the majestic Taj Mahal… it was huge, it was beautiful, it was a masterpiece! I felt utterly breathless while looking at it that morning, much like the feeling I had when I first saw the Angkor Wat in Cambodia! Its immensity was awe-striking, not the kind that would make you feel small, but the kind that would make you drop your jaw in appreciation.
Probably the grandest mausoleum in the whole world, Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in memory of his third and most favorite wife, Arjumand Banu Begum or better known as Mumtaz Mahal. Its construction began on 1632 and it is said to have used over 20,000 people from India, Persia and even Europe until its completion on 1653.
A most marvelous sight, the Taj Mahal displays Mughal architecture that combines Indian, Persian and Islamic influences. I can still clearly recall how our tour guide showed us how its white marble structures are inlaid with semi-precious stones such as jade, amethyst and turquoise to make pretty nice patterns and intricate designs called pietra dura. It was awesome and impressive!
The Taj Mahal has a central dome with a height of 73 meters, and surrounding it are four smaller domes. Meanwhile, four minarets with a height of 40 meters stand at the corners.
Inside the mausoleum is an octagonal marble chamber that houses the cenotaph or false tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. The chamber is adorned with beautiful carvings and semi-precious stones, which were themselves a sight to behold. The real tomb of Mumtaz Mahal lies below the cenotaph.
REMINDER: It is not allowed to take photographs inside the mausoleum. A few misbehaving tourists tried to sneak out their phones and take pictures and videos but they were apprehended.
Entrance fee to Taj Mahal costs 1,100 rupees. Another fee should you want to enter the mausoleum is collected: 200 rupees.
Located 2.5 km away from Taj Mahal is Agra Fort, another structure worthy of visit in the city of Agra. Built from 1565 to 1573, Agra Fort served as the main residence of the emperors of Mughal Dynasty. Covering a total area of 38 hectares, this fort contains palaces, courtyards, towers, and even bathing ghats of members of the royal family.
Agra Fort contains a maze of buildings (much like our own Intramuros in Manila), though many of its original structures have been destroyed decades after decades. Apparently, the fort hasn’t just been used as a residential area for the royal family. It has also served as a military post through the years. In fact, much of the fort is used by the military and is off-limits to the public.
The Amar Singh Gate located in the southern portion of Agra Fort is the sole entry point to the fort. Entrance fee for tourists is 550 rupees. After entering the gate, you will be welcomed by lots of architectural wonders, from tall stone pillars up to white marble palaces.
Shah Jahan, ,the emperor who has built the Taj Mahal, was house arrested here in Agra Fort when his third son rose to power. From a beautiful marble tower called Mathamman Burj, he could gaze out towards the Taj Mahal, where his favorite wife was entombed.
HOW TO GO TO AGRA
Going to Agra will depend on where you are coming from. If you are coming from Jaipur or Delhi, you can ride their local trains (e.g. Taj Express, Shatabdi) or buses (head to their local bus terminals) to go here in Agra. If you are coming from another country, you have to fly first to Delhi or Jaipur before heading here. Agra has an airport, but it only serves as a domestic airport.
REMINDER: You have to prepare your Indian Visa first before going to Jaipur. Please proceed to this link, which details how you can get one.
HOW TO GO AROUND AGRA:
Taxis, tuk-tuks, buses and trains are the modes of transportation in Agra. In exploring the key attractions of Agra such as the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, it is best to just ride a tuktuk from one attraction to another instead of renting a car. I’d also recommend for you to find a hostel here that is near the Taj Mahal because there are hostels that are just walking distance from the place!
WHERE TO STAY
BEDWEISER BACKPACKERS HOSTEL
Great location, friendly staff and good food. We stayed in Bedweiser Backpackers Hostel for a night in Agra. It is an extraordinary hub for foreigners as it offers relatively cheap rates for dormitory and double bed rooms. It has an in-house cafe at the too of the roof, and it’s really aesthetically pleasing. Check these pictures out:
WHO TO CONTACT
I’ll be recommending our guide in Agra, Being Mohammed Farhan. He doesn’t have a contact number, but you can add him up in Facebook. He can accompany you in the major attractions of Agra, including the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. I would especially recommend him if you are traveling alone so you can have your pictures taken!
EXPENSES IN AGRA
I won’t specify here all of the things we’ve spent while in Agra but I’m going to give a list of some of the major expenditures we had there.
Taj Mahal entrance fee – 1,100 rupees
Agra Fort entrance fee – 550 rupees
Hostel – Staying in a dormitory type of room is cheaper than a private room. The rate for a single bed in a dormitory type of room is usually around 400 rupees.
Transportation – The advantage of staying in our hostel is that we only needed to ride the tuk-tuk mainly while going to and from Agra Fort, and going to and from the bus terminal. Fare can range from 100 to 350 rupees depending on the target location.
Food and souvenirs – This is going to depend on where you are going to eat and what souvenirs you’re going to buy. Ask your tour guide where is the best place to eat without spending too much. More so, he’s going to ask you to go with him in at least two places where you can buy souvenirs: a store where souvenir items are made up of white marbles, another one that sells relatively cheap jewelries and one that houses many souvenirs items.
*Tour guide fee – It’s up to you on how much you’re going to give your tour guide. We gave him 500 rupees, along with asking him to eat with us during our lunch and snack time.
I hope I have inspired you to travel in Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort with this blog post, guys! Hit up the text box below if you have comments, suggestions or any other reactions about Agra. Thank you for reading, guys!